Do you need a break from work when you are depressed?

In this guide, we will answer the question “Do you need a break from work when you are depressed?”. We will first discuss the relationship between depression and workspaces. We will then look at the reasons people get depressed at work.

We will then move to mental health activities in the workspace that can help with depression and then finally discuss ways in which we can manage and treat depression.

Do you need a break from work when you are depressed?

Yes, you need a break from work when you are depressed. Work can be a major trigger for depression. It is important to prioritize our mental health at all times as there is no health without mental health.

Most workplaces have stipulated rules that allow their employees to take leaves when there are medical or family emergencies. This allows you time to get treatment and get enough rest. Sometimes workplace depression arises from burn-out and having a hectic routine, and the only treatment is getting time for self-care. Before looking at the reasons a break from work is important, let us discuss the relationship between depression and workspaces.

Depression and workspaces

It is important to note that work does not cause depression. However, the environment in the workplace may trigger or worsen the symptoms for people who are already living with depression. The level of stress and availability of help in the workplace are factors that can cause or contribute to depression.

Research from Mental Health America shows that depression is among the top three problems for workers. A negative environment in the workplace can cause:

  • Absenteeism
  • Decreased productivity
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increase use of substances and drugs
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Mental and physical health concerns

Signs of work depression

  • Irritability and anger
  • Having crying spells at work
  • Isolation from people
  • Absenteeism with no apparent reason or leaving work early
  • Making too many mistakes
  • Increased physical symptoms like headaches and fatigue
  • Self-medication with drugs
  • Change in the sleeping and eating patterns
  • Persistent feeling of low mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of confidence
  • Procrastination
  • Neglect of hygiene
  • Lack of confidence when working
  • Feeling tired at all times. You might start napping at work.

What causes depression at work?

  • Being overworked/ irregular working hours
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Feeling like you are not in control of your work
  • Toxic work environment
  • Being underpaid
  • Discrimination and being harassed at work
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Work stagnation (feeling like your work does not further your career)
  • Lack of work-life balance
  • Working in a place that does not meet your personal values

There is a difference between work stress and work depression. Work stress is very common and the symptoms include muscle tensions and headaches, fatigue, and bouts of anxiety and irritability. This stress decreases once the task at hand is complete.

The symptoms of work depression, however, go on for a long period and affect the quality of your work and also affect other people. These symptoms stay even when the task at hand is complete.

7 reasons you need a break from work

A break from work does not have to last a month. Some people have demanding jobs that do not allow them to be off work for a long period. Taking a brief vacation or even an afternoon off can go a long way in helping you rejuvenate, re-energise, and rest enough. Some ‌benefits of taking a work break include:

Increase productivity

Taking a work break will help you be in a better and healthy mental state to do your work diligently and with ease. A well-rested mind and body are able to work with no restrictions. Being in a good mood also stimulates hormones that make the body active and alert.

Reduces stress

Being away from a stressful environment will reduce stress levels. This means that going back to a stressful environment (work) will increase stress levels. However, taking breaks in between work helps to break down the cycle of stress that can leave you overwhelmed. It will help you deal with work stress better, as it will not accumulate at levels where it will cause depression.

Help you rest

Rest is a necessity for our bodies to function normally. Rest helps to restore your physical and mental health, therefore helping you work better and efficiently.

Increase creativity

Depression makes us lose interest in work and motivation. A work break helps you to relax psychologically, hence improving memory and energy. When the stress cycle is broken, the mind rejuvenates and you can have clear thinking.

Helps to maintain work-life balance

Work breaks help us ‌reconnect with ourselves, friends and family. They help you meet the demands of your work and your personal demands.

Improve your physical health

Stress and depression cause physical illnesses like fatigue, severe migraines, eating and sleeping disorders and cardiovascular diseases. Taking work breaks not only helps you psychologically, but also boosts your physical health. Your brain is the control centre of all the body activities and when it is tired, all other parts are also affected.

Increases job satisfaction

Taking breaks helps you go to work content. This improves your mood and interaction with your colleagues. A positive mindset when working helps you get confident and fulfilled with the work that you are doing.

How to take a break from work

Breaks from work vary with ‌work and the rules of your workplace. You can have breaks in between the working day or you can have a long break/ sabbatical. We will provide tips for both breaks.

For brief breaks;

  • Practice Mindfulness Exercises or meditate
  • Read a page of a book or blogs like OptimistMinds about mental health and wellness.
  • Take a short walk
  • Lie down or nap (25 minutes)
  • Stand up and stretch
  • Chat with your colleagues
  • Call someone
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • doodle

Note: avoid stimulating and addictive activities like browsing through social media with no limits, playing candy crush, eating junk, watching movies, or watching news sites.

For sabbaticals;

  • Build your support system. Reconnect with family members and friends.
  • Go on vacation
  • Staycation 
  • playcation

Mental health in the workplace

Employers should put in place policies that promote mental health and stress awareness; these activities include

  • Offer affordable health insurances for employees to access mental health services
  • Avail mental health self-assessment tools
  • Offer subsidized or free programs on mental health and wellness
  • Have seminars and workshops that allow employees to air out and discuss issues that affect their mental health and the solutions
  • Create spaces for relaxation and brief breaks
  • Provide managers and supervisors with knowledge of spotting signs and symptoms of depression among team members

Lifestyle changes to treat depression


Just like antidepressants, exercises trigger the production of the feel-good hormones that improve mood. You don’t need to go to the gym and do strenuous activities. 30 minutes of simple workouts daily are sufficient.

Healthy diet

Eating well is not only important for your physical health, but for your mental health as well. Small, well-balanced meals reduce mood swings and keep your energy levels up.

Adequate sleep

A good night’s sleep eases sadness, irritability, fatigue, and mood swings. Make sure that you get 7-9 hours of sleep daily.

Social support

Keep regular contact with friends and family or join classes that will require you to interact and socialize. This will keep loneliness and isolation away, which is a major trigger for depression.


This article explained about depression in the workspace and the reasons for depression at work. We also looked at the importance of taking breaks from work, how to take a break from work, and activities that should be incorporated into the workplace to promote mental health.

Finally, we discussed the best treatment available for depression and lifestyle changes that can help treat depression. If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.

Frequently asked questions: taking a break from work due to depression

Is it okay to take a break from your mental health?

Yes, a change of environment from your work routine can help improve your mental health. It could be a ten-minute break to take a walk or it could be a sabbatical to go on vacation.

When should you take a mental break?

Do a self-assessment and when you test positive for five or more symptoms of depression that have been present for over two weeks, then you need to take a mental break.

What does a mental breakdown feel like?

People experience different symptoms when having mental breakdowns, but the most common ones include a change in sleep patterns, isolation, having crying spells, fatigue, hopelessness and feelings of despair.


Scott E., (2022, March 31). Taking a Break from Work (and Why You Need It). retrieved from

Lindberg S., (2021, December 3). Work Depression: How to Take Care of Your Mental Health on the Job. retrieved from

Center for Disease and Control Prevention, mental health in the workplace. Retrieved from

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