Life Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 22 August 2019

Work Anxiety - tips to manage office stress

Working in the office can cause anxiety
Working in the office can cause anxiety

Starting a new job is always slightly intimidating.

But for those living with Social Anxiety Disorder, entering a different workplace can be a Herculean challenge.

Around 16pc of the population in Ireland (400,000) are affected by SAD which causes an individual to experience intense anxiety in their social interactions.

Tasks such as talking on the phone in public, giving presentations, speaking to people in positions of authority, or working while being observed can become hugely intimidating experiences for those with SAD.

At times the disorder can leave people feeling completely debilitated.

Linda Culleton (37) from Co. Meath is an extremely outgoing and social individual but began to feel anxious in work around ten years ago.

“I would start to blush and become embarrassed and self conscious," she said.

“The more I thought about it and focused in on it, the more it would happen. If I was at a meeting and I had to speak I actually couldn’t hear what other people were saying,” she said. "I was so worried about what people would think of me."

“I started to withdraw, I’d feel anxious. [And] would spend a lot of my time looking at my phone to avoid engaging with others.”

Emma (31) a secondary school teacher from Dublin had a similar experience.

“I would avoid going into communal spaces like the staff room, my stomach would feel twisted and I would blush. At times I would stammer. It was very difficult.”

Social Anxiety Ireland run courses and group therapy sessions to help those living with the disorder. They encourage people to use cognitive behavioural based techniques and to attend rolling support groups to maintain good mental health.

According to Clinical Psychologist Odhran McCarthy Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common but least understood anxiety disorders.

"Because of the nature of social anxiety, most sufferers do not share their fears and are terrified of "outing themselves". As a result, awareness is very low, even amongst those who have it.," she explained.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at work here are some tips to minimize your stress.

Don’t avoid spaces

Avoiding a social situation can increase the sense of dread and apprehension. If you are nervous about going into the work canteen or the watercooler, visit it for short bursts. This will slowly reduce down feelings of dread or uneasiness.

Positive self-talk

Encourage your inner cheerleader to shout out. Reassuring yourself is a great way to reduce down discomfort. Remind yourself that 16pc of the population also experience what you’re going through, and you are not alone. And try to talk to yourself with the same level of respect you reserve for others.

Meditation and breathwork

If everything gets too much, excuse yourself, go to the bathroom and watch a funny video on Youtube or take a few deep breaths. Something that will jolt your head into a more positive mind frame, and prevent you from going down an anxiety spiral.

Source a support system

Tell people you find these situations testing, knowing that people are aware and will support you can reduce distress.

Don’t hide behind your phone

Frowning at your phone and pretending you’re busy is a common tactic deployed by socially anxious people. Your phone can feel like a shield, but in reality it acts as a barrier, and heightens feelings of isolation.

Help others

Pay attention to others. If you see they are struggling then reach out, it will take the focus off your own discomfort, and make both of you feel at ease.


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