Your alarm goes off but you’re not startled by the crippling ringing sound because you’re already awake. You’ve been awake for pretty much half the night – worrying about work.
You tossed and turned in your bed until you gave up on the idea of eight hours beauty sleep. You get up and stand under the shower, thinking to yourself about the day ahead of you. Meetings, presentation, projects – they all swim round in your head, as you try to make sense of the day. But all you can think about is:
“How on earth will I get through today?”
Having a panic attack at work is the equivalent of shitting yourself in public. Only that shitting yourself is probably less embarrassing than talking about mental health – because ya’know, we’re in 2015, and IBS is far more acceptable than depression! *sarcastic tone*
Stats show that over a quarter of Brits suffer with mental health, yet it’s still not being treated seriously, especially in the workplace. According to the ONS figures the average worker in 2013 took 4.4 days off sick due to stress, anxiety and depression. To put it lightly, that’s 15 million absence days!
But researchers believe the number of days off sick is actually a lot higher than these figures show due to people masking their mental illness as “just a cold” or “flu”. And this is exactly where the issue lies for most people – the thought of telling your boss that you are suffering with anxiety is just as crippling as the anxiety itself!
For many anxiety sufferers, the thought of telling your boss what you are going through is like holding a banner above your head, that says: I’M WEAK!
It’s no wonder people feel the pressure to talk honestly about their mental health when their company can’t even give a solution.
So what the hell can we do when we feel so anxious at work?
Psychologists recommend reducing the work load instead of taking time off work. If you are feeling crippled by your never-ending projects, point it out to your manager. State what you can and can’t do and what you need support with. Don’t be afraid to say if you think the workload is too much.
Exercise is also important for those who suffer with depression, so make sure that you do a little bit of exercise in the morning to get the adrenalin pumping and the happy hormones working. If an early morning sweat doesn’t suit you, then make sure you use your lunch break to either exercise or stretch the legs. Sitting at a desk all day, makes no one feel good!
Another piece of advise many psychologists give, is to keep socialising. Ring your friends on your lunch break or go meet them after work. It may feel like the last thing that you want to do, but socialising can make you feel tons better.
In my experience, if a panic attack starts to creep up on me whilst I’m at my desk, I make a quick dash to the bathroom and calm myself down there. Breathing techniques are a quick and easy way to soothe the storm that is brewing inside of you. I also use the app Headspace which is a nifty device that helps users to train their minds simply through the power of meditation. I tend to use this at night and whilst on the train when I’m going to work.
I also found talking to people at work, although extremely daunting at first, was the best thing I ever did. By talking openly about my anxiety, made my colleagues talk openly about their depression and stress. Which in turn, made the office seem more accepting rather than intimidating. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be shocked at just how many of your colleagues do suffer in silence. Always remember that you are definitely not alone. You never know – maybe your boss is currently suffering too!
The biggest challenge with mental health is accepting that this is your current situation. The only thing that you can do right now is to build your power by reading up on it and trialling new things that can help reduce your anxiety/depression. Find something that works for you – whether that’s taking Rescue Remedy, meditating, exercise, talking to a friend/therapist or listening to music. Heck it may just be all of them, but find out what’s right for you and go from there.
Yes, anxiety is a long journey but once you find the right path to go down, you will arrive at your destination sooner. I promise.