January's a depressing month. With a winding down of holidays as well as resolutions, we're seeing a double depression whammy of no fun and no motivation.
Still, if you're consistently bummed out, you might want to take a second look at your work schedule. A new study has found that working more than 11 hours a day more than doubles your chances of depression.
If you work for yourself or are the CEO of a company, don't worry—more control over your work helps you avoid this effect. But if you're middle management, beware. The extra hours can sabotage your mental well-being in a host of ways, including taking away from happy-making time with family and friends, increasing conflicts at home, and raising your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Lack of sleep and exercise (they're often bumped as we ramp up our working hours) just perpetuates this effect.
Even when researchers took into account cigarette smoking, alcohol use, job "strain," and whether offices were supportive environments, they still found a strong link between hours worked (over 7) and depression.
So what to do? Here are four quick fixes to counteract the effects of long hours--and a strong recommendation to rework your schedule for the long haul!
Yes, you'll need to summon a little motivation to get started, but a quick jog or even some dancing while housecleaning can work double time to boost your mood: a shot of serotonin from the exertion is an instant mood booster, while getting out the extra energy will help you sleep at bed time.
2. Pencil in social time
If the sudden lack of parties is leaving you lonely—and let's face it, in need of a cocktail—step up and schedule some after-work time with friends or coworkers. Bonus points if you can recruit a friend for a workout-and-smoothie outing. Multitasking!
Get home earlier by taking a moment to organize tasks before they can overwhelm you. Can you group them for easier completion? Break down a huge project into manageable bites? Then, as you get down to business, quit checking email and let your phone go to voicemail. The time it takes you to re-focus your attention after answering a call or email (research has shown that it can be several minutes!) may be part of what's keeping you at your desk so late.
4. Leave work at work
Until you can get your hours down to a more reasonable 8-9, at least make a concerted effort to be done with work the second you leave the office. Loosen your tie, pop on headphones, or pack a fun book or magazine for the train—do whatever you can to change your mindset into "personal" time so you can reap the most relaxation possible from those few hours. Again, extra points if you can combine this with other stress busters, like riding your bike home from work, or heading straight to dinner with your SO. Just remember to turn your iPhone off.
--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com
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