While some stress and pressure at work can be a natural part of daily life, persistent workplace anxiety can be both debilitating and disruptive. Workplace anxiety can be rooted in a number of things from stresses outside of work that make you feel unable to function to pressure within your industry and from your employers and peers.
Know Yourself: Behavior Patterns Triggered by Workplace Anxiety
If you feel that confronting workplace problems head on, meeting deadlines and maintaining personal relationships are becoming overwhelming tasks, it is worth considering whether you suffer from workplace anxiety. The impact can go beyond just your productivity and work output. It can also affect your ability to participate in meetings, social events, travel and public speaking engagements.
There are a number of behavioral patterns triggered by workplace anxiety that you should take note of:
- Actively avoiding interactions with coworkers in both social and professional situations
- Increased irritability and aggression towards others, including developing a short temper
- Inability to focus on single tasks
- Decreased tolerance for problem-solving and facing new challenges
- Feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks that were once easy to handle
Workplace Anxiety Does Not Have to Isolate You
It’s important to know that you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “72% of people who have daily stress and anxiety say it interferes with their lives….” While there are pharmaceutical interventions available, there are many natural, tried and tested ways to relieve anxiety that you can put into practice immediately.
How to Manage Anxiety and Stress at Work
1. Practice Mindful Compassion
When you suffer from anxiety, you tend to spiral into negative thoughts and criticisms about yourself, which can be very difficult to overcome. Practicing mindfulness involves taking note of the negative thoughts and criticisms that you have about yourself. Consider whether you would have those same criticisms for someone you cared about. It’s important to train our brains to treat ourselves with compassion, especially when we have a proclivity for anxiety.
Possibly the oldest and most under-rated tip for managing anxiety and stress is simply to breathe. On a biological level, deep breathing forces your body to calm down, and concentrating your mind on your breaths can help to refocus your energies away from negative thoughts and scenarios. Even Harvard agrees – breath control helps quell errant stress.
3. Accept Your Brain’s Ability to Trick you
The brain is an incredibly powerful tool, and it’s important to remember this when your own brain seems to turn against you. Accepting that your mind can create extremely negative scenarios when you suffer from anxiety can help to extract you from those feelings and patterns. If you can see what your brain is up to objectively, you can reassure yourself that this, too, shall pass.
4. Talk to a Trusted Colleague
Many people feel that there is stigma around mental health in the workplace and that they cannot speak openly about how workplace anxiety and stress affect them. However, studies show that the overwhelming majority have suffered from workplace anxiety and stress at some point. Talking to a colleague that you trust can help you share the load and express your feelings to someone who understands the environment you are both working in. It also means that they can watch for the signs of anxiety and help to refocus you when you reach out to them.
5. Learn to Say No
As an employee, you may often feel obligated to say yes to any new project or task that is handed to you. However, it’s incredibly important to know your limits and to only take on as much work as you can realistically handle and complete to a high standard. Saying no isn’t rejecting work or shirking responsibility; it’s accepting that you have high expectations for the work you’re already doing, and it’s holding yourself accountable to the people you’re already completing work for. Learning to say no at work can not only improve your career, but it can genuinely improve your health.
6. Prepare & Stay Organized
One of the most common stressors that can trigger workplace anxiety is the feeling that you simply have too much work and not enough time to do it in. A great way to prevent this is to make sure you are constantly over-prepared and that all or your organization and planning includes space for redundancies. Always significantly over-estimate how much time and energy any given project will take so that you can give yourself space to breathe between deadlines.
7. Avoid Naysayers
While camaraderie and friendship between coworkers is vital to a healthy work life, it’s also important to consider whether these are valuable, positive relationships or whether you are engaging in toxic behaviors. If the majority of your conversation with coworkers centers around gossip or negativity, it’s worth considering cutting down or at least limiting your time spent with negative individuals.
8. Be Proud
Your anxiety has the ability to demoralise and undermine your accomplishments. A powerful way to combat this is to create and keep updated a list of your accomplishments. No matter how small, keep track, and when you feel overwhelmed, use this list to remind you of what you’ve already done and what you should be proud of. It’s a powerful tool that can logically undercut negative thought patterns.
When you’re at work, you think about work – but as soon as you leave the office, you must leave it behind. When your work life spills into your mental headspace outside of work, it’s important to rebalance and compartmentalize these elements of your life. The work will still be there tomorrow. While you’re at home, relax and spend time with the people you care about. This time is vital for your mental health and stress levels.
How Employers Can Help Reduce Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace
With such high numbers of employees feeling anxious and stressed about work, it is important to note the role of employers in helping to manage anxiety and stress. It’s not just good for your team’s health and happiness; it’s also vital to your company’s productivity.
There are some simple and immediate ways to help your employees:
- Keep lines of communication open – make sure that your employees can talk to you openly and can trust you to act on their issues.
- Schedule in regular one-on-one meetings and actively ask about stress and anxiety.
- Foster a culture that values collaboration over competitiveness.
- When you see the signs, ask. Always follow up with employees who seem to be suffering.
Taking Back Control
Workplace anxiety can be overwhelming and can seep into every aspect of your life. However, you can arm yourself with the tools to not only cope with workplace anxiety, but also manage it effectively and minimize its impact. As an employer, you can help guide your employees and create a stress-free, open environment to get the best out of those who work for you by fostering clear lines of communication and practicing compassion.
By talking to those you trust, practicing breathing and mindfulness techniques, and preparing, organizing and controlling your workload, you can empower yourself and take steps towards being more productive, healthy and happy at work.
Do you suffer from anxiety or stress in the workplace? Have you used mindfulness or any of these tips to help manage your anxiety levels? Let us know what has worked for you in the comments.