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Depressed at Work? 4 Tips for Dealing With the Winter Blues

Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

A man with shaggy dark brown hair sits at a table and holds his head in his had, signifying that he is depressed at work. His laptop is open in front of him and there is a green plant blocking the left side of this image.

Everything can feel a little harder in the middle of winter: getting out of bed, going outside to walk the dog or take out the trash, and staying motivated. Even if the reasons for your winter funk are unrelated to your job, it could still bleed into your work life, making you dread your job and start to wonder if perhaps it is time to move on.

If you're feeling depressed at work, here are some ways to cope when the days are short and the to-do lists are long.

Focus on something you’re looking forward to

Is there a conference or professional development training that you’re excited to attend? An upcoming office activity that you enjoy, such as the monthly celebration of birthdays or a group volunteering activity?

Pro Tip: Our roundup of professional development opportunities includes tips for asking your organization to sponsor your conference attendance.

Find something at work that you’re looking forward to, and when you feel the funk setting in, turn your focus to that. For example, look at the conference agenda to pick the sessions you want to attend, or read up on the keynote speaker’s background.

Not seeing something at work that you’re excited about? You can change that! Try organizing a brown-bag lunch or book club to get to know your colleagues. Or you can browse Neon One's list of nonprofit conferences for an event that speaks to you.

Reach out to colleagues

Positive work relationships are tied to workplace happiness, which means connecting with your colleagues can help pull you out of any work depression you may be experiencing. Even introverts can draw energy from connecting with people, particularly in one-on-one interactions.

For a quick pick-me-up, try popping into a colleague’s office for a non-work-related chat or scheduling a video catch-up session if you’re remote. If you have more time on your hands or want to have a deeper conversation, you can go out for lunch or coffee with a coworker or take a walk (although it may need to be an indoor walk, depending on the weather).

When you reach out, you don’t have to reveal that you’re feeling unmotivated and trying to shake a funk. You can simply say you want to get to know your colleagues better or take a break from your desk.

If you don’t mind sharing what you’re going through, you may find that your coworker is feeling the same way, or has felt that way before. It can be comforting and reassuring to know you're not the only one feeling the funk, and maybe you can exchange strategies for getting through it.

Try something new

It’s good to have some element of predictability in your day, but sometimes a routine can get boring. Switching up your routine can be a big undertaking—like identifying a need in your organization and developing an action plan to meet that need—or a smaller but meaningful change, such as:

  • Starting or ending the day by writing in a journal. You could pick a prompt to answer each day, such as, “Today, I will commit to [fill in the blank with an adjective or an aspiration]” or “How did I connect with my passion today?”
  • Eating lunch away from your desk. For an added break, eat lunch away from any devices, including your cell phone. Try a book, magazine, or crossword puzzle instead.
  • Creating an office-stretching routine. These office stretches can be done at your desk, even in a cubicle. If you’re feeling adventurous and have more space to work with, try these nonprofit yoga poses.

Consider talking to a doctor if you think it’s winter depression

It’s one thing to feel burned out, but depression is an entirely different story.

Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is a type of depression that ebbs and flows with the seasons, typically starting in the fall or winter and fading in spring or summer. Symptoms of winter-onset SAD can include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

A doctor is the best person to diagnose SAD and recommend treatment. Treatment can include buying a special light box to use in the morning or trying mind-body techniques such as meditation, tai chi, or art therapy.

Can’t shake the funk? Maybe winter isn’t the problem.

If you tried one or more of these tips and still feel depressed at work, it's possible that the weather isn't the problem and you may want to find a new job. If that’s the case, the first step in your job search should be figuring out what you need (or what you need to avoid) in your next job to be happy. The last thing you want to do is rush into a new position just because it’s new and discover it’s not a good fit.

After that, you know the drill. For advice on crafting killer application materials, honing your networking skills, and sharpening interview techniques, check out more of our Career Advice here on Idealist.

Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.

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