What to do when depression affects your work

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a massive toll on the emotional and mental wellbeing of so many South Africans. The number of people with symptoms of depression doubled between 2017 and in 2020, from 12% to 24%. Job losses, and job insecurity, loneliness and the state of the economy are just a few of the factors that have impacted our mental health.

Depression affects people in many different ways.

  • Extreme fatigue or insomnia
  • Feeling demotivated
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in the things you used to care about.

These are just a few symptoms of depression, which you may experience in any number of combinations. When you’re feeling depressed, it can be very difficult to perform the tasks you need to at work. You may not want to go to work at all.

According to UK mental healthcare provider Priory: “The relationship between work and depression is one that can work both ways. Depression can impact your ability to perform your job well, and stress at work can also contribute to a person becoming depressed too.

“When depressed, people can also isolate themselves, worry excessively about getting work done and feel guilty about letting other people down. They can also find it difficult to talk about how they feel at work, because they feel ashamed that they may be judged.”

It’s a vicious cycle but you can escape it. Here are six steps to take if depression is making it difficult to work:

1. Seek help

Recognising that you need t is a sign of strength, not weakness. Book an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. These could be medication or therapy, or both. Depression is treatable, like any other condition.

2. Speak to your HR officer

Every company’s culture is different. If yours is sympathetic and you trust your HR officer or boss, let them know what you’re going through. They may be more understanding about decreased productivity if they know you are depressed and not disinterested in your job.  

3. Connect with others

Share your feelings with someone you trust, such as a partner, sibling, friend or minister. If you’re working from home, making a connection with someone else is very important.

4. Set goals

Establish a simple routine. This will give your day structure and help you feel more in control.Be realistic about what you have to do and the time that’s available.

Making lists is a great help if you’re struggling to concentrate and feel unmotivated. Break tasks down into smaller steps. Ticking them off will give you a real sense of accomplishment.  

5. Write things down

Depression can affect your memory, so write notes in meetings. You could ask your colleagues if they mind you recording non-sensitive meetings so that you don’t miss anything.

6. Be good to yourself

– Eat wholesome food and don’t skip meals. Unstable blood sugar wreaks havoc on your mood.
– Get moving. Exercise releases endorphins (feel good chemicals) into your bloodstream, reducing anxiety and boosting mood.
– Get enough sleep. Poor sleep is guaranteed to worsen symptoms of depression. If you’re struggling to sleep, try relaxing herbal teas or chat to your GP about a mild sleep aid.  
– Practise mindfulness. When you’re depressed, you’re often focused on worries about the future or self-judgement about past events. Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment. Learn more about mindfulness here.
The most important thing to remember is that depression is not something to be ashamed of. It is a treatable medical condition. Booking an appointment with your GP or talking to a person you trust is the first, most important step to take.

Life line offers free counselling 24/7. Call the toll-free number 0861 322 322 .



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