Sometimes it seems as if everyone’s depressed.
That may be because depression – or at least mental health – has been in the news a lot lately. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with Prince Harry have been highlighting mental health and working to stop it being a taboo subject.
But despite the efforts to make mental health easier to talk about, many people still consider depression to be some kind of personal failing. Therefore depression is something we’d rather not admit to, thank you very much.
You may feel the same way.
And that’s a problem. Because if you or someone close to you is suffering with depression, unless you’re able to recognise what’s going on and start putting things right, it could wreak havoc on your life.
What could be making depression even harder to accept is work might be the root cause of your problem. That’s a double whammy because you not only need to deal with how you feel, you also need to take on the challenge of changing your job.
But first, let’s find out whether you’re just a bit fed up or actually depressed.
What is work related depression?
Depression is a mental disorder that causes people to experience low moods. These are often accompanied by a loss of interest in life, inability to experience pleasure, feelings of guilt, low self-worth, disturbed sleep, reduced appetite, low energy and poor concentration.
That’s quite a list.
However, the important thing is that depression isn’t the same as feeling a bit or unhappy or stressed. Someone who is depressed will feel intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness, all of which hang around for long periods rather than ebbing away naturally in a few hours or a few days.
Although it’s true that depression can be the result of a physical illness, more often than not, it’s due to forgotten or repressed emotional experience suddenly resurfacing. It can also be triggered by life events including unemployment, bereavement and family problems. Rounding out the list of possible causes are a lack of fulfilment and constant pressure at work, both of which lead to exhaustion and isolation.
Am I depressed?
Depression may still be a taboo illness, but the truth is that all of us are prone to it no matter who we are. What’s more, it’s likely that half of us will go through it again after getting it once. That’s why it’s important to know how to recognise it and get help as soon as possible. So, let’s get clear on the symptoms so you can work out whether you might be suffering from depression or not.
The most common symptoms of work depression are:
- Tiredness and loss of energy.
- Sadness that doesn’t go away.
- Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting.
- Feeling anxious all the time.
- Avoiding other people, sometimes even close friends.
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Sleeping problems, either trouble getting to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual.
- Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Finding it hard to function at work/college/school.
- Loss of appetite.
- Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems.
- Physical aches and pains.
- Thinking about suicide and death.
If you’ve never suffered with depression, it may leave you wondering what’s happening to you. Suddenly, you may feel that you can’t face the day. You may feel low most of the time, have trouble sleeping or feel as if you want to sleep all the time. Your appetite goes haywire and you’re either always reaching for the doughnuts or you stop feeling hungry altogether.
On top of all that, even though you’ve always felt in control and in command of your life, you may start to feel as if you’re falling apart or even breaking down.
It’s even more alarming if you don’t know what to do, who to talk to or even know how to accept what’s happening to you.
You probably just want to push it away and block it out of your mind by watching endless hours of TV, drinking too much or doing something mindless.
So if you spend your weekends watching box sets, endless (and meaningless) YouTube videos, playing online games, eating or drinking too much, constantly falling out with people or chatting for hours about nothing, it could be a sign that you’re avoiding your feelings and that you’re depressed.
How to know if your job is making you depressed
Some jobs and some companies are toxic. The constant demands from your boss, lack of support from colleagues, ridiculous deadlines and pressure to perform eventually take their toll. Here are 10 signs your job is no longer working for you and that it might be time for a change.
- You think about your job all the time and start dreading Monday on Sunday.
- You’re complaining about work all the time.
- Work social events – or even talking to your colleagues – stop being fun.
- You exaggerate the negatives about work (‘It’s always me!’ Or ‘It’s never me!’).
- You believe there’s nothing positive about your job.
- You get physically ill a lot (colds, back trouble… you name it, you’ve got it).
- Getting up to go to work feels hard, very hard!
- You’re irritable with everyone (all the time).
- You make up illnesses just so you can have a day off.
- You stop caring about how well you perform at work.
The problem with this list isn’t that it’s a big list. It’s that if some of it is true, you’ll start to think and act negatively. Your whole life may start to go downhill. Before you know it, you could be spiraling into misery that leads into depression.
Do I need to change my job?
If you’re feeling depressed, you may feel that changing your job is the last thing you can cope with right now. But if work is the source of your problems, it may be exactly what you need. If you find yourself thinking:
- It’ll be just as bad in another company.
- I’ll never find a company with such an easy commute.
- I’ll never be able to match my current salary.
- Redundancy is just down the line… I should wait for a pay-off.
- Nowhere else will be able to match my package or pension scheme.
- It’s important to be aware that this is just your negative self-talk at work. As soon as you notice yourself focusing on what negative things MAY happen, turn things around by asking yourself:
- What good things might happen if I change my job?
- What do I want instead of what I’ve got?
- How can I make it happen?
If work is causing you stress, making you miserable or triggering anxiety, you need to deal with the way you’re feeling and find a way to get away from your pain source. Make sure you get some support from a career counsellor or consultant so you can start to work out what to do next and how to create a plan to make it happen.
Embrace the change and reach out for help
Finally, if you become depressed, it’s important to maintain your perspective and understand that things will get better. Everything changes. You will change and, above all, you will be okay.
In fact, many people who endure a personal crisis find it life-enhancing in that it often leads to a breakthrough which helps them reappraise their choices and values. Soon they begin leading a more positive and inspiring work life.
Do you need to off load any of your work concerns or do you need to talk to someone about what you’re going through at work?
Do reach out to us at Career Consultants. We’re here to help you to put the vitality and zest back into your work life — even if it means changing career direction. We have lots of career change packages that may suit you. Your mental health is important and a career change with the right support could be just the type of medicine that you may need.
How to cope with work when you are depressed
If you’re depressed, you need to determine an effective way to cope with it. Taking some simple steps can go a long way to lessening its impact on your life, especially during the bad days. If you feel unwell or low, seek help from your medical practitioner.
And because it’s important to have as many tools available as possible when dealing with depression, here’s a summary of the most common ways of managing your thoughts and feelings. The key idea is to help you begin to feel better and get well in the here and now.
Counselling gives you the chance to talk through issues which are bothering you and which could be causing your depression. It can also help you develop daily coping strategies.
Cognitive therapy (sometimes called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT) addresses the way you think and helps you to move away from negative thoughts and behaviour so you can establish new, more positive attitudes that support your recovery.
Psychotherapy is a more intensive form of therapy that looks at how experiences from your past may be affecting you in the present. As it’s a more in-depth therapeutic approach, it may take longer to produce results.
It’s likely that your GP will recommend anti-depressants, either on their own or alongside counselling or psychotherapy. While anti-depressants work for many people, they have side effects and your GP will discuss these with you.
For some reason, there’s a notion out there that if you’re depressed you should just cheer up. But depression is as incapacitating as a broken leg and it’s not possible to put a smile on your face and just be okay. But being aware of your thoughts, changing the way you think and treating yourself well and with compassion are good ways to build yourself up and start getting well again.
This can be one of the most difficult things to do as it requires you to be kind to yourself. But it’s important you give yourself a break from impossible demands (especially those you make on yourself), treating yourself well in small ways and admitting you need support.
Crying is a very natural and healthy thing to do, especially when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed emotionally. It helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. In fact, holding in your feelings will probably just makes you feel worse. So allow yourself to have a cry if you need to.
Contact with friends
While it’s true your friends might not always understand how you feel, it’s important that you talk to them if you can. One of the downsides of depression is that you simply may not want to talk to anyone. It could be because you don’t want to be a burden to others or because your feelings are simply too raw. But your friends care about you and want to be there for you. And if you’re afraid they won’t understand how you feel, just ask them to listen rather than giving advice or trying to solve your problems. It’ll give you room to talk without anyone feeling you need to be fixed.
Keeping life as normal as possible
It can be hard to keep going when you feel anxious or depressed, but if you’re able to stay calm and not let your fears get the better of you, you’ll prove to yourself that you can cope. Using breathing techniques and challenging your negative thoughts will help you turn things around. This isn’t about denying how you feel or ignoring what’s going on, it’s about not being defined by your depression. It’s a temporary illness not a part of who you are. Carry on as normal as much as possible.
Just doing your best
When you’re depressed, you may have a tendency to try to be perfect. It’s a way of deflecting the fact that you feel a long way from being adequate or even ‘good enough’. But trying to be perfect won’t work. If you’re having a bad day, admit it then do your best to get through it. Be kind to yourself (remember compassion?) and take care of yourself. Help yourself by eating healthily, avoiding sugar (it really isn’t your friend), excess amounts of caffeine, and alcohol (which itself is a depressant).
If you suspect a change of job or career would help you escape from much of what’s troubling you in life, Career Consultants is ready to help you. Do reach out to us and a career change with the right support could be exactly what you need.