In England, one in six people will experience a common mental health problem in any given week1.

A leading cause is anxiety. According to the Office for National Statistics, a fifth of over 16s in the UK experience anxiety and depression.

Anxiety can affect anyone and will feel different for everyone as Karen Christie, occupational health advisor at BHSF, explains.

“Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear that can be mild or severe. Everyone can feel anxious from time to time.

“Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to some situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes feelings of anxiety can be constant, overwhelming or out of proportion to the situation and this can affect day to day life.”

Anxiety and work

The Labour Force Survey found that anxiety, as well as depression and stress, accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases in 2018/192. Avoiding social situations and becoming isolated, whether it be at home or at work, is just one way anxiety can have an impact on everyday life according to Christie.

“There may be times where people don’t want to get out of bed to go to work or get on with their normal day. Instead they want to hide from situations or remain in places/situations where they feel safe.

“Employees will want to be at work and not lose their job. However their mind is telling them to run and hide.

“Lack of confidence and poor concentration can contribute to day to day decisions, which in turn, can affect performance at work.

“Anxiety, if not treated, can escalate. However there are plenty of things people can do to cope with anxiety.”

Tackling anxiety

Understanding their anxiety and figuring out their triggers is key, according to Christie, in helping them tackle their issues.

“Keeping a diary can help people note down how they feel at different times, identify what’s affecting them and what is needed to take action.

“When people are feeling anxious it can help to use a problem-solving approach to come up with solutions. This can make the challenges faced feel more manageable.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of facing things they want to avoid. Sometimes it’s easier to avoid situations or do things that make us feel safer, but these can keep anxiety going. By slowly building up time in worrying situations, feelings of anxiety will gradually reduce and people will see these situations are OK.

“Maintaining a good diet and avoiding alcohol excess can help, as can exercising regularly. Also practicing relaxation, mindfulness or breathing exercises can be helpful. These can reduce tension and focus our awareness on the present moment.”

“Most importantly people who are feeling anxious should seek help and talk about how they feel. People should feel comfortable in talking to people they trust. GPs, mental health professionals and occupational health will also be able to offer advice on how to cope with feelings of anxiety.”

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