Sometimes nerves can get the best of us... don't let them!
We all get nervous from time to time, it’s a natural feeling. Perhaps you have a big meeting coming up or there is a promotion coming available at work - whatever it might be there are always situations that happen at work that will make you feel anxious. But what happens if these nerves become so frequent that they start to take over? It can have a serious impact not only in our personal life, but in the workplace as well. And if it’s not happening to you, it could be happening with a co-worker.
Anxiety disorder doesn’t just happen right away, it will happen over time. And it’s more common than you think, affecting about 12% of Canadians over their lifetime. At first you might not even notice that a co-worker is struggling. It could start off with them pulling away and avoiding social gatherings. Maybe they are starting to second guess themselves, perhaps even missing some deadlines. All of this further builds anxiety, it then starts to spiral and it can be hard to keep their head above water.
As a co-worker/ friend, you may want to ask if they are okay, but might not know how.
A good place to start would be to educate yourself on what is anxiety and how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Then you can find ways that you can be helpful and supportive to someone who is dealing with anxiety.
A common way for people to try and control their anxiety is through avoidance. Social or work functions, certain places, like restaurants or crowed areas in general, are things a person may avoid. Even if they are willing to participate, they might put precautions in place, like an excuse to leave early, or sitting next to the door. These precautions make them feel in control when they feel like their anxiety is out of control.
Here are some additional signs you might notice in others when they are dealing with anxiety:
-The fear that its all their fault when something happens, they are going to get fired;
-Difficulty accepting negative feedback, get very down on themselves;
-Overreacts to what others are saying, could take it personally;
-Increased use of drugs/alcohol, talking of harming themselves;
-Tries to hard to be perfect and then crashes when it doesn’t turn out;
-Absent from work and/or misses deadlines.
If you notice a co-worker experience one or any of the above-mentioned signs, they could be struggling with anxiety. So how can you help? Think of ALEC – ask, listen, encourage, check-in.
1-ASK: Try to get a conversation going but make sure you are doing it in an appropriate manner, not in the lunch room when everyone is watching and listening. That won’t get them to open up. Or, if they come to you and confide information to you, acknowledge and encourage the conversation to continue.
2-LISTEN (without judgement): Let them talk without pushing the conversation. You might have caught them off guard, which at first, they might not be willing to open up but after a moment they will accept what you are asking. It might take a bit of time for them to express themselves, let them have that time, just sit in silence. This will let them know you are not in any rush, that you care.
3-ENCOURAGE action: It is great that you got them to open, but you are not an expert. Do not tell them what to do but try to guide them in a direction of action, so that they can get out of the emotional state and into a way forward.
4-CHECK-IN: Once the conversation has ended, don’t let that be the last of it. Follow up with them, ask if they have found a way to manage their situation. And if they haven’t, don’t scold them, just listen.
An important thing to remember is that you are there to offer support, you are not their therapist. Get them to open up and talk about the issue and help guide them, but ultimately, they need to help themselves. They need to think long term as anxiety just doesn’t go away, but we can learn to cope with it.