Anxiety is a normal response to worrying situations and everyone is likely to feel moments of anxiety in their lives. However, when feelings of anxiety persist it can be hard for someone to control their worries and live their lives as normal.
Knowing what signs of anxiety to look out for in the workplace can help you to a) support someone in their time of need and b) prevent the anxiety from deteriorating into other mental health conditions.
Mental health conditions overall can be hard to spot since they affect people’s thoughts and emotions – however there are a number of physical and behavioural signs that might signal someone you work with is struggling with anxiety.
Signs of anxiety in the workplace:
- Taking unusual amounts of time off work
- Increased pessimism and lack of enthusiasm
- Seeking constant approval and reassurance from managers and/or peers
- Struggling to meet deadlines
- Overreacting to comments or situations
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Change in eating habits
What can you do if you think someone is struggling with anxiety
Mental Health First Aid
If your workplace has a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA), this is a great person to mention your concerns to. Mental Health First Aiders have been trained to spot the signs of common mental health conditions in those around them but if they don’t work closely with the person affected they might miss them.
The MHFA can then start a conversation with the person to understand why they’re struggling and what next steps need to be taken.
Mental Health First Aiders are not currently a legal requirement for businesses but they have significant benefits.
Want to become a Mental Health First Aider?
Start a conversation
If your workplace does not yet have a Mental Health First Aider, you can start a conversation with the person who is struggling yourself. Often, the stigma attached to mental health prevents those suffering from reaching out for help – so by initiating the conversation yourself you may encourage them to open up. If you have a story of your own that you’re comfortable sharing this can be a great way to further reduce the stigma and encourage them to talk.
However, not everyone will want to talk to you so be careful to push or put pressure on them to open up. Simply let them know you’re there if they want to talk.
Ensure they take breaks
Anxiety can make people dwell on the negative parts of their life or job which only triggers more anxiety. So a good way to combat this is to help people take breaks to remove themselves from the anxiety triggers and focus on the things they enjoy.
It can be hard to enforce breaks at work, especially if it’s busy so you might want to try encouraging people to spend more time on the things they enjoy rather than trying to get them to spend less time dwelling on the bad. E.g. if the person enjoys reading, you could set up a book club amongst your colleagues to encourage more time reading outside of work rather than simply telling the person to stop thinking about the negative parts of their day.
Go for walks together
The effect that a walk outdoors can have on a person is amazing. The physical activity of walking (or doing any exercise) releases chemicals in the body that reduce stress, anxiety and depression while being outdoors has a whole raft of similar benefits triggered by increased daylight and exposure to plants.
Going on these walks together also ensures that the person will take a break from their day to do it as you’re holding them accountable. You may even find that they open up to you about their mental health during these walks being out of the office environment and away from their triggers.
Encourage them to seek support
If someone you work with is struggling with anxiety, encourage them to seek support from a mental health professional or organisation like Shawmind. Getting the right advice as early as possible can prevent mental health issues from deteriorating into a life-threatening situation.
There are several mental health organisations that offer a variety of services depending on a person’s needs. At Shawmind we have a Whatsapp number that anyone can use to get support alongside a selection of support groups including our Breathe Café and ManCave.
Important: you are not responsible for making sure a person seeks mental health support. All you can do signpost appropriate services and then leave it up to the individual to take it further.
Everyone is likely to struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives. Let’s make sure your business is able to help your employees when they’re struggling. Want more advice about looking after mental health in your workplace? Book onto one of our mental health training sessions or get in touch.