When was the last time you experienced anxiety at work? Maybe before delivering a presentation, made even worse now by the virtual awkwardness we're being forced to endure where colleagues forget to both mute their microphones and put on an interested face whilst on camera? Or maybe you've experienced anxiety before having a difficult conversation with a client or a colleague, wondering if it's too late to destroy all forms of communication so you have a reason not to be able to subject yourself to such an often unbearably awkward experience?
Anxiety isn't uncommon in the workplace due to scenarios and situations I've just mentioned. However, masking and managing an anxiety disorder whilst working is a little different. Very different, actually.
We all think we can spot an anxious person a mile off. All we have to do is look for the extremely quiet person who is profusely sweating, shaking uncontrollably and violently blowing in and out of a paper bag, right? Well, that's not always the case. Don't believe every stereotype you see on TV, kids! As someone with high functioning anxiety, I do not often display any of the symptoms I've just mentioned in public, especially whilst in the company of my colleagues. One of the blessings of lockdown is I could do that shit at home, in peace.
High functioning anxiety isn't an official mental health diagnosis, but it should be (in my humble, highly cherished opinion). People who have high functioning anxiety appear to be successful, high-achieving, calm and confident. Under this exterior, however, there is a very different story at play. Often, people with high functioning anxiety have a low self-esteem, need regular reassurance and overthink ceaselessly. Although, as the name suggests, this type of anxiety means that people are able to 'function' reasonably well, it can often lead to overworking and eventual exhaustion.
So, how do I manage this unique form of anxiety, especially while juggling the pressures of work?
Not every method I use to manage my anxiety at work is developed and implemented during my working hours. For example...
Like most things in life, managing anxiety at work is partly to do with what you can do as the involuntary occupier of this unwanted mental health issue, and what you can do as a colleague to support others who might be managing an anxiety disorder at work. If you're in the latter camp, here are a few tips from me.
If, like me, you'll capitalise any opportunity to buy a book, here are three I would personally recommend that have been really helpful.
Anxiety is an issue I've lived with for over 10 years and an unwanted squatter that I very highly doubt I'll be able to evict any time soon. But the activities, commitments and habits I've mentioned have made my life at work, as someone with anxiety, much more bearable.
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