A top Priory psychiatrist talks you through his 7 tips for coping with anxiety and depression whilst holding down a full-time job
One in six people experience a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, in any given year in the UK. Some anxiety is normal; however, anxiety and depression can frequently be debilitating, leaving employees struggling to focus.
Statistics show that 12.5 million working days in 2016/2017 were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression. And a survey suggests financial services workers are among the worst in the UK at tackling stress, with 49% saying they do little or nothing to reduce stress levels caused by work. The study, by learning provider obby.co.uk, said finance workers were topped only by those in professional services such as law (58%), accountancy (58%), education (55%), healthcare and associated trades (51%).
It is important that employees are able to speak to senior management and HR teams to discuss how they may be feeling. Many companies now provide ‘mental health first aiders’ to help guide people to support.
This year, World Mental Health Day (10th October) focused on mental health within the workplace. Dr Liam Parsonage, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London and Priory’s Wellbeing Centre in Harley Street, provides his top tips for coping with anxiety and depression when working full-time:
- Know the warning signs – there are many factors that can make you feel stressed at work, but when you are unable to manage your workload and unwind after a long day then there is something wrong. If you are taking your work home with you or worrying about deadlines after your day has finished, then this could be a warning sign that you are stressed. Too much stress can lead to anxiety and depression, so it is important to know your triggers.
- Do something about it – if you are struggling, find someone within your workplace that you can talk to. Whether this is a colleague that you are close to, a member of the HR team or your boss, speaking about what you are feeling can not only explain to your boss why you haven’t been performing to the best of your ability but help reduce some of the stress you are putting yourself under. Don’t leave it too long to speak to someone as this will only make you feel worse. If you are finding it difficult to think about what to say to your boss, then write it in a letter or email. Some companies have started introducing mental health helplines for employees to offer confidential support.
- Try to take the pressure off – we push ourselves to perform to 100% of ability, through all our ups and downs and always deliver no matter how we might be feeling. In my clinic at the Priory, I advise patients who have anxiety and depression to not take on any extra work as this is only going to make them feel more anxious.
- Use exercise to help relieve stress – exercise is a brilliant way to help to relieve stress, incorporating this into your daily routine 2–3 times a week will enable you to notice a difference. This can be done through running, going to the gym and through yoga. It can allow you to leave the day behind you and focus of your health and wellbeing.
- Seek professional help – I would always advise seeking professional help; you can speak to your GP, call a support line or look into private healthcare. This will enable you to learn ways of coping with your anxiety and depression and allow you to manage your working life.
- Take time off – Whether this is an afternoon off to go to a counselling appointment, a morning off to attend a yoga session or a week off to de-stress. Time off can help to reduce your symptoms and will give you time to pursue help.
- Don’t self-medicate – people struggling with anxiety and depression can sometimes turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of coping with their feelings. Although alcohol and drugs can offer a momentary escape, it is just masking your problems and may lead to dependency. Alcohol is a depressant and will leave you feeling worse the next day. Some people drink alcohol to help them sleep through the night; again this will help in the short term but isn’t healthy and will lead to dependency.