Do you dread going to work, and have difficulty getting out of bed every day? Does your mood shift on Sundays, as you think about going back to your office? Do you find yourself constantly thinking about work, even on your days off? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing work “depression.” Statistics consistently indicate that the majority of U.S. employees are not engaged at work, with figures generally hovering around 60% being “not engaged.” A lack of engagement can impact productivity and adversely affect life satisfaction. When the economy was in a recession, job lock reigned, with workers feeling stuck in a miserable job, due to a lack of other options. However, as we fully adjust to the realities of a new year, and as the economy continues to pick up, there are now more opportunities to seek a better job. Many workers are contemplating a change, some waiting for their yearly bonus, before opting for a different direction. However, although they are dissatisfied and recognize that they are in a better economy, a good portion of employees will not transition, and continue to be miserable at work. How do we account for such a discrepancy? One theory is that some of these individuals are suffering from work “depression.” While it is not an actual clinical diagnosis, I have coined the term to mean the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, lethargy, sleep disturbance, and mood disruption, which can be attributed primarily to one’s work situation. While some individuals may be suffering from an actual clinical depression, work depression is directly tied to a poor fit employment situation. When clients indicate that a poor manager or a stressful work environment, causes them to lose sleep or behave differently, they are evidencing possible signs of work depression.
The following are some recommendations to overcome work “depression” and to thrive in your career:
Validate your employability– many people are fearful of leaving a miserable job, because they lack the confidence that they will be able to obtain a better fit and a more satisfying job. Thus, they stay in a toxic situation, because it is “safe” and stable. They are resigned to an unhappy work life. However, once you are able to recognize that you actually have value in the job market, you won’t feel stuck, and new possibilities open up. Although change is difficult, the risk of a transition may be worth it, in order to improve your mood and your quality of life.
Empower yourself- part of the work depression is caused by feelings of helplessness. That is, you feel that you have no control over your work life. For instance, you may work unreasonably late hours, your schedule may be unpredictable, and you may feel that you are constantly on call. Therefore, you need to manage the boundary between your work and your personal lives. Make sure that when you are not at work, that you focus on other enjoyable activities, which will take your mind off of job-related issues. Authorize yourself to not constantly check your phone or your email from home, or worry about upcoming work concerns. By taking control of how much you invest your mental and emotional energies into work, you can overcome the feelings of helplessness.
Prioritize self-care– we can be so consumed by a difficult work situation, that we tend to forget about other aspects of our lives, such as self-care. It is important to find time to focus on activities, which bring you joy. Whether it is socializing with family & friends, exercising, meditating, or simply going for a walk, make sure to set aside time every week to take care of your needs.
Maintain optimism– it is important to recognize that your current situation is a temporary one, and that you have the power to find a more suitable job. However, change is a process, and remaining optimistic throughout it is critical to a successful transition. Surround yourself with people, who can provide a positive outlook for you as well, and enable you to put things into true perspective. Embrace a positive frame of mind, and decrease negative self-talk about your options.
Seek support- if you find that you are unable to overcome your work depression on your own, it may be useful to seek support. Many people are familiar with the concept of career coaching, which involves working with a professional toward career-related outcomes (e.g. identifying a new career). I now emphasize the concept of career therapy. Career therapy extends the coaching concept to include a more process-oriented approach. Through career therapy, the focus is not only on outcomes, such as applying for and securing a new job, but also on helping a client overcome work depression issues, such as a lack of confidence, decreased motivation, self-blaming, shame, and guilt. Working through some of these issues provides a client with the motivation to make a change, for the benefit of his or her overall wellbeing. Working with a career coach, who has mental health training, is most beneficial because he or she can help you differentiate between a clinical or work-related depression, and can assist you in overcoming some of the symptoms you are experiencing.
You don’t have to feel stuck in a job, which makes you feels irritable, unfulfilled, and powerless. You deserve a better fit position, where your talents will be appreciated, and you can feel like your optimal self. Let this be the year you overcome your work depression, and find an opportunity to thrive in your career!!