Dealing with Anxiety at Work

I want you to understand the scope of this post.

Many of the techniques I show take time and practice. They are skills that need to be learned and once learned, they can apply to any situation, even work.

The scope of this post is how to handle the work environment while you may be experiencing anxiety.

For many of us, dealing with anxiety at work may become one of our biggest challenges when it comes to living with our anxiety.

It is one thing to be at home or around friends when anxiety strikes, but having it happen at work can truly make our lives harder by endangering our very jobs.

Anxiety has a profound impact on work life. Perhaps it has limited you from getting that promotion you deserve.

Perhaps you chose a job based on your anxiety, you picked a job close to home, or one that you could walk to, or a job that you didn’t have to deal with the public.

You took a job because it allowed you to avoid anxious situations. This is what I refer to as “Living with the anxiety monster.” Rather than live life on your terms, you are letting the monster choose the things you do and don’t do.

There is another category of people that are dealing with anxiety at work. They are the ones that are already locked in to a job and that job is the cause or plays a major role in their anxiety.

Today’s workplaces are highly competitive and for many companies you either perform or you are out. We live in a high stress society and our jobs are a huge part of that.

At this point you have three choices:

  • You can continue to live with the anxiety monster and be miserable at work.
  • You can quit your job or take a job that fits the anxiety monsters needs and not yours.
  • Or, you can fight back and put the anxiety monster in his rightful place, which is out of your life!

The basic tips on how to deal with Anxiety at Work

Some of you already know these basic tips and some of you may not.

I guarantee you, for some of you that already know these tips, you are still not doing them. One of the first steps you have to take in dealing with anxiety at work is to lower your stress levels.

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Stress and anxiety are related, there is a direct correlation between the two. So, let us start by lowering your stress levels at work.

Look, I am not going to tell you to work less, some of you can’t. Some of you have 60 plus hour work weeks and that’s what it takes in your business to be successful.

But, at some point, you have to decide, what is more important, your life or your job?

We are all wired differently and there are people that can work like that and it does not affect them. But if you are experiencing anxiety over your work load, it is up to you to make the hard decision, my health or my job.

Of course, it may not be that extreme, there are things you can do.

Stay organized. Sounds simple, but are you doing it? Keep your desk uncluttered, a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind.

We are creatures of order, not chaos. Prioritize your work, at the beginning of each work week, take a few minutes and write out a “to do” list. Know and plan what you are going to do during each work day.

Being in charge of our work rather than our work being in charge of us is very important in keeping our stress down.

Get eight hours of sleep. Don’t underestimate how important rest is.

When you are rested you are much more productive in the workplace.

I challenge you to focus on one week, each night, no matter what, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and I guarantee you that you will get more work done during your work week.

Lay off the alcohol and/or drugs. I’m not going to get into a morality lesson here, but I can safely say that people that abuse alcohol and drugs are more likely to suffer from anxiety.

Unfortunately, some people use alcohol and drugs to combat anxiety. It is a temporary fix that becomes worse when you sober up.

Another challenge – give up drinking and/or drugs for one work week and see how much more productive you become.

Lower your intake of caffeine. This means coffee, soda and those energy drinks. Just like drugs, they may help in the short term, but in the long run they are bad for you.

There is a direct correlation between caffeine and anxiety.

Take mini breaks throughout your work day. I know you get official breaks, take those too, but between those, take little breaks. Stand up and walk away from your desk or workstation for 5 minutes.

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This refreshes your mind and can bring your concentration back into focus.

Working harder is not working smarter. We perform so much better when we are relaxed and happy. If you are not relaxed and happy, then figure out why and do something about it.

Study after study has shown that when we stay organized, take our breaks and get good sleep the night before, we are much more productive at work.

When you are productive at work, your stress levels are lowered. When your stress levels are lowered, you are less anxious.

Bosses and Coworkers

I believe in being honest with my family and close friends about my anxiety. They are my support group when I need them.

You should also use your family and friends as support. However, this does not extend to bosses and coworkers.

The exception may be if a coworker is also a very good friend. For me personally, there is one person at my work that knows I suffer from anxiety.

She is not only a coworker, but my best friend. The bottom line here is that you must be prepared to answer questions if you are ever asked about your anxiety at work.

I do not believe in lying, but I do believe in being prepared and choosing my words carefully.

If you experience anxiety at work and the signs become obvious, such as shaking or sweating, people may ask questions out of concern for you.

What will you say to them? Right or wrong, remember there is still a stigma of mental health problems. What you say to one well meaning coworker could easily become gossip.

Consider saying something like, “Yeah, I have a little problem with that now and then, my doctor is helping me with it.

Thanks for asking, but I really am okay.” You reassured your coworker and you didn’t have to lie.

We have a tendency to think everyone notices every little thing about us. That is not true, nobody is as focused on you as you are.

If you are experiencing an anxiety attack at work, don’t automatically assume that everyone is noticing. Chances are, nobody notices.

People are generally too busy thinking about themselves to be thinking about you. In general, anxious people are way more critical of themselves than others are.

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Always assume they are not noticing your symptoms unless they actually say something. And if they do say something, simply answer as I did in the paragraph above.

In control anxiety I talk about having outs for your anxiety. I am a firm believer in taking on the anxiety monster whenever he shows up.

Sometimes when it becomes too much we use an out to leave the situation, with the full understanding that as soon as we are able, we are coming back to finish what we started.

You can use outs at work as well, you just have to be a little more creative. Outs may consist of a quiet place, maybe that’s a vacant office or room. Maybe it’s the bathroom, where ever it may be for you, plan ahead and know your out.

Some people are comfortable enough at work to let their coworkers know they suffer from anxiety. Having support around you is very beneficial when it comes to anxiety.

Just being free in allowing people to know about your anxiety, can help reduce your anxiousness. Unfortunately, most people do not work in that type of work environment.

Check if you work has EAP (Employee Assistance Program) this could be a very valuable way to get counseling.

Do not use your problem to get special privileges.

I read a story about a lady that was claustrophobic and therefore needed an office with a window. Her position and seniority at work did not qualify her for an office with a window.

When she was offered help so that she could get along without a window, she refused the help. She did not want help, she wanted an office with a window.

If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I am a big believer in challenging the anxiety monster. I believe it is important for you to face your anxieties and defeat them.

It is the only way that you will ever be truly free of the anxiety monster that controls your life. If you take jobs or positions within your company based on what the anxiety monster allows you to do, you will always be his slave.

Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, you may be surprised at what you are capable of.