Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Making it work. Misconceptions: Unravelling anxiety, Episode 7

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Misconceptions: Unravelling Anxiety | Online series

From putting on a ‘work persona’ to educating colleagues about mental health, different people have different ways of managing anxiety at work.

“The workplace can be a very anxiety-inducing environment,” says Mental Health and Addiction Practitioner Romy Lee. “Often we have more people around at work, or it might be stressful trying to meet deadlines and expectations.”

But Lee says there’s no reason why employees should be discriminated against for having mental health issues.

“If you were at work and you were vomiting you would go home, it’s an absolute no-brainer. If you’re at work and your anxiety is severe to the point that you’re not able to function in your workday, same thing.”

Clinical Psychologist Dr Eve Hermansson-Webb says in some cases it’s the workplaces themselves that may be contributing to anxiety.

“We spend so many hours at work, it should ideally be a place where we feel safe, accepted and comfortable,” she says. “If a person notices that other people around them are also anxious and stressed a lot of the time, maybe that’s actually a signal to look at the workplace and whether it’s a supportive environment.”

MP Matt Doocey, National Party spokesperson for mental health, says employers have a responsibility to foster the positive mental wellbeing of their staff.

“It’s great to see the proliferation of EAP services – Employee Assistance Programmes – and quite often now when you work in an organisation, you can access timely mental health support through your workplace,” he says.

Counsellor Shirleen Prasad advocates being upfront and open with your employer about your mental health.

“Change happens, life is not constant, and sometimes we’re going through challenging times and we might need some extra support,” she says. “What I would say is talk to your employer about it. Workplaces should have processes and protocols in place to help make a plan for how to best support you.”

Ivan Yeo, Deputy Director Asian Family Services, was upfront about his mental health with his employer from the beginning. He let his Chief Executive know about his depression and anxiety to ensure that he could access support.

But Dr Apisalome Talemaitoga, Pasifika GP Network Chair, says there’s one thing that’s even more important than being honest with your employer – and that’s being honest with yourself.

“I think you have to be upfront with yourself when you’re applying for a job,” he says. “Is this something that’s going to bring on the uncertainty that will set off the triggers that bring on that anxiety? Because you want to be safe.”

Tips for managing anxiety at work include planning ahead, letting your manager know if you’re overloaded, celebrating successes, taking breaks such as going for a walk around the block, setting boundaries such as not checking your work email from home, and taking advantage of workplace wellbeing schemes.

More people are being open about their mental health challenges in the workplace, and it’s becoming increasingly common for workplaces to offer benefits such as wellbeing or ‘duvet days’ off work.

With around one in four New Zealanders experiencing anxiety disorders at some point in their lifetimes, many colleagues and managers will have first-hand experience with anxiety themselves.  

Unravelling Anxiety follows the first Misconceptions series by Digital Alchemist, The Truth About Miscarriage.

Where to get help
If you think you may be experiencing anxiety, you can ask your GP or a counsellor for advice. You can also reach out to the following organisations:

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