One thing I have learned about life, is that it is a constant state of fluctuation. Someone wise once said, “Never let your highs get you too high or your lows get you too low.” Part of our humanity is to experience both good and bad things. Some of us can get caught in an undertow of negativity that can affect us adversely throughout our entire daily life. If we’re not careful, the onslaught of negativity can drag us down into a state of depression that can consume us and frankly ruin our lives. The good news is that normally there are some tell tale signs that can help and I will be discussing those in this article, along with some suggestions on how to help thwart the negativity before it turns into a bout of depression.
Watch for Signals
In poker, people learn to observe their opponents to look for clues as to what they may be holding. If you get good at reading the tells, you can win more hands by properly anticipating what the opponent has in their hand and how they are going to try to play it. Battling negativity to avoid depression can work in similar ways.
Before you play poker, you have to learn the rules of the game. The more you play, the better you get at reading people. You find some opponents have tells that are easier to read and some you have trouble figuring out. As we start to look for precursors and warnings to danger that may lie ahead in life, we find like in poker, we get better the more we practice, and certain situations are easier for us to spot than others.
If you’re at the table with someone you are having trouble reading, you might want to slow your roll or perhaps even step away from the game, minimizing your risk. In life when you are in situations you have trouble identifying danger, you would be wise to do the same.
Trouble at Work
Many of us have experienced at least one bad work environment in our life. I personally have endured two very different but awful none the less work environments myself. In one I had a boss who thought he owned me and the other I worked for a company with a culture so toxic that I was despised before I even started and was always treated like a hostile enemy of the state. Personally, I dreaded going to work and it negatively affected my performance and destroyed my confidence. I tell you this because I want you to know that even in these environments, I’ve found some things to help me endure. My goal to help you if you’re in a situation like this now, to make some lemonade with the lemons until you can get out like I was fortunate to finally do.
Warnings to Monitor
Do you dread Sunday night? If you start to get uptight, irritable or are more withdrawn on Sunday night that you are throughout the rest of the weekend, that’s a warning sign. I used to hate Sunday nights. At my last bad work environment, with the toxic culture, Sunday nights were awful to endure. For me it was almost like I was two different people, Sunday morning I was happy and high energy. By the evening I was dragging and closed off. My wife and kids suffered and frankly so did church members who tried to be social with me after church on Sunday evenings. I just was so miserable I withdrew into my mind. In the world of sales, we always have pressure, but when you add depression to pressure, especially when you work in a toxic environment, things can go south quick.
Thankfully I never did anything I am ashamed of. God did look out for me. I hope this article helps others avoid some future trouble too.
Another warning is if you find yourself living for the weekend. In other words, you can’t wait until Friday at 5:00pm and by 5:01 you are in your car already out of the parking lot. Of course, all of us can be excited for some time off and get out at 5:01 from time to time, but if this is your experience week in and week out, you might want to examine your work life. Work should fulfill you at least a little and you shouldn’t be so miserable that you can’t wait to leave every day.
My weight is also another tell of mine. If I’m struggling with my weight, I know something in my life is off. If you’re like me and you’ve put on a lot of extra pounds, perhaps you’re eating to mask the pain from something in your work life that is not going well. If all is well at work, perhaps you need to examine the other areas of your life.
Other Warning Signs
Other things to watch out for include: Drinking in excess, insubordinate attitude towards management, flirting with or having an affair with coworkers, physical altercations with customers or coworkers, stealing from your employer, neglecting your assignments, taking illegal drugs, calling in sick when you are not, lying to your employer, looking for another job while you’re supposed to be working.
If you find yourself struggling with any of these things, you should consider talking to someone and perhaps it is time to move along to another work opportunity. If you are miserable, you might be happy with a fresh start.
Trouble Outside of Work
Certainly, some of the symptoms described above can derive from things outside of work too. For example, if you can’t wait to get to work and you’re constantly finding yourself staying late, even on Friday nights instead of going home, you might want to look closely at your personal life.
I have struggled in my personal life too. My wife and I nearly divorced. Through the issues I battled some dark things including drinking too much, sexual promiscuity and anger. The problem was I ignored the warning signs of our deteriorating relationship and used things unaware to mask the pain and justify my bad behavior. Unlike in my professional life, I have done some things I regret in my personal life. There are some things I wish I could have a redo with. Thankfully my wife and I were able to clear the air, forgive each other and move forward. Now it is easier to live day to day because I know to look for the warning signs and course correct as long as I stay diligent.
Outside of work watch out for the desire to flirt, excessive partying, working long hours especially if the boss isn’t asking you to. Are you withdrawn? Do you retreat into a movie, video game, social media and ignore your significant other or family? Are you angry and irritable at home? Do you neglect your bills? If you are organized and punctual at the office, but your personal space at home and in your car is a mess, this is a bad sign.
If you are straight, I recommend finding someone of the same sex to be your accountability partner. Someone you talk to once a week or so, who can keep tabs on how you’re doing. This is someone who can confide in you and you can confide in them and your spouse or significant other doesn’t have to worry or fear any romantic interactions. For those who are homosexual, I suggest someone of the opposite sex, for the same reason. You don’t want to drive a wedge of doubt between you and your partner as you seek someone to help make sure you are doing good.
All things health related should consider what you eat! This is no different. If you find yourself consistently making bad eating choices, odds are you have a problem somewhere else that is manifesting itself in the form of junk food. Grease, sugar, salt, whatever your pleasure, as you grow up and become an adult we are supposed to learn to eat healthy to fuel our bodies and not self-medicate with harmful food.
You don’t need to be a gym rat to be healthy but we should be moving our bodies every day as recommended by our doctors of course. Even something as simple as walking can be a huge boost for our bodies. Exercising releases endorphins into our blood stream which helps uplift our mood and feel good too. See a doctor, find out what is right for you and then commit to doing that work. Give this information to your accountability partner and have them ask you about it every week. Use an app on your phone to track your progress. You can even make social media posts as you ramp up and your network will cheer you on.
Read Something and Keep Learning
I used to hate reading. I am an audio-visual learner. If I can see you do something while you describe it, just once, I have it. I can read the same thing ten times and still be clueless. I did not enjoy books as a kid, I hated reading in college. I did it to pass classes but never for pleasure. Don’t like reading? I can relate. Here’s the thing. Reading allows you to not only learn something, it also allows you a quiet escape from your environment. I put on headphones now, to block out noise and I read for an hour or two at a time. I’m still not a fast reader, but I read every day. It helps me and I think it will help you too. Not only does the quiet help me to stay calm, I’m also learning a ton. Turns out I like to read nonfiction books.
Sorry if this offends anyone but sex is a part of my life as a married man. One of the warning signs in my marriage is if we go for any extended period without having intimate contact. Every relationship is different, and I will not go into any explicit details however I will say this. Make sure you talk with your partner about their expectations. Think about and communicate what you are hoping for. Pay attention to what you both want versus what is actually taking place. Sex is a great physical and emotional release as long as both parties are willing and able to participate.
What do you enjoy doing? Outside of work and time with the family I think everyone should have an activity they participate in. Painting, writing, hiking, woodworking, volunteering, cooking, fixing things…so many options to choose from. For me, I help people find jobs via #ProjectHelpYouGrow. It helps me to feel good about myself as I help others who need it. If you have not made the time to enjoy a hobby, please do so. The normal stress of life can be overwhelming at times, even when we are observing the warning signs and talking to an accountability partner. Find something you like doing and schedule some time in your week to do it.
Depression is no laughing matter. It is hard to deal with and sometimes hard to even admit you have. Depression has a social stigma but admitting you need help and getting it are vital to your long-term health. As I’ve implemented the changes in my life and removed myself from the toxic work environment, I have found staying away from depression has become much easier. I look for warning signs. I avoid situations where I could be dragged down into depression. Safeguards and strategy to stay healthy have helped me and I believe they can help you.
Please read the warning signs and if you are experiencing any of these, please seek out a counselor to talk with. Better to get it checked out and nipped in the bud as soon as possible. Also, depression is a silent assassin, you never know who is battling it internally. Please always be kind whenever you can to the people you interact with. You can be the light that brightens someone’s day or the straw that broke the camels back by kicking them when they are down.
Let’s help build each other up. Let’s do our best to be the best we can be. Please take care of yourself as you move forward.