It’s really important to learn how to manage anxiety at work so you can thrive in your life and career.
Whether you’re a recent grad or a seasoned professional, anxiety in the workplace is a common concern. Anxiety is a natural response to stress, causing increased fear, alertness, and oftentimes, physical sensations, such as a rapid heartrate or sweating. Unsurprisingly, it tends to show up in most areas of one’s life, but most especially at work.
While normal everyday anxiety differs from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), or other anxiety disorders, any type or level of anxiety is typically amplified in the workplace, where everyday stressors can pose a significant threat to one’s health and wellbeing.
Students learn how important it is to prioritize their mental health in college, and it’s just as important to learn and develop coping mechanisms to manage daily stress and workplace anxiety. Here are seven tips to handle and overcome anxiety at work, so you can put your best professional foot forward.
Even if writing isn’t your favorite thing to do, there are multiple health benefits of journaling. Jotting your thoughts and feelings into a notebook enables you to better process situations, solve problems (by engaging your left-brain analytical side and right-brained creativity), and gather clarity towards your fears, frustrations, and values. Ultimately, journaling can help reduce stress, by giving you a forum to release emotions, thus minimizing the intensity of any negative feelings you’ve been holding onto.
2. De-clutter your workspace
Clearing up your workspace – whether you’re back in the office or working from home – can do wonders for clearing up your headspace. Start small by discarding things like trash. Next, remove all items from your desk or countertop you’re working from, and clean the surface with disinfectant. Finally, focus on storing items that you don’t readily need, and utilize file folders to organize papers. You can also decorate your space with things that uplift you – such as favorite books, inspiring quotes on a vision board, or pictures of family and friends.
3. Talk it out with a trusted co-worker, friend, or healthcare professional
There’s no doubt that venting helps in dealing with anxiety at work. While a trustworthy co worker or friend are usually good options, depending on how your anxiety is affecting your performance, mental and physical health, and social interactions, it may be in your best interest to consider seeing a therapist, who can provide professional support and input to help you better navigate your anxiety.
4. Record wins for the day
Keep track of your wins, whether they’re big (getting kudos from your boss or direct report on a project) or small (working up the courage to ask a question in a large meeting). Not only will this help you keep track of your contributions, but it’ll help you develop confidence as you rack up the accomplishments for your next promotion or gig!
5. Get moving
Studies show that exercise eases symptoms of anxiety by releasing endorphins (brain chemicals that make you feel good). If you’re working in the office, going on a walk for 10 to 15 minutes should help decrease stress or anxiety, but if you’re working from home, consider being more creative with how you get moving. Find activities you enjoy doing — like jogging, gardening, or even dancing — to transfer any internal conflict into external, positive energy.
6. Take breaks
If you’re having trouble concentrating or being productive because of your anxiety at work, it’s time to take a break – and it’s important to! Most follow the popular Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break – and take a 15-minute break at least once every two hours. Find what works for you, and take the time to completely disengage from work, so you can re-engage fully refreshed and restored.
7. Develop grounding techniques
There are a variety of grounding techniques you can use to help you re-focus on the moment or work task at hand, without being distracted by unwanted stressful thoughts or negative emotions. Healthline has a list of ways to quiet distressing thoughts, many that include tapping into physical sensations, like embracing cold objects like ice and practicing deep breathing, or using the 5-4-3-2-1 method, where you use your senses to list what you notice around you (for example: five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can smell, two things you can hear, 1 thing you can taste).
It may not be easy to manage anxiety at work, but it’s definitely possible. And if these don’t end up minimizing your anxiety, consider doing some service outside of work to shift your focus into doing something feel-good to feel good, through one of these opportunities on the Take Action page.
Christina Colon is a creative writer, storyteller, and strategist based in NJ/NY. She loves a good book, podcast, show, or city spot – preferably paired with iced coffee. She’s deeply passionate about amplifying the voices of Latinx/BIPOC communities, and empowering women to live their best lives, personally and professionally.