Help available for anxiety, depression

Feeling a little stress and anxiety at work lately?

You’re not alone.

Longer hours and increased job uncertainty brought on by the national recession are among the factors that have created more stress at work.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common psychiatric diagnoses at Boulder Community Hospital, according to Rich Sheehan, a hospital spokesman

Across the state, some 21 percent of callers to a help line at Mental Health America of Colorado in Denver have lost their jobs, according to Laura Cordes, a spokeswoman.

Nationally, untreated mental health conditions — including anxiety and depression — are a top driver of health-care costs, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry, although there are no specific statistics about how many of those come from the workplace. In fact, the economic cost of such conditions is estimated at almost $2 billion in lost earnings and productivity, according to the trade journal.

The numbers of people seeking treatment locally and across the state have remained steady for the past few years, possibly because of the poor economy, according to figures at Boulder Community Hospital and at Mental Health America of Colorado.

In response, therapists such as Julie Klingel at Boulder Community Hospital have anxiety and stress-reducing tips at the ready. Klingel is a marriage and family therapist who helps patients who may have just gotten out of an in-patient treatment or who are trying to avoid hospitalization.

Klingel’s top tips?

• Pay attention to factors that reduce your vulnerability to mental-health symptoms, she said. Focus on getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals and exercising. Stay away from alcohol and substances as much as possible, she said.

• Focus on your five senses at work and find things that help soothe you. For Klingel, that means adding beauty to her work environment: hanging pictures on the wall that are inspiring, hanging Christmas lights or buying flowers. She suggests giving yourself a one-minute hand massage with a scented lotion or walking outside for a few minutes at lunch.

• Participate in the mood you want to have in your office. Say good morning to people and smile, Klingel said. You can also practice “giving grace” to your co-workers, she said, telling of a co-worker who drops Hershey’s kisses on her desk once in a while. Forgive co-workers for perceived slights, she said, even if you think it’s unmerited.

• Practice the “two-minute rule” to lower the number of tasks that pile up during the day. If you can deal with a small task quickly at work, do it now. Little things piling up can cause stress, Klingel said. As a general rule of thumb, if the task will take two minutes or less, do it right away.

• Ask for help when you need it. A trusted co-worker, friend or family member can be a great sounding board for work problems, Klingel said. Don’t gossip with others in your workplace, she said, as that often can make a less-than-great situation worse.

• Try to see humor in work situations. Bring in a daily calendar with a joke a day that can lift your mood, Klingel said.

• Practice “mindfulness.” Many workers these days have taken self-help classes that teach them to take deep breaths to reduce stress, Klingel said. Leave your desk for a few minutes and consciously think about the big picture to help put things in perspective, she said. Workers in the region who need more intensive help can sign up for three-hour group therapy classes offered by Boulder Community Hospital. People of all age groups and all walks of life — from a college student in her first year on the job to more experienced workers anxious about possible company layoffs — are involved in such groups, she said. “Sometimes other people’s struggles put things in perspective.”

Boulder Community Hospital also offers individual counseling services for people who are interested in seeing a therapist to address issues related to anxiety and depression, or any other issues.