Most of us will openly admit to feeling some anxiety at work. Most of us assume that it’s just part of the job, but for some of us, it’s a bit more than serious than that. Anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it haunts people’s working lives, limits their career aspirations or cuts their career short. It’s important to identify when anxiety at work crosses the line from being an occasional experience, to a real, everyday problem that’s affecting our health and overshadows our lives.
Feeling anxious at work? You are not alone
Latest figures from the Health & Safety Executive show that almost half a million (488,000) of us are dealing with work related stress, depression or anxiety, resulting in 11.7 million sick days or an average of 23.9 days per person. These numbers only relate to those who have taken some form of action to address their anxiety, such as seeking help online or approaching their GP for advice, and doesn’t account for the many more who haven’t.
Talking ourselves out of the problem
Anxiety at work is often ignored because we fear being judged by others as being weak or not in control. The idea of anxiety being in the same mental health category as so many more severe mental health issues, often causes confusion and worry about being judged in a similar way. Research from the mental health movement Time to Change showed that almost two fifths (38%) of us have been negatively treated as a result of a mental health problem and almost 1 in 5 (19%) have lost their job.
While public awareness of mental health issues such as anxiety at work has grown thanks to high profile figures such as Prince Harry and Ruby Wax talking to the media about their personal experiences, it’s clear this negative perception around anxiety, particularly at work, is stopping many from seeking the help they need.
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, said: “There’s still a problem with employees feeling able to talk about their mental health, with only one in four of us (26 per cent) saying we would be likely to seek support from their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem.”
How much anxiety is too much?
Researchers estimate that we spend approximately 12 years of our lives at work or 90,000 hours , so it’s important to identify the difference between an occasional bout of bad nerves and the kind of constant anxiety that becomes a permanent feature of every single working day. Feeling anxious about taking on a new job, giving a presentation, working to a tight project deadline or facing a big meeting is pretty normal, but feeling anxious constantly throughout the working day is not and would suggest that there is a wider problem that you might need help with. Many of us don’t recognize the symptoms of unhealthy levels of anxiety at work or are simply too busy to notice, because we are so preoccupied with the full-time role of “doing the job”, until it’s too late. You might notice your performance is suffering, or you repeatedly get passed over for promotions or feel a sense of dread about going into the office that affects you even when you’re not at work.