AS@W
AS@W Antidepressant Skills at Work: Dealing with Mood Problems in the Workplace
Making Decisions About Workplace Depression
What lifestyle changes might be helpful?

Lifestyle factors are as important for psychological well-being as they are for physical well-being. They help reduce our overall level of stress, and enhance our ability to recover from stressors and challenges. Lifestyle changes may be a focus for the skills introduced in this guide. You may want to increase activities or set goals in lifestyle areas. Some of the key lifestyle areas are: sleep; diet; use of alcohol and drugs; and exercise.

Sleep

Stress and depressed mood often disrupt sleep, and this sleep disruption can lead to further mood disruption. These are tips that can help improve your sleep:

  • Establish a regular sleep/wake cycle, including a fixed wake-up time and regular bedtime.
    Having regular hours for getting up and going to bed can help set your internal clock. If you are having problems falling asleep, don’t go to bed too early – you should not get into bed until you are sleepy. Most adults need about seven or eight hours of sleep.
  • Develop a sleep ritual.
    This may include some form of meditation or relaxation, bathing or herbal teas. Get yourself ready for the next day and then mentally “put away” any ongoing problems or upcoming tasks.
  • Don’t use your bedroom for non-sleep related activities (reading or watching TV) if you are having problems with falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Avoid exercise, caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco in the few hours before sleep.
  • Try not to nap during the day.
    If required, talk with your physician regarding over-the-counter sleep medications.

Diet

When we are stressed or experiencing depressed mood, our diet often suffers. Some people overeat. A more common problem is lack of appetite. Here are some tips on keeping up adequate nutrition during difficult times:

  • Eat regular meals.
    Eat by the clock, not by your stomach. If you have lost your appetite, push yourself to eat at mealtimes anyway. If you have been overeating, try to eat only at mealtimes while sitting at a predetermined place (such as the dinner table or lunch room).
  • Make healthy choices and try to maintain a balanced diet.
    Keep healthy snacks at work. If you find it difficult to prepare meals, have a selection of convenient but nutritious meals available.
  • If possible, do not work while you are eating lunch. Give yourself an opportunity to enjoy the break.
  • Use healthy eating as an opportunity to engage in some of the activities described in this workbook.
    Prepare food with a family member. Go for dinner with a friend. Take a cooking course.

Use of Alcohol and Drugs

People drink alcohol or use recreational drugs to feel better in the short run – but, if you are stressed or have depressed mood, alcohol or drugs can make problems worse. Alcohol and drugs can impair performance at work, create dependencies, and compromise general health. They do little to deal with the issues at hand. Also, alcohol and drugs interact with many prescription medications for mood or sleep problems (for example, making them less effective or making side effects worse).

Using the principles of goal-setting can help you set realistic and attainable goals related to decreasing or eliminating substance use. If your use of alcohol or drugs is a source of concern for you, your employer, and/or your family, then you should address this directly. A number of organizations exist that can help. You may be able to obtain support through company programs, Employee and Family Assistance Programs or your family physician.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is related to improved mental and physical well-being. Physically fit people are less vulnerable to stress and depression. Regular exercise can markedly reduce symptoms of stress and depression, and can help improve your sleep.

Here are some tips for increasing your physical activity:

  • Pick activities that you enjoy and that are realistic for you.
    Select the type of activity that suits you best (e.g., if you have never been a runner, jogging 3 times per week may be an unrealistic and unattainable goal for you). Variety also helps: pick more than one activity and alternate.
  • Frequency is more important than duration.
    Short, but regular exercise sessions are better than long, but irregular exercise sessions.
  • Focus on enjoyment.
    Try to put an emphasis on how you will feel rather than how you want to look.
  • Look for opportunities to be active during your workday.
    Walk to work. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Go for a walk at lunch with a coworker.
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