Monday, July 14, 2014

Anxiety: Is it better to work or to stay at home with anxiety? (Guest Post)

This is a guest post from a friend I met online:

I have being thinking about this topic for some time now, because as a facilitator of an anxiety support group then there are a mixture of people who work or who are out of work because of their level of anxiety in the group. I have often wondered whether working through anxiety or staying home is the best method to lead to recovery. So it might be useful to explore these two options.

Option (1) Staying at home and making anxiety your guest.

For many anxiety suffers who are overcome with the symptoms and sensations of anxiety or panic then they may well have to take time off work to see a specialist, rest, let medication get into their system and inform themselves of just what anxiety is, how it affects us and how best to treat it. They may not be able to sleep or concentrate so working only adds to their anxiety levels. Yet the longer a person stays out of work the harder it is to get back into the working environment and the normal stress that make up a working day. 

Most people would have returning to work as a goal on their road to recovery so if you don’t return then how do you gauge recovery in a meaningful way. I don’t believe that anxiety suffers do not experience anxiety even when they stay at home with little or no chance of distraction. So why not return to work and see how you manage? Another problem about staying home is if you decide to work in the future then how are you going to explain the gap in your work history for the period you stayed at home.

I remember my own sister who was in hospital for twelve years (with PTSD) telling me that her doctor said it might be a good idea to look for work and when I asked her how was she going to answer the question of “what have you being doing for the last twelve years”. She said she never thought about that. So I asked her “are you going to say I was in a psychiatric hospital” and expect the person you’re talking to say “you are exactly the kind of person we are look for”. So think this one through before you apply for work but if your absence is only for a short time then this will not be a problem. One positive thing about staying home is everyone will know there is something wrong with you even when they can’t see it for themselves but I’m not sure that will lead to others showing you compassion or understanding. What do you think?

Option (2) Returning to work and working through your anxiety.

As an anxiety suffer who has always worked no matter how bad I felt then I have experience that I can call on to look at whether this is a good option and optimal to recovery. Let me first say that if you work through your anxiety then almost everyone around you will not take you serious when you tell them how bad you feel. Even other anxiety suffers will question just how bad you feel if you can work but if only that was the case. For twenty two years I worked as a self-employed carpenter and my business depended on my being able to function no matter how bad I felt. So in my case I never missed work as I was afraid that missing work would affect my reputation, my business and my ability to earn a living. But there were many times I would have giving anything to be put in hospital and become someone else’s problem.

The positives to working is that you have a lot of things that require your attention, planning ordering material, prioritizing work, sorting delivery of work dates and times. So I would be unable to do this without putting my anxiety to one side. Also every day I did manage to work I would congratulated myself on all my accomplishments for that day and this would give me the confidence to face tomorrow. As we all know, mental illness robs a person of their confidence and this can and is soul destroying but when you work no matter how hard it is that confidence grows slowly. I also had a policy of tackling the easy jobs first as this helped build confidence for anything that might go wrong because when you are feeling stronger, having already completed some of the tasks required then, when something does go wrong you are better equipped to deal with it in a rational and logical way. Another point worth mentioning is that many anxiety suffers find it hard to sleep but you will find that when working through you anxiety then sleep will return more naturally over time due to normal physical tiredness. The satisfaction of completing a difficult job does wonders for the confidence and when your confidence is up it is so much easier to believe that recover is not only possible but only a matter of time.


I have yet to meet anyone who suffers with anxiety or panic who does not experience these very same things even when they stay at home so why stay there as going out especially to work is going to distract you at the very least and it will also build your confidence. You are less likely to become depressed as lying in bed is one of the first signs of depression and remember that anxiety and depression are linked. Also the longer you stay indoors then the more likely you may be to develop agoraphobia and compound an already complicated suitiation.
Going to work will create its own stresses but they can be overcome with good preparation and planning. There is no doubt that some anxiety suffers are so terrified that going out its self seems insurmountable but at some time in order to make recovery a reality then a person will have to take risks and this might mean an increase in your anxiety level but in the long run it will build you up and make you stronger. 

This post is not to make a person who chooses to stay at home feel even worse and in no way is anyone’s choices being judged here rather it’s about looking at the options in the cold light of day and each person choosing their own option that will give them the best possible conditions to maximize their recovery but doing nothing is not an option at all. If you are unable to work then that’s OK. But for those who are able then the positives far out weight the negatives even when your own anxiety may increase short term only to subside as your confidence grows and you feel mentally and physical stronger. 

I hope this gives you something to think about and may it even help you in setting goals for yourself. You may decide to take up some form of hobby, try volunteering work at something that will not prove too taxing, or you might try working part time and see how this goes. If you have spent a considerable time out of work then getting back into the train of things will not happen overnight and it also might help if you told your employer about you fragile mental health as more and more employers are coming to understand that a mental illness can happen to anyone. But no matter what you do make it something that will build you up and give you hope for the future. Finally to every survivor who overcomes their daily struggle I salute you for your bravery and resilience. Be proud of yourself and heal yourself with love no matter what your mind tells you.

Please feel free to comment on your own experience either positive or negative and as always take care of yourself. Thanks  - Michael Groves

So, how do you feel after reading Michael's post? Which option would you choose? Why?

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