What to Do If Anxiety at Work Affects Your Safety
Anxiety can affect our safety at work. Usually, when we think of anxiety, we don't think about how it affects our safety. Sure, we know about many of the physical symptoms of anxiety (dizziness, racing heart, tight chest, etc.). But what about our reactions to these symptoms? How do they affect how we treat others and ourselves? What are the consequences? How does anxiety affect our safety at work and what can we do about it?
Until a recent back injury, I never thought about how my anxiety could affect my safety at work. At the gym where I work, my job involves a lot of physical activity as I clean under machines. Unfortunately, I get really frustrated when something is left unfinished or when a cleaning product is missing (The Link Between Perfectionism and Anxiety). Also, when a lot of people want to use the machines, my mind tells me to hurry up. So I work harder and faster, no longer paying attention to my breathing or how I'm feeling.
How My Work Anxiety Led to a Back Injury
A few weeks ago, my anxiety caught up to me while I was cleaning under a treadmill. When I tried to get up, my back was in excruciating pain (The Relationship Between Pain and Mental Health). It hurt just to bend. My doctor told me that it was an acute lumbar strain (a pulled muscle in the lower back) and that I could not work for the rest of the week.
During my recovery, I thought about how I got injured at such a random time. I realized that if I hadn't been so angry and frustrated, I wouldn't have felt the need to hurry on the job so I could have avoided injury.
From this incident, I learned that it's very important to be mindful about anxiety and safety at work.
Ways to Increase Safety in Spite of Anxiety at Work
1. Write down what your triggers are.
What makes you anxious, angry, or sad? How much do these triggers affect you? If they affect your work performance, they could potentially lead to risk of injury. By writing down your triggers and keeping the list with you, you will be able to work smarter while still working diligently.
2. Take water breaks.
Often times when we push ourselves to complete tasks, we forget about the importance of staying hydrated. Dehydration has many negative effects, and anxiety is one of them. By consciously taking water breaks, even if just for a few seconds, you allow yourself to take a breath. During that time you can exhale some of the negative energy from anxiety.
3. De-stress before and after work.
What do you like to do by yourself or with friends? Think of just three things that make you feel good. By doing these things before work, you might find yourself smiling more during your workday. You might find yourself less anxious while trying to complete difficult projects. By enjoying activities after work, you might start to forget about anxiety and work in general.
4. Work through your triggers with your therapist.
You might not have a therapist right now, but if you do, he or she can be very helpful. If you get sad or angry easily the therapist can help you figure out exactly what is making you feel that way. You might be surprised at the real source of a feeling. Sometimes you might think people at work or school are driving you crazy, but it could really be a family member who triggered your emotions. After the therapist helps you pinpoint the true source, he or she could help you deal with similar triggers from similar situations.
5. If you feel comfortable with it, talk to a coworker about your anxiety.
You might refrain from talking to coworkers about mental health issues because you are afraid of being stigmatized in the workplace. While this is understandable, it might help just to have one trusted co-worker in whom you can confide. It would benefit you to find someone whom you know has firsthand experience with mood disorders.
Learn More About Safety at Work and Anxiety
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Lueck, M. (2017, January 22). What to Do If Anxiety at Work Affects Your Safety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/toughtimes/2017/01/how-anxiety-affects-our-safety-and-what-we-can-do-about-it