Managing work-based anxiety

While anxiety and stress are quite often inevitable, it can take a severe toll on the state of your mental health and quality of life if not handled properly. In Australia, 1 in 4 people are affected by anxiety, making it more common than some may think.

You are not legally required to disclose to your employer a mental health condition unless it has the potential to endanger your safety or that of your colleagues, such as your ability to operate machinery or make decisions. Though not necessary, informing your employer can help them to support you and better understand what you may need to successfully manage work and health. In the event where an employer takes adverse action against their employee on the basis of their mental health, the Fair Work Act 2009 protects employees with mental health problems from unlawful workplace discrimination.

Those who find they have significant triggers at work should consider making a step by step plan to help identify and combat situations that cause anxiety. Those who experience more general anxiety could consider the following:

  • Sleep well: poor quality or not enough sleep can significantly impact your ability to perform tasks at work. For those who struggle to sleep, don’t consume caffeine after 12 pm, avoid screens 30 minutes prior to going to bed and have a regular bedtime.
  • Know everyone’s name: although seemingly small, those with anxiety can find names particularly hard. Identifying colleagues by name can improve reduce stress when interacting.
  • Ask for help: when you find tasks confusing or difficult, asking for help may seem daunting but the discomfort of asking for clarification is worth it in the long run as it can decrease overall anxiety about responsibilities. Asking for help also communicates to your superiors that you genuinely care about doing a good job.
  • Eat properly: take the time to eat a proper meal at breakfast and lunch as eating not only fuels you for the day, a good diet can also help you to better manage symptoms of mental health.
  • Schedule: learn when during the day you are most productive and tailor your workload to align with personal peaks. When scheduling, though it is important to set honest timeframes for yourself, it is not the end of the world if you fall behind.

Managing anxiety in the workplace is all about understanding what your strengths and limitations are. Anxiety may always be present to some degree in daily life, but it doesn’t have to interfere with working hard and enjoying your profession.

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