Three ways to help your
people feel less anxious
Three ways to help your people feel less anxious
Occupational health company provider services UK wellbeing counselling EAP
With a third of people across the UK now suffering from high anxiety levels, here are three ways to tackle this growing mental health issue.
Despite the lockdown easing and a significant fall in cases, fear of catching coronavirus remains high with 15% of people experiencing clinical levels of ‘health anxiety’ – meaning fear of becoming sick has become a distressing and constant preoccupation for many.
Add to that anxieties about to issues ranging from loneliness to the challenges associated with juggling childcare and home working, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that data from the ONS shows one in three (37%) of people across the UK are now experiencing high levels of anxiety, compared to 19% last year.
With anxiety now at risk of overtaking stress as the main cause of absence, this month’s blog looks at three ways to help your people reduce anxiety levels.
1. Normalise anxiety
For the most part, anxiety serves a good purpose, warning us of a threat and helping us to prepare for that threat. The problem is that our bodies can’t tell when we’re just thinking worrying thoughts from when we’re actually being confronted with danger. So, if we’re constantly worrying about catching the virus, even while we’re safe at our desk or at home, we will be experiencing the same symptoms of anxiety as if we were genuinely at risk.
The world will not be going back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. So, instead of brushing the problem aside or hoping it will go away, it’s better – in fact, crucial – to normalise anxiety by reassuring employees that it’s okay to feel anxious about everything from returning to the physical workplace to using public transport or changes being made to their role.
Online information or group workshops can be used to equip several people with strategies for recognising the symptoms of anxiety – which include rapid breathing, pounding heart, feeling sick to your stomach, having trouble sleeping, headaches and panic attacks – so they can understand what’s triggering them.
2. Reduce anxiety
Anxiety is defined as a general feeling of worry or fear and there are a number of practical things you can do to reduce anxiety levels. Talking about your feelings can be helpful or finding an ‘anchor’ which pulls you back to the present and reduces negative thoughts. For some people this might be listening to music for others it might be going for a walk, or doing a mindfulness exercise. Limiting caffeine, getting enough sleep, and taking deep breaths can lessen anxiety.
Senior leaders can help by reassuring people that their health and safety will continue to come first and allowing people to continue to work from home where possible, or by sharing the thought and rationale that have gone into the measures put in place to allow people to safely return to the workplace.
Managers should also be encouraged to show the human face of the organisation, by asking people how they are instead of only talking about work, not least because they have an important role to play when it comes to identifying people who might not be coping. They can then guide them towards appropriate support, such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or their GP, so that trained professionals can help them to deal with their anxiety or get support to cope with the situation that’s making them anxious, such as a relationship breakdown or financial worries.
3. Boost resilience
As with other mental health issues, our resilience – our ability to stay healthy under pressure or during times of uncertainty – is greatly influenced by how well we’re looking after ourselves in general.
You can help employees to reduce intrusive thoughts and make themselves feel more empowered, by encouraging them to eat well and get enough sleep, switch off and unwind after work and do things that give them joy. Workplace wellbeing apps, such as PAM Life, can also be used to encourage people to take part in mindfulness and physical exercise, both of which have been proven to be very beneficial at reducing anxiety levels.
In the event that someone is really struggling to cope with anxiety, providing them with some counselling sessions or online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help them to learn helpful strategies for coping with extreme feelings. This can be particularly helpful for people who have never had a problem before but are starting to find their mental health being compromised, as it can help them to understand how they can control their thoughts and behaviour, to keep intense feelings of anxiety under control.
By providing information and tactics to help people understand and manage their anxiety, you can not only support valued employees but also take steps to reduce absenteeism, engender greater loyalty and maintain productivity. All of which will be vital to helping individuals and the business to cope with further uncertainty.
For more expert insights on how to reduce the prevalence of mental health issues linked to the coronavirus, download our free guide to Restoring Mental Health.