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To not understand anxiety!

(242 Posts)
Beebeezed Sun 19-May-19 10:20:41

First time poster here.

I am currently on mat leave but I’m a manager of a company in charge of around 40 staff. In recent years, I have seen a huge increase in staff declaring that they suffer with anxiety. As a company, we do what we can to support these staff and I feel I’m as supportive as I can be. Since going on maternity leave I’ve had time to reflect on my role as a manager and how I can improve and feel that one thing I struggle with is actually empathising genuinely with these staff as I have literally no idea what anxiety feels like. I worry this could prohibit the staff from feeling fully supported. I’ve done a lot of research (mainly at 3am during cluster feeds smile ) but I’m still at a slight a loss as to what anxiety truly feels like and how it may affect you in the work place. I have felt anxious before but understand this is very different from anxiety

I’d really appreciate you sharing your experiences! And if you do have any suggestions on how your work place could/does support you would be amazing.

Just to clarify, I’m due to return to work soon and this is purely to help me with staff morale and support grin

duffinthemule Sun 19-May-19 10:27:31

I’ve actually had a reoccurrence of anxiety this week and had to have three days off. Mine presents itself physically. I get a very tight chest, tingly all over, shaky, tearful, difficulty breathing or begin to hyperventilate. I spent most of the three days I had off in bed as feeling like this constantly is completely exhausting. The things that triggered the anxiety are not even that big a deal, and I know this even when I’m experiencing a panic attack from them, but I am unable to rationalise. It is bizarre.

I think the best thing you can do as an employer is just be kind. Accept people need time off, let them know that it’s ok. I always feel massive guilt about being off work.

ChodeofChodeHall Sun 19-May-19 10:31:12

You know that but in a really scary horror film, where the young protagonist creeps slowly up the stairs into the attic, knowing there's something dead and evil up there? It's like that, constantly, but much less fun.

MamaLazarou Sun 19-May-19 10:33:22

In recent years, I have seen a huge increase in staff declaring that they suffer with anxiety.

I'd set about investigating the reasons behind this, pronto. Something's up with the work environment.

Neptunesgiraffe Sun 19-May-19 10:34:35

I suffer from anxiety and for me it means that I wake up feeling worried and I'm worried all day. Sometimes I have heart palpations and I second guess myself a lot. When we have meetings, I worry that I'm going to be told off publically even though I know I'm good at my job. I worry that what I have done isn't good enough and redo things even though I don't have time/it takes up all my time including evenings and weekends. I worry a lot about things that may never happen. And I'm very aware that I'm ruining my own happiness by feeling anxious all the time.

I do deep breathing exercises and take walks / time out when I feel overwhelmed and it helps. The thing that helped me a lot was something a colleague told me a long time ago with regards to me redoing things and being a perfectionist. She said, what you do needs to be good enough, not perfect. Obviously, this is not good advice for a heart surgeon or similar. But it made me think. And I remind myself of this often.
I confided my anxiety to my boss who promised she would never put me in an uncomfortable position in a meeting (I know she wouldn't, but to hear her say that made a difference) and she would address anything she had a concern about with me face to face.

This is just how I feel, though, and I imagine that different things trigger anxiety in different people. I guess the best thing is to speak to each person individually.

NoBaggyPants Sun 19-May-19 10:35:54

Watch Nadiya Hussein's documentary about it. It's on BBC iplayer.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Sun 19-May-19 10:36:09

This would be worth a watch OP

Nadiya: Anxiety and Me: via @bbciplayer

NoBaggyPants Sun 19-May-19 10:36:22


NoBaggyPants Sun 19-May-19 10:36:53

Slightly surreal cross post!

Ces6 Sun 19-May-19 10:38:56

I have anxiety. What I would like from work isn't time off but for them to listen to staff complaints, to prepare timetables more than a week in advance and not make last minute changes and then say I am unprofessional because I don't have childcare arranged at the drop of a hat.

Pgqio Sun 19-May-19 10:39:59

Go over to the mental health board, lots of examples there. All I can say is you're very lucky to have never had anxiety. I would imagine at some point in the future that will probably change.

BuildBuildings Sun 19-May-19 10:41:33

I have literally no idea what anxiety feels like

Lucky you.

Tbh that comes across as a bit smug. So getting rid of the I don't have these problems attitude will help. I know you're asking for help understanding and that's a good thing. But I'd advise you to examine your own bias, conscious or unconscious regarding anxiety. It sounds a bit like you think it's something that happens to others who are a bit weaker. Just from your tone.

greenlynx Sun 19-May-19 10:43:47

Apart from other things PPs mentioned I’m on the verge of tears, and can cry suddenly and then can’t stop (physically can’t) my hands are shaken, I have problem with remembering things, could stuck with not remembering something very simple. I go several times back to check lights, doors, etc. English is not my first language so I have problems with finding words, usually I don’t have this, I’m very chatty.

Beebeezed Sun 19-May-19 10:44:59

MamaLazarou - sorry I should have been more clear. i’ve noticed a higher number of staff declaring this at the beginning of their employment, so joining us whilst already suffering from anxiety. I do think there is a greater awareness of anxiety than when I first started the role and less of a taboo around mental health which could be why I’ve noticed an increase, as people feel more comfortable to admit it, which is great. smile

tempytemp Sun 19-May-19 10:47:36

The way I describe it is feeling like you would after your house has been burgled, so high adrenaline and nervous, but there actually not being a reason to feel like that.

I am slowly getting better, having more normal days, but get setbacks at times. It's incredibly frustrating as it makes doing straightforward daily tasks a lot harder.

insideoutsider Sun 19-May-19 10:48:57

I have anxiety and live a very busy and active life.

In trying to experience what it feels like, multiply your feeling of being anxious by some and have that feeling for 18hrs of the day for no real reason.

What does it feel like for me? I have a tightness in my chest when going somewhere new or talking to people in general, I appear cool and calm but I'm panicking inside, sweating under my clothes too. I constantly feel something is about to go wrong so I'm over organised with 10 alternative plans for every 1. It's very exhausting.

I work with people all day, supporting their mental health, as well as writing up new plans and policies. I know the ins and out of my condition and what brought it on and why it remains.

No one apart from my line manager knows that I have anxiety though, some just think I'm stuck up because talking to people outside work would be like sticking needles in my own eyes.

How does my manager support me? She ensures that I have the same office (and not have to hot desk), she allows me travel alone to other locations instead of car share. She doesn't bring it up and I don't. It's part of my life and I've had it since my teenage years.

It is totally individual so I would advise that you just listened to the staff member on how you can help.

Beebeezed Sun 19-May-19 10:50:08


?!?! I’m literally here asking for help so that I don’t have that attitude. I don’t think I'm being ‘smug’ at all, I’ve suffered with depression but not anxiety and trying to find the best way to support people that do as I know from experience what it feels like to have a boss that doesn’t empathise with you, and I’m admitting that I am struggling to empathise because I literally cannot relate to it. I feel that being ignorant to the situation and not trying my best to understand my staff would hold more of an attitude...

AlexaShutUp Sun 19-May-19 10:50:13

Watch the programme on iPlayer with Nadiya Begum. It's very moving, and she is very open and honest about how her anxiety affects her. The programme might not help you understand the condition more, but it will at least give you an insight into the way in which anxiety can take over your life.

I don't personally suffer from this problem, but my mother has struggled with anxiety for years. It's very difficult to understand from the outside, as it isn't generally based on rational concerns or logical reasoning. If I'm honest, it can be incredibly frustrating to deal with, and it's really easy to be dismissive of someone else's anxiety because it seems so pointless to someone who doesn't share it, but the point is that the fears are completely real to the individual concerned and they can be utterly debilitating.

As a manager, I think you need to be patient with the person concerned, and to understand that this is an illness like any other - the person cannot just choose to get better, no matter how hard they try. Create an atmosphere where it's ok for people to talk about how they feel, and where it's ok for people to ask for help if they need it.

If individuals get anxious about work stuff, then you need to listen to their concerns and acknowledge them. Don't belittle what they feel, but do challenge their thinking and offer an alternative perspective. And if they have to do specific tasks which might contribute to their anxiety, think about what adjustments or support could be put in place to help them get through them.

AlunWynsKnee Sun 19-May-19 10:50:34

I saw it described recently as:
You know the moment when you lean back on a chair and it tips back slightly further than you expect and you think you're about to fall backwards. Anxiety is that feeling all the time.
It's not all the time like that for me but I do spend my life planning for every conceivable worst case scenario and paralysed by indecision and fear. It really is quite tiring. But you'd never know this from meeting me.

Pgqio Sun 19-May-19 10:51:08

I used to try and describe it as that horrible panic you feel when you can't see your child in the supermarket or your bag has been stolen with everything in it...purse, keys, phone and you've no idea what to do. The problem is the feeling doesn't go away, it's just THERE all the time.

Beebeezed Sun 19-May-19 10:53:34


?!?! I’m literally here asking for help so that I don’t have that attitude. I don’t think I'm being ‘smug’ at all, I’ve suffered with depression but not anxiety and trying to find the best way to support people that do as I know from experience what it feels like to have a boss that doesn’t empathise with you, and I’m admitting that I am struggling to empathise because I literally cannot relate to it. I feel that being ignorant to the situation and not trying my best to understand my staff would hold more of an attitude...

Fragglesrooke Sun 19-May-19 10:55:59

duffinthemule has described the common symptoms well. I think one of the first things you have to realise is that anxiety is a physical condition due to a person's brain responding differently to chemicals such as adrenaline. It's not something that someone can choose not to have or simply get over.

In terms of supporting your colleagues there isn't a one size fits all solution. Some people will be very open, others less so and may almost want to hide the fact that they are struggling. When an anxiety attack hits it can be absolutely terrifying. For me it can include what has previously been described but also vertigo, a feeling that the walls are literally closing in or everything speeding up. If someone feels an attack coming on while they are in work is there a quiet place they can go? Can they leave their post immediately or can steps be put in place to make this possible? Daft things can help too like having a room that can be blacked out, a fan on hand, having bubbles for them to blow (fantastic at helping you to control your breathing). Don't try to get them to hold a conversation during an attack. It may seem natural to ask if they are ok but this can actually exacerbate the situation. If you feel the need to say anything just tell them 'take your time, this will pass'.

If they are currently off work but know things like this are in place it may help them be less anxious about their return.

Crinkle77 Sun 19-May-19 10:57:30

MamaLazarou why assume it's the workplace? People could have anxiety for reasons outside work. There are more people declaring it because there are more people talking about mental health issues.

Aria2015 Sun 19-May-19 10:57:46

I was suddenly got by a bout of anxiety some years back. At first I didn't realise what it was, I thought that my heart palpitations were a sign of something being wrong with my heart. For me, it was a very physical sensation. Constant butterflies in my stomach and my heart would race all day and night - leading to sleepless nights. It just felt like my body could get no peace or rest - it was exhausting. Mentally I felt tired, scared and on the brink of tears all the time. Worst of it was that I couldn't identify the cause, it seemingly had come out of nowhere. My doctor was great and referred me for CBT which ultimately 'cured' me but I also took anti anxiety medication and had many weeks of work (and then introduced back in with reduced hours to build back up to full time). I've had horrible things happen and I've had periods of being depressed but nothing was as bad as having anxiety. It really floored me. I truly didn't understand it (or have enough empathy) until it happened to me. My biggest supporters were others who had had it because they know how awful it can be. I think it's great that you're trying to understand your staff better. My boss was amazing when I was unwell and it's something I'll always be so grateful for. She was the one who marched me to the doctors for my first appointment and started the ball rolling for me getting the help I needed.

PollyShelby Sun 19-May-19 10:58:47

Have you ever driven down a windy country road, gone round a corner and there's a car flying towards you on your side of the road, causing a hot and cold flash within you?

It's like that but it doesn't go away once the Adrenalin has gone in a minute or two.

It's shit.

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