How to keep a job when you suffer from depression

Keeping life together is hard at the best of times. It is made much harder when you have an out of control addiction, abuse alcohol or suffer from a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. 

Maintaining relationships and friendships is made that much harder, and holding down a job seems impossible.


RELATED READING: A Street Cat Named Fred – how I overcame drug addiction to live my best life


A couple of times, I have returned to the workforce and failed. I have been in my latest job for a year and life is definitely looking up. Here are some pieces of advice that have helped me hold down my job and are bound to help you as you transition back into the workforce.

Continue with your treatment

You will be busier when you are working, and you might feel like your depression or addiction is under control, but that doesn’t mean you should stop any prescribed medications or medical appointments. Keeping up with your treatments is essential to stay on track and to help you manage any new concerns that might come up in the workplace. Rely only on the advice of your medical team to advise you when you can cease treatment.

Get into a great routine at home

Being organised and getting into a good routine at home will help you prepare for your day and unwind at night. Make room in your schedule to go to bed early. Having a great sleep routine and getting a decent nights sleep will leave you refreshed to take on whatever the day throws at you.

And when I say early night, I mean it! During the week, I’m in bed by 10pm and don’t have any electrical devices (especially anything that can be on standby or projects light) or TVs in my bedroom. Going to bed early means I can rise early and naturally without using an alarm clock.  My body naturally wakes me around 5.30am.

Stick to a healthy diet

I have custody of my son week on/week off. When he’s with me, I work part-time and have extra time to prepare healthy meals at home. We do this together for some father and son bonding time. I work extra hours when I’m on my own, sometimes getting home at 8pm or later. Meal prep is your friend in these situations. Make time over the weekend to pre-prepare healthy meals that you can pull out of the freezer and reheat when you get home.

Stay active

I always get out of my office and go for a walk during my lunch break. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, I need this burst of fresh air and time away from my computer and phone to refresh and reset my mind.

Twice a week, and on weekends I start my morning off with a run. Once a week, I hit the gym for some weight training.

Weekends I also try and squeeze in a bike ride and hit of golf.

On the bad days, exercise is a way of releasing negative energy from my mind and body. On the good days, it makes me feel even more alive. In addition, my mood is uplifted, especially when out at 6am and you see all the other dedicated humans also exercising at that time. It is a great way to meet some new people and maybe find an exercise buddy.

Avoid drugs and alcohol

Since bringing my drug addiction under control 2 years ago, I have maintained a drug-free lifestyle. During the workweek, I avoid caffeine and alcohol, I find these two substances can bring out negative feelings or harm my routines and therefore affecting my mind. During the workweek, I stick to fruit-infused or plain water and indulge in the occasional beer or coffee on weekends only. I never drink soft-drinks or anything containing artificial sweeteners.

Keep your employer informed

You might not feel comfortable telling your employer about your depression, and that is okay. In previous jobs, I didn’t notify my employer of battles and then when I didn’t show up for work for weeks at a time, was promptly shown the door. This time returning to the workforce I was upfront with my employer about my previous drug addiction and my depression. My employer has been very supportive. They have given me flexible working hours (I work a 75 hour fortnight over 8 days) and that gives me time to attend all medical appointments, it gives me downtime and means I can be a hands-on Dad.

Stay organised

Keep your workspace clear and free of clutter and try to keep up on housework at home. 

I can afford to hire a cleaner to take care of some of the basics. If you can, make hiring a cleaner a top priority. Not having the stress of trying to clean a house on top of everything else allows extra time to work on me and maintain relationships and friendships.

Know when you need to take some time off

This is where being open with your employer can pay off. If you feel yourself slipping, recognise you need to take some time off and take it. An employer would much rather you take time off when you think you need it than deal with the fallout of a relapse which can have a devastating domino effect on the workplace.

It is possible to hold down a job while you work on your mental health or recover from addictions or alcoholism, but it is also a good idea to check with your medical team before jumping into anything too stressful. Take small steps, keep yourself active, healthy and organised and keep your employer informed. These are my surefire steps to successfully holding down a job when you suffer from depression.

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