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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

3 Ways to Stay Up in a Depressed Work Environment

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: May 1st 2009

 Whether we want to buy it or not, a financial recession can have a major impact on people's mental health and make life very difficult for those who live with pre-existing struggles such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. As an extreme example, the acting CFO of Freddie Mac, David Kellerman, was found dead of an apparent suicide a number of days ago. We can't diagnose what his condition was, but it does raise some issues as to how being involved in a financially depressed company can exacerbate symptoms that may already be there and left untreated, can lead to severe consequences.

I've worked with a number of people recently who are at risk of losing their jobs or just working in an environment where people are standing around the water cooler sharing all of their miseries and catastrophic projections of how things will be. When I ask "how does that work for you," more often than not the response is that it makes them feel a bit better initially and then through the course of the day they find themselves more lethargic, depressed, and/or anxious. Of course there is initial relief because we start to realize "phew, I'm not alone in this." But, what we take in with our senses, day in and day out, has an effect on how we feel. It's difficult not to be affected when you don't know if the next round of layoffs is going to be you, or people you used to enjoy working with are no longer around and there's not a lot of hope flying in the air.

Whether you have a pre-existing struggle with anxiety, depression, addiction, or not, here are 3 things you can do to keep yourself out of a mental rut in a depressed work environment.

  1. Misery loves company - It's ok to talk with co-workers about the difficulties you're having, but be careful you're not overdoing it and increasing your ‘doomsday' attitude. If you need to, draw some boundaries and limit these interactions and conversations.

  2. Pleasant Events - When in a depressed environment it's too easy to get drawn into this and no longer notice the pleasant things that may be happening during the day that can help you feel more resilient. Write down one pleasant event per day and notice how it made you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally. Also, pay attention to how you feel when you're writing about it. This is not to conjure up events or to put on rose colored glasses; this is simply about noticing what is already there.

  3. Focus - Stay focused on the work you have to do. The mind is very clever to start wandering off and in a depressed environment after commiserating with colleagues; it's likely to wander off into thinking about some future catastrophe or maybe lamenting about time in the past. When it does this, just make a mental note that it has wandered off and then gently bring it back to the task at hand. Ask yourself, "What is the most important thing for me to be doing right now?" If there is no work to be done because the company is truly in a downward spiral, begin to take action to put yourself there to plan for a new job.

These 3 things can be a great support in helping you get out of a mental rut at work. If for any reason you are feeling very depressed and notice more suicidal thoughts circulating, please call a healthcare professional. In the meantime, Mentalhelp.net has some really thorough information regarding suicide.

As always, please share your thoughts, comments and questions below. Your additions here provide a rich source of interaction here for us all to benefit from

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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