Do you ever hear people say they have anxiety?
Anxiety is a word that is often used to explain how we are feeling. We all can have anxious feelings and we need to understand that anxiety is a natural emotion in order for us to gain peak performance.
As Managers, the key to creating a supportive work environment lies in understanding the nuances of these terms so we can create a psychologically safe environment for our team.
Distinguishing Unease vs Anxiety
Anxiety is simply defined as a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear. We all have many feelings of unease on a regular basis. I remember as a manager, I would have feelings of unease on many occasions throughout the week.
Some examples are:
- having difficult conversations with a team member
- being the bearer of bad news
- disciplining a team member
But the critical question is whether these feelings of unease should be considered as a disorder.
What we need to understand is that being anxious is not the same as having an anxiety disorder.
The Difference Between Anxiety and Depression
Before we go into detail about anxiety disorder, we also need to understand the difference between anxiety and depression. So many people put anxiety and depression into the same meaning. They are quite different.
Cleveland Hughes, my guest on the Anxiety series for Mental Health Chats YouTube Channel explains the difference in this short interview beautifully.
Here are three things a manager should know to create a psychologically safe environment for their team:
- Mental illness
Anxiety becomes a disorder when it becomes overwhelming and significantly impairs daily functioning. Anxiety disorder is, indeed, a mental illness.
- Inability to function
Anxiety disorder is characterised by irrational and excessive anxiety, which interferes with a person’s ability to function in daily life, including at work.
- Treatments are necessary
People with anxiety disorders experience ongoing nervousness, panic, and fear, often accompanied by symptoms like sweating and a rapid heartbeat. Professional treatments, including medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, are often essential in such cases.
To create a psychologically safe space, managers should familiarise themselves with various anxiety disorders:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder: This is the most common anxiety disorder and is characterised by excessive or unrealistic anxiety about two or more aspects of life. It is often accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or dizziness. A GP will diagnose GAD if the person has had extreme worrying almost every day for six months or more.
- Panic Disorder: Used to describe people who regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear.
- Socialised Anxiety Disorder: An extreme fear of social settings can significantly impact individuals’ professional lives.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: OCD is a tendency towards excessive orderliness, perfectionism, and great attention to detail, such as constant washing of hands.
- Phobias: An overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling, or animal. There are only two phobias we are born with, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other phobias are developed and a learned response.
It’s essential to remember that diagnosing anxiety disorders is not your responsibility as a manager; that’s the domain of a GP or healthcare professional. Your role is to create a psychologically safe environment where team members can discuss their feelings of anxiety openly. If you suspect an anxiety disorder, your responsibility is to guide them toward professional help. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for their recovery.
Introducing a Team Strategy
Incorporating a comprehensive mental health strategy into your management approach is paramount. If you’d like to explore strategies for promoting positive mental health among your managers and teams, you are welcome to schedule a free Strategy Call in my diary.
By understanding the differences between anxiety and anxiety disorders, managers can cultivate a work environment where employees feel safe, supported, and empowered to discuss their mental health concerns. This proactive approach not only benefits individual well-being but also enhances team productivity and morale.