Have you ever felt a flutter of nerves before a big meeting or presentation? That's completely normal and can actually help you get prepared. However, when these feelings intensify, persist and start affecting your work, it might be more than just butterflies in your stomach. This is workplace anxiety. It's a common experience for many, and understanding how to manage it is key to maintaining your professional success and personal well-being.

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What is Workplace Anxiety?

Workplace anxiety refers to the stress and nervousness related to the work environment. It can manifest in various ways, from worrying about speaking in meetings to feeling anxious about workload. Recognising the symptoms is the first step towards managing them.

Symptoms of Work Stress

The symptoms of work stress can vary widely. If you've found yourself asking, "Why is my job causing me severe anxiety?" it's time to delve deeper into understanding these feelings:

  • Constant Worry: A persistent sense of apprehension or dread related to aspects of your job.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling to focus on tasks, leading to decreased productivity or quality of work.
  • Physical Symptoms: Experiencing headaches, stomach upset, muscle tension, or fatigue that seem to be linked with work-related stress.
  • Mood Swings: Fluctuations in emotions, such as irritability, frustration, or feeling overwhelmed without a clear cause.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless sleep, often due to ongoing work-related thoughts.
  • Change in Appetite: Either loss of appetite or overeating, particularly in stress response.
  • Anxiety Attacks: Episodes of intense anxiety or panic, which might include rapid heartbeat, sweating, or shortness of breath.
  • Withdrawal: Avoiding social interactions in and out of the workplace can impact professional and personal relationships.
  • Decreased Job Satisfaction: Feeling uninterested, unfulfilled, or disconnected from work.
  • Procrastination and Avoidance: Delaying or avoiding work tasks due to the anxiety they provoke.
  • Physical Exhaustion: Feeling tired all the time, even after rest, indicates burnout from prolonged stress.
How to manage workplace anxiety

10 Practical Tips for Dealing With Anxiety at Work

Dealing with anxiety at work doesn't have to be an uphill battle. Let’s explore 10 practical tips that can help you navigate and manage workplace anxiety effectively:

1. Identify the Triggers

Begin by maintaining a journal to note when your anxiety peaks. Is it during certain meetings, while performing specific tasks, or interacting with particular colleagues? Maybe it's the fear of missing deadlines or uncertainty about job security. Recognising these triggers helps in developing targeted strategies to cope with them.

2. Develop Healthy Responses

Replace unhealthy coping mechanisms like excessive caffeine intake or venting frustrations. Try deep breathing exercises, which can be done anywhere, anytime. Short walks, especially in nature, can also help clear your mind. Other healthy responses include engaging in a hobby during breaks or practicing progressive muscle relaxation.

3. Organise and Prioritise

When overwhelmed, list down all your tasks. Prioritise them based on urgency and importance. Break down larger tasks into smaller, achievable steps. This method, known as chunking, can make tasks seem less daunting. Use tools like digital planners or apps to track and set realistic deadlines for each task.

4. Communicate Effectively

If you're unclear about certain job aspects, schedule a meeting with your supervisor or the concerned colleague. Prepare beforehand what you need to ask or discuss. Clear communication can reduce stress caused by misunderstandings or uncertainty about job expectations.

5. Set Boundaries

Firmly establish a work-life balance by setting specific work hours. Communicate these boundaries to colleagues and stick to them. Turn off work notifications after hours and avoid the temptation to check work emails. Setting these boundaries helps you mentally and emotionally disconnect from work, reducing the risk of burnout.

6. Take Regular Breaks

Implement the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. These short breaks allow your mind to reset, reducing stress and improving concentration. During breaks, avoid screen time; instead, do something you enjoy, like reading a book or taking a walk.

7. Practice Mindfulness

Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine. This can include meditation, guided imagery, or simple breathing exercises. Even a few minutes of mindfulness practice can significantly calm your mind and reduce anxiety. There are many apps and online resources to guide you through these practices.

8. Seek Support

Talk about your feelings with a trusted colleague, friend, or family member. Sometimes, just voicing your worries can provide relief. If your workplace offers it, consider speaking to a counsellor or psychologist. Professional support can provide tailored strategies to manage your anxiety more effectively.

9. Work on Personal Development

Invest time in developing your skills and knowledge. This could be through online courses, workshops, or pursuing a new hobby. Personal development can boost self-confidence and reduce feelings of inadequacy, decreasing anxiety levels.

10. Create a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Actively plan and schedule time for relaxation and hobbies outside work. Engage in physical activities, spend time with loved ones, or pursue interests that bring you joy. A balanced lifestyle ensures that work doesn’t dominate your life, reducing work-related anxiety.

Woman practicing mindfulness surrounded by plants and greenery

Long-Term Strategies for Managing Anxiety at Work

To effectively manage workplace anxiety long-term, it's important to establish foundational strategies:

  • Building a Support Network: Creating a strong network of colleagues, mentors, or a professional support group can provide a sense of security and belonging. This network can offer guidance, share experiences, and provide emotional support during challenging times.
  • Continuous Learning and Development: Engaging in ongoing personal and professional development helps build confidence and reduce feelings of inadequacy or anxiety. Consider taking business courses that enhance your skills and expose you to new perspectives and approaches.
  • Establishing Career Goals: Setting clear, achievable career goals provides a sense of direction and purpose, which can reduce feelings of uncertainty or anxiety about the future. These goals can be short-term milestones or long-term career aspirations.

Managing Remote Work Anxiety

In the era of remote work, managing anxiety presents unique challenges. Creating a structured routine is essential, as it establishes a consistent daily rhythm for a sense of normalcy and control, helping to reduce anxiety. Designating a specific area in your home exclusively for work can help you mentally separate your work life from your personal life, reducing the anxiety that often results from blurred boundaries. Additionally, staying connected with colleagues through regular calls and check-ins maintains a sense of connection and helps mitigate the isolation frequently associated with remote work.

Man with artificial leg on yoga mat

Frequently Asked Questions About Managing Anxiety at Work

Should I Tell My Boss About My Anxiety?

Deciding whether to tell your boss about your anxiety is a personal decision. It could be beneficial if you believe it will help in making necessary adjustments at work. However, it's important to weigh up how comfortable you feel about sharing this information is important.

What to Do if You Can't Work Due to Anxiety

If anxiety is severely impacting your ability to work, it's important to address this directly. This might involve speaking to your boss about your anxiety, seeking professional help, or sometimes considering a job change.

How Long Can You Be Off Work With Anxiety?

The length of time you can be off work due to anxiety varies depending on your situation and company policy. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional and understand your workplace's policies on health-related absences.

Can Anxiety Affect My Work Performance?

Anxiety can impact work performance by hindering concentration, decision-making, and interactions with colleagues. However, with effective management strategies, its impact can be significantly reduced.

How Can I Talk to My Colleagues About My Anxiety?

Choose a colleague you trust and feel comfortable with. Be honest but concise about your anxiety, and let them know how they might support you. Remember, you don’t have to share more than you're comfortable with.

What Are Some Signs That I Should Seek Professional Help for My Anxiety?

If anxiety is consistently interfering with your daily life, causing intense distress, or leading to physical symptoms, it might be time to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide tailored strategies and support.

How Can I Manage Anxiety in High-Pressure Work Situations?

Prioritise self-care and stress-management techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness. Preparation and organisation can also help manage anxiety in high-pressure situations. Remember, asking for support or a brief break is okay if needed.

Are There Any Specific Exercises I Can Do at Work to Reduce Anxiety?

Simple exercises like deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, or even a short walk can be effective. Desk-based stretches or guided relaxation exercises can also help manage stress and anxiety at work.

Is It Common to Experience Anxiety About Work-Life Balance?

Many people experience anxiety about maintaining a healthy work-life balance, especially in fast-paced or demanding jobs. Setting clear boundaries and dedicating time to personal well-being is key for managing this form of anxiety.

Manage Anxiety at Work with Centre of Excellence

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  • Understanding Anxiety: Explore its causes, symptoms, and the science behind it. Learn to identify your personal anxiety triggers in the workplace and how to manage them effectively.
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  • Personal Empowerment and Resilience Building: This course helps you build resilience. It transforms your approach to challenges, enhances emotional intelligence, and fosters a positive mindset towards work and life challenges.

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Centre of Excellence User
Centre of Excellence User
— October 26, 2018 06:17:43
Thanks for sharing this great information with us been a physiologist I am familiar with the feeling of anxiety disorder, feeling intense anxiety but the points suggested in this blog are one of the most popular and successful.
Centre of Excellence User
Centre of Excellence User
— December 20, 2018 17:48:29
Iv not seen a doctor yet as I'm unsure if it is anxiety I have. I find myself constantly crying with not really much clue as to why, iv have an awful lot on my plate but I'm usually pretty good at taking things in my stride but this last 3 months have been awful, my sleep is next to none, I'm crying at work and home, my heart feels like it's going to bounce out of me I can bearly function most days now!
Mark Harrison
Mark Harrison
— December 24, 2018 10:54:26
Hi, it sounds like you may have symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. As the article advises, it's best to visit your GP sooner rather than later. There's no harm in going to see your doctor whereas not doing so is causing you harm.

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