By Suzanne Jessee, Founder and CEO, Anew Era TMS
We all need to keep our jobs, right? We have financial obligations, mouths to feed, and working for a living is how we make ends meet. When depression hits, our ability to function on the job can be impacted, even putting our livelihood at risk. So, how should someone battling depression manage the mood disorder while continuing at work?
It may see that attempting to work while being treated for depression may present some challenges, most of these can be overcome with some careful strategizing. Understanding treatment options and job protections can also provide some peace of mind while progressing through a depressive episode.
Treatment for Depression
Depression can sneak up on a person. Initially one might chalk up the mind fog and fatigue to being overworked or not getting sufficient sleep, but it soon becomes evident that something bigger is at play. Other symptoms, such as persistent sadness, feelings of shame or guilt, losing interest in the things that once brought joy, loss of appetite—or weight gain, changes in sleep habits, and even thoughts of suicide, may begin to pile on. When a cluster of these symptoms hangs around for at least two weeks, it is time to seek the help of a mental health professional.
Generally, the doctor will follow the traditional protocol for treatment of major depressive disorder and will prescribe a two-fold strategy. This involves antidepressant drug therapy and psychotherapy. In about half the patients with depression, this treatment plan will lead to a reduction in the depression symptoms. The patient will notice improvements in about 4-6 weeks, as that is the length of time needed for antidepressants to become effective.
For individuals who did not achieve remission through the medication, they have another treatment option available called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS therapy is a brain stimulation technique that helps jump start sluggish brain cells and rebalance brain chemistry. Over the period of 4-6 weeks, TMS can help patients who were medication-resistant to begin to experience relief from depression symptoms.
8 Tips for Continuing to Work While Dealing with Depression
With a little planning and effort, it is possible to remain successfully engaged at work while working through the depression. Here are some helpful tips for making that happen:
- Get treatment. Untreated depression leads to worse outcomes, period. Do not ignore the need for help from a mental health professional. The treatment interventions will enable one to manage the depression symptoms enough to continue being productive at work. Check with your healthcare plan to see what your benefits are for mental health services and make that appointment.
- Set reasonable goals. When depressed it is difficult to manage the usual workload without making some accommodations to the way you face each workday. Start each day with a list of smaller goals that you can handle successfully. Do not overwhelm yourself with too many expectations. Take baby steps by identifying a few reasonable goals to accomplish that day.
- Find support. Enlisting the support of a trusted coworker can help ease the challenges of the day. Just having someone in your corner, who knows what you are dealing with, can help your mood at work. If you are not comfortable sharing at work, just keep the lines open with close friends or family members outside of work. Group therapy also offers an excellent outlet where you can gain support.
- Use sick days as needed. Check with H.R. and find out how many sick days you have accumulated. Taking a mental health day here and there is a very good strategy for making it to the finish line of the depressive episode. Taking one day off every 2-4 weeks may give you the space to refresh and reboot. This is called managing the depression.
- Amp up organizational skills. Disarray at the office will only amplify the emotional distress you are feeling. Start by getting your workspace in order, remove clutter, and utilize a planner and to-do lists. An organized workspace helps to minimize stress and keep you on track to complete assignments or benchmarks well, and on time. Add some personal touches to your workspace that elicit feelings of joy or calm.
- Manage stress. While cycling through depression, don’t forget to take care of yourself. You won’t be any use to your employer or your coworkers if you are a stressed out mess. Depression often coexists with anxiety, so it helps to have a few stress reduction practices in your toolbox. Try practicing mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, taking a yoga class, or getting a massage with aromatherapy.
- Improve sleep. Depression does a number on our sleep quality. Be on the offensive and strategize ways to improve your quality of sleep, as that will positively impact your mood, concentration, decision-making, and energy level at work. Keep a regular sleep schedule, eliminate caffeine after 3 p.m., avoid heavy meals after 7 p.m., and limit screen time by shutting off devices one hour before bedtime.
- Limit work events. Even if you might wish to attend all the work functions or parties that come up, this can be a source of additional stress for someone with depression. Pay close attention to your own emotional needs and be selective in what extracurricular events you participate in. Depression makes socializing feel like an additional source of stress when you’re not really yet in the right frame of mind. This doesn’t mean avoiding social events, especially if they will bring some pleasure, just to limit them.
It is possible to continue to be productive and engaged at work while being treated for depression. Employers are usually quite accommodating by providing flexibility for therapy sessions, TMS therapy, group therapy, or a reduced work schedule. Stay in touch with your needs during this time and don’t forget that a little self-pampering now and then can have enormously positive effects on mood.
About the Author
Suzanne Jessee, Founder and C.E.O. of Anew Era TMS is a TMS industry expert. Suzanne is a master’s level clinical therapist and addictions counselor with nearly two decades experience in chemical dependency patient care. Her passion for improving patients’ mental health and her expertise in TMS technology and business make her a leader in the TMS patient services industry. In addition, Suzanne is a published author, PBS show host, educator, and facilitator.
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