Why Saying 'I Don't Feel Good' Is Important for Those Dealing With Depression

Tips for working when you have depression

Verywell / Laura Porter

If you struggle with depression, it can be hard to communicate with others about your feelings, especially on particularly rough days.

That said, especially in office environments, sick and personal days are built-in for just this reason, and you shouldn't feel any guilt about using them when you need to take a mental respite. In general, saying "I don't feel good" is thought of as something people will say when they have a stomach bug. It's vague, doesn't invite any questions, and there's a mutual understanding among everyone involved that the person said it needs a break.

Using that same phrase when you're dealing with mental strife or depression can be equally as effective. To find out how to prioritize mental health by implementing helpful phrases like this one, we spoke with David T. Susman, PhD, a licensed psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

"These phrases signal to others that you need a break or that you may not be able to take care of daily tasks," says Susman. "Just as we don't often go into private details about physical health conditions, there is no obligation to reveal private aspects of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety."

How These Phrases Empower People

While the phrase itself seems simple enough, it can pack a powerful punch. When people are struggling with mental health issues, it can be hard or even impossible to explain exactly what you're feeling and why it's debilitating. Some people working through this may not even fully understand why they feel so down themselves.

Because people may not fully understand their feelings, admitting that they need some time away can sometimes cause a spiral of self-doubt. That said, this is when it's more important than ever to voice your concerns with simple phrases like this one.

David T. Susman, PhD

Phrases like these are more effective than just isolating yourself or not saying anything at all.

— David T. Susman, PhD

They are also important ways to hold yourself accountable by admitting that you're not feeling as well as you usually do.

If you say that you aren't feeling well directly, most people will understand that you need some time to rest and recover. Especially while people were working from home in 2020, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that most people left their vacation and sick days on the table.

Maybe you feel like taking a day off will make you fall behind. That said, prioritizing your mental health by giving yourself the rest you need can help you feel less overwhelmed, more rested, and generally more ready to take on your daily tasks.

How to Be Supportive As a Manager

Managers can convey support in a way that is critically important for people dealing with depression. While most managers typically know that they can't ask about particulars in regard to sick days, they can help their employees feel supported.

Ways to Support Someone As a Manager

  • Respond positively to the request for sick days
  • Say "please let me know if there's anything I can do to support you"
  • Offer to follow up with other co-workers regarding urgent tasks

Susman notes that companies have made major strides in improving their wellness offerings, partially due to increased awareness about mental health and state mandates. If you're working in an office setting, make sure you're aware of your company's policies regarding mental health and wellness so that you can fully take advantage of them.

How to Be Supportive As a Friend or Family Member

If you have a close friend or family member struggling with depression, it can be hard to know how to best support them. That said, you are in a unique place to provide support and encouragement.

One study looked at the advantages and disadvantages of people struggling with depression reaching out to family and friends. It found that when people share their feelings with loved ones, it can make them feel supported and help them share the burden associated with depression.

The study also noted that it gives family members and friends the chance to encourage the person struggling with depression and support them to seek out professional help.

However, one of the most important things to point out from this survey is what not to do. Some participants admitted that they were made to feel stigmatized and burdened by the fact that the family member didn't know how to handle the person's concerns.

That being said, the best thing to do is to let the person know that you heard them, you understand that they feel down, and you're there for a word of support or to help out whenever they need it.

How to Ask for Help

Once you've let people know that you're not feeling quite up to par, make sure that you're accepting any help that they're offering. This can including letting people help you at work, letting friends take care of things around the house, and even letting spouses take over some parenting responsibilities.

Use the time to fully relax and recharge. This is also a good time to talk to your therapist, even if it's for a last-minute session.

"Consider healthy lifestyle choices such as healthy nutrition, getting some physical activity, taking time for rest and sleep, and engaging in mindfulness or meditation practices," says Susman.

While these may sound mundane, they can help you gain back your sense of calm and control.

A Word From Verywell

Never feel guilty for prioritizing your mental health. Also, don't feel like you have to wait until you're entirely overwhelmed to step down for a day. Admitting that you don't feel well, in this case, is a sign of strength.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. DeFilippis E, Impink SM, Singell M, Polzer J, Sadun R. Collaborating During Coronavirus: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work. National Bureau of Economic Research; 2020. doi:10.3386/w27612

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private industry workers received average of 15 paid vacation days after 5 years of service in 2017.

  3. Griffiths KM, Crisp DA, Barney L, Reid R. Seeking help for depression from family and friends: A qualitative analysis of perceived advantages and disadvantagesBMC Psychiatry. 2011;11(1):196.

By Brittany Loggins
Brittany is a health and lifestyle writer and former staffer at TODAY on NBC and CBS News. She's also contributed to dozens of magazines.