Anxiety is a common mental health issue that is still widely misunderstood, even with it being a hot topic in the media at the moment. Being rejected for your anxiety can make you feel ashamed, small and judged.
We all know that saying, ‘You never really know what somebody is going through’, but it’s easy to forget that when you feel under pressure in the work environment. When power battles emerge and staff start second guessing eachother things can get really heated; before you know it your anxiety begins to spiral into a full blown frenzy.
This is where you get the divide; some would say, ‘It’s your job, get over it… You are paid to fulfill expectations’, others will say ‘you never really know what somebody is going through, be kind’. Regardless of your compassion and opinion on work related health, anxiety is not something to be swept under the carpet. We must speak. We must be heard. And as a survivor of anxiety, whether you force yourself to greet that customer with desperate eyes and shortness of breath, or if you take five minutes off the shop floor to steady your thoughts and ground yourself, you can’t run from your anxiety and it isn’t something you should face alone, so here are my best tips to reduce anxiety at work.
1. The mountain.
This is a beautiful meditation/ethos you can carry with you, it resonates quite personally with me so I hope sharing this with you brings some peace, strength and clarity.
A mountain will stand through thunderstorms, heatwaves, foggy mist and perfect summers days. Sometimes people will climb the mountain, they might crumble at the edges but the mountain will remain. People might rejoice when they finish a hike and celebrate the mountain, still it remains unmoved. If you can think of the mountain when you begin to feel out of your comfort zone, and picture this incredibly profound piece of nature that will never crumble, you can apply this to yourself. Know that whatever is happening around you, good or bad, won’t break you; you can whisper to yourself ‘I am a mountain’, you can take control of your thoughts – empowering you with decision making, confidence building and self-love.
I know it might sound a bit arty and silly, I mean walking around thinking like a mountain isn’t exactly the most sane thing, but give it a go. I was dubious when I was given this image too.
2. Plan your outfits a week ahead. This way you have an end goal of the week, as opposed to day by day. By all means mix this up all you like, if your anxiety is peaking then you may find a week goal intense and prefer to take it slower by day, there are no rules. The idea is that you feel ready for tomorrow.
3. Make yourself a survival kit. You might not ever need this, maybe just knowing you have it will calm your anxiety, but I love my little anxiety pack. You’ll need a small hot water bottle, medication (if applicable), small memo book full of your fav quotes, phone charger, lip balm, photo/postcard/memento and an emergency £5.
4. This is for many of us, the hardest tip; tell somebody. Evaluate the people surrounding you with a level head and seek out the most private and compassionate. Don’t go for the person whose approval you are desperate for, or for your secret crush -pick somebody who has the best ability to listen, without judgement. There are a few good ways of going about ‘the chat’; if you feel you might not be taken seriously, please go to see your doctor and get a letter explaining you are suffering with anxiety.
This gives you real strength with work, and essentially it makes you untouchable as HR would have a field day if your employer was seen being unsupportive to a mental health illness. Though, hopefully you won’t need to enforce the seriousness of your anxiety, and you can just have an informal chat about how anxiety affects your day to day work life. If you have some reasonable requests that your employer could action then don’t beat around the bush, you are not a nuisance so tell them how they can help. Although you might not have any requests, just making somebody aware is helpful so when your anxiety peaks you don’t have to try and explain it all.
I have found that people with anxiety are the least judgemental people, maybe it’s because they have experienced so much misunderstanding they are hyper sensitive to the feelings of others around them. Without glorifying anxiety and dubbing it as a new trend, I think there are some positive things it can give as well so let’s not write it off as some fake mental health excuse that people use in order to slack off at work and not do their job.