Keith Ablow: Handling Depression at Work

By Keith Ablow

overworked“As much as everyone talks about layoffs, I guess I should feel as if I’m one of the lucky ones, but I’m all the more irritable because they are piling more projects on me at work. The threat of losing a job hangs over all of us who are left, so of course we keep our mouths shut and just suck it up.  But I’m a single parent with ‘tweens, and I don’t like leaving my kids latchkey. I also seem to be more short-tempered -both with my kids, and at work.  Any suggestions?”  —Cora S., Chicago, IL

It’s hard to feel “lucky” when you get the same pay for doing more work, with the added stress of worrying about whether your job is secure.  I wouldn’t hold yourself to that standard.  Let yourself feel the whole range of emotions that your situation provokes–some relief that you’re still employed, some anger that your workload has increased, the anxiety that our fragile economy brings out in so many of us.  Share these emotions with the people closest to you and invite them to share their own.  You’ll find out that you’re not alone.  That may help release some of the internal pressure that turns into anger, whether at work or at home.

One way to conquer stress linked to concerns about the future is to focus on the moment.  Since you do have a job, if your children are in good health and if you are currently financially stable, pause and reflect on that.  You created a good enough foundation to have sustained you in a period of great turmoil.  Take some pride in that.  Take a deep breath and think about how your day and your night would be if you had lost your job.  Allow relief to take center stage in your mind, if only for a few minutes.  Those minutes can end up sustaining you for hours.

I also suggest letting your kids know that you’re feeling stressed, and that it has to do with how hard work is right now.  That will allow them to avoid thinking they’re the ones impacting your mood.  If you feel like your patience with them is running out, try to imagine how powerful you are in their lives.  Kind words sustain them.  Healing communication will stay with them for a lifetime.  The faltering economy can’t steal those riches from you, unless you let it.

Protect some amount of quiet time.  With all the pressures you’re experiencing on the job right now, you might need to stop for a cup of coffee on the way home, before trying to be everything to everyone else.  You need to care more than ever about yourself.

This is a time when counseling is more important to more people than ever.  An hour a week spent with a psychiatrist or psychologist or licensed social worker can be a terrific investment.  Sometimes, medication can help, too.

Finally, remember this, Cora:  The fact that you are concerned about how you treat your children and the fact that you want to remain positive at work means that you are a person of good character.  That treasure will be with you for a lifetime.



Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist and member of the FOX News Medical A-Team. If you’re interested in a private session, please send an email to


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