How to Deal with Anxiety at Work

Whether you employ others or run your own show as an entrepreneur, you’re probably no stranger to stress. Even before COVID-19 caused anxiety to spike among Canadians, work-related stress was the primary cause of anxiety and other mental health problems.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness each year, with 500,000 employees unable to work every week. As a business owner, it’s important that you understand how to deal with anxiety at work for the good of your health and finances.

What Does Work Anxiety Look Like?

Work anxiety exists on two different frameworks. In some cases, the job itself is a source of stress. Other times, influences outside the workplace contribute to anxiety that impacts the work that we do.

Either way, before you can address the negative effects that feeling anxious at work can have on staff members or your business, you’ll first need to recognize the symptoms.

While general feelings of anxiety include excessive or irrational worry, trouble falling or staying asleep, and flat-out feeling jittery, red flags that point more specifically to work anxiety include:

  • Having trouble concentrating on work tasks or meeting deadlines
  • Spending too much time focused on the negatives of a job
  • Overreacting to workplace situations
  • Taking more time off than usual

Whether the issues causing anxiety at work are compensation, relationship, or workload-driven, it’s not unusual for those suffering to feel nervous, anxious, and overwhelmed by events.

With work stresses unlikely to resolve on their own, you should be prepared to take steps that mitigate work anxiety so you can prevent it taking a toll in other areas.

Creating a Psychologically Safe Space for Employees

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to create a safe space for your staff – one where they can feel comfortable speaking with you about their mental health concerns without fear of indifference, harassment, or retribution.

In addition to putting employees in touch with any mental health referral or similar services available through your benefits package, you should make it a point to:

  • Maintain a transparent, open communication policy
  • Ask individual staff members regularly how things are going
  • Speak privately with employees who voice health concerns

The MHCC recommends encouraging positive mental health inside your business by reviewing and committing to the guidelines laid out in their national standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

By actively involving staff to identify gaps in your organization, using tools in the standard to promote good mental health, and developing and communicating a policy around workplace psychological health and safety, you can take an active stance against work anxiety.

Be Proactive About Work-Related Stress and Anxiety

To help manage or fend off anxiety at work, both you and your employees can benefit from taking a walk outside at break time, leaving your work area to share lunch with colleagues or coworkers, and making more time for friends, family, and leisure activities outside of work.

For those moments when you are feeling anxious, mental health experts recommend:

  • Taking a break and finding someone to talk to
  • Using self-help techniques to relax, de-stress, and stay mindful
  • Avoiding unhelpful coping mechanisms like over-caffeination or unhealthy snack foods

Chronic, unmanaged stress can lead to mood or anxiety disorders that may affect your ability to work or run your business down the road.

If you suspect that you or a member of your staff regularly experience anxiety at work, it’s important to seek or recommend professional help. You’ll find some helpful mental health resources below.

Mental Health Resources for Employers:

https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2015-04-29_workplace_webinar_-_eng_-final_0_0.pdf

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/health-safety/reports/psychological-health.html

https://cmha.ca/news/6-tips-to-respond-to-employee-anxiety-about-covid-19