Anxiety is a pervasive issue that affects many people in their professional lives. In the workplace, anxiety can lead to missed deadlines, poor performance, and increased sick days, impacting the individual and the organisation they work for. Yet, despite the prevalence of anxiety, many people still feel reluctant to speak up and seek help.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition that causes individuals to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues rather than one particular cause. This can make it hard to concentrate, meet work deadlines, or avoid procrastinating. Coupled with persistent social pressure not to take a day off because of mental health problems, many people with GAD try and tolerate it and suffer in silence.
Seeking Help for Anxiety in the Workplace
Many people think that anxiety and depression aren’t perceived as good enough reasons by their managers for days off. Whereas we tend to deal with our physical health problems when they occur, we tend to avoid dealing with our mental health problems when they come up. Sometimes, we don’t recognise them until it’s very late. Or we avoid them by saying, “I’m okay,” suffering in silence and preferring stress and unhappiness in the workplace to taking some time off to get back to the top of our game.
We all do avoidance from time to time, usually when we are confronted with something we don’t like or don’t feel good doing. But psychologists call this behaviour maladaptive: an unhealthy way of coping with things we don’t like. It is unhelpful in the long run because when we avoid and ignore our anxiety in the workplace, its impact on us is rarely positive.
We can become more emotional and unhappy or overreact to what others say. We might behave differently, feel restless or even take more and more time off work in the end. Avoiding anxiety at work only really succeeds in the short term.
Solving the problem in the long term starts with telling your manager and reaching out for help. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, and standing up for your struggles also enables your employer to support you. Just because you can turn up to work when you’re feeling severely anxious doesn’t mean that you should, and sometimes the first step to overcoming a problem is coming clean that you have one.
If you’re struggling with anxiety at work, there are several things you can do to help manage your symptoms. The first step is to talk to your manager, who can take many steps to support you. In the first instance, they are likely to ask for an Occupational Health Assessment, where a trained professional will assess whether your anxiety is in direct response to your employment.
Let your manager and the Occupational Health Professional know what’s going on and how it’s impacting your career. Your manager may be able to offer you support or accommodations that can help you manage your anxiety, such as flexible working hours, reduced workloads, or access to therapy with a psychologist or a counsellor.
Seeking Help for Anxiety Beyond the Workplace
It’s also a good idea to seek professional help yourself. Your GP can point you in the direction of some professional support, such as a clinical psychologist or a counsellor, who can come up with ways to help you cope better and better understand and control your anxious thoughts and feelings.
The NHS may be able to help. However, if you choose to get help without waiting, a private clinical psychologist can offer you treatment without waiting or a referral. You can also try many self-help techniques, such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques.
In addition to seeking help from clinical psychologists or counsellors, individuals would benefit from evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Birmingham-based psychologists can offer CBT to help individuals develop effective coping strategies and overcome anxiety in the workplace.
Creating a Supportive Work Environment
By combining professional support with a culture that values mental health, employers can create a supportive environment that empowers employees to reach their full potential.
Stress in the workplace is unavoidable, but enduring and debilitating anxiety is not. It’s essential to recognise that anxiety in the workplace is real, and it’s okay to seek help. By speaking up and asking for support, you can take control of your anxiety and start to feel more confident and in control at work.
The culture of just grinning and bearing is unproductive and unsustainable for both employees and employers. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s time we started treating it as such. By breaking down the stigma surrounding anxiety and mental health in the workplace, we can create a more supportive and compassionate work environment where everyone can thrive.