5 Common Myths About Anxiety In The Workplace
How often have you overlooked your mental health conditions because it sounded trivial to talk about them? Have you ever seen people at work shrugging off anxiety as nothing but a negative emotion or a phase? How often do you question yourself whether anxiety is real or not?
Despite being the most common mental health condition in the workplace, anxiety is still not perceived as a real problem or health issue. Almost 30 percent of American adults struggle with anxiety disorder, yet, only a handful of them go and get treatment because of the common myths and misconceptions that still circulate in the workplace and prevent people from reaching out to help.
This article will discuss anxiety and the 5 common myths about anxiety in the workplace and how to debunk them.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body's natural reaction to dealing with stress and difficult problems in life. But when it is persistent, excessive, and recurring, it can affect your ability to perform and become an anxiety disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, "anxiety disorder is when a person has intense and persistent worry or fear about everyday situations."
There are, however, different types of anxiety disorders like social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias.
Again, dealing with anxiety at work is a common struggle, leading to burnout when unaddressed. It is often caused by work-related issues, and the thought of working or going to work triggers anxiety symptoms.
Around 30% of adults in America alone struggle with a type of anxiety according to the American Psychiatric Association because of work.
Different types of workplace anxiety, ranging from mild to intense, affect both your productivity and mental health. Anxiety at work can take many forms -
1. Performance anxiety at work.
Performance anxiety at work is when you constantly worry about your performance on a certain task. It often stems from workplace stress and can make you question your value in the company.
As a result, imposter syndrome can arise, which leads to self-doubt about one's work achievements. It can fool you into believing that your coworkers or managers does not appreciate your ability to do the job or that you are constantly in danger.
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2. Social anxiety at work.
In the workplace, social anxiety can look like excessive fear of social interactions or situations because of the fear of being negatively judged by others. When you dread speaking up or meeting new people, it is mostly because you are struggling with social anxiety.
"According to a 2006 study by ADAA, employees report that occupational stress and anxiety go beyond their workplace. 75% of them admitted that it has a negative impact on not only their professional relationships but personal too."
You're more worried about the surroundings in your workplace than your work itself. It often leads to avoidance and neglecting important conversations with your coworkers and boss, leading to work burnout, inefficiency and poor social wellness.
3. Generalized anxiety before work.
In this case, anxiety comes before even being physically present or going to work. It is the fear or anticipation of work itself that can lead you to experience anxiety. There are both physical and mental symptoms of anxiety before work, and they can look like this -
Feeling of dread
Lack of sleep
Excessive stress and overthinking
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What Does Anxiety In The Workplace Look Like?
Anxiety in the workplace is a common struggle, yet it is one of the most understated ones. Often it is overlooked as a mere discomfort or shyness. However, according to a recent study, almost 23% of adults in America struggle with anxiety at work.
Many factors can trigger anxiety at work. Whether it's social interaction or meeting an important deadline, the range can vary from individual to individual. Employees usually experience it as a result of undesirable workplace factors that they cannot change, understand, or address. It can include feeling underappreciated, underappreciated, or unrecognized at work.
Not everyone experiences or goes through the same symptoms, anxiety at work can look different for different people, but there are a few common symptoms that most employees with anxiety can relate with. Here are a few common symptoms of workplace anxiety -
Blaming yourself when things go wrong.
Self-doubt or criticizing your own decisions.
Imposter syndrome (feeling like you don't deserve your job).
Difficulty in concentrating at work.
Struggling to speak up in front of people or your coworkers.
The feeling of dread or negative emotions triggered by the anticipation of going to work.
Frequent zoning out or procrastinating.
Experiencing mental blocks or zoning out in between work.
Feeling depleted or exhausted post-work.
Feeling irritable or having frequent mood swings at work or even post-work.
Suggested Read : How Sleep Deprivation Affects Work Performance
5 Common Myths About Anxiety At Work
Despite anxiety being the most common mental health issue at work, it is one of the most neglected factors regarding employee well-being. Creating a corporate wellness program for your organization is essential for employee mental and physical health. However, anxiety is often overlooked due to the popular perception that anxiety isn't real; it is just shyness or nervousness.
It is common for colleagues or friends to shrug off anxiety in the workplace as negative thinking, which makes it more invalidating. Anxiety is a real health condition; many employees experience or suffer from anxiety daily. As a result, employees suffer both mental and physical symptoms.
In addition to spreading misinformation about mental illness, misconceptions and myths can keep people from seeking help. Consequently, rather than dismissing anxiety as another "invisible illness" or "shyness," there are some stubborn myths about it that every employee in the workplace should be aware of and point out.
1. Anxiety isn't real.
One of the most common myths about anxiety is that it is not like other health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. It is often not taken as an illness because there are no physical symptoms, or it is not just serious.
Although it is considered a legitimate illness in the medical world, in general, it is often overlooked as mere shyness or being too sensitive.
However, there is a difference between normal day-to-day worry and long-term clinical anxiety disorder. It is how you react to stress, and almost 40% of adults experience anxiety in the US.
Although many people might cover it under a mask of indifference, you can easily spot your employees being anxious as there are some physical symptoms, like panic attacks, loss of breath, or fidgeting.
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2. Anxiety is just being shy.
Being shy is a personality trait, and anxiety is a mental health condition. Both of them are completely different, yet the behaviors might look similar. One of the most common misconceptions about anxiety or social anxiety disorder is about avoiding social interactions or conflicts out of nervousness, but that is not the case. It is an impairment or avoidance of missing out on significant aspects of life.
It is possible to have a vibrant personality under the surface of social anxiety. Social anxiety is most likely to affect shy people, although it may not be obvious to them. Having a reserved and shy personality does not mean you will feel anxious or overly concerned about the buildup of situations resulting in panic attacks.
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3. Anxiety is a sign of weakness.
Mental health issues are often kept under the desk in the workplace because they could be seen as a sign of weakness. It is not talk more often, nor do employees seek help. Although anxiety is not a weakness, people try to hide it because of the same misconception. Most employees suffer from anxiety at work, yet only a handful of them admit it.
Anxiety is not a personal weakness. Like any other mental illness, it is also caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and environmental and hereditary factors. Most of the anxiety you may experience at work could result from piled up workload, trauma, or poor workplace culture leading to burnout and mental exhaustion.
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4. The treatment of anxiety is a hoax. It will just pass over time.
Although most people think that anxiety is just a phase you can overcome with time, that is not how it works. It is perhaps the most dangerous of the many common myths, as it prevents people from getting the help they need. Many think they don't need to seek professional help or maybe exercising or eating healthy will cure it. But it is a mental health condition, and only physical exercise won't suffice.
"Although almost only about a third of people who struggle with anxiety will seek treatment even though treatment has proven effective. One study found that medication is effective for 50% of people, and cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective for over 60% of people."
A healthy lifestyle might come in handy for normal day-to-day worry, it is not the same when treating anxiety disorder or long-term anxiety and stress. Clinical anxiety disorder doesn't cure or disappear with time. The symptoms are persistent until treatment, unlike the common misconception. With proper anxiety treatments, you can learn how to manage, decrease and even sometimes eliminate these recurring symptoms.
5. Anxiety can be cured by less exposure to stress.
Contrary to popular belief, stress is not the only factor causing anxiety, so eliminating only stress or practicing stress relief activities is not the solution. However, it might provide some relief but not altogether.
Leading a stress-free life or avoiding stress at work is idyllic but not always possible. It can help to manage stress or your mental health problems, but it will not magically cure them.
When undergoing treatment for anxiety, it is important to find the root cause behind it. While people might think medication is the only treatment for anxiety disorders, it is not the only method for handling or curing the symptoms.
Despite what many people believe, anxiety disorders are not caused by stress, which is why you should undergo effective treatment to learn how to control your symptoms.
How To Debunk These Myths Or Deal With Anxiety At Work?
Employees might not always feel comfortable disclosing their anxiety disorders to you or reaching out for help. But your employees need to know that even if they want to, they can. They should be aware or feel safe in your company about talking or reaching for help when required.
You should be able to provide them with a healthy work culture where they can feel safe to address their mental health issues without being judged or looked down upon.
You can make your employee wellness program more supportive of anxiety by incorporating policies, coping skills, resources, and open conversations. Here are a few of them listed below -
1. Keep an open-door policy.
When dealing with employees' mental health, the first step is to have an open-door policy. It would help if you let them know you have an open-door policy when discussing mental health issues.
Tell them they are not alone in this and that you can trust your coworkers. Healing or talking about anxiety takes a different healing process, and sharing with a coworker with a different perspective might help to trigger your anxiety.
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2. Educate your workforce about mental health issues.
The first step towards breaking a stigma or myth about anything is to talk more about it and educate the mass by raising awareness about mental health. Similar can be done and practiced in the workplace too. You can learn more about anxiety and how to help your coworkers or employees by educating yourself first and later preaching to them. Here are a few ways you can educate your workforce more effectively about anxiety -
Share valuable materials via team emails and bulletin boards.
Holding meetings to open dialogues about mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, and depression at work.
Raise awareness in the workplace about anxiety disorder through campaigns.
Share the importance of seeking help and valuable resources through social media.
Invite a professional to speak more about dealing with anxiety through various coping methods.
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3. Develop appropriate policies to ensure a healthy work-life balance.
One way to strengthen your wellness program is to ensure that it covers all the dimensions of wellness, i.e., mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your employees, and not just cover up your employee's health insurance or gym memberships. It should be more holistic. One is where you can provide an in-house therapy or counseling session for your employees to talk or seek out help if they feel like they are on the verge of burnout.
Again you can achieve it by considering a professional mental health expert to review your policies and make the necessary changes to empower and encourage your employees to take mental health problems as seriously as physical ones.
Your organization's culture and policies should be the one where it provides opportunities for your employees to leave their work stress at work and maintain a work-life balance. You can start to bring changes in your wellness or coping strategies by incorporating the following in your wellness programs-
Allowing micro-breaks at work
Establishing a workplace culture that encourages mindfulness or meditation at work
Encouraging a more healthy lifestyle through various wellness activities or challenges
Allow your employees to enjoy more hobbies outside their work
Creating a highly flexible work environment
Summing It Up
Thus, addressing your employees' mental and physical health is the key to ensuring a healthy workplace. Though you might not be responsible for it solely, you are still responsible for providing your employees with mental and psychological opportunities to flourish.
The first step is to understand anxiety better and raise awareness about it. To change your wellness culture, you must first break the stigma and myths surrounding it.
I hope this article helped you gain a deeper understanding of workplace anxiety myths and the strategies to break them.
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