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How to deal with anxiety at work

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What is anxiety?

“Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe” (NHS).

It is very common to experience feelings of anxiety at some point in your life, and luckily in recent years, people are becoming more confident to talk about their anxiety openly, helping others to address their own anxiety and reduce these feelings by tackling the issue face on.

The workplace can often trigger feelings of anxiety; and learning how to manage these feelings can be difficult to master, especially early on in your graduate career.

High-impact decisions, important presentations, meetings, and personal conflicts are all common culprits for anxiety in the workplace, but how do you deal with that anxiety?

The problem is that for some people, anxiety isn’t just a feeling that happens when the stakes are particularly high; it becomes a feeling that happens on a regular basis, and can inhibit both performance at work and career progression.

Anxiety in the workplace

Workplace anxiety is the main cause of productivity loss and extended absences.

There is plenty of research to show that this can result in massive losses for the company (the average leave of absence taken for mental illness is up to 4 times longer than that taken for nonfatal illnesses).

The occupational effect of anxiety-related illness is more than just being absent from work.

Employees who experience anxiety will also suffer a dramatic drop in performance, due to the anxiety disrupting their ability to process information to complete a simple task.

And without proper processing of information, performance can severely suffer.

If you suffer from workplace anxiety, you can use the time scheduling software to manage your tasks so you can complete them on time.

This can really help to reduce your anxiety, and make you more disciplined.

5 steps to manage anxiety at work

If anxiety at work is becoming a concern for you, here are 5 tips to help manage your workplace anxiety:


1. Avoid triangles

To some extent, gossip will be present in every workplace; whether it’s talking about the personal lives of coworkers or venting about issues.

Bonding with your co-worker by talking about another person, or “triangling”, is an unhealthy and disruptive way to manage workplace anxiety and stress.

Examples of these situations include gossiping about another person or co-worker, using them as a scapegoat, and criticising someone behind their back.

Even though it might be tempting to talk or vent to a colleague, consider keeping your feelings to yourself or speaking directly to the individual with whom you have an issue.

It might be difficult at first, but you can reduce anxiety by approaching them, communicating the facts about the situation, and reaching a resolution.

It is natural for conflicts in the workplace to arise from time to time, but what is important is how you deal with it.

Try to consider how the other individual or colleague might be feeling about the situation, seeing it from their point of view might help you to find common ground and overcome any issues more easily.


2. Access resources

Most workplaces offer counselling through EAPs – Employee Assistance Programs – and can connect you to mental health resources to help you manage your anxiety.

It might be intimidating to speak up about your anxiety at work; however, if you take responsibility for your health and wellbeing, you can in turn become a role model for others.

Improving communication, building a more solid relationship, and asking for help can benefit the entire office; so don’t be ashamed.

You can also opt for low-cost and free resources available through non-profit organisations and advanced software and systems from the HR department.

EmpowerWork, for instance, is a confidential and free text-based service that can help you navigate tricky situations such as office anxiety.

If you have just landed yourself a new job and you are starting to get nervous, this is completely normal and we have all been through it at some point in our lives.

Here is a checklist to help you prepare for your first day of work.

If you are not already assigned a mentor at work, we recommend that you find someone who you can be open with.

Ask them nicely if they wouldn’t mind being your ‘mentor’ for the first few months while you are still getting the hang of things.

Most people would respect your honesty and be happy to help make you feel welcome and answer any questions you have.


3. Turn tasks into challenges

Sometimes, tasks at work can become sources of huge anxiety.

A great strategy to manage workplace stress and anxiety is to turn your least favourite tasks into challenges for yourself.

Try timing yourself to see just how many you can complete, or how quickly you can complete your task.

And by rewarding yourself when you reach a certain amount, you will encourage yourself to work more efficiently, instead of procrastinating.

There are various ways to turn your work into a personal challenge that will give you the opportunity to accomplish more, while also making your work more enjoyable and less stressful.


4. Find long-term anxiety management solutions

Therapists are often expensive, and have long waiting lists.

However, in addition to professional support, you can try local support groups, find an array of relaxation podcasts and great books on these topics to help reduce your anxiety.

Why not try an anxiety self-help course, there are loads of free materials out there – it’s just about finding the right technique for you to make positive changes.

Remember that you can also lean on your family and friends to ask for advice and support to manage your anxiety.

As the saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved”, which is true in many ways; it can feel like a weight is lifted off your shoulders if you turn to someone close to you and share your experiences with anxiety.

If you are a smoker you have probably heard it 1000 times before, but stopping smoking and cutting down alcohol and caffeine consumption really can make a huge difference to your mental wellbeing.

Instead of tea and coffee breaks at work, switch to water, squash or fruit juices as a nice little pick-me-up, to give you an energy boost.


5. Take regular breaks

Movement is crucial for reducing anxiety and stress in the workplace.

Even with perfect posture, or regular exercise, prolonged sitting for too long isn’t good for your overall health, so try to build some activity into your day.

Visit the water cooler, refill office supplies, get up and stretch for a bit and instead of emailing your colleagues, just approach them and interact with them personally.

If you are struggling every day with your mental health at work, take some time off – and consider using your sick days for your mental health.

Most workplaces offer paid time off, even if only for sick days.

Use them to listen to what you might need and seek therapy or any other way that works for you to manage your anxiety.

For more tips on how to deal with anxiety, check out our recent blog on how to relax for a job interview.


Check out the career advice on our graduate blog, or apply for the latest jobs and graduate jobs on our graduate jobs recruitment board.

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