How To Handle Depression That’s Affecting Your Work Performance
Although your depression may not have been caused by your workplace environment, it can affect your performance, colleague interactions and even change the way you perceive your career choice. You might feel like you don’t love your job anymore, like you can’t do your best or that you simply can’t make it through the work day without experiencing crippling thoughts. However, quitting your job may not be the best solution to your mental health issue, especially if you don’t have a backup plan. Unless you are certain that your workplace environment is toxic and damaging in every way, there are ways to continue working and regain your love for the job.
At first, you might feel tempted to quit and simply stay at home rather than show up for an office job that brings you no joy. But psychologists say that you should resist this initial urge. The sudden change from spending the entire day at the office to staying alone at home with your own thoughts can bring you even more confusion and anxiety. Besides, the fact that you no longer have insurance or a salary to pay for your depression treatment can also trigger more problems. So first try to make office life work for you with these techniques:
Talk to HR or a superior
Opening up about your depression is never easy, so it’s perfectly understandable that you don’t want to talk about it with a manager. Maybe you’re uncomfortable, maybe no one in your office has ever had a mental health issue or maybe you will not be taken seriously. Actually, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting 3.3 million adults, so you are not alone. Even if you don’t know about it, one of your colleagues could have depression or could have had episodes of depression in the past. You are in control of who knows about your condition and you don’t have to reveal this to anyone in your office if you don’t want to. However, talking to someone in management, especially from HR, is a good way to make sure your needs are met and your rights are respected.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal for American companies to discriminate against a mental health issue, so no, you will not be fired. Moreover, being transparent with HR regarding your condition will eliminate any confusion regarding your performance. Your boss will know that you are dealing with a health issue and if your performance is affected it’s because of this, not because you are simply slacking off or misunderstanding instructions.
Seek professional treatment
Under the Affordable Care Act, you can benefit from free depression screenings and the first session is generally covered by your employer. You needn’t fight depression alone; talking to a professional about it and seeking a depression treatment that works for you will help you cope with negative thoughts and return to work. In the United States, you can take time off work for depression treatment and when you come back, so you can either return to your usual full-time schedule or work part time. Talking to a therapist is not the same as talking to a friend or family member. While their support is invaluable, a therapist knows what questions to ask and recommend approved treatments for those issues that you can’t solve just by talking about them.
Take it slow
People who are dealing with depression often feel tired and exhausted at work and can no longer focus for long periods of time, so it’s important to know when to stop and take a break. Don’t try to push yourself too hard, avoid doing overtime and turn down the projects that you find too challenging. The more structure your daily routine has, the easier it will be for you to go through the work day without feeling overwhelmed and confused, so try to schedule your tasks ahead of time. Break down larger tasks into several smaller, manageable ones and remember to include breaks in your schedule. Depending on what makes you feel better, you can chit-chat with your friends at work or drink your coffee in the nearest park for a change of scenery.
Make your office environment work for you
Balancing work and depression can be hard if your office is a bleak and uninspiring place. American labor law clearly states that your employer has to make accommodation changes for employees with depression, so if this helps, ask for an office that has more access to natural daylight or is less noisy. Turn your office into a space filled with positive energy by bringing a few small decorations from home, such as pictures with your loved ones, small plants or by listening to soothing music to tune out the office noise.
Use relaxation techniques at the office
Calming techniques can help you cope with the pressure of working in an office and the best part is that you can try them at any time of day, without leaving your chair. Learn deep breathing exercises to release tension, use a stress ball and do small neck exercises to feel more comfortable. Remember to maintain a good posture and stand up from your desk every hour to have a short walk.
Lastly, it’s alright to give up your current job if it is the source of your depression and you feel that staying there prevents you from overcoming your challenges. If no relaxation technique works for you, giving your notice, taking a few months for yourself and looking for a better job can be the fresh start you need to boost recovery.