Did you know that over 2 million individuals experience anxiety each year in Australia?
Anxiety is among the most prevalent mental disorders affecting Australians. On average 1 in 4 people (1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men) will experience anxiety at some stage in their lives. Anxiety can impact a person’s quality of life and can interfere with daily activities including work performance, social interactions, relationships, or even simple day-to-day tasks. Anxiety is increasingly leading the set of driving factors for individuals accessing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services in workplaces around Australia.
So, what is anxiety?
Anxiety occurs when you get stuck in the cycle of worrying for more days than not, over an extended period of time, usually a couple of weeks. While everyone may be worried at times, anxiety lingers even after stressful situations have ended, making you feel unnecessarily worried about everyday things. Anxiety can also activate your nervous systems’ “flight or fight” response, so you might feel in actual danger when there is none.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, which include:
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobia
- Social phobia
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Acute stress disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Common symptoms of a person experiencing anxiety include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Trembling or shaking
- Upset stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Racing thoughts
- Difficult concentrating
- Problems with sleep
- Avoiding anxious situations
Effects of Anxiety on Work Performance
An employee who experiences anxiety can have significant effects to their work performance. This can include:
- Decreased productivity
- Increased absenteeism, and presenteeism rates
- Not performing to their full potential
- Missing deadlines
- Decreased concentration levels
- Disengaged in work
- Withdrawing from workplace events/ meetings
- Hard time focusing on simple work tasks
How can you manage symptoms of anxiety?
The good news is, anxiety can be managed, and there are many ways to do so. Here are some helpful strategies that you can use to reduce and help cope with anxiety.
Mindfulness is a state of focused attention on the present moment. When practicing mindfulness, there is an increased activation of the cingulate cortex, a part of the brain which is responsible for executive function and attention. Practising mindfulness for 10-15 minutes a day can help to alleviate stress / worry and encourage you to take better control of the “now”. Mindfulness also encourages body awareness allowing you to consciously react to your bodily sensations. This can help you to better regulate your emotions, and tune into any early warning signs that help you to avoid getting stuck in the cycle of worrying.
Slow / controlled breathing
When feeling stressed or anxious, slow, and controlled breathing can really help. Slow breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and signals your nervous system to relax. This can lessen anxiety and stress and fosters a state of calmness in the mind and body. Try a slow breathing technique such as box breathing, which involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and pausing, with each step lasting for four seconds. Try three to four rounds of this.
Healthy and active lifestyle
Living a healthy and active lifestyle such as eating a balanced and nutritious diet, and regular exercise can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and improve your overall wellbeing. Your gut guides your emotions and has influence on your mood and energy levels. When you fuel your body with good nutrition and a healthy balanced lifestyle, it can lead to better mental health outcomes. Research has actually found that eating a Mediterranean-based diet can actually boost your mood! Regular exercise can also help to manage anxiety as it decreases muscle tension, and releases neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin which are all mood boosters and can make you feel happy, calm, and at ease.
Understanding your anxiety and learning to manage it with helpful strategies can help you to live a happy and healthy life. So, next time you’re feeling worried, take a deep breath and engage your five senses. By consciously reacting to your bodily sensations, you can avoid getting stuck in the cycle of worrying. If you are finding it difficult to manage your anxiety, you may benefit from reaching out for professional support. Reach out to your Employee Assistance Program, of GP and get a Mental Health Care Plan.