Even though anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health challenges people face, they are far from simple. Depression is more than being sad, and anxiety is more than being stressed out.

That is why it is so important to understand anxiety and depression and how it manifests in the workplace. Whether you’re working with these conditions, or have a coworker who is, it’s key that we know how to have constructive, helpful conversations about this topic.

What is Depression?

While sadness is a key part of depression, according to the American Psychological Association, that sadness is coupled with feelings of hopelessness or despair. This condition often lasts for periods of longer than two weeks and has a direct impact on someone’s life.

Again, it must be reiterated that depression is not a matter of willpower or strength. Depression is caused by things like brain chemistry, family history, or past events.

Some other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue, poor concentration, trouble sleeping
  • Change in appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or death in general
  • Vague aches and pains
  • Irritability

This could look like a lack of motivation or engagement in the workplace. It could also result in a dip in performance during a particularly bad episode. Expressing concern for a coworker or direct report in a respectful manner could be helpful, but bear in mind that the person experiencing these symptoms may be reluctant to talk about it.

What is Anxiety?

Like depression, anxiety is also caused by family history, chemical imbalance, or traumatic life events. People experience anxiety in different ways. Some find it constant, while others experience bursts. Some people experience panic attacks, which are intense bursts of anxiety and dread coupled with physical symptoms like heart pounding and sweating.

This is also not a matter of strength or something that can be easily controlled. Someone with anxiety cannot simply, “calm down.” It is more difficult than that. Over time, they can develop tools to help them cope with anxiety, but it is not a simple switch to flip.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chronic colds and flu
  • Stomach issues
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Addictive behavior

At work, this can manifest in an abundance of sick days, a dip in performance, emotional outbursts, and more. Flexibility and a manageable work-life balance can help someone to manage their anxiety while working. Patience and understanding are key when working with someone with anxiety.

How to Manage Anxiety and Depression

There is no one cure for either of these conditions, but there are ways one can manage them. Different tools and strategies work for different people, but here are some common treatments:

  • Counseling: Therapy can be a big help with many mental illnesses such as these. Even if you are having a good day, therapy can still be useful so avoid cancelling sessions.
  • Medication: Though not for everyone, there are a series of medications available for depression and anxiety. These should be prescribed by a professional and only taken as directed.
  • Self-Care and Patience: Be kind to yourself. Often, anxiety and depression can yield negative thoughts about oneself. Remember to practice self-care (whatever that means for you) and allow yourself to have bad days while continuing to work towards better ones.
  • Avoid Stress-Inducers: It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Find those things that trigger stress and do your best to avoid them. Substances like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and drugs can all contribute to anxiety, as well. Monitor your intake of these things.
  • Exercise: Many people find exercise and physical activity helpful in managing anxiety and depression. It gets your mind on physical activity and centers you in the moment, while also getting your blood flowing.

These are not the only ways to manage anxiety and depression and finding what works for you may take some time. Remember that asking from help and finding a professional to go to are signs of strength and could be immensely helpful for you. Please reference your company EAP for more assistance and resources.

If you’d like to read more of our insights around mental health, please browse our advice section.