What’s the issue?
In life and business the focus upon ‘crushing’ your goals and ‘smashing’ targets, which whilst the end result is amazing, places huge amounts of stress upon you. In the short term this ‘hustle culture’ can assist us with meeting tight deadlines and the motivation to be successful. Though in the longer term, this can lead to you feeling anxious and stressed.
In fact, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) reported work-related stress and anxiety accounted for half of illness absence in 2020-21*. It has also been found that work related anxiety increased when the demands and time constraints increased, particularly when decision making autonomy was decreased **. Globally 44% of people experience stress at work***. So, the whole socially adopted attitude of a work harder to achieve success that has been adopted is clearly no longer working.
Oftentimes this can lead to forgoing your personal life, skipping meals, sacrificing your sleep, omitting self care, and living on caffeine, which all adds to the layers of stress. The anxiety comes when you are feeling overly worried about something, which can manifest as a host of physical, mental and emotional symptoms****.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a worry about something that hasn’t happened of about something in the future. As opposed to rumination, which is worrying about something hat has happened in the past.
Some symptoms of anxiety you may experience:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- An increased heart rate
- Increased breathing pattern
- Feeling hot or sweaty
- Physically shaking/ rambling
- Feeling fatigued or weak
- Unable to focus or concentrate.
These symptoms show up and can affect you in both life and at work.
New paradigms of wellness
In the past it felt as though if you didn’t show up and grind 24/7, then you didn’t want it enough. It was all part of the ‘go, go, go’ lifestyle that society expected of us and trying to maintain the work-life-social balance, a total juggle struggle. This was seen as the price of winning, and has prompted a lot of people to become burned out.
In 2023 there seems to be less of a focus upon external rewards and more emphasis upon the internal motivators or the journey to becoming successful. With a movement towards changing the workplace to better support employees, 16% of workers want better wellbeing options***. This can certainly make things in life and business more sustainable.
Steps to move from anxious to awesome
Breathing to regulate your nervous system and release trapped energy and emotions is a great way to support you if you are experiencing anxiety. Nasal breathing has a calmative influence upon the nervous system, and when this feels safe the body will relax. Try 10 deep nasal breaths, if you can try to exhale for twice as long as you inhaled.
A basic body scan can promote a state of calm, can really help reduce anxiety, and you can do it at your desk. Start by checking in with your body- notice how it feels- start at the crown of the head and work down though each area of your body to your toes. Then move back to your head and and imagine to feels calm, warm and relaxed. Move down through your body imagining each part feels calm, warm and relaxed. Once you get to your toes your whole body should feel warm, calm and relaxed.
Moving to recalibrate helps to release any stagnant energy and emotions in the body’s energy channels, the meridians, chakras, or in tissues and organs. By moving your body, this can help to recalibrate your nervous system. Look at what an animal does if it has had a stressful experience- it shakes it off. So, if you have been feeling anxious, stand and shake everything. If you feel a little too self conscious for this, get up and move away for your workstation, or alternatively turn your head to the left, back to centre and then tho the right- this helps to reorient your body to the space you are in and has a calming effect.
What can employers do to help their staff reduce anxiety at work?
Much of this starts with cultivating the company culture and working with employees to best support them in performing their work roles. Forbes reported that the number one HR trend for the workplace in 2023 is employee wellbeing being essential. With companies such as Delta airlines going as far as creating a Chief Health & Wellbeing officer position*****. So the employee first mantra is definitely one to get on board with.
Advocating for your employees wellness supports growth and recognition in the workplace, has a positive impact upon performance at work and promotes wellbeing as a part of the normal way of doing things. Employees want a more transformational, collaborative and reflection based approach to work, the days of working to be the hero and putting in all the hours until you burnout are fading fast.
Although you want conscientious employees, and to expect some stress especially around last minute deadlines may be necessary, this shouldn’t be the everyday norm. Better two-way communication, outlining expectations, allowing for autonomy and making reasonable adjustments promote a reduction in anxiety in the workplace******. Obviously, this isn’t a one size fits all solution, so providing accessibility, creating opportunities and simplicity are key to supporting individual needs and helping maximise the mental wellness of employees, inside and outside of the workplace.
How to raises awareness about supporting employee mental wellness:
Realising mental wellness affects not just the employees, but the business as a whole means recognising that taking the pressure off can actually help to take your business forwards. Promoting opportunities that enable your people to power down and recharge, creates a positive transition in positive mental and physical wellness, so they are ready to utilise this in their work life; boosting productivity, sustainability and profitability in the longer term.
Here are 5 ideas that employers can implement, to help everyone slow down;
- Making a quiet space in the workplace available.
2. Providing an on-site lunchtime/ after work relaxation class.
3. Promoting ‘green’ therapy with a lunchtime walk in the park.
4. Recommending screen breaks and leaving the desk or the office at lunch.
5. Using pattern interruption to the usual rush, by stopping and pausing and taking a few moments to reset.
Life is busy, at work and at home. Living in an always ‘on’ society where everything is expected ‘on tap’ increases the need for proactively stepping away and taking time to look after mental wellness. Employers can go a long way to help support reducing anxiety in their employees. Something as simple as advocating time away from your desk to reorient the body helps to destress and reset the nervous system.
Working to reduce anxiety can be as little as 5 minutes a day. What will you do today?
Tracy Richardson is a Therapist, Wellness Consultant and Educator at Serendipity Wellness®. Where she helps entrepreneurs and businesses to support physical, mental and spiritual wellness, with actionable solutions that simultaneously enhance health, performance & business life. “Wellness makes you a Well-being’.