The fear that you won’t be able to function while depressed is not unfounded. Loss of productivity is a common problem with depression, and some people struggle with a depressive disorder so severe that they are unable to seek and maintain steady work. While therapy and treatment are essential, there’s a whole host of factors that go into helping someone maintain a job while depressed.
The first step is to accept that you must cater to your strengths and weaknesses. Very severe depression can be debilitating but is made worse by the overwhelming shame and guilt that accompanies unemployment. It’s important to understand that dealing with depression is a job in and of itself, and it’s a feat to work against your own depression and continue to earn money in some capacity.
Instead of taking on the commitment and responsibility of a full-time job with commute, seek something more manageable, from casual work to part-time, or freelancing from home.
If you cannot rely on others for help, then a valid option when no other way exists is to apply for disability until you are ready to take on work. As difficult as that sounds, there are tools and systems in place to help people with debilitating depression get the help they need. And with the right treatment, it’s often only a temporary solution.
We Must Function
In general, any contributing member of society has to put in the work to survive, socially and economically. But there’s an added meaning to the importance of having a function for someone with depression, as it can be an anchor to remind oneself that there is purpose in life.
By functioning as partners, friends, parents, workers, or bosses, we remind ourselves that our input is part of something greater, and no matter how strong the negative thoughts are, the reality reflects that there is meaning in what we do day in and day out.
Some people identify very strongly with their work, and their career is something they have invested countless hours into. To struggle so severely with making deadlines and performing as per usual can be an oppressive thought. It’s to that end that doing your best to maintain employment is important.
But it’s even more important to make sure that your job isn’t swallowing you whole. Many people must redefine their stress thresholds when they become depressed, as they are likely far more susceptible to pressure. While you can continue to do good work by managing your time differently and seeking alternative arrangements, trying to brute force the same schedule onto yourself despite very different mental circumstances may end up in disaster.
Support Systems Are Critical
No one can do it all alone, and that goes doubly for people who innately struggle with self-determination due to negative and depressive thoughts. A support system composed of loved ones, relatives, friends, and mentors can help a person deal with the challenges ahead by seeking advice, help, or refuge.
Support systems are also there to help people relieve or lessen certain burdens, whether that’s as simple as needing a hand with the housework or a heart-warming meal, to something more complex and sensitive, like emotional support or a shoulder to lean on.
It’s important to differentiate between exploiting others and asking for help. Some people have a hard time asking for the help they need while depressed because they’re already struggling with the idea of being a burden, and don’t want to do anything to add to that preconception.
But without help, none of us would function. We need to recognize that we all exist only because others were there to guide us and watch us grow when we were vulnerable. Regardless of our mental health, the average person needs a system of people to function – friends, loved ones, colleagues, idols, and even rivals.
Rather than see yourself as a burden, be grateful for how we humans are social animals, working collectively to make us all stronger, rather than as lonesome individuals. Your loved ones recognize your strengths and talents, even if you don’t – and they know that with a little help, you’ll go on to support others and do great things.
Get Professional Help
It cannot be overstated how important it is to seek professional help when dealing with depression. Millions of Americans are depressed, yet only about a third seek professional help for their depression – while resources and time are major factors hindering the widespread treatment of depression, the stigma attached to mental health still plays a considerable role.
Treatment can help, but it takes time and requires a certain commitment to the process. You might not see much sense in talk therapy at first but giving it a chance might help you open up to someone and find ways to better identify pervasive dark thoughts and feelings and observe how best to deal with them.
Medication can take up to a month to kick in and doesn’t always work – but there are many alternatives, from technology like transcranial magnetic stimulation to herbal supplements. Therapists can also help you find ways to apply small, step-by-step changes to your lifestyle to fight back against depression through healthier living.
Avoid Toxic Workplaces
A toxic workplace is a workplace that fosters a low morale, constant stress and pressure, a lack of trust in management, and other signs that this is not a place conducive toward helping people make the best of themselves and their abilities.
Some industries are inherently much harder to work in than others due to the potential for unnerving and toxic encounters, notorious examples including the retail industry, many service industries, and the sales industry.
At other times, it’s the workplace itself that can seem toxic, especially if it is pervaded by bullies or dominated by an abusive personality. Trying to do your job while having to deal with an abrasive coworker can be more than just irritating – it can lead to a flare up of depressive symptoms and drive you to struggle more than you should.
Set Daily Goals and Tasks
Slow and steady wins the race – and this is especially critical when dealing with depression. It doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed when you’re depressed, and that’s normal. People with depression can have the tendency to overthink, often leading to a sense of dread as even the simplest set of challenges can quickly seem impossible.
Turning everything into bite-sized tasks and dividing larger goals into smaller step-by-step processes can greatly help you get things done by allowing you to focus on what’s immediately ahead, rather than getting caught on the scope of the bigger picture.