Feeling anxious at work? You’re not alone

How to cope with workplace anxiety

Just about anyone who has held a job knows what it’s like to feel nervous about work.

Maybe they’re not sure the boss likes them, or they’re worried about meeting a deadline or presenting for a big client. Or maybe they just don’t want to go back to the office on Monday.

But for many people that feeling is more than a case of the Sunday Scaries or temporary nerves. It’s a real issue, known as workplace anxiety, with effects both psychological and physical that range from distracting to debilitating. Left unaddressed, it can lead to professional burnout and significant health issues.

An article in the mental wellness-focused publication VeryWell Mind says workplace anxiety is “typically disproportionate to the situation.”

Sufferers may worry excessively about things like driving to work, interacting with colleagues, or taking part in meetings. It can affect performance and productivity at work, making people forgetful and unable to focus or meet deadlines, and negatively affect their personal lives.

What causes workplace anxiety?

It could come from a situation at the office, such as a conflict with a coworker, lack of job security or not feeling control over their work. Or it could stem from the individual’s circumstances – problems in their personal life or perhaps an underlying anxiety disorder.

For anyone experiencing workplace anxiety, there are ways to help cope and reduce the negative effects. VeryWell Mind author and clinical psychologist Arlin Cuncic offers these tips:

  • Talk to a supervisor. It may feel scary to tell your manager about your feelings, but they may be able to offer ways to make it easier to do your job. Remember, you are legally protected from discrimination.
  • Tell a coworker. Sharing fears and struggles with someone at work can help you feel social support, which can lower stress.
  • Work within your limits. Figure out what causes stress and set boundaries to mitigate negative effects. If multi-tasking brings on anxiety, focus on just task at a time. If large projects are overwhelming, set shorter deadlines to help keep you on task.
  • Use quick coping strategies. Find ways that help you move through stress and anxiety as it comes up. That could mean taking a five-minute walk outside, setting aside a few minutes to meditate or just taking a break to chat with a coworker. You can also try a practice called grounding that uses the senses to connect you to your surroundings. Smelling essential oils, listening to calming sounds or noting things you can see in your space are all examples.
  • Practice healthy habits. Getting too little sleep or exercise and too much caffeine can worsen anxiety. Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle, move your body regularly throughout the day and cut back on caffeine and non-nutritious foods.
  • Be mindful. If your thoughts start to wander or collapse into worry, try some mindfulness exercises to bring you back into the present moment. Deep breathing and focusing awareness on your body or surroundings can help to calm the anxious mind.
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