How to ease anxiety

Our survival mechanisms were very useful when we faced predators, such as lions and tigers, and needed our fight or flight instincts. Then came email. And text messages. And project deadlines. And social media. And more.

Overloaded with information and deadlines, it is easy to become overwhelmed by being over-vigilant, and that can trigger anxiety.

Bill Hill, chief executive of an industry mental health charity Lighthouse Club, says: “The big statistic is that within the construction industry, 20% of all work-related absence is linked to serious anxiety and depression. That can mean feeling anxious about going into work and lead to a depressive state.”

He points out that some stress is useful as without it we wouldn’t function in situations like job interviews. But prolonged exposure to stress can trigger anxiety attacks and long-term problems.


What are the signs of anxiety and what can be done to help?
In short, it’s a fear that things are worse than they are. Our fight or flight mechanism goes into overdrive and the warning signals – a tense stomach and raised heart rate – take over, leaving you restless, edgy and unable to concentrate. It can become debilitating.

Bill Hill says: “Stress is a part of working in our industry: 57% of the workforce are self-employed so they’re always looking for the next job. The people who are coming to us are at the point where anxiety has overcome their daily lives.”


Think this is you?
The warning signs include: a dry mouth, tense muscles, frequent need to go to the toilet, hyperventilation, headaches, a feeling of being on edge or not in control.


The fix
There are lots of ways to beat anxiety:

  • Talk to someone who knows you: you get another perspective and a bit of time out
  • Breathe in fours: count to four each time you breathe in and out – and do it four times
  • Go for a walk – it uses up nervous energy and will help clear your head
  • Break your thoughts down: sometimes we sweep everything into a big negative bubble, so create single thoughts you can manage
  • Use a mindfulness app on your phone. Lighthouse Club has one, the Construction Industry Helpline (details below).

Bill Hill says: “Talking is the biggest thing. You’ll find other people have the same worries. We’re all capable once we put things in perspective.”


Resources to help
Find more on anxiety conditions and support at www.anxietyuk.org.uk

Call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956 or download the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Find support for employers on improving workplace mental health www.buildingmentalhealth.net

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