Are you suffering from Janxiety? Here’s what you can do about it

Are you suffering from ‘Janxiety’? Find out what the term means, and read practical tips to help you look after your mental health in January and beyond. 

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, January is often cold, dark and can easily feel depressing after the indulgence of Christmas. No surprise then that Divorce Day (8 January – the day that online searches for divorce hit their peak) and Blue Monday (21 January – the most depressing day of the year) both occur this month.

But for some people, the winter blues are a little more serious. Rather than simply feeling a bit down, they can find it hard to muster up any enthusiasm for work or life, and even display early signs of depression or anxiety.

One woman who knows all too well how January can impact how people feel – and the knock-on effect it has on their life is MCIPD qualified HR Director Sarah Lee.

Sarah wrote an excellent post on LinkedIn about mental health in January – with practical advice for both employees and employers. And she kindly agreed to let us share it here.

Are you suffering from Janxiety?

So it’s back to work and reality hits hard. Apparently so many people suffer with anxiety during January that it now warrants it’s own term, “Janxiety”. This is a topic close to my heart, and I felt compelled to write a few words and give some personal perspective.

I don’t proclaim to be a psychologist, doctor or mental health expert. Let’s get that out of the way now. However, I have worked as an HR professional for 25 years, and have dealt with a lot of mental health issues at work.

It’s an area that I am passionate about and from first hand can honestly say that most companies simply don’t know how or what to do when there is a problem.

Line managers generally either don’t recognise the early signs of mental illness. Instead they possibly think the employee is underperforming and isn’t qualified to offer the right support. Luckily during my career I have supported and helped people when they were at breaking point and didn’t understand or realise what to do.

Of course their performance was off, and often this follows with more sick days, lateness and a change of character. It’s all linked. But with each person that I have had the opportunity to do something, guess what happened? They got better.

Mental illness is temporary – not a weakness

Talent is a rare and wonderful asset to any company big or small. It simply takes a bit of understanding, listening and support to get your employee back to health. Mental illness is temporary. It is a moment in time. It is not a weakness or failure and it discriminates against no-one.

The fact that you can’t see a physical illness or injury doesn’t help. Unfortunately, the brain and its day-to-day functioning doesn’t get the same reaction as other illnesses. People don’t know what to say or how to act around the individual.

Sometimes people think it is a made up condition and the employee just wants a few weeks off work. Really? Trust me, if you have been unfortunate enough to suffer with a mental illness, you would do anything in your power to get back to normal.

So what can you do, if you are experiencing the signs of mental illness or as a manager, you are concerned about one of your team?

Don’t ignore the situation

My first piece of advice is to seek professional help. It is vital that the right diagnosis and treatment plan is put in place. But first, the most important thing to talk to the individual. Help them to recognise that things aren’t 100%.

Or, if it’s happening to you, talk to someone you trust. Hiding symptoms, calling in sick, avoiding social situations and family and friends will simply make things worse. By understanding that there are things you can do will go a long way.

If you have an HR Department, seek advice. If you don’t, contact organisations like ACAS or MIND who can offer practical support, both to an individual or company.

Take time out

This is easier said than done in our work-hard culture. However, if you simply ignore the signs, it won’t go away.

So take time off work or tell your employee to go home. Insist they see a doctor. Involve Occupational Health if needed. Ensure that there is proper time to recover and support is being given. Make sure you have one contact and agree when and how often the person checks in.

When you are in a state of acute anxiety or depression, even calling into work can be a huge issue to overcome. Do not feel guilty for taking time off. Think of it as a temporary blip in an otherwise successful career.

Your employer is legally required to offer support and cannot discriminate on the grounds of mental health. This is another reason to ensure a correct diagnosis.

Talk to someone and work out what is best for YOU

Don’t hide your illness. It’s hard admitting you are ill, but opening up and telling people what is wrong is the best thing you will do. Be honest and open about how you feel (this will change on a regular basis). Seek help from work, your doctor, online forums, self help books or be referred to a professional therapist.

There is no one quick fix. Everyone is different and you have to find out what works for you. By talking to others who suffer with mental illness can really help understand that you are not alone. It takes courage to speak out, but it really will make the difference and allow people to support you.

Taking a walk, joining a gym or a yoga class will help but it is not the answer for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you but make time to find something that helps you, reduces your symptoms and makes a positive difference.

Be in the moment

Yes I know a lot of people talk about mindfulness, but in this fast-paced, social media world, it can really help. Read a book, paint a picture or spend time outside. Switch off your mobile. Take time away from social media.

Comparing your life to the supposed ‘perfect world’ of others is not helpful. Concentrate on YOU. It will take time but honestly by taking the time to work out what makes you happy, does really work.

Reduce negativity

This is crucial. If a situation or a person is making you unhappy, you need to do something about it. Negativity is not healthy. You need to surround yourself with people who only want the best for you.

If your job is making you really unhappy, ask yourself why. I’m not suggesting you simply resign; we all need to earn money. But there might be something that can help make a difference. If you aren’t able to manage the workload or you think working different hours will help, talk to your boss.

If you don’t ask, you won’t know and if the answer is no, at least you know where you stand.

Get professional support if it’s right for you

This is something that only you can decide on. Taking pills, going for counselling or perhaps checking you hormone levels is unique to you. Make sure you do lots of research and talk to professionals. It might be the answer. It might not be, but it is definitely worth looking into.

The symptoms for anxiety and the menopause are very similar, so it is vital to understand what is going on with you and then get the right medical support. Older women can experience life changing symptoms which will impact their work but there is help out there.

Don’t ignore Janxiety – get the help you need

To summarise, if Janxiety has kicked in, don’t roll over and hide under the duvet. You do need to recognise the symptoms and seek help.

As I said before, all of the above is personal observations based on real experiences. For anyone suffering, I hope this has helped. Feel free to get in touch with me. As I said, I am passionate about mental health in the workplace and very aware of the lack of resources. Good luck in your own personal journey.

Need more help coping with anxiety?

You’ll find more practical advice in these articles:

You can read Sarah’s original post on LinkedIn.

Photo by LinedPhoto