Article by Clare Price, Director of Clinical Services, Onebright
As the world continues to navigate its way out of the pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis, and with the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, we have a new set of uncertainties to contend with.
If left unresolved, these uncertainties can lead to an overwhelming feeling of worry, which can have a serious impact on our mental health, and in turn have a negative effect on both our personal and professional lives.
Worry is a way of ‘thinking ahead’ to events or challenges that we encounter in our lives, which may leave us feeling anxious or apprehensive. When we worry excessively, we often think about the worst-case scenarios that can materialise from future events, resulting in us feeling anxious and thinking that we won’t be able to cope.
Worry generally takes two forms, ‘real world’ worry, which is about actual concerns which are impacting in the here and now and ‘hypothetical worry’, things which don’t currently exist but might happen in the future or are not within our power to resolve.
Thinking too far ahead to events far in the future can often result in us stepping over the line between the real-world and the hypothetical, which can result in excessive stress and worry, but thinking ahead can also benefit us too.
It is important to recognise that thinking ahead can be helpful in lots of situations, for example:
For employers and business leaders, it is vital to understand the impact that uncertainty and worry can have on the mental health of their employees and understand the steps they can take to support them.
There are several different signs that may indicate an employee/colleague may be struggling with worry and uncertainty. It can be hard to know if this impacting someone as worry is an internal process, so there are some key behaviours to look out for which could lead you to opening a conversation with them to find out more:
Wellbeing comes from living a life with a balance of activities that give you feelings of pleasure, achievement, and closeness. As an employer, acknowledging the importance of these for employees can make a real difference, and taking additional steps to ensure your workplace culture fosters them can have an even bigger, positive impact upon the mental health of your people.
Another way you can help is through encouraging people to distinguish if their worries are real or hypothetical. Is it a real-world worry or a hypothetical worry? If it is a real life worry then problem solving and action planning can help, if it’s the latter, maybe reflecting on whether this is a problem that can actually be solved and helping them focus on things that are within their control can be useful.
Worry triggers an insistent physical response, but it can help to remind employees that they do not have to engage with it right away. Instead, encourage them to set some deliberate time aside every day where they are allowed to express their worry and don’t worry until the set time, often the worry will have dissipated.
Worry can come from a place of concern; we worry about others when we care about them. As an employer, responding to worry with kindness and compassion can make a huge difference.
Finally, encourage your employee to practice mindfulness. Learning and practising mindfulness can help us to break free and let go of worries by staying in the present moment rather than engaging with the constant noise in our minds.