Did you realise that anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia?
On average, 1 in 4 people (1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men) will experience anxiety in their lifetime. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety (1).
For someone with anxiety, work has several factors which can increase the effects of anxiety. But the good news is that there is plenty that you can do to improve the situation…
People report that deadlines, and dealing with difficult people are the biggest causes of work-related stress.(2) A study from New Zealand also found that stressful jobs result in clinical levels of anxiety for people (1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men studied) even though they had no history of a mental health condition. (3)
Here are some steps which can help you look after yourself at work despite anxiety..
Examine your life outside of work
It has been said before, but it’s worth ensuring that you have a healthy baseline of activities. This means to check that you are getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy meals (including limiting consumption of alcohol), and spending time with people that you like.
Decrease excessive caffeine consumption
It is tempting to (e.g.) drink more coffee or use energy drinks when you have a lot of work, or an urgent deadline to meet. However, if you do this, it might be worthwhile decreasing the amount of caffeine you consume. Regular excess caffeine usage (e.g. more than 4 cups of coffee daily) can contribute to anxiety and nervousness. (4)
Be friendly with your colleagues
Knowing who to contact if you have a specific problem, and knowing each colleague’s duties can help you save time, and thus take pressure off yourself. Building a good relationship with colleagues can also help with problem solving, and also…asking for help. It is often easier to speak directly to a colleague than simply email them, as emails can be misinterpreted.
Ask for help
We all need to be largely self sufficient at work and be able to do the job that we are paid to do, but there is no issue with asking for assistance occasionally, e.g., when very busy, or when you do not know how to do a task.
It can be very tempting to vent to a co-worker about a third person, but this can lead to stressed relations with both people. It is even said that if someone gossips to you about other people, they will gossip about you to other people…not a great basis for a professional relationship.
It is better (if possible) to talk directly to the person concerned, in a way that indicates that you want to work with them to solve the problem / misunderstanding. If that isn’t possible, maybe enlist the help of your supervisor to have a three-way discussion.
Focus on facts
When solving an issue, it can help to focus on the facts of the situation – e.g. “I needed the statistics by Thursday, and you emailed them to me on Friday (one day afterwards). This meant that I had to stay late at work to finish the report” rather than “You emailed me the statistics late again!”
Be firm with deadlines
Again, it is tempting to agree to unreasonable deadlines, and often pressure is put on us to do so. However, if the deadline is unrealistic, it is better to state this, rather than raise the hopes of your manager (or colleagues) that the work will be done on time.
This can be difficult, especially for people who feel anxiety at work. I have written a couple of blogposts on self-confidence, which include some tips on how to be more confident and stand up for your rights.
This can also include such things as setting mini-deadlines for each stage of a project so that you know the project is on track.
Practice good time management
If the anxiety is caused by your workload, it can help to ensure you are managing your time well.
Use employee assistance programs
Many workplaces offer employee assistance programs (EAPs), where you can speak to a counsellor in confidence.
If you would like more help with managing anxiety, or simply wish to find out more information, please email me or phone me (Lisa) on email@example.com / 0403 932311. I will do my best to answer any of your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.