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Are you someone who dreads Monday mornings and have trouble concentrating at work throughout the day? Do you find yourself constantly worrying about work-related tasks, deadlines, and performance evaluations? Breathe. You might be experiencing a very common thing—work anxiety. If it’s any consolation, know that you are not alone.
The American Institute of Stress found that 83% of US workers experience work-related anxiety, with 25% citing their job as their biggest source of stress. And each day, there are a staggering million Americans who miss work due to stress.
With workplace anxiety on the rise, it’s essential to take steps to reduce stress levels in the office and manage your mental health. Here, we’ll discuss tips for effectively managing anxiety and creating a more productive and healthy work environment.
Is Work Anxiety an Anxiety Disorder?
Work anxiety is not necessarily an anxiety disorder, although the two may share some similarities. Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions with excessive and persistent worry or fear, often to the point of interfering with daily activities. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America or ADAA, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults.
Work anxiety, on the other hand, is a type of situational anxiety that is specific to work-related situations such as job interviews, public speaking, or performance evaluations. While work anxiety may not rise to the level of a clinical disorder, it can still have a significant impact on a person’s well-being and functioning.
It’s normal to have some tension and worry both at work and at home. But when that anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and irrational that it interferes with everyday functioning, it clearly makes for a case of anxiety disorder.
Why Does Work Give Me Anxiety?
Workplace anxiety can stem from a variety of factors. Some of these culprits include meeting deadlines, encountering new tasks, and facing an upcoming performance review, big presentation, or public speaking engagement. When we feel nervous or overwhelmed by the tasks we need to complete, it can be challenging to focus, and we may worry about not being able to perform at our best.
Workplace culture can play a role in work-related anxiety. Employees who feel unsupported by their managers or coworkers are more likely to experience anxiety at work. Not to mention the issues concerning job discrimination and insecurity. This is especially true with physically challenged individuals, who are then protected by the disabilities act.
Dealing with sudden issues or problems, difficult co-workers, and even office parties or a new job can be anxiety-provoking situations that can trigger stress and anxiety. For individuals with a physical or mental disability, workplace anxiety can be even more challenging to manage.
Symptoms of an Anxious and Stressed Office Worker
Anxiety can manifest in various ways, and the symptoms experienced by anxious and stressed office workers can vary from person to person. Here are some common symptoms they might experience intensely:
Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, sweating, and muscle tension. They may also have trouble sleeping, have an increased heart rate, and may be particularly sensitive to noise in the workplace.
These symptoms can be especially intense for stressed office workers who spend long hours sitting at a desk, leading to stiffness in the neck, back, and shoulders.
Stress and anxiety can also affect a person’s emotional well-being, causing them to feel overwhelmed easily, irritable, or moody. They may also experience feelings of worry or fear or feel more emotionally reactive than usual.
Anxiety and stress can make it challenging to concentrate and stay focused on tasks. Anxious workers may experience racing thoughts, forgetfulness, and difficulty completing tasks, which can exacerbate feelings of stress.
Have you noticed yourself or your co-workers showing changes in behavior? For example, they may withdraw from social interactions or avoid certain tasks or responsibilities.
They may also engage in negative thoughts and self-talk, such as criticizing themselves for not being productive enough or for making mistakes. This can lead to a sense of overwhelm and low self-esteem and exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
In the workplace, anxiety and stress can manifest in a variety of ways. You will find that an anxious person may avoid certain tasks, projects, or responsibilities, even if they are essential to their job. This behavior can lead to missed deadlines or decreased productivity.
Stress is thought to be the daily reason behind 1 million employee absences. According to a survey of 800,000 workers across 300 companies, the percentage of workers calling in sick has dramatically increased over a four-year span.
How Do I Stop Feeling Anxious at Work?
Managing work anxiety can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can try to help alleviate your symptoms. Here are some practical tips for managing work anxiety:
Acknowledge the Stress
One of the best ways to deal with anxiety or any problem is to acknowledge it. Instead of working against it, embrace it and try to identify the specific situations or tasks that trigger your anxiety at work. Once you understand the source of your anxiety, you can work on developing targeted strategies to manage those situations.
Organize Your Tasks
To manage anxiety-provoking situations such as big projects, try breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Prioritize your to-do lists to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Overloading yourself with work can increase your stress and contribute to anxiety. If your plate is already full and there’s no place to squeeze in new tasks no matter how you organize, better to delegate responsibilities to others.
It’s essential to set clear boundaries in the workplace to prevent feelings of overwhelm and burnout. Set mini-deadlines for completing tasks, especially for major projects or engagements. This will make it easier for you to meet due dates and reach specific milestones.
If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, speak up and communicate your needs to your co-workers or the human resources department.
Engage in Physical Exercises
Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are effective techniques for managing stress and anxiety and promoting a sense of calm. These exercises engage your mind and body and let you focus your attention on the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
By taking deep breaths and practicing mindfulness regularly, you can reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve your mental health. You can try practicing these techniques during breaks or whenever you feel anxious and stressed.
Prioritize self-care activities such as getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. When outside your work hours, spend time with your family, pursue a hobby, do activities that bring you joy, or start outdoor gardening, which has been proven to alleviate stress and anxiety.
These things will also help you get into a work-life balance.
Be Open with Your Co-workers
If it’s the people in your workplace that are keeping you stressed most of the time, approach the person and communicate openly with them. This may sound easier said than done but dealing with conflicts between yourselves is the more professional and healthy thing to do. No gossiping or venting out anger with another person as it can lead to more tension and anxiety.
If communicating directly with your co-worker proves very daunting for you, work it out with the help of your supervisor or the human resource person.
Seek Professional Help
If you’re struggling with managing anxiety at work or experiencing severe anxiety or depression, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a licensed clinical psychologist. They can offer support and guidance to effectively manage anxiety symptoms and improve your overall mental health.
Support is also available through non-profit organizations dealing with stress and anxiety. Some of these include:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- American Psychological Association
- Anxiety Resource Center
Employer’s Role in Managing Workplace Anxiety
If you routinely deal with anxiety at work, think about telling your employer about the issue and see if they have recommendations, work modifications, or special programs that would help you work more comfortably. The following are a few methods that management can apply to reduce workplace stress for employees:
Encourage Employees to Manage Anxiety
As an employer, it’s essential to offer support and resources to employees to manage anxiety and stress in the workplace. This can include offering an employee assistance program, flexible work hours, accommodations for individuals with a physical or mental disability, or hosting staff lunches to promote social identity.
Educate People About Mental Health
It’s crucial to educate people about the importance of mental health in the workplace. This can involve offering workshops or seminars on mindfulness, stress reduction, or mental illnesses. By increasing awareness and understanding of mental health issues, we can reduce stigma and encourage open and honest communication about mental health challenges.
Improve Work Environment
Creating a positive and healthy workplace environment can also help manage work stress. Encourage open and honest communication, set clear expectations and goals, and offer opportunities for professional development and growth.
Work-related stress is a prevalent issue that can significantly impact an individual’s mental and physical health. By understanding the signs and symptoms of work anxiety and taking steps to manage anxiety effectively, you can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs with your employer or seek professional help to create a more productive and healthy work environment. Managing anxiety is a process, and with time and practice, it’s possible to overcome anxious thoughts and feelings and complete tasks with confidence and ease.