Anxiety is debilitating and doesn’t stop when you enter your workplace (or switch on your laptop) but it can feel like you need to push your mental health struggles aside when you go to work so that you can be productive and earn enough money to live your life.
We know it’s not that simple. You can’t tell yourself to stop being anxious at certain times of the day – it doesn’t work that way. Workplace anxiety can manifest itself in many ways including missing deadlines, lacking enthusiasm and having more emotional responses to problems that arise – all of which can lead to problems for you, your team and your employer.
Here are some of our recommended ways to cope with workplace anxiety.
How to cope with workplace anxiety
Talk to colleagues
When you’re struggling with anxiety at work, it can be incredibly helpful to talk to someone you trust. Talking to your colleagues can help you verbalise exactly what is triggering your anxiety, and get advice from people who understand the environment you’re in. Just remember that your coworkers may be struggling with their own mental health or may not be in a good headspace to help you – always ask them if they’re happy to talk to you first.
If there is a Mental Health First Aider in your workplace you can approach them for advice and support but since these are not yet a legal requirement, not every workplace has them.
Work-related tasks can often trigger your anxiety so make sure to also ask for help when you need it to reduce the anxiety you’ll feel in the first place.
Build relationships at work
As well as being able to talk to colleagues at work, building strong relationships with them enables them to spot when you’re behaving differently or showing signs of anxiety. They can step in to help or make adjustments that will reduce how much you will get triggered during the day without you having to ask.
Treat your mental health like your physical health
Due to the stigma that still exists around mental health, many people try to ignore symptoms of poor mental health and carry on working anyway. But would you go to work if you were throwing up? Hopefully not.
The same goes for your mental health – while keeping busy can be helpful at times, your mental health needs rest so it can heal just like your physical health does.
As with physical health problems, you are legally entitled to time off when struggling with mental health. If you don’t want to disclose the specific issue you’re struggling with, you can send a broad message to your employer to inform them that you’ll be off:
I need to take today off for my mental health. Hopefully, then I can be back at 100% for tomorrow 😊
Learn more about anxiety
Educating yourself about anxiety can help you better understand what causes it, the impact it can have and how to handle it. Take an anxiety course online or read the information on official websites like NHS, Mind and (of course) Shawmind.
There are probably common triggers and specific worries that you have at work, but anxiety can also make it difficult to keep track of these over time. Keep notes each time you feel overly anxious at work so that you can start to identify triggering situations in advance and make changes to help you cope.
Make changes to accommodate your anxiety
Everyone works in different ways so you need to find what works for you. Once you’ve identified what makes your anxiety worse see if there are any adjustments you can make to your working life to reduce your anxiety. E.g. if you find that your anxiety is triggered by email notifications popping up in the middle of other tasks you are completing, consider turning off notifications and setting aside specific times of the day to check them.
Set realistic deadlines
A common trigger for workplace anxiety is deadlines. Everyone has them in some form – either set by ourselves or set for us by someone else. The need to get work done by a certain time and the feeling that we can’t fit it all in is not unusual. There are only so many hours in the day so plan your time and determine what you can realistically get done in that timeframe and move other work around as needed. If someone else has given you more work than you can realistically achieve before the given deadline, speak up and ask them which pieces of work should be given priority.
Practice mindfulness and other techniques
Learning techniques like mindfulness can help you to gradually improve how you manage your anxiety at work. It can be difficult to do this without guidance when you’re starting out so we recommend using an app like Flourishzone that can provide you with personalised recommendations and on-demand guidance for mental health and wellbeing techniques.
Practice good habits
Simple habits like taking breaks, staying active and leaving work alone out of hours are great ways to reduce anxiety but are easy to ignore when you’re busy or struggling with anxiety already. Look for ways to keep up with these habits by setting alarms for breaks, deleting your work email account from your phone or having a friend who keeps you accountable for your actions.
State the facts
When we’re anxious or on the verge of a panic attack, our feelings often spiral and start to overwhelm us. By stating the facts and verbalising exactly what is making you feel uncomfortable you can bring your mind back to reality and find a way to move forward. Stating the facts can also be a good way to rationalise what the consequences of whatever has triggered your anxiety would really be rather than letting your imagination run wild.
What can businesses do to support employees with anxiety?
Employers have an obligation to their employees to look after their mental health – not only for their wellbeing but for the success of the organisation as a whole. Simple things businesses can do to support employees are:
Wellbeing Weather Check – this is a diagnostic tool designed to help organisations understand the levels of wellbeing within their organisations so that they implement changes where needed
Mental Health First Aid Training – individuals are trained to look out for and support those with mental health challenges within the organisation and guide businesses leaders to create an environment that supports good mental health
Mental Health Online Training – educating employees about common mental health conditions can help everyone in the organisation work together to support those who are struggling and make changes to improve mental health
Anxiety of any kind is debilitating. It can destroy productivity and takes the joy out of life.
At Shawmind, we’re here to help you enjoy your life and perform at your best through support groups, mental health training and professional advice. Get in touch for support or to find out more about our workplace mental health support.