As adults, we spend most of our lives at work. Some of us are self-professed workaholics and some, like me, value our personal time. Some of us may enjoy working 50, 60, or even 80-hour weeks. They are the type of people who live to work. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But for those of us who don’t live to work, what happens if our life becomes all about work? For those of us who work to live, what happens if we’re forced to work so often that we never get any downtime or quality time with family and friends? If you’re like me, you might develop depression.
This year has been the hardest of my life and I am not exaggerating when I type that. I have learned that I chose the wrong career. I have learned that I greatly value a good work-life balance. I have learned that I need to come home at the end of a long day, get into my pajamas, kiss my husband hello, and collapse on the couch to relax.
I need to be able to cook dinner without thinking of the work I need to complete later that night. I need to be able to watch This Is Us and ugly cry every time the characters do, well, anything in that show. I need to be able to play with our cats and joke around with my husband. I need to read that book that I’ve had forever and I’m still only three chapters into.
And most of all, I need to do all this without watching the clock and mentally calculating how much time I’ll have to spend on work before I can finally go to sleep. And wake up and do it all over again the next day.
If you find yourself nodding along and this sounds like you, hear me when I say that you are not alone. Sadly, this is a big problem in America. For some reason, our society has developed such a workaholic culture. Have you ever heard someone talk about how late they stayed at work? How much time they spent on the weekend preparing for the work week?
What about if you’re a new mother and you only get 12 weeks of unpaid leave? According to this article written by Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post, the United States is the ONLY country in the developed world that does not offer any paid leave to working mothers. Even our Canadian neighbors get up to a year of paid leave.
Isn’t that insane? Our country’s culture celebrates working instead of family time. No wonder we’re struggling with depression. Depression and anxiety is rapidly becoming one of our biggest problems, as this article by HealthLine can attest.
I believe it. Based on my own experiences, depression is extremely hard to get through. Before I began my current career, I was typically a happy person. It took a lot to bring me down and I could not understand why people couldn’t just shake off their depression and anxiety. Why couldn’t they let it go? Why couldn’t they stop dwelling on whatever made them unhappy, and enjoy life?
I’m embarrassed to say that I used to judge these people. Not out loud, of course. I was supportive and appeared to be understanding on the outside. But it didn’t stop my judgmental thoughts, or stop me from wondering why they were so sad. Even though I have family members who have suffered from depression.
But once I entered a career that required me to work from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on average, to bring work home, to work on the weekends to simply keep up with the workload, I began to understand why. I began to understand why people did not have the energy or motivation to take care of themselves. To do even the simplest, basic chores around the house. To ignore work and deadlines, even if it created a bigger problem later on. To curl up in bed and ignore their phones, ringing and chirping with calls and text messages from concerned family members and friends. I understood why, for the first time.
Depression robs you of the willpower to do anything with your life. Got an important exam you can’t miss? Need to attend a nephew’s birthday party? Need to do some chores around the house so that your hardworking spouse doesn’t have to do it all? If you have depression, you will likely miss out on those important things then feel overwhelming guilt that you didn’t do those important things.
Depression is a nasty beast and gets you into a vicious cycle of procrastination and guilt. But there’s hope. No matter how hard it may seem, it’s important to reach out to your family and friends. It’s important to force yourself to get out of bed and do activities that you enjoy.
For me, I leaned on my husband and coworkers who were going through the same work-related issues. Instead of bringing work home, I decompressed by watching movies and updating my personal blog. I stopped devoting my entire weekend to work. I spoke with friends and family. I began a new hobby, learning photography. I focused on myself. I practiced self-care. And slowly but surely, I began to climb out of my depression. Am I completely better? No, and I probably won’t be completely better until I change careers.
If there’s one thing my current career has taught me, it’s that being a workaholic is not good for me. I cannot spend that much time on work without my mental health suffering. And that’s a realization that I’ve had to accept. I spent a long time feeling guilty, thinking “Well, my coworkers can do it. Why can’t I?” But you know what? Comparison is the thief of joy. I’m not going to let my mental health suffer any longer by trying to keep up with my coworkers. I’m not going to continue to work 12-hour days every day and most of my weekends just to keep up with the workload.
And if you don’t want to work that often either, then don’t. If you’re not a workaholic, get out of that environment and start looking for a better job, a job that will allow you to have a good work-life balance. A job that will allow you to spend time with your family, to decompress when you come home, to rest and recharge. While you’re looking for a better job, start taking better care of yourself.
Go do some activities that bring you joy. Perhaps it’s painting or taking a yoga class. Go talk to a loved one, whether that’s a spouse, a parent, or a friend. If you feel like you need more help, go talk to a licensed professional. They may prescribe you medicine and if they do, that’s perfectly OK. We all need a little extra help sometimes.
The bottom line is, if you are struggling with depression, work-related or not, you are NOT alone. If your depression is related to your workplace, then just remember this. You do not have to live to work. You can work to live. We all want a happy, fulfilling life. Let’s make it happen!
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Kelley Barger is a 2nd grade teacher, freelance writer, and blogger. Visit her personal blog at The Blissful Bargers or chat with her on Twitter at @Kelley_Barger. She enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with her husband as well as their two cats.
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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