How to Cope With Anxiety When You’re Feeling Anxious at Work
Feeling anxious at work is no fun AT.ALL. It makes for long work days that leave you feeling like you gave it your all with nothing to show for it. In other words, your productivity goes way down and your stress level goes up.
Getting anxious at work is not uncommon, especially with increasing expectations on productivity in the workplace. However, while feeling anxious and worried are normal experiences, leaving anxiety unattended can cause further problems. Some of these include increased stress, anxiety and panic attacks, and can lead to depression and other mental health issues.
According to this article, about 28 percent of Americans that experience stress and anxiety daily have had an anxiety or panic attack.
As someone who has experienced work-related anxiety with anxiety attacks, I know how crippling it can be in your personal and professional life. Just one more email with another task due tomorrow can set your heart racing and thoughts running wild. All of a sudden, it feels like a brick sitting on your chest; it’s hard to breath. You have to get a grip, think through the situation, try to control your breathing and calm yourself down.
If you find yourself being anxious at work more than not, you need to learn ways to calm and manage the anxiety at work. But first, it’s important to understand the causes of work-related stress and the symptoms of anxiety.
Main Causes of Work-related Stress
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) lists these reasons as the “main culprits” of stress at work.
- Interpersonal relationships
- Responsibility for handling problems that come up
- Meeting deadlines
Work-Related Anxiety Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of work-related anxiety can spill over into your personal life. It’s important to determine where the anxiety is originating in order to narrow your focus and address the underlying issue. Here are some signs you’re dealing with work-related anxiety.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased productivity (even when you feel like you’ve been busy all day)
- Unusual irritability with co-workers and family
- Restlessness – laying awake thinking about work tasks
- Nervousness at work
- Upset stomach
- Persistent unwanted/negative thoughts
- Anxiety attacks – racing heart, shortness of breath, fearful of something bad happening
Is it Me or the Job?
When it gets to the point that anxiety is interfering with work performance and daily living, you will likely find yourself asking, “Is it me or the job?”
The answer might not be as simple as one or the other. It’s more about how you work within the job.
According to the experts, it’s believed that biological and environmental factors together cause anxiety. Every person has different genetics, life experiences, feelings and thoughts. All of these together determine how you cope in stressful situations.
You could be suffering from a negative outlook and simply need to discover ways to be more positive. Routine evaluation of your emotional health can help catch underlying issues and prevent or reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Coping Strategies for When You’re Feeling Anxious at Work
Try these coping skills when you’re feeling anxious at work. They will help you calm down, clear your mind and focus to help reduce anxiousness.
Organize your workspace. Sometimes having too much to look at can be overwhelming. If you’re one of those employees with stacks of paperwork all over your desk or boxes scattered around the office, you might be getting distracted and find it hard to focus on one thing. Take a few minutes to put things in their place so you can narrow your focus.
Get your thoughts in order. If you have a lot of tasks to accomplish, you might also be feeling overwhelmed. Make a detailed to-do list to get it all out of your head and on paper. Write down everything you can think of. Then, go back and prioritize the tasks based on importance. This will help free up some brain power, and you can then check them off one at a time.
Take a break. While every employer is different, most typically offer a lunch break (usually a minimum of 30 minutes) and 1 or 2 short breaks (lasting between 5-20 minutes). Take advantage of these breaks and use them when it’s time. Eat something filling to fuel you back up, or go for a quick walk to get you energized. Take this time to clear your mind and de-stress.
Listen to music. Upbeat music has been shown to improve moods in numerous studies. According to this article from healthline.com, those who listen to upbeat music regularly can experience a boost in happiness in as little as two weeks. If you just need to calm down, try something more soothing.
Avoid caffeine. Caffeine and other stimulants are known to make symptoms of anxiety worse. You might feel nervous and find it hard to concentrate. Drinking coffee could also be a cause for lack of sleep, which also contributes to anxiety.
What to Do if These Coping Strategies Don’t Work
If you’re always feeling anxious at work for no reason, there could be underlying issues that need to be addressed. Maybe you are in a strained relationship, or maybe your job really is causing anxiety.
Whatever the cause, it needs to be addressed. Otherwise, you will continue to experience these anxiety symptoms and allow them to create bigger problems, such as mental illness.
If you have tried natural remedies, such as the anxiety coping strategies above, and they don’t help, it’s probably time to talk with your healthcare provider.
Having an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean you’re weak or less of a person. It just means you need relief in some area of your life.
Please note, I am not a mental health professional. The information here is from personal experience and information found via credible web sources. If you are experiencing symptoms that are extreme, excessive and/or are affecting your daily living, you should visit your primary care physician or mental health care provider.