How To Deal With Anxiety At Work

Let’s be real. Most of us spend the bulk of our days at work. But from feeling overwhelmed by interviews to scrambling to meet deadlines to avoiding small talk with coworkers, workplace anxiety can impact your career in numerous ways. 

If you have an anxiety disorder, workplace stress might exacerbate your symptoms. But even if you don’t struggle with a mental illness, work can trigger anxiety in almost anyone. Let’s get into some essential coping skills.

Understand Your Triggers

While most everyone feels anxious at work from time to time, certain triggers can heighten those uncomfortable feelings. Knowing your triggers allows you to identify potentially stressful situations. Preparing for them ahead of time can help you develop and implement healthy skills. Some common workplace anxiety triggers include:

  • Meeting tight deadlines.
  • Working long hours.
  • Having a demanding or aggressive boss.
  • Having strained relationships with coworkers.
  • Managing and disciplining other staff.
  • Feeling directionless or unsupported on various tasks.
  • Feeling underappreciated and burnt-out.
  • Having an extremely high workload.

Work anxiety can manifest in a variety of different ways. For example, it may cause you to feel a sense of despair or hopelessness. You might feel less inclined to take healthy risks and advance in your career. You may feel disconnected or inferior to your coworkers or supervisors.

Workplace anxiety also doesn’t always stay in the workplace. Many times, this anxiety continues to affect other areas of someone’s life, including their relationships, physical health, and self-esteem. Moreover, some people experience physical symptoms like panic attacks or dissociation due to their anxiety.

woman stressed at desk

Challenge Your Negative Thinking

I’m going to get fired. None of my coworkers like me. I’ll never finish this project on time. How often do you experience those disturbing thoughts? If you encounter them regularly, it’s no surprise that you’re going to feel anxious.

Fortunately, you can learn to challenge negative thoughts. The first step is identifying how this thought is harming you. For example, if you consistently believe you’re going to get fired, you might feel like you’re walking on eggshells around your boss. You might avoid speaking up in meetings because you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. You might even start getting sloppy with your work because you assume you’re already getting fired.

Then, it’s helpful to examine the evidence. How likely is the worst-case scenario? What other outcomes could occur? What’s in your control to improve the odds of the desired outcome?

Finally, consider re-framing your thoughts. Instead of, I’m going to get fired, try a more neutral thought like, Even though I worry about getting fired, I’m going to keep doing my best. Re-framing helps remove some of the emotional intensity associated with these cognitive distortions. 

Keep Lists

People often feel overwhelmed at work when their minds start racing with all the tasks they need to complete. Putting it down on paper can help you feel more organized and efficient.

Start each morning by writing down what absolutely needs to be accomplished by the end of the day. Then, under that list, write down a few tasks that you’d like to get done if time permits. 

Start from the highest-priority tasks, no matter how challenging they may feel, and move your way down the list. Feeling crunched for time is one of the top reasons that people feel anxious in the workplace. However, procrastination only tends to worsen this anxiety. 

Get Outside For A Few Minutes

Research shows that getting into nature can help reduce some of the symptoms associated with stress. But you don’t need to trek mountains or work next to a forest to reap the benefits.

Most Americans spend the majority of their time indoors. Additionally, most of them are working indoors in front of a screen. Getting outside can help recharge your energy and break up the monotony of this pattern.

If your work permits, consider eating lunch on the patio, stepping out for a brisk, five-minute walk, or opting to shift a meeting into an outdoor walk. 

Set Realistic Boundaries

In today’s increasingly connected world, many employers expect their employees to be available 24/7. Do you check your email all hours of the day? Do you do work tasks on weekends or vacations?

If so, you may be contributing to your own anxiety. You must examine the benefits of setting healthy and obtainable boundaries for yourself. Even if you consider yourself a hard worker, nobody can perform optimally without breaks.

Make sure that you focus on life outside of work. That means cultivating relationships with others, engaging in hobbies, and taking time for self-care. You’ll feel more refreshed on the job, and you’ll be more present for the other things you value in life.

Consider Making A Change

If you work for a toxic company or constantly feel stressed at work despite working on your anxiety, this anxiety could indicate a more serious issue. You can only control yourself, but if you’re not working in a healthy environment, your anxiety will likely continue to persist. 

Take some time to reflect on the pros and cons of leaving your job. How do you anticipate you might feel? What, if any, fears do you have? Finally, if you have identified that it’s time to leave, what will help you take that next step?

man de-stressing at desk

Final Thoughts

Workplace anxiety is common, but it can also be extremely stressful. If you’re continuing to struggle with your feelings, it is essential to reach out for professional help. Undiagnosed anxiety can result in prolonged suffering and distressing consequences. Discuss options with either your employer or a qualified mental health professional. 

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