I am, the worrier...
By Vicky Duckett on Sunday, 14 May 2023
I quite often feel like a swan. Casually swimming around the water and appearing calm above the surface. But beneath the water my legs are moving at 100 mph and I’m trying to frantically stay afloat. I worry about…everything. And often people will say ‘don’t worry about it’ or even worse ‘calm down’. I usually have one thought when I hear that, and that is ‘if only I could’. The reality is, I’m an anxious person. I’ve tried almost everything to ease it, and whilst certain things help, it’s always there. So now I’ve learnt to manage it, and where I can, embrace it. Funnily enough I work better under pressure and feeling anxious. But for some, it can be difficult.
This month welcomes Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the focus is anxiety. According to the Mental Health Foundation, in 2021, those aged 16 to 29 years were most likely to have some form of anxiety (28% likely). It also highlights that in 2022/23, an average of 37.1% of women and 29.9% of men reported high levels of anxiety.
Trying to manage anxiety can be a challenge, particularly at work. So to help, I’m sharing seven tips on how I have learnt to live with it and where I can, embrace it.
1. Talk to your colleagues
Are you feeling anxious? Overwhelmed or worried about something? Talk to a colleague, a friend at work. Talking something through allows you to rationalise the situation – which can be tricky to do when you feel like the walls are closing in. But it can make the world of difference. Plus you often find that the person you’re talking to has also felt the same as you at some point.
2. Take five minutes
PR is fast paced. Working in an agency you often have five or more clients. This usually means five times the coverage emails, action notes, written content, sell ins. And as cliché as it sounds, no day is the same. As much as you plan, something will always crop up – a reactive comment, a journalist request, a crisis. I’m a planner, so over time I’ve had to learn how to plan for the inevitable and build that into my day. Because when something unexpected happens, that overwhelming feeling can often follow. No matter how busy you are, if you start to feel anxious, try stepping away from your computer even just for a couple of minutes. You may feel as though there’s no time, but taking a couple of minutes can make you much more productive in the long run.
3. Be understanding
Like me you may feel anxious about almost everything. For others it might be that certain things spike their anxiety, for example speaking to a journalist on the phone, pitching for new business, speaking up during brainstorms. You might be one of the lucky ones who never really feels anxious. Because we’re all different it’s important to be understanding and respectful. No one chooses to feel anxious. It simply can’t be helped. We are who we are. Ignoring someone’s feelings or disregarding them will only make things worse for them, and you and the team. Working together and understanding that some people worry, some people are calm, and some are in between will go a long way to ensuing everyone is comfortable and works well together.
4. We all make mistakes, remember that
There will come a time when you’ll make a mistake. And trust me, we’ve all made one. You’re only human after all. Mistakes are inevitable – whether that’s sending a client an email with a typo, cc’ing rather than bcc’ing journalists into a distribution email, hitting ‘send’ on an email too soon – the list goes on. It’s how you handle the error that can make the world of difference. Once you’re aware of the mistake you’ll probably feel as though you want the floor to swallow you up whole. And you may not want to tell anyone. But this can make your anxiety spiral. And, in most cases the mistake can be managed, so by telling a member of your team and owning the error, you’ll most likely find it’ll be rectified quickly, and you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted.
5. Embrace feeling anxious and step out of your comfort zone
I know this might sound crazy but embrace the anxious feeling. For example, if presenting makes you feel anxious, then present as often as you can. If you get worried talking during meetings, on the phone, writing content – do it. The more you do, the more confident you’ll feel. And over time, those anxious feelings may improve or go away altogether. I used to feel incredibly anxious standing up and presenting in front of my team. I’d get butterflies in my tummy, feel hot and sweaty, I’d forget my script – despite practising it more than 100 times. To combat it, I asked to present at a company meeting. I was terrified. But after standing up in front of 40 colleagues, presenting to just four or five feels like a breeze. And I enjoy presenting now!
6. Cut back on coffee
I’m a mum to three children under the age of five, so I don’t get much sleep. My ‘go to’ would usually be an espresso at least three or four times a day. But coffee spikes my anxiety, so now I limit myself. If you’re a coffee lover, but you also feel anxious, then try decaf or cutting back. It really can make all the difference.
7. If you’re struggling, see if your employer has a mental health champion
No one wants you to struggle, feel alone or that feeling of drowning both inside and outside of work. If you’re feeling concerned or anxious then check if your employer has a mental health champion or other mental health support. Teamspirit, for example, has lots of support and resources to help you from Mental Health Champions, one-on-one support, to private health care offering counselling. If you’re struggling then speak to your line manager, HR department or a colleague. Never feel alone - because you’re not.