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How to Manage Anxiety at Work

Jonathan Riley

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

~ Anne Lamott

Whether you are worried about a deadline or just feeling dread, you may be telling yourself this: “I need to get back to work, stop worrying, get my head back in the game, and just focus!” If you have a tendency to overthink things, the next thing you will be concerned about is being fired. Soon enough, your mind will seem to have spiralled out of control, and you may even find yourself in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. Telling yourself to stop being anxious when you’re feeling anxious is a bit like telling yourself to fall asleep when you have insomnia — it doesn’t work.

Here are 10 ways to manage anxiety at work

  1. Practice acceptance. Make room for anxiety; it is showing up to try to bring your attention to something, and trying to push it away will only make you feel more overwhelmed and less in control.
  2. Go outside before work. The University of York conducted a study in 2021 that found that spending time in nature has a positive effect on mood and anxiety levels. Spend some time in the sun, either in your own backyard (if you have one) or at a nearby park.
  3. Leave earlier for work. If you find that you are experiencing stress and anxiety on a daily basis due to your morning commute, you may want to consider leaving for work 15 minutes earlier each day. This will allow you to ease into your day and have a more relaxed journey.
  4. Break bad habits. Working in a cluttered environment, expecting perfection, and attempting to control the uncontrollable can all contribute to workplace anxiety. Understand that no project will ever be perfect and that it does not have to be. Look for the good in your work rather than the bad and accept what is beyond your control.
  5. Pinpoint your triggers. The triggers of work stress aren’t always obvious. To identify patterns or triggers, it can be helpful to write down specific times during the day when anxiety sets in. Identifying situations that increase your anxiety can help you handle them better.
  6. Plan ahead. Take the time to plan out your days and weeks so that you have a clear picture of the tasks you want and need to complete. Anxiety can be reduced with the help of a well-structured plan that gives you a sense of mastery over your work and your working day.
  7. Set micro-goals. Workplace anxiety can be managed more effectively if you break your goals down into smaller, more manageable chunks. If you are realistic and honest with yourself about what you are capable of, you will find yourself gaining momentum without overworking yourself.
  8. Work within your limits. When dealing with workplace anxiety, it is important to work within your limits rather than against them. Try not to jump from one task to another; this will only add to your anxiety. When necessary, take breaks; trying to “power through” anxiety will only make it worse.
  9. Your employer won’t fire you. Fear of being fired can be a significant contributor to anxiety in the workplace. The good news is that you probably won’t. In the worst-case scenario, the law requires your employer to keep you on and provide assistance.
  10. Ask for help. Asking for help at work can be difficult because you may be afraid of being seen as inadequate. If your workload gets too much, a good manager will respect your sense of responsibility and make sure you have the tools you need to finish your work.

In conclusion, anxiety in the workplace is common, but it can be effectively managed. Knowing your triggers, establishing healthy boundaries, and giving yourself time to recharge are all great places to start. Lastly, your work anxiety could also be an indication that it’s time to move on from your job.