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Thursday's post.

How to help someone at work with anxiety

If you haven’t experienced the severity of anxiety or its impact, it can be difficult to walk in the shoes of those who do and challenging to help them navigate their way through a working day. To add to the complexity, anxiety can be situational, social or high-functioning which means although a colleague can be seen as confident in meetings or speaking publicly, their anxiety disorder kicks in when in small groups, or with those they don’t know.

How I live with high-functioning anxiety.

In this up-beat TED Talk Jordan Raskopoulos helps us understand these different descriptions of anxiety, what their triggers might be and the impact they can have. 

As an estimated 822,000 workers are affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety every year it’s likely that someone you work close to is suffering from this disorder.

The following tips will hopefully help you navigate your way to supporting someone with a general anxiety disorder.

1. Do not assume.

If a colleague tells you that they have a general anxiety disorder do not assume that it’s the same for everyone. Don’t watch them as if they’re about to explode, and if you do see something that might lead you to believe they’re feeling anxious, don’t say ‘are you feeling anxious’ – that can only make things worse. Find out when and where they might feel the anxiety and ask them if there’s any particular way they would like to be helped if it occurs.

2. Be kind

People who suffer from anxiety tend to become more anxious about the anxiety than what triggers it in the first place. Have an open-door policy and let them know you’re there for support, a walk and a non-judgemental listening ear – when suffering from anxiety people can go inwards and not open up about their challenges easily.

3. Get to know the signs

When suffering from anxiety people’s behaviour will let you know. If they’ve shared information with you as mentioned in point one, you’ve got a head start. However, watch out for increased levels of nervousness, fidgeting, rapid breathing, increased perspiration or if they are having trouble focusing on one thing at a time, making decisions or getting easily tired.

4. Check-in

Supporting someone with anxiety isn’t just about being there for them when they have an attack. Anxiety can be eased over time with reassurance and encouragement but it’s unlikely they will come to you as frequently as they might need to. So check in regularly and let them know you’re there.

5. Go the extra mile

You might not be their leader, manager or even on their team but helping them with any worries or fears might help ease the anxiety. This could be anything from concerns around workplace relationships to career prospects and job security. If someone has a general anxiety disorder, what might be a small issue for others can cause all manner of issues for them

6. Step-in

If a colleague has an anxiety or panic attack whilst with you then step in and:

  • Stay calm
  • Move them to a quiet place
  • Use short, clear simple sentences
  • Help regulate their breathing using a count of 4 on the in-breath, and 7 on the out breath
  • Use the 3 3 3 rule. Focus on, and share 3 things they can see, 3 things they can hear and then 3 body parts they can move
  • Get them some water, and stay with them until it has passed

Always recommend that they seek further professional advice from their GP or a professional body like Mind, The Mental Health Foundation, Samaritans or The Campaign Against Living Miserably.

#mentalhealthawareness #tohelpmyanxiety

We're in this together!

Watch out for tomorrow's post where we're going to wrap up the week with a summary and send you on your way with some useful apps to managing anxiety more effectively

James Hampton (He/Him)

James Hampton (He/Him)


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