In memory of the recent passing of Kate Spade – truly one of the finest designers of our time – due to the unfortunate effects of mental health, I wanted to address something that affects every 1 in four 4 people in workplaces all across the country: anxiety.
For those suffering with anxiety, finding yourself a workplace and working routine that works for you and your mental health is one of the most important things you can do. But unfortunately, that’s not always achievable. We take the jobs we are offered, the jobs that pay that bills, and the jobs that are the most relevant to our field of study – regardless of whether or not they might be detrimental to our mental health.
We cross our fingers through nerve-wracking job interviews, sweating through shirts and shaking hands with sweaty palms. We read the job descriptions in the contract with a thumping heart, questioning ‘can I handle this amount of responsibility?’. We sign documents securing us for a 6 month probabtion period, wondering if we’ll actually survive that long in this working environment…and then we’re in. It’s important to remember that there are so many factors that can contribute towards your view of your work space. From small things, like a messy desk and cluttered inbox, to big things such as presentations, looming expectations and workplace tensions, different circumstances can impact your state of mind when coming to work each day. So if you’re struggling to cope with your anxiety in work, try out some of these tips, and see if your perspective changes!
Do not take work home.
I know that this a piece of advice that every employee in every office around the world is given (or should be given at least), but it really does matter – particularly for those with anxiety. This means deleting Slack from your phone, not checking your work inbox once you get home, and not working on any overdue projects until you’re back in the office the next morning. Whilst this isn’t always easier said than done, as the ‘need to know’ feeling of a potential mistake, late night message or missed critisim lurking unseen in your inbox can drive you crazy, but it’s important to establish some boundaries. Make sure to clarify to your manager and colleagues that once you have left the office, you are no longer at work and that needs to be set in stone. Any urgent messages should be dealt with the next morning, on paid-for hours. Your home needs to be your safe space, to relax and breathe, without worrying about workplace dramas.
Make to-do lists.
No matter if your to-do list is two items long or twenty, jotting down everything you need to do in a day is a great way to keep track of your priorities. Then, most importantly, you should share this list with a manager or colleage. This allows others to be aware of the jobs you have to do, the work you’ve been assigned, and the tasks you are aware of – they can then make sure that you don’t feel overwhelmed, miss out any jobs, or help you to organise your daily schedule. Covering yourself, and pre-emptively ensuring that other people are aware of your workload should more work come your way, can help to make you feel in control, and balanced – reducing your stress level day to day.
Confide in a colleague.
Every employee at every institution of work is entitled to confidental conversations with their superiors and colleages. Make use of this by confiding in someone you believe will listen and understand that you do suffer from anxiety, and that it doesn’t make you less capable, less determined or less driven in the workplace. Let them know, however, that it might affect you in other ways. Helping them to be aware of this, in a confidential setting, both protects you against any stigma of mental illness in work, but also could be referenced to explain any extenuating circumstances i.e. longer breaks, doctors appointments, etc… you might need later on.
Determine your own triggers.
If you want your superiors to understand your anxiety, you have to be able to understand it yourself. By determining exactly what makes you anxious, whether it’s working with a particlar client, using a certain software, being in a certain team, or even sitting in a certain space, you can work on trying to change that with your managers. Once they know what can trigger your anxiety, it’s in their best interest to try and make you feel comfortable and productive, and to help you work to your best standard whilst you’re at work.
Ask for a second opinion.
It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a senior creative, a CEO or a junior employee, whatever project you work on, make sure that someone else proofreads it first. Not only will getting that second eye over it help you to feel more confident in the work you’ve produced, it helps to avoid small mistakes which could end up causing you more anxiey later down the line. Although the process of having someone check over your work can be a little nerve-wracking in itself, reminding yourself that everything is a learning opportunity, it isn’t personal, and it’s a positive thing to be getting feedback might help you to feel calmer.
Don’t be afraid of your anxiety.
For some, their anxiety requires self-help apps and frequent meditation. For others, it involves desktop fans and soothing stones next to their keyboards. For a few, it means frequent breaks, breathing exercises and medication. Everyones experience and coping system for anxiety is different, and this should be understood and acknowledged within a workplace. Don’t worry if people ask questions about your methods of relaxation, they’re usually only asking out of curiousity, rather than judgement. But you need to do what is right for you, regardless of where you are. Don’t let the fear of other peoples stigmas interfere with your own treatment of your mental health.
Remember what anxiety does not do:
Mental illnesses like to make us think the worst of ourselves. It’s the scariest boss you’ll ever come up against, and it can make you feel so much less than you actually are. So it’s important to remember that anxiety does not make you bad at your job. Anxiety does not make you weak. Anxiety does not make you soft. Anxiety does not make you incapable. Anxiety does not make you difficult. Anxiety does not make you an inconvenience. Anxiety does not make you a bad candidate. Anxiety does not make you a bad employee. It makes you unique, and strong – for coming into work and dealing with your shit to get the job done every single day. Mental health isn’t a crime, or flaw, or a failing. It’s just an illness.
I hope these tips have helped anyone who struggling to deal with their workplace anxiety at the moment, and that everyone feels free and safe to discuss their mental health with someone at work they trust. Feeling supported in your working environment is key to a healthy and happy work-life routine, and you should never stop fighting until you get that support.
Thank you so much for reading! I’ve included some valuable resources that might help anyone in this situation below, and if you would like to talk more about anxiety or working difficulties, I’m always happy to chat: firstname.lastname@example.org!