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Anxiety was the Most Popular Mental Health Topic in Wales in 2018

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This year nearly 60,000 people in Wales have visited the Mind website to find information about anxiety and panic attacks. As the year draws to an end, it is a good time to think about how your organisation deals with mental health problems such as anxiety, and look at what can be changed in the new year to continue to work towards healthier workplaces in Wales.

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Within the workplace, anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems, with stress at work being a key factor in making people feel anxious. Stress is not a medical condition but is linked to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression as well as physical conditions such as heart disease, back pain and headaches.

Being under pressure is a normal part of life but too much pressure can make us feel overwhelmed and affect our wellbeing. Research shows that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives, so the more we can do to make the workplace a happier, healthier environment, the better. There are a few things employers can do to reduce stress in the workplace, as well as recognise and support people struggling with anxiety.

We all experience stress differently but signs can include:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal
  • Avoiding difficult situations

Recognising these signs at an early stage and dealing with the problems that might be causing them could help to reduce anxiety and the development of other mental health problems.

What else can employers do to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace?

There are lots of proactive things that employers and organisations can do, big and small, to support their staff and make the workplace a less stressful environment.

  • Introduce Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) to your workplace. This is a way to touch base with employees and find out how they are feeling and what is worrying them.
  • Have regular one-to-ones. Talking to your employees regularly is very important if you want to reduce stress and anxiety at work. Don’t put off those catch ups. Make regular conversations a priority and make sure they include a chance to talk about general wellbeing.
  • Physical exercise can help to manage anxiety and reduce stress. Encourage a healthy lifestyle by setting up an exercise class that employees can take part in in their lunch break. By doing an activity together, team members might feel a higher level of morale and it will encourage people to take a break and some time away from their desk or work. Even something as simple as going for a walk at lunchtime can be incredibly beneficial to workplace wellbeing.
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance. Advocate taking lunch breaks and leaving work on time. If employees feel they are not able to complete their work within working hours, make time to review workload with them and put the necessary support in place.
  • Review your policies and strategies. If you don’t already have one, develop your own mental health strategy so that there are clear guidelines on how you manage mental health at work.

Visit Mind’s website for more tips on how to deal with stress and anxiety at work, as well as guidance on supporting employees with mental health issues.