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Successfully manage anxiety and stress in the workplace

Do you ever feel overwhelmed at work? Do you worry you are starting to lose control? You are not alone. A recent Acas poll reported 66% of employees have felt stressed and/or anxious about work in the last 12 months. These findings closely resemble the CIPD and Simplyhealth’s ‘Health and Wellbeing at Work’ report. It found 37% of employers reporting increases in stress-related absence, and approximately 60% reporting increases in diagnosed cases of anxiety and depression.

Whilst stress itself isn’t a diagnosable mental health condition, if you experience too much for too long, it can develop into a chronic mental health condition such as anxiety. Living with an anxiety disorder can have a huge effect on your day to day life, particularly at work. People may make excuses to duck out of social situations, be unable to meet deadlines, and maintain positive working relationships. Building personal resilience can help to effectively manage workplace anxiety and the feelings of being constantly stressed. Here are 10 ways to avoid spiraling out of control.

10 ways to successfully manage anxiety and stress in the workplace

Tell someone

If you’ve been suffering in silence it will take a very brave step from you to disclose how you’ve been feeling but in the long run it may mean you start feeling less anxious. Whether it’s your boss, a trusted co-worker or a member of your family, talking about your emotions is a massively important step people need to take. Ultimately, it’s your decision but you may find your future needs are better accommodated, and your disclosure may help to educate others.

Recognise your triggers

Think about noting down your personal signs and symptoms of when an episode might happen and how you would like others to support and assist you if it does. Some people like to formally document things into a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). These typically sit confidentially on your HR file where only designated people, appointed by you, can access them in times of need.

Manage your time

Work smarter, not harder. If you find yourself fire-fighting all the time you need to assess how effectively you are managing your time. Ask yourself if you are completing tasks in order of urgency and importance. Review your to-do list (or start keeping one if you don’t already) and pick out the top 3 tasks you need to complete today and focus your energy on doing them first. Make sure you create the next day’s to-do list before you finish for the day. This helps to give you focus and plan your day effectively. Something may scupper your plans, but this won’t happen all the time.

Do it right the first time

To save yourself the frustration of re-doing work, take extra care and concentrate on your attention to detail to ensure tasks are completed on the first attempt. But avoid chasing perfection! People should thank you for it which will boost your mood.

Don’t promise the earth

Avoid taking on too much. You need to set realistic expectations of what you’re capable of doing. If you start to feel overwhelmed, then make people aware that’s how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, people may not understand or realise you’re struggling, so just making them aware could help.

Time outs

Try to develop your own anxiety toolkit, a few positive things that help you manage your emotions when times get a little tough. This could include going for a walk, meditating, listening to music, or talking to a friend. Also make sure you take all your allotted breaks (including your full lunch break) and annual leave entitlements.

Internal support

Your workplace may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), access to occupational health or other private and confidential support programmes. Learn about what is available and how to access them.

Avoid workplace gossip

Whilst short term it may provide a little light relief and entertainment, getting sucked into workplace gossip can just add to your stress and anxiety. Don’t get caught in the middle of a situation. Avoid toxic environments and ignore any negativity you don’t need to get involved in.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Keep yourself active. Exercise is an evidence-based way to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Do whatever you enjoy. If the activity gets you slightly out of breath and a lot warmer, it will be doing you some good. Eat a healthy balanced diet, limit caffeine and alcohol and prioritise your sleep. These healthy lifestyle behaviours, if maintained, will build your resilience and help you navigate life’s challenges more smoothly.

Reward yourself

We often forget to take the time out to recognise all the good we achieve. It is important to take stock, particularly after a very challenging period and celebrate success. Thank others who have supported you through tough times and hopefully the feeling with be reciprocated. This should give you a great motivational boost, so you enter the next project with a higher sense of self-worth and renewed sense of optimism.

Of course, not all sources of stress and anxiety are work-based. To help businesses identify where the employees may be struggling, Healthy Performance have developed a mental health support tool called Pascal®. Whilst the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recommends employers conduct a stress audit to identify pressure ‘hotspots’ at work, we believe work is only half the story. Using validated HSE questions combined with other key topics, Pascal® is the first stress audit tool to provide a unique dashboard separating home and work issues, allowing you to personalise your employee’s journey with bespoke questions and referral pathways. To find out more about how Pascal could support your business please click here.

Everyone gets stressed out from time to time, and that’s perfectly normal human behaviour. There may be times when we do need to seek further support. Please contact your GP or other appropriate qualified mental health services should you need to.

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