Depression at work: how to recognize and work through it

A leading cause of absenteeism and unproductivity, depression affects more and more people every year.

There can be many causes. In most cases, depression might be triggered by traumatic events or major life changes. Work-related stress is another factor to look out for.

If you think you might be suffering from a bout of depression, then learn how to identify it by recognizing its tell-tale signs and symptoms:

  • you feel exhausted and lethargic all the time and move slower than usual;
  • you don’t want to get up in the morning, you just want to hide away from work;
  • collaborating with other people and even relating to colleagues takes a huge effort,
  • you tend to close yourself off from coworkers;
  • it’s hard for you to concentrate and stay focused at work;
  • you are easily distracted and forgetful;
  • you might find it difficult to speak up and think straight and clearly;
  • along with mood and self-esteem, your productivity at work is down the drain;
  • it takes you much longer to get things done;
  • you feel like you could burst into tears at any moment;
  • you are especially vulnerable to highly stressful situations;
  • you have a hard time focusing on deadlines. Pressing deadlines don’t motivate you any longer, they actually pile on more anxiety;
  • you are calling in sick very frequently, or, conversely, you find yourself spending a lot of extra time at work, to avoid your feelings;
  • going back to work after being off sick is nerve-wracking;
  • you experience aches and pains which cannot be explained;
  • you have no appetite, or, conversely, you are overeating and gaining weight.

Don’t ignore your symptoms. Left unchecked and untreated, they can have a destructive impact on your ability to work. If you have recognized that you are depressed, seek help ASAP. To maintain a productive life, it is crucial to identify it, get the appropriate treatment and stick with it.

Seek treatment

Depression is no different from any other clinical condition. You don’t just snap out of a depressive state with a little willpower, it is a process that starts by getting the medical help you need from a clinical professional, as you would if you broke a leg or had a particularly bad case of flu.

Working with a therapist, a psychiatrist or a depression and anxiety therapy group is the best way to help you cope with depression, which can be treated successfully and its symptoms can be alleviated if you are correctly diagnosed.

Depression self-help groups, counselling and group therapy are an excellent way to see that you are not alone in your struggle, and you can pick up useful workplace tips there.

Speak up

You are suffering and so is your productivity at work. If work feels overwhelming, things are getting more and more difficult for you and you need to take more time off, you may need to tell your employer that you are dealing with some health issues.

Your boss might have probably already figured out that something was wrong, so be honest and tell him/her that it is not a lack of interest in your job, you are actually going through a really tough time. Determine how much information you feel comfortable disclosing. Don’t feel obligated to share very personal details if you don’t want to.

Find support

The road to recovery is a marathon and there will be very tough days. It is essential to have someone to lean on. Create your village of support, don’t suffer in silence. Find a supportive colleague at work, who can support you through this difficult phase of your life. Make sure you have trusted friends, relatives and family members to talk to.

On-the-job strategies

Most people cannot take time off until their depression is completely under control. In this case, manage your work schedule by taking it day by day, examine your weekly agenda and look for tasks that can be delegated to someone else.

Set very clear and realistic goals, plan and follow a routine, create lists and highlight top priorities. Do whatever helps you. Depression can make it nearly impossible for you to focus and concentrate, so give yourself extra time to prepare difficult assignments, take plenty of notes during meetings and, if possible, ask a trusted colleague to double check your work.

Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember that recovery is your number one priority, even on the busiest of days.