- Ask a Recruiter: What Do I Do if My Job’s Making Me Sick?
- Depression at Work: Is It You or the Job?
- Work Stress vs. Work Depression
- Is Your Job Really the Culprit in Depression?
- Some of the Causes of Workplace Depression
- When Employees Feel Trapped
- ‘I Don’t Want to Be There’
- How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?
- Are Our Jobs Making Us Depressed?
- There Is a Different Way of Thinking about Depression
- Solutions That Can Ease Depression, Rather than Masking It
- These are the signs that your job is making you seriously depressed
- When Work Stress Yields Depression It’s Unbearable
- Depression and Work: Tips for Coping and More
- See your doctor
- Put yourself first
- Find an office ally
- Keep up with your self-care regimen
- The takeaway
- Depression is a serious mental health issue.
- An overview of depression
- What are the signs of depression?
- What are the types of depression?
- How to support an employee suffering depression
- Expert Advice
- How to Deal with Depression at Work
- Is your job making you sick?
- What does work stress look like?
- Why so stressed?
- Feeling overworked and underpaid
- Tech overload
- Limited resources
- Hostile working environments
- How to cope
- Work has me Crippled with Anxiety. Is it Time to Quit?
- So why do so many accept this fate? Especially when the cost is their health?
- The longer it’s left to manifest, the worse it gets. Fortunately, there are options. Here’s three of them:
- An important point to note:
- IS ANXIETY GETTING YOU DOWN?
- How Staying in a Job You Hate Affects Your Mental Health
- Worsening Mental Health Symptoms
- Delayed Mental Health Issues
- No Silver Lining
- Difficulty Leaving a Bad Situation
- Fear of Getting Help
Ask a Recruiter: What Do I Do if My Job’s Making Me Sick?
For the last two to three months, I have completely lost interest in my job of seven years. Initially, the job was very interesting, and I took a lot of initiative. It helped me grow as a professional. But I just can’t do it anymore. I put a lot of effort into delivering my projects with a lot of passion. I go above and beyond to get things done. But my efforts are not appreciated.
I feel cornered and helpless. I’ve lost all motivation and have stopped interacting with my colleagues as I feel the whole place is eating me alive. I tried speaking to my supervisor, but they don’t seem very interested in listening.
Each day I drag myself to the office with recurring thoughts of quitting my job. I feel sick and depressed. This is affecting my mental and physical health.
I don’t believe that getting another job will ease my situation—hard as it is to start over again.
Cornered and Helpless
Hi Cornered and Helpless,
Thank you for writing in. As a society, we can easily encourage someone’s desire to become physically healthy, but we lack the framework to celebrate and support the desire to become mentally healthy. Let’s change that by talking openly about feelings of depression, anxiety, and physical illness—in particular how they relate to our professional lives.
Work is stressful. The Muse has a whole section dedicated to managing workplace stress for a reason. But there’s a difference between feeling a little bit of anxiety before a big deadline and a feeling of daily hopelessness. When your current job is causing you to experience physical illness and depression, learning to manage your stress simply isn’t enough. It could be that you need to find a new job, but how do we ensure a new opportunity would improve your situation?
Let’s first identify the specific reasons you’ve lost interest in your job. Your letter shares “a lack of appreciation.” I get it: Working hard and never being recognized takes a toll on your sense of self-worth. But I encourage you to dig deeper. What kind of appreciation do you need to feel satisfied in your work? In addition, what changed at your company recently to bring on these negative feelings after seven years? Did your manager change? The team you work on?
Once you’ve identified the specific reasons you’ve lost interest in your current job, it’s time to look for a new opportunity. Starting over is hard, but because your current employer hasn’t been supportive in helping, it’s the best next step. But job hunting is hard and filled with rejection, and it’s especially difficult to undertake when you’re at an emotional low.
I encourage you to build a support network from friends and family and ask them to periodically check in on your mental well-being. You might also really benefit from working with a career coach, who specializes in job hunting to give you the support you need.
If you’re unable to identify specific reasons for the change in your feelings about your job, I have concerns that what you’re experiencing may be more than workplace dissatisfaction. Have you spoken with a licensed mental healthcare provider to explore your depression and physical illness more deeply? This article may help you determine if what you’re feeling is a sign of a bigger problem.
In addition, Mental Health America offers resources from a crisis hotline to finding a provider. Sometimes, its easiest to blame our emotions on something immediate—your job, a recent stress in life, the weather—rather than address the deeper cause. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help to explore what’s going on and to understand what’s at the root of it.
My hope is by examining what’s wrong with your current position, you’ll be able to pinpoint specific items to look for in a new opportunity to bring you future happiness.
But, again, if you can’t pinpoint the causes of your discontent at work, I encourage you to dig deeper with the support of a trained professional. You deserve to feel happy, appreciated, and satisfied in your personal and professional life—never forget that.
Depression at Work: Is It You or the Job?
Performing artist Phyllis Charney, 63, recalls being depressed between 2008 and 2011 when she was working as a legal secretary. She spent a total of 17 years on the job, which she kept as a way to pay the rent while she nurtured a career in the performing arts. But when new owners came in and shook up the status quo she found herself suffering from deep depression and anxiety.
“It was once a good job,” said Charney, who lives in Manhattan. “But they had a specific campaign to get us golden girls to leave by gas-lighting , lying to us in performance reviews, and abusing us. I became mentally and emotionally ill on the job and had meltdowns and clinical panic attacks, which I never had in my life on the job. It was because of the way I was being treated.”
She was on Prozac, Charney said, but she was still suffering greatly. Eventually, she was “mercifully fired,” but not without being traumatized. Succeeding in a new job was not easy.
“Because of what happened to me at that job, I developed post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “I always thought that was for Vietnam vets. I tried to take another job and was fine for three days. Then on the fourth day, something was said that would not seem so harsh to the average person, but it was reminiscent of the way I was treated at the previous job and it immediately triggered a panic attack. I went right to my doctor, and he said that I had post-traumatic stress disorder.”
“Now, even the thought of taking a job – a book store, Home Depot or any job – makes me nauseous,” she said. “I only go on auditions for acting jobs now.” She wrote two poems about her depression at work and has performed them live in clubs.
Work Stress vs. Work Depression
We have all felt stressed at work. There are those awful days when everything seems to go wrong, when miscommunication is rampant, and you just can’t seem to get along with a boss, employee, or colleague. People are always getting their buttons pushed in the workplace because it becomes our second home and we tend to replicate family dynamics and relationships that mirror those with parents and siblings. It can be aggravating and upsetting.
Not everyone has a story as dramatic as Charney, but a recent Gallup Poll showed that although the unemployed reported a higher rate of depression (11.4 percent), 5.6 per cent of full time workers also said they were depressed.
Some mental health and human resources professionals think work can cause depression, others say an individual has to be vulnerable to it in some way or that it is related to their personal baggage, not necessarily to work.
Even Charney realized that her unhappiness boiled down to an more basic component. “I just didn’t belong there to begin with,” she said. “I’m over-qualified, too intelligent, and it was just a job to pay the rent.”
Is Your Job Really the Culprit in Depression?
“Work can’t actually cause depression,” said Clare Miller, director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, an arm of the American Medical Association designed to help employers deal with and strengthen employee mental health. “If someone is predisposed to actually having depression, work can be a force of good or could be harmful. But someone can’t get depression simply from work. There need to be some other things going on there.”
Mental pain and suffering at work is not a small problem, though, and it does not just impact the individual. According to research released by Miller’s organization in May 2013, depression is a leading cause of lost productivity in the United States, costing employers $44 billion annually.
Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, MS, PT, a Lake Forrest, Ill., psychologist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, attributes this to what psychologists call “learned helplessness.”
“This is the sense that one has no control over their job – for fear of losing it, not having any power to make decisions, not having any control to make things better,” said Dr. Lombardo, adding that you may feel “powerless to make any changes or have an influence on the situation.”
Symptoms of depression that comes from learned helplessness may include:
- Giving up – not trying to make a difference
- Social withdrawal
- Decreased effectiveness at work
- Decreased problem-solving ability
- Low self-esteem
Some of the Causes of Workplace Depression
Leigh Steere is co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC, a research organization that studies gender and generational differences in management styles and other management topics. She cited multiple causes of workplace depression.
“Work-related depression can have internal causes, external causes, or some of both,” said Steere, offering these examples:
Internal causes of workplace depression:
- A wrong-fit role. A person feels called to be an artist but is working as an accountant.
- Misalignment between company and personal values. Keeping a job where there is ethical discomfort.
- Working parent guilt. “I like my work but feel I should be spending more time with my child.”
- Interpersonal discomfort. Having to interface with people who are unpleasant or simply have different preferences, personalities, or work styles.
- Work/life imbalance. Workaholism and working long hours even when not asked and missing out on social connection outside of work, as well as hobbies, opportunities to relax, and exercise.
- Introvert/extrovert stress. A person may be an extrovert working in a role or environment where there is insufficient people interaction; or an introvert working in a bullpen-style office with constant interruptions, no privacy, and insufficient opportunity to “go internal.”
- Financial struggles. Maybe compensation and benefits do not meet the worker’s basic needs.
- Feeling trapped. “I really want to leave this job, but I can’t because (name your reason).” This may be a realistic assessment or a fear-based reaction.
External causes of workplace depression:
- Unreasonable demands from management. This may include requests to work frequent overtime, which interferes with home life.
- Unclear guidance at work. Some employees don’t understand what is expected, so they feel they are in the dark and uncertain about whether they are doing a good job.
- Poor project practices. This may result in miscommunication, missed deadlines, blown budgets, or products that miss the mark. People want to be on a winning team that produces good work, but barriers to accomplishing this can contribute to depression.
- Bullying at work. Bullying behaviors faced in the workplace can be a huge problem for some employees, whether they’re bullied by bosses, co-workers or clients.
- Low morale or low engagement at work. This may happen due to the way a company spins information rather than being transparent, puts blame for leadership mistakes on others, nickel-and-dimes employees in the name of cost containment, and rewards ineffective managers.
- Poor working conditions. There are many conditions that become problematic when management will not take corrective action, for example, not letting employess take enough breaks, or ignoring safety concerns and temperature discomfort.
When Employees Feel Trapped
Feeling like you have hit a dead end can add to depression, said Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC, a family therapist and clinical counselor, in Dana Point, Calif.
“When an individual is in a job that lacks growth and is fostering complacency, there is a a lack of worth,” she said. “They feel innately that their value is not as high as they would like. Yet there may be a fear to ask for more support since there is a sense that they are not valued by the organization. This can make individuals feel trapped.”
Because they need money (which is, of course, a very common concern), they stay in jobs that are crushing their spirits. “This creates a resentment which is the beginning of depressive symptoms that can actually mutate into aggressive and maladaptive behaviors at work,” said Bahar. “It creates a cycle in an individual of feeling guilty, angry, resentful and trapped.”
‘I Don’t Want to Be There’
Doug Macintosh, a hair colorist at a New York City salon, said he has run into problems like this a few times in his career and is experiencing it now. When salon clients flock to him, he said, salon owners sometimes react badly.
“Owners start to see that I am busy and then they start to think that I’m gaining too much power over them, so they start applying more rules,” he said. “They start asking me to give up more freedom, and I start to get depressed and I don’t want to be there anymore.”
When he feels upset and depressed, he acts out negatively. “I start to show up late because I don’t want to be there,” he said. “I tend to have little panic attacks before I go into work so it takes me a little bit longer to get out. I’m usually in a very good mood, but when I get there I’m just about work. I don’t want to talk to anybody or be friends with anybody. I don’t show it to my clients, but my coworkers all can tell. They are like, ‘Don’t bother him.'”
To try to get himself through, Macintosh is trying physical exercise — kickboxing. “I’m so depressed right now I do that sometimes six times a week,” he said. “I love what I do, I just don’t love where I do it.”
Lombardo thinks exercise is a good way to work off steam, and workers have to somehow take back their sense of control in any situation that is adding to their distress.
“While you cannot control others or the situation at all times, you always have the ability to control how you view it,” she said. “This does not mean just think happy thoughts — for example, ‘I love my boss — when that is the furthest thing from the truth. It does mean finding the good even in tough times. For example, ‘I am grateful to be employed and can look for ways to either improve this job or find something else while I am still getting paid.’ Or, ‘I know my boss seems overbearing and I realize that is more a function of her own insecurities, not evidence that I am not good at what I do.'”
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?
Rhonda Richards-Smith, LCSW, a mental health expert in Los Angeles, says depressed employees have to pull back and figure out why their situations are untenable and look at what keeps them there.
“Take the time to stop and examine why you have chosen to remain in your current position,” Richards-Smith said. “Job security? Great benefits? Do you feel you are incapable of doing anything else? Be honest with yourself and know that you are in control of the decisions you make, including whether you stay or go.”
Steere says most companies do not have a psychologist on staff to help employees sort through depression, but she suggests the human resources department may be able to help.
“HR can take the lead in listening for problems and by asking questions and being willing to hear sometimes unpopular input,” she said. “When companies take the initiative to fix a known problem, that helps all employees feel better about the organization and the work they are doing. When companies stick their heads in the sand and either fail to see a problem or choose not to correct it, employees face a tough choice. Do they stick it out and live with the environment as is? Or is it time to look for greener pastures?”
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was a teenager – and I was immediately told a story by my doctor. It was the 1990s and this take on our distress was conquering the world. You are depressed for a straightforward reason, my doctor told me. There’s a chemical in people’s brains called serotonin that makes us feel good. You are naturally lacking this chemical. That is why you feel like pain is leaking out of you uncontrollably.
We are lonelier than any humans before us
I lived by this story for years, drugging myself for more than a decade – and yet, to my puzzlement, I remained depressed. Three years ago, I began to research what was really happening. I ended up travelling the world, speaking to leading scientists on this issue, as well as people who’ve come back from depression. What startled me most was discovering that so much of what I thought I knew was wrong. They explained to me that there is no evidence that low serotonin causes depression. And there is no evidence that depressed people have a chemical imbalance in their brains.
But there is evidence that several key changes in the way we are living are causing depression and anxiety. Crucially, I learned that there is evidence for seven environmental causes – along with two real biological factors that make it worse.
I started to glimpse one of them in Philadelphia. Joe was waiting for the day to end. If you walked into the paint shop where he worked and asked for a gallon of paint in a particular shade, he would ask you to pick it from a chart, and he would prepare it for you. It was always the same. He would put a dash of pigment into the tin, then put the tin into a machine that looked a bit like a microwave, then the machine would shake it vigorously. This process evened out the paint. Then he would take your money and say, “Thank you, sir.” Then he’d wait for the next customer, and do the same thing. Then he would wait for the next customer, and do the same thing. All day. Every day.
Take an order. Shake paint. Say, “Thank you, sir.” Wait. Take an order. Shake paint. Say, “Thank you, sir.” Wait. And on. And on. Nobody ever noticed whether Joe did it well or badly. The only thing his boss ever commented on was if he was late, and then he’d get bawled out. Joe told me that, as he left work, he’d always think: “I don’t feel like I made a difference in anyone’s life.” As he looked out over the next 40 years of this, he felt a black despair.
Are Our Jobs Making Us Depressed?
Joe felt like his human thoughts, insights and feelings were almost a defect. But whenever he told me about how his work made him feel, he would chastise himself. It was reasonably paid, he could live with his girlfriend in an OK place; he knew plenty of people who didn’t have any of that. He felt guilty for feeling this way. But then the feelings kept coming back. And he shook more paint. And he shook more paint. And he shook more paint.
Joe made me think about a lot of my friends. Most of them have more interesting jobs than Joe, but they often viewed their work with anxiety, panic or low-level despair. I began to wonder: could the way we work be playing a role in depression?
I learned that the answer to this was uncovered, almost by accident, in the 1970s by an Australian scientist called Professor Michael Marmot. He was given the job of carrying out a study that most people thought was pointless because the answer would be so obvious. He wanted to investigate what makes people stressed at work and he believed he’d found the perfect laboratory in which to learn the answer: the British civil service in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats and civil servants was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists at the bottom. What he wanted to investigate was who would be more likely to have a heart attack: the big boss or somebody below them?
There Is a Different Way of Thinking about Depression
Everybody told Marmot he was wasting his time. Obviously, the boss would be more stressed because he has more responsibility. But when the results were published, after years of investigation, the truth was found to be the exact opposite. The lower down you went in the hierarchy, the more stressed you were – and the more likely a heart attack became. Then he noticed that you could see exactly the same effect with depression. Next he wanted to know why.
So, he began to study people who worked at the same rung on the civil service ladder, but whose jobs differed, to see whether this could explain the differences. And it did. He cracked it. He discovered what made the difference. It turned out there are two crucial aspects of your work that can make you depressed and stressed. One is if you feel you have no control over your work. And the other is if you feel nobody seems to care about your work or notice how well you do it.
Jetta Productions IncGetty Images
Those two factors are worse in the lowest-status jobs, but they are not confined to them. Even people in very high-level jobs often feel like this. Between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out to assess how people across the world feel about their work. They found that 13 per cent of us say we are “engaged” in our jobs, while 63 per cent claim to be “not engaged”, which is defined as “sleepwalking through their workday”. Meanwhile 24 per cent are “actively disengaged”. They hate their work.
That means that 87 per cent of people, if they were to read Joe’s story, would recognise at least a little of themselves in it. Nearly twice as many people hate their jobs as those who love their work. And this thing that most of us don’t like doing – that feels like sleepwalking, or worse – now takes up most of our waking lives. The average worker checks their first email at 7.42am and leaves work at 7.19pm.
As I researched, I looked at several deep shifts in the way we live today that are like this. We are lonelier than any humans before us. We are more likely to value junk – like buying stuff, then showing it off – than any humans before us. These are other deep changes that have been shown scientifically to increase depression and anxiety. Yet we continue to be told that all that’s happening is our brains are spontaneously malfunctioning and we need to be drugged to get back to work.
There is a different way of thinking about depression – one that leads to very different solutions. The evidence suggests we are depressed for rational reasons because we aren’t living in a way that is compatible with what human beings need to have a decent life. I have come to realise that this means the solution is not to change our brains, but to change the way we live. Some of the scientifically-backed solutions I go through in my new book Lost Connections can be carried out in our personal lives. Some require bigger shifts.
I learned about one possible solution to Joe’s problem in Baltimore. The day that Meredith Mitchell handed in her resignation, she wondered if she was doing something crazy. She worked in a typical office job. She was given assignments with a deadline and her role was to keep her head down and do what she was told. At the age of 24, she could see this stretching out before her inexorably. Around this time, Meredith had started to feel a pervasive sense of anxiety that she couldn’t quite understand. On Sunday nights, she’d feel her heart pounding in her chest and a sense of dread about the week to come. Before long, she found she couldn’t sleep during the week, either.
She was quitting for a reason. Her husband Josh Keogh had worked in bike shops since he was a teenager. It was insecure work, poorly paid, with no path up – but he loved bikes. One day, he and his friends in the bike store asked something. What, exactly, does the boss do? Don’t we do most of the work? Couldn’t we do this ourselves? So they decided to set up a new bike store – but they would run it differently. They’d organise the company democratically. They’d share out a lot of the less interesting tasks, so nobody was stuck doing something they didn’t like for too long. They’d all build something, together. They’d all be the boss.
Solutions That Can Ease Depression, Rather than Masking It
When I went to Baltimore Bicycle Works – a thriving business – most of the staff talked about how they had felt anxious and depressed in their old jobs, and how it had largely disappeared once they shifted to this new way of working. The reasons why are made clear in Professor Marmot’s research. These people worked in bike shops before; they work in bike shops now. The actual work hasn’t changed drastically, but they have dealt with the factors that cause depression. Now, they have control over their work; their colleagues notice the work they do. Depressing tasks are shared out, so they don’t dominate anyone’s day. This is the difference between work that depresses you and work that energises you.
There is no reason, they told me, why companies have to be structured in this top-down, controlling way. It’s actually quite a new invention, dating back just to the 19th century. So why don’t all companies work like this?
This is a radically different way of thinking about depression and anxiety. We have been taught to see them as pathologies – signs that the individual is broken. But what if they are signs that, in fact, the culture is broken? That it’s not giving people what they need? I discovered there is a whole range of solutions, like giving people control over their work, that act as real antidepressants – ones that actually solve the depression, rather than trying to mask it.
I realise now what I should have told Joe back in Philly. You’re not crazy. You’re right to feel down. You’re being made to live in a way that doesn’t meet your needs for autonomy and meaning and choice. But we don’t have to live like this. There is a better way waiting for us. But, to get there, we have to start by seeing that depression and anxiety are not what we have been told they are for so very long.
Award-winning author Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions is available from Bloomsbury and as an audiobook from Audible. Visit thelostconnections.com
These are the signs that your job is making you seriously depressed
Even Oprah gets depressed.
The media mogul and lifestyle guru reveals in Vogue’s September issue that her 1998 box office bomb “Beloved” sent her into a dark place for six weeks.
“I actually started to think, Maybe I really am depressed. Because it’s more than ‘I feel bad about this.’ I felt like I was behind a veil,” she said. “I felt like what many people had described over the years on my show, and I could never imagine it. What’s depression? Why don’t you just pick yourself up?”
See also: What to do if your project collapses like the GOP health care bill
And it’s not just major publicized workplace failures that can leave workers feeling low. The daily grind is wearing many of us down. Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually, according to the Center for Workplace Mental Health.
And this brain strain costs serious money. Depression is a leading cause of lost U.S. productivity with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers, according to the Depression Center at the University of Michigan. In fact, employers are losing 27 work days per depressed worker, with two-thirds coming from “presenteeism” – when workers are present, but less productive.
“There are very clear connections between work stress and depression, as well as other psychological symptoms,” psychiatrist Dr. Igor Galynker at Mount Sinai Beth Israel told Moneyish.
He explained that while small doses of acute stress (working toward occasional deadlines, or giving a big presentation) can cue your fight-or-flight response in a good way to boost performance, chronic stress (journalists on constant deadline, or police officers in the line of fire daily) is linked to depression, heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes.
Other workplace traps that can trigger depression include:
-Feeling like you have no control. You have no say in making any decision or changing the work culture, and you don’t feel comfortable talking to your manager or employer about it.
-Job insecurity. You could be fired or laid off at any time, or fret getting axed if you address workplace issues.
-Irregular work hours and poor sleep. You can’t rely on a consistent schedule, and you’re not getting enough rest to recharge.
-Work-life interference. You’re texting and emailing with your employer outside of work hours, and you’re struggling to maintain family relationships, or care for children or sick parents.
-Workplace discrimination or harassment. Hostile work environments and threatening interactions with coworkers and superiors are associated with higher risks of depression.
-Values that don’t align. You legit abhor where you work or who you are working for, or you’re doing something you have zero interest in.
So what can you do?
Identify whether you’re stressed, or depressed. “When you feel like it’s Monday every day, you’re being pushed over the edge,” Dr. Nancy Spangler, a consultant for the Center of Workplace Mental Health, warned Moneyish. Are you having trouble sleeping at night and getting out of bed in the morning? Are you withdrawing from coworkers? And has the quality of your work changed: You can’t make decisions, meet deadlines or keep organized anymore?
“What may look like withdrawal or laziness or disinterest could really be an employee struggling to keep it all together,” said Dr. Spangler.
Employers should also watch out for these symptoms in employees. Treating depression saves employers $2,000 annually per employee through improved health and productivity, according to the Center of Workplace Mental Health, which has toolsto coach supervisors in spotting someone suffering from depression, and ways to approach them to help.
See also: CEO’s note thanking employee for taking a mental health day goes viral — and he tells Moneyish why he wrote it
Take steps to regain control so that you don’t feel so trapped. “Create options for yourself,” said Dr. Galynker. See if you can switch schedules, or reprioritize what’s on your plate, and push back deadlines where possible.
This could also include finding another gig. “Looking for a job is an escape mechanism, and sometimes also a life-saving mechanism if you find a good job that repairs the situation,” said Dr. Galynker. Or it can give you fresh perspective on your current gig if the other jobs out there are actually worse, or paying less.
Take breaks. Dr. Spangler suggests going for a run or a walk, which is proven to boost mood. Spend a few minutes meditating at your desk or someplace quiet. Use your vacation days, even to just extend your weekend by a day or two to reboot. Or call in a mental health day, which is losing its stigma thanks to employers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Olark CEO Ben Congleton, who went viral recently after praising an employee for taking personal time to focus on her well-being.
“Sometimes we ignore the signs , or we don’t think it’s serious until we’re overwhelmed,” added Dr. Spangler. “Knowing when we need to replenish ourselves, physically and emotionally … helps us bounce back from stress and become resilient.”
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When Work Stress Yields Depression It’s Unbearable
Right Direction: Educating about Workplace Depression
A friendly looking, tie-wearing, big brown bear greets you from the depths of a scenic forest on the pages of a new on-line portal aimed at raising awareness about depression in the workplace. The front page of RightDirectionforme.com reads:
“When you’re depressed at work, it can feel like you’re lost in the woods alone. But there’s help, and you can find your way out.”
Depression is a bear of a burden on its own, let alone in the workplace where the stigma attached to it is arguably just as bad as the consequences of remaining silent for the employee and the employer. That’s the message from the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health (an arm of the American Psychiatric Foundation) which joined with Employers Health launching Right Direction to educate employers and employees about depression, reduce stigma and increase the chances of people asking for help.
“In my experience, depression has been on the radar, but not a topic that employers typically have wanted to address head-on,” says Marcas Miles of Employers Health who overseas programs and community outreach for the non-profit coalition of health care providers. He says while employers are aware of the problem, they don’t necessarily have a direction to start the conversation – thus the Right Direction initiative was born.
Data suggest a growing need to address depression at work. Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually and mental disorders were at the heart of more than 9% of long-term disability claims in 2012. As I mentioned in a recent Forbes.com post, Tackling Depression at Work as a Productivity Strategy, depression is a leading cause of lost productivity in the United States with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers.
Add work stress into the mix and things get even more complicated says Clare Miller, director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health. While stress is something that everyone experiences she says, not being able to manage stress in a healthy way is a concern. “Someone with clinical depression may be especially vulnerable to highly stressful situations, especially if their depression is not adequately managed,” says Miller.
“There has been a significant rise in disability claims in the last two years, some of them related to psychiatric problems,” says Robert Leahy Ph.D. the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy. “I have seen a dramatic increase in generalized anxiety, marked by excessive worry, focused on the possibility of losing their job.
The author of Beat the Blues Before They Beat You: How to Overcome Depression, says added stressors at work might be contributing to depression and worry. “There are increasing demands for productivity to increase profits, while support staff has shrunk,” says Dr Leahy. “Moreover, people often report feeling stuck in a no-win, glass-ceiling job, but they fear being out in the market place in such difficult times. As a result they feel trapped and helpless.”
Other work stress culprits include employees feeling that they are suffering with burnout, being treated unfairly or not compensated properly, lack control of outcomes, and feel unappreciated. “Increased complaining may help some think that they are ventilating their entitled opinions, but this may lead to getting fired,” says Dr. Leahy. Thus, keeping their job the prime stressor that can exacerbate underlying depression.
The Right Direction website offers a questionnaire to explore whether one is depressed. It’s not just about sadness, hopelessness, irritability, self-criticism and feelings of indifference and withdrawal. Upon perusal, companies will see that when depressed their employees are likely to have difficulty concentrating, might be more forgetful, less productive and less present even when sitting at their desks. They are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and twice as likely to have a stroke.
Retaining valued employees, less turnover and a healthier more productive workforce. Perhaps that’s the argument that is best aligned with that bottom-line for the C-suite to identify early recognition of symptoms, have the difficult conversations and tackle depression head on.
Is employee depression on the radar of big business? Should it be?
Please share your thoughts. Connect with me on Twitter: @JudyMartin8 and please visit me at WorkLifeNation.com where I track work stress management initiatives, workplace well-being trends and write about transforming stress in an “always-on” world.
New research has found negative work environments to be associated with poorer mental health, in particular, depressive symptoms.
A recent review of 59 studies from workplaces across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand were analysed. The review found that employees, both men and women, who reported job strain, bullying and lack of ability to make work-related decisions were at higher risk of developing depressive symptoms, including stress-related disorders and taking psychologically related sick leave.
Dr Mandy Deeks, psychologist and Jean Hailes Deputy CEO, says negative work environments can affect both your physical and mental health in many ways. Not only can depression, sadness and anxiety increase in these environments, but prolonged stress at work can result in increased episodes of illness such as colds and flu-like symptoms, allergies, muscular aches and pains, headaches, problems with concentration, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and even digestive problems.
The good news is there are many things people can do to boost their resilience when they’re in negative environments and under stress, says Dr Deeks. “This includes making sure you aim for a healthy lifestyle and eat nutritious foods throughout your day, get out at lunch time and get some fresh air and a bit of exercise if you can. Getting quality sleep is important at this time and often you need to be kind to yourself and find something that you love to do that makes you feel good about you. If you need a moment during the day, it‘s okay to take five minutes and find a quiet space to just breathe and refocus.”
Not having clarity around roles or responsibilities and not being able to make decisions or feel valued at work will affect your mental health, says Dr Deeks. “If this is you, it’s helpful to find someone you trust or a health professional to talk to about this,” she says. “They may provide insight and thoughts on specific ways you can deal with your stress and the environment.”
Dr Deeks says if your work environment is negative, think about ways that you might be able to get relief or help, as staying in that space is not good for your health.
Visit our workplace hub for more research and news on workplace health or learn more about ways to reduce stress and improve your mental and emotional health.
Depression and Work: Tips for Coping and More
When you live with major depressive disorder (MDD), you’ll likely experience sadness, fatigue, and loss of interest in day-to-day life for an extended period of time. It’s one thing managing your symptoms at home, but MDD is often incompatible with a job that demands your complete focus and attention for eight or more hours a day.
Many people try to push through their workdays when they feel miserable. In one survey, 23 percent of workers said they’d been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life. Less than half of them had taken time off to address their condition.
When you have depression, it’s hard to be a productive member of your team. You’re more likely to miss work altogether, or get less done at the office because you’re too tired, unmotivated, or just can’t concentrate.
Depression isn’t something that simply goes away. You need time — and the right treatments — to get back into the groove at work. Here are a few tips to help you cope with depression on the job.
See your doctor
Depression is treatable with antidepressants and psychotherapy. It might take some trial and error to find the right drug for your symptoms, but once you feel better, you’ll find work much more manageable. One study found that people who took antidepressants for eight weeks missed less workdays, became more productive, and performed better than those who remained untreated.
Put yourself first
Your career is important, but no deadline or meeting should take priority over your mental health. You can’t get anything done if you feel unmotivated and can’t focus on the task in front of you.
Take a mental health day — or two — to regroup. You’ll be a much greater asset to yourself and your employer if you return with renewed energy and a more positive outlook.
We live in an “I need it now” world. Everyone wants everything right away — or preferably, yesterday.
Trying to achieve someone else’s unrealistic expectations (or your own) will only set you up for failure. Be very clear with your managers and co-workers about what you can and can’t accomplish. If they won’t give you any breathing room, get human resources (HR) involved or consider making a move to a more flexible and understanding company.
Have an action plan ready to go for times when depression symptoms strike. If you can’t concentrate during depressive episodes, try to break down big projects into small, manageable tasks. Then, take a break after you complete each one.
Also, set aside a couple of vacation days for the times when you don’t feel well enough to make it into the office. If it’s an option, see if you can work from home.
If your job becomes overwhelming, find a safe space at work where you can disappear for a few minutes to take some deep breaths. You can always ask a co-worker for help with any projects you can’t handle on your own.
Find an office ally
Depression might be a secret you only share with close friends and family, but having an ally at work who understands what you’re going through can actually help you out.
If you’re comfortable revealing your condition to your manager, someone in HR, or a co-worker, you’ll have at least one person who can stand up for you in difficult situations. Plus, they can offer a compassionate ear when you need to vent.
Keep up with your self-care regimen
Antidepressants and therapy are only two pieces of a multi-layered depression treatment strategy.
Incorporate these practices into your daily routine as well:
- Get enough sleep. The world looks much darker when you’re exhausted. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night — even on the weekends.
- Exercise. Jogging around a track or taking a Zumba class releases a flood of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain. Working out can help beat stress, improve your mood, and calm your anxiety.
- Change your diet. On days when you feel down, you’ll crave the very foods that intensify your dour mood. Cookies, donuts, candy, and chips taste good going down, but they have a rollercoaster effect on your blood sugar. As soon as your blood sugar plummets, you’ll feel even more anxious and irritable. Eat slower burning foods, like fruits and vegetables, Greek yogurt, and whole-grain crackers with cheese to keep your blood sugar steady and your mood stable.
- Manage stress. Every impending deadline and looming pressure at work is magnified when you’re depressed. Take time each day to unwind from the day’s stresses. When you’re overwhelmed, close your office door and breathe deeply, or get up from your desk and take a 5-minute walk. Doing so can release some of the pressure you feel. When you have time at home, practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
Depression can make even the little things in life difficult to get through. So, of course it can take a toll on your job performance, too.
Rather than pushing yourself through your workdays to the point of complete exhaustion, these tips can help keep your depression under control. Talk to a trusted co-worker and develop strategies to manage stress. And remember, it’s all right to take some time off if you need to.
Depression is a serious mental health issue.
It can affect anyone, at any time, and a third of workers in the UK suffer from depression, stress or anxiety. In 2017/18, this meant 15.4 million working days lost.
As an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff. You need to look out for signs of depression at work, and know how to reach out to those affected. But it’s not as easy as that—not everyone suffers in the same way.
An overview of depression
Depression is not simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days – a basic definition would be that it is “feeling down persistently for weeks or months”. At its mildest, it makes everything more challenging to do and seem less worthwhile.
In its most severe form, it can make a person feel suicidal, or give up the will to live. As well as mild, moderate and severe depression, there are specific types, including Seasonal Affective Disorder and Dysthymia (chronic depression).
Depression and anxiety can often be experienced together, and depression can also be a symptom of other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. People with severe depression can also experience some psychotic symptoms, for example, delusions and hallucinations.
Depression can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or age. The causes of depression vary – factors can include life events, child experiences, genetics, physical conditions, medication, stress and lack of sleep.
Depression in the workplace can be caused by pressures in work life which can also cause and or make this mental illness worse, for instance, the fear of redundancy, working long hours, dealing with difficult people or situations, and unreasonable targets.
What are the signs of depression?
The signs of work-related depression—or depression in general—vary from person to person. Sometimes, a person can just be suffering from a low mood. But if you spot a colleague who seems to suffer from any of the following 10 signs of depression, you should make sure to keep an eye on them:
- Persistent anxiety, or a constant sadness—more than just feeling low, this could be affecting someone’s ability to complete work on time.
- Thoughts of hopelessness—the idea that nothing can improve, and this pessimism will last forever.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities—the inability to find joy in things that previously kept them occupied.
- Weight changes—sudden and significant gains or losses in weight.
- Changes in sleep—either not getting enough, or far too much.
- Increased irritability—a shorter fuse than usual, and angry reactions.
- Reckless behaviour—increased alcohol use or dangerous activity.
- Concentration problems—no focus, an inability to make decisions or remember tasks.
- Suicidal ideation—thoughts of death, or actual suicide attempts.
- Lethargy—a lack of energy or enthusiasm.
Other symptoms include: Increased amount of sick or absent days, excessive forgetfulness, tiredness and excessive yawning, withdrawal from colleagues and work social events and more.
Not everyone displays signs of anxiety and depression the same way, so be careful not to jump to false conclusions.
What are the types of depression?
Diagnoses of depression fall into three categories—mild, moderate and severe. These are an indicator of how badly it impacts your life, and affect the treatment you’ll be offered.
There are also some specific types of depression:
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—this mostly occurs during the winter months, when the light draws in and days get shorter.
- Dysthymia—also known as chronic depression, this is a persistent, continuous disorder lasting two years or more.
- Prenatal depression—this occurs during pregnancy and is also known as antenatal depression.
- Postnatal depression (PND)—this occurs in the weeks and months after birth and can affect men as well as women.
How to support an employee suffering depression
As we say, everyone suffers differently. But here are a few quick ways to offer support and guidance to someone with depression:
- Offer support—demonstrating real care and concern will help employees handle their illness.
- Be flexible— After an employee’s depression has been identified, there may be flexibility required to help and support them. For example, a change of workspace, a change to start/finish times or adjusting their responsibilities.
- Make a plan—sit down with your employee and ask what would help them continue easily in their role. You’ll learn about their concerns, and reduce the worry.
- Create an open environment—if you’re clear that your employees can approach you with any concerns, that’s one less cause of anxiety. Depression can be a difficult subject to bring up. Let people know that you understand.
- Provide constructive feedback—reward positive times and achievements with a simple congratulation. Your employee will appreciate the thought.
- Respect their confidentiality – It is important to keep any suspicions or knowledge you have about an employee’s mental health confidential, and this includes those with depression. Talking to other colleagues would not only make the employee lose trust in you, but it can also negatively impact their mental health. If you need someone to talk to about your concerns, speak to the HR department.
- Encourage them to talk. Whether you suspect an employee has depression or they have confided in you, encourage them to talk about it. This will lead to an understanding between you and the employee, as well as help with figuring out the steps to take to help and support them.
If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on 0844 892 2493
How to Deal with Depression at Work
Your job is a big part of your life. Dealing with depression alone is hard enough. Add to it the demands of work and it can compound depression. How do you know if you are working while depressed and how do you deal with it?
Depression is a complex disease that can be driven by a combination of things, including medical, emotional, and genetic factors, as well as environmental, situational, and even seasonal issues. The workplace may be just one of these factors. If you already battle with depression, then it’s possible you’re also dealing with depression at work.
Signs of depression at work
Here are some signs that you may be working while depressed:
- Missing work: It could be you start calling in sick or make excuses for needing a personal day.
- Trouble concentrating: Just can’t keep your mind focused on work? If it feels like you’re in a fog all the time or in a hopeless state of mind, this can be an indication that you’re trying to work while depressed.
- Missed deadlines and goals: Inability to get work done or complete tasks, avoidance of phone calls and meetings, failing to achieve personal or career goals—these can be signs of depression at work.
- Feelings of depression only when you’re at work: It could be that your workplace is the cause of depression. If you’re largely overcome with depression while at work, but not as much elsewhere, it could be that feelings of depression are driven by your job. Serious workplace issues like harassment, discrimination, abuse, and bullying can eventually lead to feelings of depression, if left unaddressed.
- Fatigue and lack of energy: Tired all the time? Feel like you have no energy to do your job? Persistent fatigue can be a sign of depression.
Dealing with depression in the workplace
If you’re dealing with depression at work, try these tips. They are not intended as a cure, but could help provide ways to better cope if you’re dealing with depression at work.
- Acknowledge depression: Possibly the first step to managing depression in the workplace is acknowledging it. Come to terms with how you are feeling. What may be driving depression for you? Is it a major depressive disorder? Is your depression work-related? Or is something else causing it? It’s not an easy thing to think about, or to come to terms with, but important for managing depression at work and elsewhere.
- Seek assistance: Depression will likely not just go away by itself. It’s important that you find a professional you can connect with and feel safe talking to. If you have a health plan through your employer, they may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of your benefits. These programs provide no-cost, confidential counselors and therapists. If you’re uncomfortable with using services offered through your employer, then consider finding an outside therapist or even group therapy. Connecting with others can help.
- Follow your provider’s plan of treatment: If you’re seeing a therapist or other behavioral health practitioner it’s important you follow their course of treatment and therapy. If you are taking medication for depression, you need to take it in accordance with your provider’s direction. Never stop taking medication without first talking to your doctor or therapist.
- Plan time away from work: Strategically plan your time off and vacations so you have something to look forward to, as well as boundaries between work and personal time. Looking forward to a vacation away can help ease feelings of depression in the workplace, particularly if workplace stress and your responsibilities are largely to blame.
- Schedule short breaks: Get up and walk, stretch, or plan a lunch break outside. Taking a few moments a day away from your work area may help with mood and give you fresh focus. If you need a “time out” and have the chance to walk away for a few minutes, then do it.
- Practice self-care: If you’re working depressed, it takes a lot of energy to think about how to be good to yourself. Self-care really includes many of the previous tips, including therapy or counseling. Additionally, try to add in things you may enjoy and could provide a mood boost, such as meditation, yoga, running or working out, hiking, gardening, listening to your favorite music, or a hobby. Exercise, in particular, boosts endorphins1, which can help lift your mood. Getting outdoors and into the sunshine can raise serotonin levels in the brain.2 This is the same brain chemical that many types of anti-depressants help stimulate.3 While it may sound trivial—exercise and sunshine—these activities are natural mood enhancers.
Self-care alone cannot cure depression. Small positive changes in your daily routine may help you feel better, but working with a behavioral professional is most important for long-term management of depression.
How does depression affect productivity?
Depression and workplace productivity can significantly counteract each other. This is a common challenge for many people suffering from depression. Employers suffer, too: The estimated cost, due to loss of productivity related to depression and its effects, is in the billions of dollars.4
Why is it hard to keep up workplace performance when you’re depressed? The symptoms of depression can be debilitating. Depression can affect productivity in these ways:5
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of initiative or motivation
- Low energy, fatigue
- Decline in problem-solving and decision-making skills
- Poor communication with others
- And more
Depression at work is a challenge for many. Self-care and daily changes in your routine may help, but it’s important you talk to your doctor, a therapist, or behavioral provider for long-term management of depression. Without treatment, depression can worsen.
Is your job making you sick?
Work stress can take a serious mental and physical toll.
Most people have to cope with stress on the job from time to time. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association’s yearly survey, Stress in America, work was the third most chosen answer, with 61% of respondents choosing it as a top source of stress.
The problem is that if stress goes unmanaged, its impact will not only affect the quality of your work, but it could also end up making you sick.
Take a look as we break down what serious work-related stress actually is, its key causes, and tips for stress management to help get you through the work day.
What does work stress look like?
“Work stress is more than simply feeling challenged,” says Dr. David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the American Psychological Association (APA). “It occurs when there is a mismatch between the demands of the job and the resources someone has available to deal with those demands.”
In the 2017 survey, 37% of respondents reported experiencing chronic work stress, meaning that it’s always there, looming in the background. “Chronic stress can wear employees down mentally and physically and can wind up damaging their health, relationships, and job performance,” says Dr. Ballard.
When it goes untreated, such as if you remain in a job that’s making you physically ill, stress can lead to burnout and breakdowns. If you’re unhappy at work and experiencing some combination of the following symptoms, your job could very well be hazardous to your health:
- Lack of motivation
- Cynicism and other negative emotions
- A decline in job performance
- Problems with interpersonal relationships at home and work
- Being preoccupied with work during leisure time
- Decreased life and work satisfaction
- Recently diagnosed health problems
Why so stressed?
When it comes to chronic work stress, the kind that causes physical symptoms and a daily dread whenever you’re at work, there are a few common culprits. Take a look at some of the top cited underlying sources of work stress:
Feeling overworked and underpaid
The top work stressors identified in the APA survey were low pay, followed by lack of opportunity for growth and advancement, a heavy workload, and unclear or unrealistic job expectations. And since money is also identified as a top stressor in the survey year after year and work is the primary source of income, those two can be related as well, says Dr. Ballard.
People also say that the inability to unplug from work is a big stress driver. “More than one-third of working Americans said communication technology increases their workload and makes it more difficult to stop thinking about work and take a break,” says Dr. Ballard.
Two-thirds of Americans frequently work at high speeds or under tight deadlines, and one in four perceives that they have too little time to do their job, according to RAND Corporation’s 2015 Working Conditions in the United States survey.
“There were also some interesting findings about the inability to adjust work schedules to attend to personal matters, and half of people say they work during personal time to meet workplace demands,” says Kathleen J. Mullen, a senior economist for the RAND Corporation.
Hostile working environments
“A surprising finding was how many people reported some measure of hostility in their workplace,” says Mullen. In fact, one in five people cited a hostile or threatening social environment at work, which could entail anything from sexual harassment to bullying and even physical abuse.
Often, it’s a bad boss at the heart of such matters. “Bosses can have a huge impact on day to day work life, and how miserable or happy you are with what you do,” says Mullen.
How to cope
Every job will have some level of stress, but if you’re having trouble getting through the day, there are some things you can try. Here, Dr. Ballard shares his top work stress-busting strategies.
During the work day:
Seek support. Talking through work challenges with your boss and/or co-workers, can help counteract the stress of long hours when you’re on deadline, or other factors that are out of your control, says Mullen.
Say no to multitasking. Sometimes having too many “mental tabs” open can feel overwhelming. Turn off push notifications and alerts for all but essential communication channels, so you can give what you are doing your full attention, says Dr. Ballard.
Take breaks. Throughout the day, pause for a minute or two to stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, and shake off the tension. Also, avoid the temptation to work through lunch, says Dr. Ballard.
Pencil in relaxation time. “Whether it’s yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk, or visiting with friends and family, do something that actively helps you unwind,” says Dr. Ballard.
Get enough sleep. Research suggests that having less than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout.
Focus on the good. Four out of five respondents in the RAND survey said that their job met at least one definition of “meaningful” always or most of the time.
Thinking about the positive aspects of your job on a tough day—whether it’s the personal satifaction your work brings you or the friendships you’ve made at the office—can help, says Mullen.
The fact is workplace stress is inevitable—you just have to figure out if you’re experiencing it at a level that is beyond what you can handle. “People differ in terms of what is optimal for them,” says Dr. Ballard, “so the same amount of pressure might energize and focus one employee, but completely overwhelm and impair the functioning of another.”
Ready to move to a healthier, happier workplace? Join Monster today. As a member, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on the time and effort you spend looking for positions. The sooner you start your search, the better.
Work has me Crippled with Anxiety. Is it Time to Quit?
Nicky CullenFollow Jun 14, 2017 · 8 min read
I saw a quote on Instagram recently from Charles Bukowski’s book, Factotum, which piqued my interest;
Like me, I’m sure there are millions that would find themselves nodding along in agreement. It should be noted that the main character, Chinaski, was a self-confessed alcoholic bum with no ambition. The below quote is that which precedes the above one;
“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved.
That’s an aside; I have no doubt there isn’t a soul reading this lacking in ambition. It did, however, bring my attention to the epidemic which sees many fall victim to anxiety and depression due to work pressures. Therein lies the narrative that one should be grateful for their job (regardless if it costs them their health and happiness), giving rise to guilt on top of a condition so devastating it can cause a man to take his life.
According to the WHO, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety has increased by nearly 50% between 1990 and 2013.
That statistic is insane. And not exactly one we should expect those suffering day in, day out to be grateful for. But why do we appear to be accepting this as a new reality? I hear many people say, “oh that’s just the way the world is.” As if we’re supposed to be impervious to world hunger, climate change, and war fuelled by hate, greed, and ego.
Let’s take it back a few steps and focus solely on anxiety and depression which stems from the workplace, to deconstruct and modernize what Bukowski wrote 42 years ago because, well, times have changed. For one, technology. Secondly, whiskey was far more affordable back then.
Yes, practicing gratitude is incredibly powerful because it opens up a world taken for granted, and helps to overcome the brain’s hard-wired negativity bias (as discussed by Dr. Rick Hansen during his TEDx talk on Hardwiring Happiness).
Gratitude aside. For most people, the bulk of their waking hours is spent commuting, working, and thinking about work. For a growing portion of society, this existence is represented by a job that makes them miserable with the expectation that they should be grateful for it. I could dive into the semantics, but it’s irrelevant. Especially if you’re working for an ungrateful boss who’s all in on modern day slavery.
So why do so many accept this fate? Especially when the cost is their health?
Nobody has managed to say something so profound in as little words as The Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity;
“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
I’ve lost count of the number of highly educated and talented individuals with “envious” jobs making great money, who hate everything about what they do — day in, day out! The pressure to perform at such a high level has crippled them to the point where anxiety has taken over ALL aspects of their life: a life they’ve been told they should aspire to live!
When I ask them how long they’ve been living like this, the answer is never a few months — it’s years. It’s incredibly sad to see just how much punishment one is prepared to take to conform. All that stress for somebody else’s benefit. So I ask them, ‘why don’t you quit?’ To which they usually respond, “I’m too scared!” Such is the enormity of the fear injected by society. Ain’t that a bitch!
I can certainly relate — changing anything attached to so much stress that has been left to manifest for years is daunting because to some degree, within it lies some comfort — I can hear Alanis Morisette singing “isn’t it ironic,” as I type. And she’s right. Because our fear of failure is polarizing, the comfort lies in not having to try, which eradicates any potential for failure while being held hostage in one’s mind — a double edged prick stick for so many lacking belief in their undeniable potential.
Unfortunately, it’s not (yet) possible to pull a magic wand out your ass, wave it while saying, “abracadabra,” and all of sudden — BOOM — WHOOP-DE-DOO — life is sweet again! I can’t wait till J.K. Rowling figures out how to bring her Wizardry fiction to life either, but until then, the only person that can make change happen (if you can relate) is you.
Sign up to the anti-anxiety micro-course today for free.
Please note: My writing is unconventional. I say what I strongly believe to be true and some people don’t like that. Often my articles are rejected on this basis. I actually believe part of the problem is personal development because it feeds a perfectionist mindset which is never a good thing. If you do sign-up, I’d love to welcome you and help as best I can. But please do not subscribe if you don’t like spicy language and alternative views. The generic stuff is available in abundance. Find what works for you. And stick with it. That’s what will get you results! 🙏🏻
The longer it’s left to manifest, the worse it gets. Fortunately, there are options. Here’s three of them:
1. Address the issue with your boss to see if you can come to a resolution that ensures you don’t dread every day ahead. Sure, this will be scary, but if you go in there with some suggestions and solutions, you might just find yourself leaving with a big fat smile on your face. I know lots of people that have done this, and it has completely transformed their working lives, because, contrary to popular belief, many employers actually care. If you managed to end up with a bad one, fear not because you can always move on to option two.
2. Quit. Just do it, but be strategic about it. There’s a narrative in the world right now being sold all over social media telling you to do what you love. Ideologies are lovely, but this one just might be setting your expectations too high. This is not to say you can’t drastically improve the quality of your life — it’s merely a reminder that your options span beyond something you love 24/7 or bust! Your options are endless.
Setting up your own gig will bring with it many challenges. It’s marketed as simple, but in reality, it’s not. It requires a healthy dose of madness, passion, and obsession to name a few. But if that’s something you desire – go for it!
A slightly less stressful option would be to get a job doing something similar, or slightly different to your current role using the many skills you’ve acquired over the years for a company that actually appreciates you.
Execute on either, and in all likelihood your happiness index will shoot up as depression and anxiety levels fall way off!
3. Your third option is horrific. And terrifyingly, it’s the most popular. Unfortunately, if you’ve been suffering from debilitating anxiety for many years — your mind has been fine tuned to f*ck you, and you know this because the third option is to remain depressed while hoping for a miracle! I’m not saying you’ve ticked a box opting for depression, but without sugar coating it, that’s pretty much what’s happening on an unconscious level. And hopefully — by drawing your awareness to it — you’ll choose to live the life you deserve by choosing options one or two.
If I were you, and this has been your reality for years — I’d shoot with option two. And I’d get to work on formulating a plan to execute on it immediately. Not tomorrow. Today. Rope a loved one in to hold you accountable, so you don’t fall back into your old ways. It’s time for your resurrection. The second you definitively decide to take your life back, you will immediately begin to feel liberated and empowered by your decision.
An important point to note:
The decision needs to be for you, and nobody else. It’s your life, so you choose — nobody else should be granted such authority when it comes to your health. While it’s conceivable you’re taking others as well as yourself into consideration with options one & two; it’s inconceivable to think you’re only taking yourself into consideration if you opt to continue down your current path.
Sure, you might come up against some resistance and opposition, but what are they opposing? Your health, your happiness? It’s not like they understand — the only people on this planet that really understand are those that have lived it, so try not to take it personally. Regardless, do you really want to grant them that right?
Set yourself FREE!
This is your mental health. Not the board game RISK, or a game of Jenga. Mental Health deteriorates when ignored. The first step in the process to better health lies in a decision, and depending on the severity of your condition, it might just be the last because that one decision can make everything better. Sometimes the grass is greener — if it’s currently reminiscent of a silage pit then why not find out? One decision has the potential to drastically change your life for the better. It can cause a ripple effect of positivity throughout every facet of your life. And that’s a pretty exciting prospect if you ask me.
IS ANXIETY GETTING YOU DOWN?
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To your health,
How Staying in a Job You Hate Affects Your Mental Health
When it comes to your career, there is nothing worse than a job you hate, literally.
According to a University of Manchester study, having a “poor quality” job — a job you hate — is actually worse for your mental health than having no job at all. It may sound hard to believe until you’ve been there — hostile co-workers, a passive-aggressive boss, or mind-numbing assignments. Not to mention we often spend 40 or more hours a week invested in our job, and that’s a lot of time to spend in a bad situation.
For the 51% of Americans employed full-time who reported to Gallup in 2017 that they’re uninterested in their jobs and the 16% who dislike their workplace, staying at a job you hate is bad news for your mental health. Here’s why.
Worsening Mental Health Symptoms
Whether you already deal with a mental health issue or not, staying in a work scenario you hate has mental health consequences, especially when you feel obligated to stay.
Research from the Human Relations journal, as Business News Daily reports, found that those who stayed at companies because they felt obligated or couldn’t find other job opportunities were more likely to experience exhaustion, stress, and burnout. In addition, “this feeling of indebtedness and a loss of autonomy are emotionally draining over time,” per one of the study’s researchers. All of these factors lead directly to mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
With a pre-existing mental health condition, a job you hate can seem even more dire.
“If you’re constantly miserable at work, of course that’s going to affect your mental health,” says Sarah Schewitz, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist. “If you already have a more negative outlook on life because you’re feeling depressed, or more fearful outlook on life because you’re anxious, it’s completely amplified by being at a place that you despise on a daily basis.”
Delayed Mental Health Issues
The impact of hating your job may also follow you later in life. Ohio State University conducted a study that tracked the job satisfaction of people between ages 25-39, and then measured their health once they turned 40 years old.
What the study found was those who had low job satisfaction in their 20s and 30s were more susceptible to mental health issues later on, including higher levels of depression, sleep problems, and excessive worry. Those who had bad job experiences in their early careers also showed higher instances of diagnosed emotional problems and they scored lower on a test of overall mental health.
As we know, our mental health also affects our whole mind-body system, which the study’s authors also noted in their findings.
“The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems,” the study author Hui Zheng said. “Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won’t show up until they are older.”
No Silver Lining
Our brains are naturally sticky for the negative, and that’s doubly true when you’re dealing with a mental illness. Some who are in less-than-ideal work conditions can find the silver lining in a bad scenario — considering their current position as a stepping stone to something better or being grateful to have a paycheck. It’s difficult to get to this place with a mental illness in the mix.
“It’s harder for people who have mental illness to manage this thought process around hating their job,” Schewitz intimates. “People with mental illness may have a harder time getting that theme, that silver lining, so it’s easier to go to a dark, negative place when you have mental illness. Your brain’s kind of primed for that.”
Difficulty Leaving a Bad Situation
Without seeing the silver lining in a job, it’s easier to get stuck there because mental illness just doesn’t allow for a path out. This means we’re more likely to stay in the bad situation because we can’t motivate ourselves to find alternatives.
“There’s a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness,” says Schewitz. “If you’re feeling hopeless and helpless then you’re often not motivated to change your situation that way about your job, and feel overwhelmed at the thought of even trying to get a new job.”
To get out of this mindset takes a herculean effort, one brought about by shifting our thoughts to a more active place find the motivation to move on.
“I would have them shift the way they’re thinking and remind themselves daily that they are not stuck,” Schewitz advises. “Even just shifting that perspective can be powerful.”
Fear of Getting Help
Considering all the mental health consequences of staying in a job you hate, it may be one of the best times to engage a mental health professional to achieve that perspective shift that will ultimately help you find your way to a better workplace. Not to mention, the extra support and validation a therapist can provide go a long way.
But according to Bustle, research shows that those who work “low quality” jobs and have a psychiatric disorder are less likely to seek assistance for their mental health, largely due to a fear of being fired because of the stigma. This can lead to feeling more trapped, hopeless, and helpless, feelings that prolong the time you’re left in a bad situation, which starts the cycle all over again.
While we know it isn’t as simple as just getting out when you have a job you hate — most of us do need a steady income — the mental health consequences of sticking around take a huge toll. If you’re in this situation, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, knowing you have the right to find a workplace that is life-affirming and supports your well-being.