6 Useful Tips to Keep Depression In Check When You’re Stuck Working from Home
Depression can be one of the most challenging mental health issues to deal with even in the best of times. Add to this the uncertainty of the world today, and people living with depression may feel that what was once a profoundly unpleasant—though manageable—part of life, has quickly turned into an insurmountable challenge.
Of course, as with any mental health issue, there is no single way that depression affects people. Each person has their own challenges and lives with a unique set of symptoms. Still, one issue that can be quite common is that the things that are most beneficial for managing depression are the same things that seem next to impossible for someone living with this mental health disorder.
Though there may be the (incorrect) belief everyone living with depression simply wants to stay at home all day, avoid contact with others at all cost, and ignore their self-care, the reality is that getting out of the house and interacting with others, as well as eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise are often the best ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
For many who are dealing with this terrible mental health issue, being stuck at home is making things much, much worse.
Why Working from Home Can Be a Challenge for People with Depression
Being forced to work from home has caused a massive shake-up for many people, from having to find space for a home office to figuring out how to juggle responsibilities from work, family, and chores all at the same time. Though there are some who have enjoyed the flexibility of waking up 5 minutes before work and commuting a full 10 seconds from the bed to the home office, many people have found the transition frustrating and challenging.
These challenges can be especially acute for people suffering from depression.
The very nature of remote work means less in-person interaction with coworkers, clients, and colleagues, which can lead to stress, and in certain circumstances, make it more challenging to manage depression. In fact, a recent article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that social connection is one of the most important factors for protecting against the adverse symptoms of depression.
On top of this, while trading in an hour-long commute for a 10-second trip from the bed to the home office may sound like an upgrade, it can lead to some serious negative consequences for depression if we aren’t careful. The simple routine of getting showered, dressed, and organized each morning can help people living with depression to start the day off positively, leading to an overall reduction in depression-related symptoms. Even if we don’t think so, when we are walking to and from our cars, busses, or subway stations, we are actually getting exercise, which boosts levels of dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals which are essential for healthy brain function.
How to Help Yourself (or Someone You Love) Manage the Symptoms of Depression
01 – Build a daily routine
The simple act of waking up, taking a shower, and commuting to work can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with depression… but when you work from home, this morning ritual is easy to skip. While it may seem appealing to skip the shower and take that first meeting of the morning with pajama pants on, keeping a daily routine can help us start the day fresh and can also help us separate work time from personal time, reducing overall stress and making it easier to manage the symptoms of depression.
02 – Get plenty of exercise
Since working from home means you don’t have to actually leave the house for anything, many days, the only exercise you might get is walking from the bed to the desk and from the refrigerator to the table. By making an effort to get plenty of exercise, we can help our brains keep a healthy balance of neurotransmitters, which makes a big difference in managing depression.
03 – Get out of the house
Just like with exercise, making a point to leave the house every day can help to boost our mood and make it easier to keep some of the symptoms of depression under control. Not only because a change of scenery from time to time is good for our mental health, but getting plenty of sunlight can help our bodies produce vitamins that help us maintain a healthy mood.
04 – Reach out to friends and family
One of the best ways to maintain good mental health is to build a strong network of friends, family, and colleagues that can provide support. When working from home, the typical human-to-human interaction we get from the office isn’t available, so taking the time to reach out to friends and family can help us to feel more connected.
05 – Keep your spaces organized
Not only is it helpful to keep each space clean and free of clutter, but having specific spaces defined for ‘work’ and ‘home’ activities can have significant mental health benefits. By organizing our spaces like this, we can provide mental cues for when we need to be focused and when we can relax. This can reduce stress and help us to avoid aggravating the symptoms of depression brought on by the pressures of being ‘always on.’
06 – Eat Healthy
Working from home provides plenty of flexibility, but it also requires us to be more aware of what we are doing. It can be easy to slip into bad habits such as snacking constantly or eating chocolate cake for lunch, because “hey, who’s judging?” But maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to keep a healthy brain and reduce symptoms associated with depression.
Understanding Depression & When You Should Seek Professional Help
Depression is a very serious mental health issue. While for many people living with depression symptoms can be manageable and it may even be possible to maintain a healthy and fulfilling life, for some people, depression can lead to severe issues in their educational and professional lives or their personal relationships, and in extreme cases can even lead to self-harm.
Though it is not uncommon to feel sad or down from time to time, if you or someone you love is experiencing prolonged sadness, loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed, dissatisfaction with life, or other symptoms of depression over a period of several weeks or months, or longer, or if you have had thoughts of self-harm or suicide it is essential that you speak with a therapist or other mental health professional about depression and how to create a treatment plan that is right for you.