LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching of Denver

Archive for February 2017

How Hidden Depression Could Be Hurting Your Career

depressed-man-on-pc-looking-for-a-denver-counselorDenver counselor, coach, and therapist Gideon Killion shares some thoughts on the cost of undiagnosed depression.

Are you struggling to stay motivated at work? Have you been feeling physically or mentally tired or had difficulty concentrating? Do you have trouble making decisions or keeping track of important information at your job?

Career difficulties can arise for both external and internal reasons, but it’s important to ask yourself whether a psychological condition like depression could be the root cause.

If so, you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association estimates that based on 2013 data, up to 9% of adult men experience feelings of depression or anxiety on a daily basis. But depression and other mood disorders can be tricky to identify correctly on your own, given that men’s depression symptoms may not always include the “classic” elements such as sadness. Sometimes depression symptoms may also show up as physical indicators, such as digestive changes or simply feeling more tired than usual.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression in men can include some (but not necessarily all) of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or anxiety
  • Unusual anger or irritability
  • Fatigue, either physical or mental
  • Difficulty focusing on work or trouble with short-term memory
  • Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
  • Physical pain, including headaches, digestive issues, or cramps
  • Reduced interest in activities that used to be pleasurable, including family life, hobbies, and sex
  • Difficulty functioning in everyday life, both at work and at home

Here are some of the ways that chronic depressed mood could negatively affect your day-to-day effectiveness at work and even have long-term consequences for your career.

Impact on Productivity

No one is at their best professionally when they’re struggling with depression. A chronically depressed mood makes it difficult to concentrate on detail work or keep track of important data. It can also lead to problems with time management, thanks to depression’s way of dulling your ability to make executive decisions and stay focused on one activity at a time. In a chaotic work environment with many interruptions, the irritability associated with depression may make it difficult to avoid blowing up at others.

No Motivation to Move Ahead

If you’re barely mustering the energy to show up on time and put one foot in front of he other, it makes sense that depression can put the brakes on a promising career. One of the hallmarks of major depressive disorder is the loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. When depression has sapped you of motivation to take on new responsibilities and seek opportunities to be promoted, it’s unlikely that you will move beyond your current rung on the career ladder. And the mental or even physical fatigue that comes with chronic depression can make small challenges seem insurmountable.

Cumulative Effects on Work Relationships

Depression can intensify some of the challenges of day-to-day work, such difficulty coping with tense co-worker dynamics or unexpected policy changes. Men who are depressed often find themselves withdrawing from peer interactions at work, leading them to feel increasingly more isolated.

Telling your boss—or not—is another challenge of depression in the workplace. It may feel good to be honest about your struggles and ask for specific accommodations, or you may be afraid to disclose this information to management.

Regardless of whether you decide to let your supervisor or co-workers know how being depressed has affected you at work, it can be helpful to connect with others outside the workplace who understand the struggle of coping with a mood disorder. Here in the Denver area, there are several Meetup.com groups focused on depression, including one called Freedom From Anxiety and Depression. There are also several structured support groups for people with depression in the Denver metro area; for details, see NAMI Colorado.

Sometimes chronic or severe symptoms of depression can require professional help in order to improve. If you need help with resources for counseling in Denver or specific ways to cope with depression, give me a call at (303) 952-0168, email me at gideon@lifecraftcounseling.net, or use my contact form.

How to Make Your Smartphone an Ally Instead of an Enemy

Denver counselor, therapist, and life coach Gideon Killion shares some thoughts on making technology work for you.

man-in-jacket-texting-a-denver-counselor

If you’re like most people, you don’t go anywhere without your phone. Unfortunately, if you’re like most people, you have a love/hate relationship with it.

Smartphones can make our lives easier, more efficient, and more fun. They can also turn us into disengaged individuals who can’t look up from a screen to experience the world “in real life.”

For those of who struggle with this complex relationship, here’s some advice that has been effective for my coaching clients.

How to Let Your Phone Help You (Not Hurt You)

By making the most of what technology can offer you, it’s possible to turn your smartphone into a strong ally that support your values and goals. Here’s how:

  • Smartphones exist primarily for communicating with others, so find ways to use it in increasing quality time with friends and family. Have phone or video calls with family members who don’t live nearby. Get in touch with a local friend via text to set up a time for coffee or dinner. Or use your phone to sustain a long-running group email or text conversation.
  • Take advantage of smartphone apps that are designed to help you learn new habits, such as HabitBull, Loop Habit Tracker, or Fabulous. You can also use apps for specific types of activities, such as running, meditation, eating well, doing yoga, learning Mandarin, etc. Even the most basic reminder or timer app can be used to help you take a break from regular activities (especially sitting) to do things like taking a stretch break, drinking some water, checking in to be mindful of your current emotions, or making a call to a friend.
  • Use your phone to listen to books and podcasts while doing housework or driving. These mindless tasks can be enhanced by taking the opportunity to learn something new and connect with the world outside of your daily routine.

Don’t Let Your Smartphone Become Your Enemy

As you probably know, it’s easy to become addicted to the constant stimulation and distraction that your smartphone can offer. That’s because occurrences such getting an email notification or refreshing your social media feed to check for new posts can provide a dopamine rush in the brain—a pleasurable sensation that is comparable to the use of stimulant drugs.

And the idea of being away from your phone might be uncomfortable. In a 2015 study, researchers found that people who were separated from their iPhones for a few minutes actually experienced physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased blood pressure.

If you don’t want to be dependent on your smartphone to get through your day, there are ways you can regain control:

  • Adjust your settings to turn off audio alerts for most things (other than emergency or weather alerts).
  • Decide which notifications are truly urgent for you, and which information you can wait to manually check at certain times during the day.
  • Set aside specific times of day to manually check voicemail, email, tweets, and so on.
  • Use a feed reader or news aggregator site to curate news from specific sources, then set a limit on how frequently you’ll look at it (and for how many minutes at a time).
  • Make a commitment to stay engaged with the physical world instead of always focusing attention on your phone. This is particularly important when you’re driving, biking, or walking across the street, when it’s not safe to be on your phone. It’s also important in most interactions with another human, when looking at your phone can come across as rude.

Smartphones can either help or hurt us. I believe that most people are happiest when they make conscious choices about how to use their phones and when to put them away. Remember, even when you’re waiting in line, sitting on a bus, or just out walking, there’s plenty out there in the real world to interact with—including other humans. Sometimes you might even use the opportunity to take a deep breath and relax.