Everybody worries. Did I do enough research before buying that house/car/laptop? Did I leave early enough to make it to work on time? Will the milk in my car go bad if I just run into one more store?
These thoughts are worries of the future, anxiety about what’s to come and how it will affect the delicate balance we’re desperately clinging to each day. The differences between worrying and anxiety are the frequency and duration of these thoughts, the severity of the symptoms and whether you’re able to control them.
Stigma continues to prevent those suffering with anxiety and other conditions from self-reporting to gain support. But a current psychosocial trend features the overuse of conditional terms, which can actually dilute the seriousness of living with these conditions and make light of mental health issues.
The next time you want to lament, “2% instead of 1%? No thanks, I’m so OCD about my coffee!” consider that obsessive-compulsive behaviours need to consume at least one hour per day in order for you to be positively diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as well as how you’d feel hearing that statement if you spent the majority of your free time satisfying those OCD tendencies.
Anxiety is a chronic condition. Individuals deal with it every day – to varying degrees – but every single day. Decisions are carefully calculated and scrutinized and delayed and then second, third and fourth-guessed until the moment has passed and the result becomes a regret to be further worried about.
Work performance is affected by indecision as well. Have I kept my performance up enough to feel secure in my job? Could I be eligible for a promotion? Do I even want a promotion or will the change be overwhelming? Do I look busy? Am I too busy? This seemingly constant stream of worrisome thoughts throughout the workday is both physically and mentally exhausting.
The Journal of Applied Psychology released a report on whether anxious workers were less productive. It proposed that emotional exhaustion was the main link between workplace anxiety and job performance. This doesn’t mean that people with conditions like anxiety, stress or forms of depression make less productive employees, but that relationships at the co-worker level, rather than team leaders, need to be stronger to support employees.
This concept goes against what a lot of organizations believe when it comes to mental health concerns in the workplace. Traditionally, it’s the mangers, supervisors and executives who need to be providers of support. That’s still true in terms of the identification, treatment and workplace accommodation platforms.
But employees who recognize their own condition and manage the symptoms as best they can will benefit more from peer support. Social support in professional situations reduces the emotional exhaustion and pressure to perform when coming from a perceived equal in the organization.
Promoting an employee culture of social support can be achieved most easily with the help of a wellness or social committee – individuals in the organization who have a predisposition to reach out to others. Give them license to plan a variety of activities. If those activities address real health risk areas within the organization, that’s great. If they just provide an environment for social connections, that’s still great.
Anxiety is a perplexing condition in that it’s simultaneously a self-centred condition and extremely focused on the opinions of others. Anxious thoughts can seem brought on by insecurities, but it’s actually an attempt to anticipate the worst possible situation in an effort to prepare and possibly avoid conflict for fear of the outcome.
The next time your co-worker, friend or family member mentions a particular worry that you’ve heard before, maybe more than once, consider that it may have kept them up at night since the first time they spoke to you about it – before you snap at them to “just get over it already.”
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.