Anxiety and the Workplace

Health Professional

Two factors create anxiety: uncertainty and lack of control. The current economic climate is thus a perfect storm for stress, anxiety, even panic at the workplace. Those who have already been laid off are dealing with bad news in one fell, clarifying swoop.
But those who remain face that dreaded duo of feelings that engenders anxiety. Layoffs are often announced without warning and are "effective immediately" - hence the dark, uncertainty that casts a pall at the workplace. Furthermore, job cuts are not performance-based. In other words "doing a good job" does not allow one control over your future. Employees are walking around, zombie like, wondering if they will be on the next short-list of layoffs.

The result can be feelings of panic -- sweaty palms and rapid heart rate. Intense anxiety can also lead to poor concentration and preoccupation with worrying thoughts. This can often look like short-term memory loss or the inability to concentrate on the task at hand. This, of course, can decrease performance, further compounding a person's feeling of loss of control at the workplace.

We all have to navigate anxiety at different times in our lives. Yet the current economic environment can push some of us into a place in which we are absolutely frozen and dysfunctional. When this is the case, we should seek professional advice. Signs and symptoms may include inability to sleep (either insomnia or poor quality), or the inability to concentrate at the task at hand -- or even interpersonally. This can appear to others as being constantly "distracted" or "not present". In some circumstance, people can have full blown panic attacks which can appear, among other things as rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, dizziness and often a feeling of "impending doom."

Treatment for anxiety can range from medication use to talk therapy, or even lifestyle changes. Medication use can be highly effective in immediate symptom reduction, often helping people return to the workplace feeling less immediate anxiety. Therapy can help people avoid the persistent catastrophic thinking that has kept them frozen and unable to perform in the first place. Therapy can also help people think through realistic game plans that resemble their specific realities. Often a combination of therapy and medication is the most helpful. In these uncertain times we must be proactive in taking care of our mental health and well-being.