Each year in the UK, one in six people experience a mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression. It’s normal to feel some anxiety from time to time due to work-related stress or other factors, however, persistent anxiety and depression can be debilitating, resulting in a variety of problems, such as struggling to focus and to complete tasks while at work.
Statistics between 2016 and 2017 show that 12.5 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression, with those working in finance, law, accountancy, education and healthcare among the worst at managing stress in the workplace.
Look out for the warning signs
A lot of things can make you feel stressed at work, from work overload to unhelpful co-workers to pressure from bosses to hit targets. When managing your workload becomes an impossible task and you’re unable to unwind and relax after a working day, then there is something wrong. Taking work home with you and worrying about deadlines, even after you’ve finished work for the day, can be a warning sign that you’re too stressed. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression if not managed, so being aware of your stress is the first step towards preventing feelings of anxiety and despair.
Do something about how you’re feeling
Reach out to a work colleague that you can trust, speak with HR or talk to your boss if you’re struggling. Telling someone how you feel can help take the pressure off yourself and if you think you haven’t been performing at your best, your boss will understand why. If you find that opening up and speaking out about how you feel is too difficult to do face to face, you can always send an email. There are now companies that are introducing mental health helplines so that employees can offer fellow employees confidential support.
Take the pressure off yourself
Many of us, particularly perfectionists push ourselves to work at 100% of our ability 100% of the time. Dr Parsonage advises anyone with anxiety and depression not to take on any extra work, as it will only lead to more anxiety and unnecessary pressure. Do what you already have on your plate, before agreeing to take on more tasks.
When you feel down, it can be difficult to get into the mood for exercise. However, exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress naturally. When we exercise, we release feel-good hormones called endorphins that make us feel happier. Incorporate exercise into your routine two to three times a week and notice the difference in how you feel. Try going for a run or take up yoga to help you relax and improve your breathing. Dance classes or Zumba are also a good distraction to help you leave your work day behind.
Get professional help
Seeking professional help is always advised. You should visit your GP to be transferred to a professional to talk about what’s troubling you or look into making an appointment privately. Professional help can teach you coping strategies to help you manage your anxiety, which in turn will help you to get through your working days.
Take time off
If your day is particularly busy and finding time for an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist proves difficult, take a morning or an afternoon off. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Taking a few days off can help you to replenish your energy levels, see things with a new perspective and reduce your stress.
A lot of people with anxiety and depression self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Although a few drinks might offer a temporary escape, using alcohol and drugs is not a solution and can lead to dependency or substance abuse.
If you are feeling burnt out and anxious at work, be sure to talk to someone, take time to relax and don’t take on any more work. It’s also a good idea for employers to take measures to improve the mental health of their employees, that way employees feel that they can talk with senior management and HR if they need to.
If you would like help managing stress and anxiety at work, you can schedule an appointment with Dr Liam Parsonage.