A recent article in the Metro quoted a survey by PwC suggesting a third of British employees across junior and senior roles suffer with anxiety, depression or stress - a sixth with mental health issues – suggesting the role of technology blurring the lines between home and work life over recent years. Technology they suggest, especially smartphones, has increased our need to reply to calls, emails and social media more and more outside of working hours creating relentless pressure from always being on call and feeling unable to escape the usual stresses of work.
And even today, many of us feel the need to hide our anxiety, stress or depression from our bosses, fearing the label of not being able to cope and the stigma attached to mental health. This just adds to the existing levels of anxiety, stress or depression and simply exacerbates the issues and their effects. There are strategies available to help you manage:
Acknowledge the issue - your first step to feeling better is to acknowledge you're struggling with anxiety, stress or depression so you can work towards a solution. There could be any number of causes but usually some life events or situation has spun out of your control and challenged your ability to cope - or perceived ability to cope - and you adapt your lifestyle to offset the negative effects. For example, drinking, taking drugs, chain smoking, bottling up feelings, avoiding situations maybe some of the classic signs of anxiety, stress or mild depression offering short term relief, but rarely offer a long term solution.
Take control – loss of control is one of the key contributors to anxiety, stress and depression. If you keep saying to yourself that you can’t do anything about your problem then you allow these feelings of anxiety, stress and depression to continue and maybe to increase. Keep reminding yourself there is always a solution to any problem as taking control of the problem is empowering, positive and builds emotional resilience. And this is crucial to finding a solution that works for you.
Be positive – look for the positives in life and things for which you are grateful every day. As an exercise write down 3 things that went well at the end of every day - simple things - like the train was on time, or a meeting that went well, or you finished your work assignment. But if my clients are feeling completely overwhelmed by negative thoughts we shrink the negative thought into a small ball mentally and place it in the far corner of the room, to sit and be quiet, whilst we turn our back on the negative thoughts and focus on the positive. Just by naming the negative thought it loses its power and control and you can break that cycle where negative thoughts go round and round in your head. A negative outlook can make you feel worried, guilty and can impact your self-confidence, but remaining positive helps you to retain feelings of being in control even when situations seem to be conspiring against you. Being able to change a negative thought into a positive one is an important strategy to manage levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
Have a laugh - connect with people and build a good support network of your colleagues, friends and family. They can provide support and help you to see things in a different way by talking things through and finding a solution. Just being with people can also help you to relax and have a good laugh. Laughter itself is becoming more popular in the treatment of anxiety, stress and depression. A good side splitting, belly laugh that reduces you to tears helps to relieve tension and can instantly refresh your mood.
Take time out – we all need some “me time” so switch off the smartphone and laptop and claim your time back for relaxation and to chill:
· Exercise reduces your adrenaline levels and triggers the release of endorphins to help you re-energise, feel calmer and able to relax. Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.
· Yoga is a unique method for helping with symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Deep yogic breathing, postures and meditation is regarded clinically as a beneficial, low-risk, low cost treatment of stress, anxiety and depression. Yoga can enhance well-being, mood, attention, mental focus, and stress tolerance.
· Book some chill out nights to do the things you really enjoy and get some quality "me time". Work smarter, prioritise and don’t be tempted by overtime so you can keep those nights for yourself
· Challenge yourself by setting new goals or volunteering. Professor Cary Cooper suggests helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your own problems into perspective and can help you become more resilient and happier.
Accept the things you can't change - Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible so try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.
• Learn to relax and regain the feeling of peace whenever you feel yourself beginning to panic. Deepen your breathing and push your abdomen out when you breathe in – this simple breathing exercise can be a great help as it removes stomach tension.
• Visualisation is another useful way of dealing with negative thoughts. Start by recalling it in your mind and focus on the scene. Then change the image - make it bigger, smaller, darker, brighter, up close, further away, louder and so on until there comes a time the image looks ridiculous, weakening the negative thoughts and any attached feelings.
• Use a relaxation script “Close your eyes and breathe long, deep breaths. Now think of a place where you have been calm and peaceful. Picture the surroundings, see the colours, hear the sounds, connect with the feelings of calm and peacefulness. Let these images, sounds and feelings take you deeper into relaxation. Notice how relaxed and calm you feel in this place. Allow yourself to feel safe and secure in your own relaxation and calmness. Stay there for as long as you wish, breathing in that relaxation and calmness. Really enjoy that feeling of relaxation and calmness. When you are ready, open your eyes”
If so many of us are struggling with anxiety, depression or stress, then surely more help is needed in the workplace? Whether its encouraging us to take time off for holidays for a rest and recharge without the smartphone, taking proper lunch breaks, or just having open conversations about mental health issues without fear - and fighting back against the stigma of mental health in the workplace. In life, there’s always a solution to a problem but doing nothing will only make problems worse.