Medical mythbusters: Anxiety

The theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety. Despite anxiety being one of the most common mental health concerns in the UK, there's still a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to how identifying, addressing and supporting people who are suffering from anxiety in the workplace. In this mythbusters article, we aim to debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding anxiety at work, before providing actionable advice for employees and employers.


Myth: Anxiety at work is a sign of weakness.

Fact: Anxiety is not indicative of weakness. It is a natural response to stress and can affect anyone, regardless of their strength or capabilities. The workplace can be a demanding environment, and individuals may experience anxiety due to various factors such as workload, deadlines, or interpersonal dynamics. It is crucial to recognise that anxiety is a valid emotion and does not reflect one's character or abilities.

Myth: Anxiety at work is a personal problem and should be dealt with privately.

Fact: While anxiety is an individual experience, it is essential to acknowledge that work-related anxiety can impact both the individual and the overall work environment. Employers and colleagues play a significant role in creating a supportive and inclusive workplace. Encouraging open communication and providing resources for mental health support can help alleviate anxiety and create a healthier work environment for everyone.

Myth: High-performance individuals don't experience workplace anxiety.

Fact: Anxiety can affect individuals across all performance levels, even high-performing individuals who excel in their roles. It is crucial not to assume that someone's professional success makes them immune to anxiety. Supporting and understanding these individuals can help them maintain their performance and wellbeing.

Myth: Anxiety is just a phase and will naturally disappear over time.

Fact: Anxiety should not be dismissed as a passing phase. While occasional anxiety might dissipate on its own, chronic or intense anxiety requires attention and support. Ignoring or minimising anxiety can lead to long-term negative effects on mental health and work performance. Encouraging individuals to seek professional help, providing resources, and promoting a culture of wellbeing can help address and manage anxiety effectively.

Myth: Taking breaks or time off for anxiety is unproductive and a sign of laziness.

Fact: Breaks and time off are essential for maintaining good mental wellbeing, and they are not signs of laziness. In fact, incorporating regular breaks and encouraging self-care can improve productivity and prevent burnout. Taking time off when needed to manage anxiety is a valid way to prioritise one's mental health, leading to better overall performance in the long run.

Myth: Anxiety at work is solely caused by job-related stress.

Fact: While job-related stress can contribute to workplace anxiety, it is not the sole cause. Personal factors such as perfectionism, self-doubt, or other external situational factors such as illness or care of a dependent can also influence anxiety levels. Anxiety can stem from various sources and requires a holistic approach to address its underlying causes effectively.

Myth: People with anxiety at work are incapable of handling responsibility.

Fact: Anxiety by no means indicates incompetence or an inability to handle responsibility. Individuals with anxiety can be highly capable and efficient in their roles. Anxiety may temporarily affect their confidence or require additional support, but it doesn't diminish their overall capabilities. Providing a supportive work environment and understanding people's unique needs can help individuals with anxiety thrive.

Myth: Anxiety at work is a personal flaw that can't be overcome.

Fact: Anxiety is not a permanent flaw, and it can be managed and overcome with appropriate support and strategies. Through therapy, stress management techniques, workplace accommodations, and other forms of mental health support, individuals can develop coping mechanisms to effectively navigate anxiety at work and lead a fulfilling and successful professional lives.

Myth: Seeking help for workplace anxiety is career-damaging.

Fact: Seeking help for workplace anxiety does not jeapordise one's career. It's a proactive step that demonstrates self-awareness and a commitment to personal wellbeing. Organisations should ensure support is available and clearly communicated in order to contribute towards employees' increased resilience, productivity, and job satisfaction.

Myth: Addressing anxiety at work requires drastic changes or career shifts.

Fact: While some individuals may choose to switch careers to manage their anxiety, this is far from the only solution. Even implementing small adjustments, such as improving time management, setting boundaries, or practicing stress-reducing techniques, can make a significant difference. Each person's journey is unique, and finding individualised strategies is key to managing anxiety in the workplace.


Top tips for employees:

  • Take regular breaks: Incorporate short breaks throughout the workday to rest and recharge. Stepping away from your desk, doing some quick stretches, or taking a short walk can help refresh your mind and enhance productivity.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Define specific working hours, avoid checking work emails outside of those hours, and allocate time for personal activities and relationships. This helps prevent burnout and promotes a healthy work-life balance.
  • Seek support: If your workplace offers mental health resources, utilise them! Consider reaching out to employee assistance programs, counseling services, or mental health support groups for valuable guidance and support. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can also speak to your manager, HR department, or a trusted colleague. Open dialogue can lead to understanding and potential support mechanisms tailored to your needs.
  • Know your rights: Familiarise yourself with your rights and any workplace policies related to mental health. Understand what accommodations and support are available to you. Knowing your rights can empower you to seek the necessary assistance and advocate for your wellbeing.

Top tips for employers:

  • Foster an open, welcoming culture: Leaders must be held responsible for creating a supportive, non-judgemental environment which encourages open and honest conversations about mental health. Managers should be trained to be approachable and responsive when employees express their mental health concerns, and aware of all the services they can signpost employees to.

  • Provide mental health support: Offer access to mental health resources such as employee assistance programs and counseling services, as well as other on-demand self-care resources. Ensure you communicate these clearly to employees, and ensure confidentiality and privacy throughout.
  • Break down stigma through education: Creating a safe, non-discriminatory culture surrounding mental health starts with awareness and education. Provide training and/or workshops to better equip employees with the knowledge and skills to identify signs of distress, manage symptoms, and know where to go if they need support.

  • Promote work-life balance: Encourage work-life balance by setting clear expectations around working hours and workload. Encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and disconnect from work when necessary. Lead by example, emphasizing the importance of self-care. Offering flexible working options can also help employees better manage their work and personal responsibilities, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

  • Create a supportive return-to-work process: Establish a clear, effective process for employees returning to work after a mental health-related absence. Offer accommodations, gradual reintegration, and check-ins to ensure a smooth transition and help employees feel supported and valued.


Want to ensure your employees are getting the best possible mental health support?

We've recently partnered with workplace mental health support experts Plumm to increase the level of support we offer, from access to accredited therapists to a comprehensive library of mental health self-care support within the GoodShape App.

Learn more about our partnership with Plumm.

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