The morning of September 30, 2015. I'll never forget it:
My alarm rings, I try to wake up and go out of bed but... I can't: my body feels like a heavy sandbag forced down to the mattress, my mind races, and my eyes traitorously well up with tears.
The first emotion is fear. Not that I can't get up but that I could be late for work. I try to leave my bed again. No luck. And yet, my mental block doesn't prevent me from calling to a boss and asking for one day off for health reasons.
One day has turned into three weeks, two of which I spent in bed with thoughts about my useless work, overwhelming loneliness, and pointless life.
I bet you know what happened:
To be specific, workplace depression.
The difference between two is huge: while the former is mental illness affecting about 350 million people and involving symptoms difficult to treat without doctors and medicine, the latter is better known as emotional burnout. That said, workplace depression is not the problem to ignore: it can cause severe health concerns or signal about changes we need to make to become happier.
Here come five things to know about this mental condition for those suffering from it or wishing to understand its nature.
Forewarned is forearmed.
1. It's a major issue for thousands of organizations worldwide
Dr. Sara Evans-Lacko from the London School of Economics and Political Science reports workplace depression to be a major issue for economies, with its "devastating" consequences for thousands of organizations. Their study of eight countries spanning diverse cultures reveals the cost of mental health problems, which is $246 billion a year collectively. Its most negative impact comes from managers staying at work while depressed.
It can be difficult for a sufferer to report the problem to employers, but with so many adults experiencing this mental condition, it's odd to know that depression is often a taboo subject in the workplace.
Steve Horvath, president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, admits "it's a difficult challenge for employers because they have to address the issues of their organization's culture." However, 84% of managers believe it is part of their job to help employees with signs of depression. What they need is more training on how to do that.
Back in 2012, mental health issues cost the Canadian economy $50 billion. Considering the extent of the problem, it makes sense for employers to build the culture of support and help sufferers combat the illness.
2. Work itself can't cause depression
According to Clare Miller from the American Medical Association, "work can't cause depression" itself. It can be a force, decent or harmful, but a person can't get depressed "simply from work." There need to be other things, too.
However, suffering at work is not a small problem. It impacts our mental condition and individuality, awarding with symptoms of depression such as helplessness, low self-esteem, procrastination, frustration, social withdrawal, decreased effectiveness, and giving up.
3. You can beat it by your own
That's what I did and succeeded. When it comes to burnout or fatigue, one doesn't need doctors to enhance well-being. Powerful weapons to beat work depression include but are not limited to:
a) proper lighting
Daylight makes us active and concentrated, so decide on it rather than artificial lighting. Organize your workplace accordingly: light walls and curtains, window-mirror combos, etc.
b) taking care of oneself
Grooming works for both animals and people. Hugs days at office, massage chairs, washing up, or using head massagers increase the level of endorphins and protect from stress and depression.
c) physical exercises
Like grooming, they stimulate endorphins secretion but only when intense: hard cyclic exercises with short rest periods work best. You can do some at the office, asking your manager to buy a pull-up bar.
What else can you do to beat workplace depression?
- Long walks to increase a brain volume, mental breaks, healthy food, sleeping well, etc.
- Do things that make you feel good: reading, travels, pets, meeting with friends, writing, etc.
- Develop useful habits: write every day to take your stress out on paper, drink coffee to think positive, etc.
- Practice calming techniques.
4. Its causes can be internal and external alike
Leigh Steere from Managing People Better, LLC cites multiple causes of workplace depression, suggesting they can be both internal and external ones.
Internal causes include financial struggles, work-life imbalance, a wrong fit role, interpersonal discomfort, etc., while external causes of workplace depression might be bullying, poor engagement at work, unreasonable demands from management, or poor working conditions.
5. It might be a signal for you to leave
"Take time to stop and think why you remain in your current position," says Rhonda Richards-Smith, a mental health expert from Los Angeles.
Indeed, longstanding fatigue or emotional burnouts hitting you nowhere else but workplace might be a signal to leave this office and find another job. Don't hurry up to make snap decisions and quit once you feel sad at work, but sometimes a teeny-tiny change is what we need for happier life.
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