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Depression? Is it sitting in the workplace too?

The easy answer is yes it does take a holiday when you enter the workplace doors but at work they can maybe help.

We all feel low sometimes – sadness and suffering are a normal part of life. It is normal to feel sad if we get bad news, or if we lose something or someone. Low mood can become depression if it carries on for longer than normal, and if it starts to affect you in other ways:

  • Feeling low for most of the day
  • Not being interested in things that used to interest you
  • Change in appetite – significant weight loss, or weight gain
  • Change in sleep – not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling worthless or guilty

Many people are vulnerable to depression but can stay healthy. Sometimes a ‘trigger’ comes along which throws us off balance and can lead to depression. This can be anything, but might include losing something or someone important to you, thinking or feeling that we are losing something, or a milestone event such as an anniversary. Things that might make someone vulnerable to depression are:

  • Events in childhood which have shaped how the person thinks about themselves, the world, and their future
  • Lower levels of social support (fewer good, supportive people around them)
  • Major life events (e.g. separation, divorce, death, but also positive events such as births)
  • Lots of life events or losses in quick succession (this can overwhelm our normal abilities to cope)

Whatever has caused an episode of depression there are a lot of things in the ‘here and now’ that can act to keep it going:

  • Unhelpful thinking – Any time we become more emotional (e.g. anxious, depressed) our thinking can become biased which means that we may start to see the ourselves, the world, or our future in unhelpful ways
  • Unhelpful behaving – When we feel low it is common to stop doing things we used to because we think they won’t be any fun. Or we might cope in other unhelpful ways, such as sleeping too much, or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
  • Unintended consequences of the ways we choose to act

Common Assumptions

We all have core beliefs and assumptions – about ourselves, the world, other people, and our future. In depression it is common for these to be more fixed or more extreme. Some common assumptions in depression are:

  • “Unless I succeed in all areas I am worthless”
  • “If I disagree (give my own opinion) I won’t be liked”
  • “I should be happy all the time”
  • “I can’t be happy unless I am loved”
  • “Good things happen to good people. Nothing good is happening to me so I must be bad”

Do you see yourself in any of these?

What Can I Do To Protect Myself From Depression?

If we know that we are vulnerable to depression there are things that we can do to mitigate against the worst effects:

  • Social support is one of the biggest protective factors against depression. Having a friend to talk to, or a group we feel a part of, can make all the difference. Could you rekindle old friendships, or try to make new ones?
  • Having a routine, such as work, helps to keep our sleeping pattern regular which can help to prevent depression
  • Regular exercise is important in preventing depression. When we feel healthier and more active we are more likely to take pleasure in life

Because these two things keep depression going it is necessary to make changes to how we think and what we do in order to overcome it.

1. ALLOW MORE POSITIVE THINGS TO HAPPEN TO YOU

When we become depressed it is common to avoid things. We often do this for the best of intentions – such as to try to avoid a bad feeling – but avoiding comes with a consequence. One extremely successful treatment for depression helps you to overcome depression-related changes in activity and is called behavioural activation

2. OVERCOME UNHELPFUL THINKING

Biased thinking in depression is reversible.

3. IDENTIFY AND CHALLENGE UNHELPFUL CORE BELIEFS

Relationships and experiences early in our lives set us up with ‘core beliefs’ about ourselves, the world, other people, and our future. Beliefs are opinions, not facts, and it can be helpful to update unhelpful beliefs.

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