Should I Talk About My Anxiety at Work?

28 August 2019 -

Office workers at deskManaging and coping with anxiety at work is not easy – but through open dialogue, you may find that overcoming obstacles becomes easier

Rosie Gailor

Talking about mental health at any time is daunting – but talking about it in a professional environment can make it even harder. It is welcome news that the wider conversation around mental health is helping to break the stigma; Mind has even curated a Workplace Wellbeing Index, which logs the efforts of businesses all over the UK to supporting their employees’ mental health difficulties. Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, says that “in the last few years, we’ve seen employers make great strides when it comes to tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff, including those with a diagnosed mental health problem.”

However, knowing that the conversation around mental health is gaining momentum doesn’t make it any less difficult when it comes to managing your own mental health at work. Mind ambassador, Anna Williamson, says: “I know first-hand how difficult it can be talking to your employer about your mental health. For many years, I’ve battled severe anxiety and panic attacks, culminating in me having a breakdown while working on a children’s television programme early on in my career.” We’ve rounded up some questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Is it impacting how you work?

It’s completely up to you to decide if you’re comfortable volunteering your anxiety issues at work – but, if it is affecting your work or how you function in your working environment, the best course of action is to talk to someone you trust and tell them that you’re having a difficult time. Anxiety can often cause a lack of concentration, restlessness, and irritability, and can make working environments even more stressful. Having someone who knows you’re struggling will immediately lessen the weight of trying to hide and internalise your feelings, which can compound them into something bigger.

Who do you talk to?

If you feel as though you need more support, consider approaching your manager about your anxiety to see how they can help: perhaps there’s a quiet working area you can use when you’re feeling anxious, or you can arrange remote working on more challenging days. You may even feel that you need a period of time off work, to visit your doctor and be in a safe, personal space while you figure out your next steps. Williamson says that when she opened up about her anxiety at work, “my employers were great. I was signed off work for a bit, and given lots of support from colleagues while I was off and when I returned. I only wish I’d opened up sooner before things got so bad, but it really depends on the culture of the workplace.”

Is there something specific that’s making you anxious?

There may be something specific that triggers your anxiety – whether that’s something at work or in your personal life. If it’s a workplace problem, such as a stressful project or sour working relationships, your manager can help to create an action plan to tackle the problem or remove you from the situation. There is no shame in asking for help and knowing your limits; if you continue to struggle in silence, your manager or team won’t have the opportunity to help you thrive. You may also find that your manager can help to accommodate GP or therapist appointments, and that your team are ready to help you out and make the workplace less challenging for you.

How do I prepare myself to talk about it?

Business in the Community has a Wellbeing service in the form of a mental health checklist, which businesses can download to highlight the areas they need to provide further support to their employees. Try directing your manager to this page and see if together you can implement any changes; if your company doesn’t already detail any mental health support in their guidelines, or you don’t work in an environment in which you feel comfortable talking about your mental health, you can instigate this positive change in your office. You may find that many more people than expected are going through similar difficulties, but have felt unable to speak up.

If you need someone to talk to, and don’t feel comfortable approaching your manager just yet, head over to the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, or visit the NHS’ Moodzone.

Gain more insight about mental health and technology by reading our Future Leaders write up of CMI Companion and Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid Simon Blake’s recent talk at Arden University.

Image: Shutterstock

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