Mental health problems such as depression are one of the leading causes of absences and productivity issues among employees. In 2010, a survey conducted by the UK IDEA (European Depression Association (EDA) revealed that 26 per cent of people in the UK have depression, and this mental illness is costing the government £105.2 billion each year – which covers the direct cost of mental health services, lost productivity at work, and reduced quality of life.
Staying productive at work is one of the biggest challenges that people with depression face. One day you are perfectly doing well and meeting your deadlines, the next day all you did was to look at your computer screen for eight hours. Overcoming depression is not an easy process and sometimes, it takes months (even years) of therapy to overcome this debilitating condition. The good news is that you can still manage to be productive at work and perform at your best even though you are depressed. Here’s how:
Take one step at a time
People with depression easily get overwhelmed even with simple tasks at work. Because of the vicious cycle of negative thinking, you may even find it hard to know where to start and how to deal with the problem at hand. One good strategy is to break big projects into smaller, achievable tasks. It can be helpful to create a to-do list or a chart that outlines the things you need to do and their expected completion dates. This helps reduce the anxiety you feel which is common during depression.
Taking a break is probably the last thing you want to do when you are anxious and afraid of not completing a task on time. Most people can only concentrate and be fully productive for around 45 minutes at a time. Anything much over this may be paper shuffling. Take regular little gaps in your work. During breaks, avoid staying on your desk and take the opportunity to unwind a little. Go for a cup of coffee, go an ask a question to someone in another department, fetch something from the printer or stroll outside. Chat with your work buddies or call a friend. Trying to bust negative thoughts can consume a lot of your energy. Give yourself time to recharge.
Learn some relaxation techniques
It’s usual to experience burnout when you are depressed. The workweek may have just started but it may feel like you’re already in the middle. Relaxation techniques are very practical tools to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear or restlessness that you may experience from time to time at work. Among the best techniques are meditation, deep breathing and stretching. When things are getting too overwhelming, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Shift
your focus to your breathing pattern and to the sensations you feel in your body. And slowly release the tension. You will be surprised of how calming this simple exercise is.
Personalise your workspace
If your desk is full of clutter, it’s likely to worsen your depression. You want your environment to be as calm, beautiful, peaceful, fresh and organised as possible. Hang a picture of your family on your wall or post inspiring motivational quotes. The inspiration you get from these things can really help improve your productivity levels.
Give time for regular exercise
Not only will this fuel your energy at work, it will also help reduce symptoms of
depression. A 30-minute daily exercise routine will do you a long way. Exercise doesn’t have to a massive burn out at the gym but can be gardening, walking with friends and a dog or a swim.
Make the most out of your rest days
Weekends only constitute two days so make the most out of it! As much as possible, avoid doing anything that’s work-related and stay away from your laptop or mobile phone (as they can make you feel like you’re at work). Rather, go out with friends and family. Spend your rest day staying physically active by playing a sport, backpacking or engaging in adventurous recreational activities.
Lastly, don’t forget to seek professional help. Maybe try talking to your line manager as a lot of companies now belong to an Employee Assistant Programme which may offer access to free counselling or you could talk to a therapist privately. Depression does not only affect your work but all other aspects of your life, including your personal and social relationships.
Depression is a treatable condition which many have successfully recovered from and you could too.
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