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Managing mental health: discussing social anxiety in the workplace

Managing mental health: discussing social anxiety in the workplace

Managing mental health:

World mental health day has just passed, and it has replaced the emphasis on how vital addressing mental health is in our everyday lives. Yes, in this article, we will be addressing some tips and advice to take care of your mental health. We will also address the individuality of different circumstances. We will also be looking at some of the different methods companies, and organisations have used to manage mental health. In this article, we will be focusing on the issues relating to social anxiety. This is something that has become more prevalent as individuals are starting to return to their offices.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is more about feeling shy or nervous about getting up in front of people and meet/ talk to them for the first time. It can affect daily activities, such as work, school and interacting with your family. Anxiety is not the same for every individual. Instead, it is on a spectrum, and each individual falls under a unique spectrum and can have a combination or a range of different symptoms that affect them.

Some of the symptoms of social anxiety that the NHS cites:

  • Getting nervous or worried about daily activities, this can be meeting strangers, starting a new job, having to have conservations with people online or on the phone
  • Worrying a lot about social engagements, group conversations and activities, and this can be extended to company get together and parties
  • Worrying about doing something that you think is embarrassing can be stuttering, blushing, sweating, and appearing incompetent
  • You find it hard to do anything when people are talking, or you always feel that people are watching you when you are doing something
  • Having specific physical symptoms: palpitations, sweaty palms, low self-esteem, paranoia, headaches, trembling, nausea
  • Some more severe symptoms can include a phobia of crowds and panic attacks, where you experience an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety. The time range this varies for can last anywhere between a few minutes to hours
  • [NHS UK]
  • Not all of these symptoms will apply to everyone, and actually, you may have symptoms that the NHS does not cite as they tend to be quite generic and often miss more non-generalisable signs off the list

 

Many individuals are starting to return to work as offices are beginning to open across the globe. This is a drastic change in regimen for everyone, as we spend our time working around the same people in our family whilst doing everything on a screen. As we start to return to our offices, some of the regimens include getting dressed in formal wear, travelling, and having meetings in person.

 

It can be daunting, either starting to approach an environment that already makes you feel physically or mentally nervous or feeling the same symptoms but socially anxious for the first time. Specific tips have generically been thrown out there for people to use as calming methods:

 

Some examples are:

  • Drinking peppermint or fennel tea to calm the stomach nerves
  • Counting back slowly from 10
  • Doing deep breath exercises
  • Talking with someone from your HR or managerial department
  • Walking into fresh air or open space

 

 

The one thing that needs to be said about these remedies is that they are general and may not work for many people. Talking to managerial staff may only cause some individuals more anxiety and worry. Others may not have the opportunity to take a moment to walk or drink tea when they are in a particular social moment.

 

Some people may throw these treatments out to individuals in passing because they have heard that it works, read it on the internet or know that it has worked on someone they know. Some critical factors related to social anxiety need to be mentioned, and the next section of this blog will cover some food for thought. This is not only for those who have social anxiety but for anyone who wants to know more about the subject, how to talk to and understand and empathise with someone who may be feeling these emotions:

 

  • Having social anxiety is not a weakness or a fault. It is a condition that can either be treated or guided through counselling, therapy or any other kind of aid that may be suitable to that specific individual
  • Employers need to create an environment where they won’t penalise or judge an employee for disclosing their condition. If they need to shift departments or meet new colleagues or attend a company social event- they can be prepared. It may allow them to raise any concerns concerning their social anxiety and any upcoming event.

 

 

Communication is critical:

 

  • The first step, as mentioned before, is that the employees should be able to disclose the information to their employer or managerial staff, so they are made aware of any situations or accommodations
  • Make sure that employees have enough opportunity to ask questions and learn if this is something that makes them comfortable and more aware of how to approach a situation, possibly feeling less worried
  • Be aware that some socially anxious people may be hesitant to speak and therefore, they shouldn’t be pushed or forced into a situation where they will be triggered into a physical panic attack or anxiety attack

 

 

One thing that needs to be said is that many individuals with social anxiety may face difficulties with specific social tasks, but this is no way that they cannot carry out or maintain tasks required by their employment. Often, there is a stigma attached to mental health and anxiety that individuals tackling specific mental health issues will not be able to sustain a career and employment. Rather than having this pessimistic view of individuals who have mental health struggles, a more proactive manner is to think: what can be done to make their environment more comfortable to thrive?

 

The right type and level of social engagement and communication is one factor that should be considered with social anxiety.

 

In this week’s podcast, our diversity officer will take the time to explore social anxiety in more detail, so check the DJM site for updates!

 

*We aim to be as inclusive as possible, so for those who need or prefer audio material, we will have the podcast available for them to have accessible materials.