What To Do if Your Workplace is Anxiety-Inducing

By Laura Greenstein | Feb. 22, 2018

 

There are so many aspects a job that can cause anxiety: having tight deadlines, trying to harmonize a work/life balance, dealing with office gossip and politics, meeting your supervisor’s expectations… the list goes on.

Thanks to all this, most people who work will experience some anxiety at some point. But what do you do if your workplace makes you feel that way on a regular basis? When you dread stepping foot into the office day after day. When something about your job makes anxiety your norm. When you have an anxiety disorder and work constantly triggers your symptoms.

Depending on your situation, it might be helpful to evaluate whether your job is right for you. But if you aren’t able or don’t want to change jobs, there are ways to manage workplace anxiety.

Practice Self-Awareness

Before you can improve your situation, it’s important to understand what exactly is creating your anxious feelings or worsening the symptoms of your condition. Even if the root of your anxiety is something you can’t change, like having more work than you can handle, knowing the cause can help you figure out next steps. It’s a lot harder to reach a destination without a map.

Share Your Feelings

It may be helpful to talk to a trusted coworker as they can relate to and sympathize with your anxiety. If you don’t have a coworker you trust, you can talk to a friend, family member or mental health professional. Talking about anxiety with the right person can help you process these intense emotions and it can be validating if the person is supportive and understanding. They might also have ideas or suggestions to help you cope.

Release Your Thoughts

Anxiety feeds off itself and one anxious thought can turn into 100 pretty quickly. There’s no way I will meet this deadline. What if something else comes up? What if Steve thinks the project is terrible? If you’re feeling inundated with this kind of thought-spiral, it can be helpful to release your thoughts.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by writing them all down. Do a brain dump of all your anxious thoughts—not to understand them, but just to get them “out.” If you’re at home (or somewhere you feel comfortable) thinking about work drama, you can also sing your thoughts. The idea of these practices is that you can’t write or sing as fast as you can think, so you’ll actually be slowing down while you release your unhelpful thought patterns.

Know When to Ask for Help

If you’re drowning in work, having a hard day or feeling like you can’t meet your supervisor’s expectations, ask your colleagues for help. While it may feel like everyone handles their own work and stress independently, and you should too, this is often not beneficial to anyone. Asking for help when you need it alleviates your burden and builds trust among coworkers. If you feel guilty for taking up their time, offer your support the next time they need help.

Take Time Off

Every six months or so, take some time off work and disconnect as much as possible. Don’t feel guilty about it. You deserve time to yourself or with your loved ones. There is no shortage of research about how important it is for your mental health to get regular breaks from work to decompress and reset. It gives you something to look forward to, time to reflect and practice gratitude. Time off also helps build resilience.

Accept Anxiety

The more you fear anxiety, the more powerful it can become. Part of reducing anxiety is accepting that sometimes work is going to make you feel that way. This is a lot easier said than done, but it comes with practice. So, next time you feel your thoughts and heartbeat start to race, take a moment, sit at your desk and tell yourself: “I feel anxious right now and that’s okay. I’m uncomfortable with this feeling and that’s okay. I don’t know how long this will last, and I’m okay with that.” Tell yourself these things and mean them. It can be surprising how much this small act can help.

Workplace anxiety happens to everyone. But for those who experience it regularly, it’s not something you should push aside or ignore. Even if you feel stressed out and under pressure, it’s important to take time to manage your anxiety. Work is important, but it’s not worth your mental health.

 

Laura Greenstein is communications manager at NAMI.

Comments
Grace Ho
I experience anxiety attacks every single day because of my sexual harassment and retaliation case (I’m the harassee.) I am at a point where I am getting severe panic/anxiety attacks. I appreciate this article and would actually appreciate more help from others’ experiences. I had even videotaped one of my flare ups; it was horrifying to watch.
3/1/2018 4:16:36 PM

Frank Burtnett
It's unfortunate that the article didn't devote more attention to the role of professional counselors and other mental health caregivers in helping employees address anxiety issues and problems in the workplace. Further, the American workplace could create or extend a valuable employee benefit if personal and career counseling were made a part of future Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)---a benefit that would result in a "win-win" for both the employee and the employer.
3/1/2018 12:41:17 PM

John H
Thank you as this is VERY timely. :-) After having a BiPolar anger epsode at work today caused by anxiety this helped greatly. I hate my BiPolor - and may be out of a job tommorrow - I will prastice these more diligently in the future
3/1/2018 12:03:40 AM

Kermit Leibensperger
Under the almighty One Percent's system for profit, where more and more work is piled on less and less people, I have adopted Alfred E. Newman's motto: "What me worry?"
Don't let them see you laughing at them, but the gang of idiots running things in the USA are hilarious, are they not? So relax, do your best for 8 hours, and forget work when you leave. Of course if you don't have a union contract, you are subject to as many hours as the bully in charge pleases. The system is going to collapse anyway, and it's on them, not us. History shows a better system will rise from the ashes of the latest version of the oppression of the many by the few rich ones.
2/28/2018 8:54:10 PM

Claire
I was having high anxiety at work and confided in a coworker who I thought was a close friend. Unfortunately she used this information against me and made things increasingly worse, until I was forced to leave. Be very careful who you confide in. It’s not always the best idea.
2/28/2018 1:57:16 PM

John Hallowitz
Though this is a good article with good advice (which sadly is much easier said then done), I would like to flip the narrative. Too often, way too often, we accept pressure cooker environments that breed depression and anxiety as normal and acceptable. It's a truism that college is the time and place that many experience their first psychotic break, first suicide attempt, first debilitating bout of depression, first hospitalization. There are similar effects on people at mid-career in certain jobs when their is intense pressure to move up, move out, or be sidelined in a dead end position. It is time to start questioning why accept and even promote such toxic environments. It might also be a significant part of the answer to school and work based violence.
2/28/2018 12:53:28 PM

Victor Madge
I fell victim to workplace anxiety, and fell off the deep end into depression. I walked away one day from my job, unannounced, and was lost for two years. Now, I am healed. If only I had seen this article before that, and had acted on it, I would not have fallen so far, so fast.
2/28/2018 12:21:22 PM

Lizanne Corbit
I think this is a very helpful read for something that many people are often facing. I think starting with addressing the anxiety, first that it can happen and second when it does happen. Knowing the root of the anxiety can be a huge help. Knowing the root can alert you to triggers and having that knowledge is empowering and comforting.
2/26/2018 8:04:21 PM

LauraJean
Do u have any classes starting? I phoned but no one called back. Thank You Agian
2/26/2018 3:14:58 PM

Kenny Birmingham
Why would I have suddenly started to feel high anxiety about work? I have been a nurse for 32 years. This happened approx 4 yrs ago
2/25/2018 1:01:52 PM

Tonisha M. Pinckney, Ph.D
Very timely post. Often we take more from those at work then we would take from any one else in our lives. We accept verbal abuse, lack of respect, being overworked, being underpaid, long hours, and other dysfunctions because we want to pay our bills and take care of our families. Many accept this because they are strong and want to be providers or want to get ahead in their careers. Many are are considered weak when they have a legitimate complaint about how they are treated. This article, I believe, will be in Powerade for those looking for ways to cope or ways to give themselves permission to leave and seek other employment. Physical and mental health comes first.
2/23/2018 8:02:17 PM

Brandi Kelley
This is great advice for most situations. I currently work for a company where everyone is amazing and understanding, and I use all these tools to go to work. The combination of these amazing coworkers and how much I love my job, even when my brain is on the fritz, helps me get to work. I have worked for people who don't care or have no tolerance, and it made the anxiety so bad I ended up taking off 8 weeks within a 12 week period. You need to understand when to push through and when to leave a toxic environment, even if it means working in retail or food service for a while. I've worked for 3 different companies that were straight-up abusive to their employees, and my anxiety/depression went into overdrive. I got sick a lot, I had invasive tests on my digestive system, and my friends called to tell me they missed me many times a week.
2/23/2018 2:42:04 PM

Nancy Conrad
Not everyone has a 9-5 desk job-I'm anxious all day and night -so much that I feel like I'm going to throw up. I'm on my feet for around 12 hours a day-I can't "write it all down" I've always had problems with writing-I have a learning disability like many here. I can't even take medication because of my job and the amount of hours I work
2/22/2018 7:38:35 PM

Deborah Windham
This was exactly what I needed to find today. Was just the amount of reinforcement I needed to stand up straight again. Thank you so much.
2/22/2018 1:24:12 PM

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