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10 Tips to Manage Anxiety at Work

Work anxiety can drastically affect your quality of life and leave you counting down the minutes until five o’clock comes around. Roughly three out of every four people with stress or anxiety in their life say that it interferes with their daily lives, and the workplace is no exception. Anxiety can affect performances at work, the quality of work, relationships with colleagues, and relationships with supervisors. And if you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, then these challenges may prove even more difficult.

People report that deadlines and dealing with difficult people are the biggest causes of work-related stress. Conflict in the workplace will elicit many different reactions. Some people love the drama, while others would rather hide under their desks until the commotion subsides. Regardless of whether or not you thrive from conflict, lack of effective communication at your job can cause quite a bit of anxiety.

When several people in the office are visibly affected by anxiety, the level of stress can almost feel contagious. People begin to miss more work, the quality of work goes down, and coworkers begin to gossip or vent rather than work together to solve the problem. People stop talking to one another, they start collecting mountains of grievances, and the environment can be downright toxic.

The first step in managing work anxiety is to develop a self-wellness plan. If you’re getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and engaging in social activities outside of work, then your odds for decreasing workplace anxiety are much greater. But reducing anxiety in the workplace requires more than mindfulness and a yoga class every once in a while. You must also examine how you function in the workplace system and how you deal with others.

Do you hide from your boss? Do you gossip with your co-worker in the neighboring cubicle? Do you wait to speak until you’re seething with anger or bursting into tears? There are a few simple strategies you can start examining and practicing to help you arrive at work calmer and not take worries home with you. In addition to seeking professional help to manage anxiety, you can use these interpersonal strategies to help lower overall anxiety in the office and help you stay calm, focused, and productive.

Strategies:

  1. Know Everyone’s Name: Having a solid one-to-one relationship with people in the office makes it easier to address problems with the original individual rather than gossiping or venting to someone else. This starts by knowing people's names and their responsibilities. If you forget a person’s name, don’t be embarrassed to ask again. It’s never too late to start building stronger relationships at the office.
  2. Ask For Help: When work is hectic, it becomes all too easy to say “yes” even when you don’t understand how to do something. But the discomfort of asking for help or clarification is worth it in the long run, and it can decrease overall anxiety about responsibilities. Asking for help also communicates to your superiors that you genuinely care about doing a good job.
  3. Avoid Triangles: Many workplaces are built on gossiping about coworkers or venting about others. Though this might provide temporary relief or entertainment, it only serves to build up tension and stress. You can almost feel it floating in the air when an office is full of this kind of negativity. Bonding with someone by talking about a third person is called “triangling”, and it’s an unhealthy way to manage work anxiety.
  4. Set Honest Deadlines: Anxious people will sometimes agree to deadlines and timelines they know they cannot meet. Often it is better to be honest and upfront rather than to apologize later. Not every deadline is negotiable, but it will save you hours of anxiety if you can be honest upfront and work at a manageable pace. And if you finish the job ahead of time, then that will make you look even better.
  5. Use Neutral Language: Learning to use neutral and calming language in the office can help bring down everyone’s anxiety at work. Disagreements are more manageable when you begin a statement with, “Here is what I’m thinking,” and end it with “What are you thinking?” This lets people feel like they have an input and makes them more likely to hear what you're saying. Questions like, “What could we each do about this issue?” or “How could we prevent this from happening in the future?” are also great for problem-solving.
  6. Stay In Contact: It’s human instinct to avoid or cut off contact with people who make us feel uncomfortable, and the workplace is no exception. Contact is a muscle you have to flex to make it stronger. The more you approach problems and communication head-on, the less anxious it will make you in the long term.
  7. Don’t Drag Others Down: Office drama can be entertaining at times, but it ultimately makes the environment more stressful and lowers morale. Try changing the subject when people talk poorly of coworkers or the boss, or simply come up with a reason to leave the room. Don’t respond to texts or emails that seek to drag other people down.
  8. Encourage In-Person Conversations: It can be incredibly difficult to decipher emotions and intentions electronically. If an issue is making you particularly anxious, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or have an in-person conversation about things.
  9. Focus On Facts: Your mind and emotions can feel pulled in many different directions when you feel overloaded, underappreciated or misunderstood. The best way to lower anxiety is to control the conversation and what’s communicated. Try to verbalize what specifically is causing your anxiety and ask other people to share their views. Then express how you would like the specific conflict resolved.
  10. Access Resources: Many workplaces offer therapy through employee assistance programs (EAP) or can connect you to mental health resources in the community to help you manage anxiety.

Though it may be intimidating to speak up about your anxiety, when you take responsibility for your wellness, you serve as a role model for others in the workplace. When you build more solid relationships, improve communication, and ask for help, the entire office will benefit. Anxiety is always present to some degree in your daily life, but it doesn’t have to interfere with doing good work and enjoying your profession. Remember, though anxiety is an unpleasant emotion, it’s also an opportunity for you to grow in your career. The more you face anxiety in the workplace rather than run away from it or simply complain about it, the more significant a stressor will have to be to make you feel off your game.

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