Supporting Mental Health Awareness Week with advice for dealing with workplace anxiety
Anxiety is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, running 15th – 21st May 2023.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience but for almost 60% of adults surveyed by the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety stopped them carrying out day-to-day activities.
Learning how best to manage your anxiety is important and can stop things escalating into serious mental health issues. What works for each person is individual, but hearing from other’s real-life experiences can help guide the way.
To contribute to the conversation around anxiety and mental health, we asked some of our employees their advice for dealing with anxiety both in and outside of the workplace.
Time out for you
Our First Aid Team Leader, Sandy Greig, who teaches ITC Mental Health and Wellbeing courses out of our Aberdeen training centre and is a qualified mental health first-aider, offers his valuable advice…
“Take 20 minutes out of every day for you.
“For me personally, this is time on my Shiatsu mat, which helps with anxiety, stress and relaxation. A Shiatsu mat is covered with small spikes that apply pressure to specific muscles – this doesn’t sound relaxing and takes some getting used to, but I love it.
“I advise to start off by wearing a t-shirt and take your time getting onto the mat, about 3-4 minutes.
“I spend 20 minutes just chilling out but you can also walk on the mat in bare feet if you’re feeling brave.
“My other advice is to not sweat the small stuff and most importantly, to never be scared to put up your hand and say you’re not coping.”
Healthy workplace habits
“As HR Director, I encourage an open culture for conversations around mental wellbeing and support all our employees and managers with advice and guidance where needed.
“Anxiety in the workplace is a growing issue – we face a modern-day epidemic which could escalate into more serious mental health issues if not nipped in the bud.
“My first tip is to make sure you take regular breaks and eat lunch away from your desk. Going for a walk during the workday can help you feel refreshed and reduce stress.
“Always use your annual leave – everybody needs and deserves time off. Not taking holidays can be a sign that your colleague may be struggling with a high workload or feeling under pressure.
“Ensure all absences are recorded and return-to-work interviews carried out, as they provide a safe space for employees to talk about any issues whilst giving managers the opportunity to spot any areas of concern.
“Finally, check to see if your company offers an Employee Assistance Programme that can provide support when needed.”
Exercising and organising
First Aid Instructor at our Aberdeen training centre, Will Stewart, encourages everyone to get active, sharing his passion for fitness and the positive effects this can have on your mental health…
“I always recommend getting outside in the fresh air or doing some exercise to manage anxiety. Taking time out to do something for myself and staying active really helps my mental health.
“I go to spin classes at the gym multiple times a week. Even if it’s a struggle to find the motivation to go, it lifts my mood the next day. The classes are tough but the sense of achievement and endorphins from the exercise make it all worth it.
“It’s also important to not try and tackle everything at once as it can feel overwhelming – both at work and at home. Break down your tasks into chunks and work through them one at a time. It’ll feel like an achievement when you complete the first task and make the next one seem much more manageable.”
Dr Maria Jackson who heads up our Newcastle in-house medical centre, shares her advice on managing anxiety, stressing the importance of speaking to someone…
“Mental health issues are extremely common – anxiety and stress are some of the most prevalent and these can be related to homelife and work.
“I have noticed a reluctance to talk about these issues in this industry and it is behind in terms of openness in discussing mental health.
“If things are getting on top of you, please reach out to others and talk about it.
“If your mental health starts to become a more serious issue, please get in touch with your GP or charities such as MIND, for support.
“It may seem obvious, but look after yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep and rest, and making time for family, friends and hobbies. This can make a big difference to your overall wellbeing.”
Finding a balance
Our Newcastle First Aid Lead, Pamela McCormack, emphasises how key it is to manage work stress…
“Stress affects us all in different ways and to different levels.
“It is important to ensure a good healthy work and life balance and to remember to take time to unwind during potential stressful times.
“Talking to others can really help to take a weight off whether it is to a colleague, family member or a support service, there are people there who care and can potentially sign post you to further support if required.”
Resources for anxiety
If you are struggling with anxiety, or any other mental health issue, you should never be afraid to ask for help. We’ve picked out some resources below that you may find helpful.