When you wake up on Monday morning, work responsibilities wait for you. There are phone calls to return. Email to answer. It is particularly difficult to radiate positive optimism and enthusiasm if you feel depressed. On those days, it can be hard enough to get out of bed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) reports that depression is the foremost cause of absenteeism and productivity loss among employees. A report by the CDCP (2013) reveals that employees hesitate to seek support or treatment for depression because they are concerned about breaches of confidentiality or the impact it may have on their job security.
Depression in the workplace statistics are startling:
* In a given year, approximately 12% of adult workers experience depression (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 2012).
* Approximately 80% of persons with depression experience functional impairment at work (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008).
* Only 29% of all persons with depression contacted a mental health professional (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008).
* In a 3-month period, patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity (Annals of Internal Medicine, 2001).
A Gallup Wellbeing report (2013) discloses that employees with depression “miss an estimated 68 million additional days of work each year than their counterparts who have not been depressed – resulting in an estimated cost of more than $23 billion in lost productivity annually to U.S. employers.”
However, you can lift your spirits in ways that will help you be more productive and optimistic while you are at work – even when you feel depressed. Therese J. Borchard, author of The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Guide, suggests these strategies to move you out of bed and into your work equipped with helpful tools:
1. Break it up. Large projects seem particularly daunting when you are feeling depressed. Borchard encourages you to break up projects into individual tasks. Make a list of tasks to be completed. If possible, move the most important tasks to the beginning of the day. Get out your calendar and, if necessary, your timer and assign manageable deadlines to complete each task. Each small task completion will provide you with small successes and satisfaction throughout the day.
2. Take breaks. “Breaks are the allies of persons with depression,” insists Borchard. “We often think we are most productive when we plug through a project without looking up.” However, research indicates that small breaks allow for greater productivity. Complete a task, walk to the water fountain, get a fresh cup of coffee, inhale deeply with a few fresh breaths, stretch. Check the completed task off of the list. And move on.
3. Lean into the wind. J. Raymond DePaulo, M.D., author of Understanding Depression, maintains, “You have to lean into the wind.” When winds howl, we move ahead with determined grit. Reassure yourself that depression is temporarily; it is not permanent. In the meantime; identify tools that will help you move forward from where you are to where you want to go. Listen to music that lifts your spirits. Reread positive affirmations that inspire you. It is especially important to drink plenty of water and eat healthy foods; take good care of yourself when you feel depressed.
4. Practice calming techniques. Borchard suggests a deep breathing technique called the square breathing method: inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, and repeat. In my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide, I explained how a recording of guided meditations allowed me to use visualizations to relax my mind and body when I experienced panic attacks. Repeated practice of visualizations released me from the bondage of panic and allowed me to reengage with others and my work.
5. Find a support system. It’s easy to shut down and isolate when you feel depressed. It is important it is to surround yourself with people who encourage you and celebrate your success. Build supportive relationships and a support network. Find a mentor who offers encouragement when you need motivation. Working with a mentor also provides you with someone to establish goals and establish accountability. Find out if there are support groups in your area where you can openly share your feelings with people who understand depression. Check online with your insurance or human resources department to find out if there are any networks or support offered through your work.
6. Personalize your work space. Borchard hangs positive messages in discreet places where she works to lift her spirits throughout the workday. She relies on the Serenity Prayer and the Prayer of St. Francis for reassurance. You can also post positive quotations in places where you will often see them such as:
* The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. – Stephen Covey
* A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for. – John A. Shedd
* You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. –Wayne Gretzky
* The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. –Alice Walker
* Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford
It can be excruciatingly difficult to find the motivation and inspiration to put one foot in front of the other and move forward – especially when you feel depressed. Remember that your attitude shapes whether you perceive challenges as obstacles that prevent you from experiencing the kind of day you want to experience – or serve as important arrows of direction and empower you with the tools you need to move forward.
Take one step and move forward. And then take another.
You are already two steps farther ahead than you were before.
And that’s progress.
How do you lift your spirits at work? What tips do you recommend to someone feeling depressed?
Use these tips from Put the Positive in Your Affirmation to brighten your self-talk.
You have the power to change your thoughts with suggestions from Replace Old Tapes with New Messages.
Get inspired with wonderful words from 11 Inspiring Quotes When You Need Encouragement.
Are you ready to make a change in your life? Begin with these tips from What You Must Let Go to Move Forward.