We’ve all been there at some point in our working lives. Our job is causing us stress and the demands seem unreasonable. There are several reasons why people become dissatisfied with their jobs. Some of the most common reasons are:
- Poor management style- including a terrible boss
- Bullying or harassment in the workplace
- Job duties do not align with your values
- You’re skills are being underutilized
- High turnover rate
- You’re not being fairly compensated
- You aren’t being heard
- The job is making you sick
All of these factors can increase job dissatisfaction and have real effects on your mental health. Depression is a major issue in the workforce and harms the employee and the employer. However, there are some steps to take if you think your job is influencing your depression.
Determine if you’re experiencing stress or depression
Stress can create a whole host of physical health issues. These include headaches, muscle tension, irritability, anger and resentment, panic, frustration, stomach issues, high blood pressure, weight gain/difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, and an increased risk for a heart attack and stroke. Toxic stress is stress caused over time that does not subside and affects our health. Work environments can be stressful environments and exposing yourself to toxic stress will contribute to declining health. Toxic stress is serious however it differs from depression. Stress caused from work typically subsides when you are outside of work or engaging in activities you love.
Depression is an all-encompassing feeling of sadness, dread, and/or doom. It permeates your work life, romantic relationships, social relationships, and your ability to be productive. Depression does not usually subside completely when they leave work. It hangs around like a black cloud. For most people they will experience several of the symptoms related to depression:
- Sleeping too much or too little- including coming home from work and immediately climbing in bed
- Easily tearful
- Loss of interest in previously loved activities
- Fatigue and exhaustion- For example, you’re watching TV and the remote is just out of your reach. If you’re experiencing fatigue you may forego reaching for the remote because it’s simply too much effort.
- Isolating yourself from friends and family
- Giving up on being able to make any changes in your life
- Low self-esteem
Learned helplessness is the sense that you have no control over your job. You may fear losing your job however you don’t have any power to make decisions or control anything to make things better. You feel like no matter what you do you are powerless to make and changes. You are powerless to have any influence on the situation. It is a helpless place to be, particularly if you identify as determined or go-getter. Historically disenfranchised or marginalized communities are at particular risk. Marginalized communities deal with systems of power and control that they cannot influence on a daily basis. The workplace can trigger and reaffirm that feeling of powerlessness.
What can I do about it
1) Set boundaries
Work environments often take as much advantage of their employees as possible. We are constantly accessible through our phone and checking email for many has become an obsessive compulsive tendency. Some work cultures promote coming in early, working late, or not taking vacation. Some workplaces may outright deny leave when requested. Others may bully employees for taking days off when they are sick. All of these situations are extremely toxic and contribute to your mental health.
It’s important to set time limits for yourself. What time will you arrive in the office and what time will you leave? Leaving the office can be difficult, however your time is valuable and worth it. Even if you have no where to go after work, leave at the same time every day. You will likely have to leave unfinished work and unopened emails. That’s okay. Do it anyway.
In a work environment that does not address harassment or bullying, emotions can be used as ammo to harm you or someone else. It is difficult to avoid becoming involved in situations that you witness that are not aligning with your values. However, you must set emotional limits for yourself. Ask yourself, “is this worth my emotional time and investment?” This will help provide a sense of control over your ability to manage where you invest yourself. For example, if your in a meeting and a coworker expresses outright insults, determine if it is worth your emotional investment to address that issue. Essentially, you’re picking your battles. You only have so much battery power throughout the day, spend it on what really matters.
The biggest way to become overwhelmed is by being a “yes” person. If you are that person, ask yourself why is it important for you to say yes to everything? For some, they want the approval of their bosses and coworkers and for others they have a tendency toward people pleasing. To protect your time and energy, you must say “no.” This can be declining invitations to unnecessary meetings, it can be turning away a coworker who wants to sit in your office and vent about their frustrations, and it can also be to answering your phone on your personal time.
2) Cultivate hobbies and joys outside of work
Life can become a cycle of waking up and dreading work, being at work, ruminating about the day at work, sleep, and rinse and repeat. We need more in our lives that just work. Cultivate interests outside of your professional space (this does not count reading books or research related to your field). Explore hobbies. Try painting, stand up paddle boarding, or meeting new people. Try to learn a new skill. Start a book club or visit an old friend. Our brains love new activities and it rewards us with a surge of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that helps us feel happy.
Time the new activity to take place directly after work. This will reset your body and mind from the stressful day. You’ll feel better when you return home at night after engaging in a hobby and you may even sleep better. We all deserve joy and happiness in our life. Our careers cannot provide that for us. We must seek it out on our own.
3) Take steps to regain control do you don’t feel so trapped
For many, our jobs come with sick and vacation leave. The average amount of vacation days is ten days for ¾ of industry workers. Only 52% of workers actually take all of the time they are offered!! Studies have shown that workers who take vacation are more productive and have increased job satisfaction. It may be difficult to get away however your mental health will thank you. You don’t have to have something grand planned either. Simply taking time away from work will help provide a reset.
Taking breaks during the day is also important. Many workers forego their lunch break and opt to eat over their computer at their desk. This is not a lunch break! Step away from the desk. Better yet get out of the office. Try packing your lunch and driving to a local park to enjoy your lunch outside. This physical distance from the office can provide a brief outlet of sanity and stability in your day. Additionally, if you have other breaks offered to you during the day, take them. Even one 15-minute break in the morning and in the afternoon can help provide a reset. Aim to do something nourishing during this time. Use the restroom, go for a walk, get outside, do something that helps get you centered.
If it’s right for you, begin to grow something on the side to help you have an outlet to leave your job. If you don’t know what you want to transition to after your current job, seek out podcasts or blogs about finding your passion. Start looking for another job and begin to let your personal network of friends and family know you’re on the job hunt. You consider a side gig at night to build up your financial safety net for when you do decide to leave. Finances are often the reason people are stuck in a miserable job. Building up a safety net, budgeting and tightening down on your finances to quit your job will be worth it. A good rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of living expenses saved.
You may do all of this and still be struggling with depression. We recommend seeing a professional therapist who can help guide you through healing and treating your depression. Many of these activities listed above can be challenging with struggling with depression and a therapist can help break them down into manageable and realistic steps. We can help you with treating your depression through therapy in Wilmington, NC. We have trusted therapists ready to help. Go ahead, get started now.