May 25, 2020

Workplace Anxiety

workplace anxiety

Workplace anxiety refers to stress caused by work that leads to anxiety, or the impact of an anxiety disorder at work. No matter which one it is, workplace anxiety needs to be dealt with to prevent negative outcomes for both employees and organizations.

Definition of Anxiety

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences occasionally. But when a person experiences high levels of anxiety on a normal basis, it can become a medical disorder. 

It’s estimated that 40 million people in the United States deal with anxiety disorder, but only 36.9% of people with anxiety disorder get treatment.

Types of Work Anxiety

There are many causes of work anxiety and, while there’s no workplace anxiety disorder, there are symptoms that are common with those who are dealing with it, including:

  • Excessive or irrational worrying
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Exaggerated startle reaction
  • Feeling jittery
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Racing or pounding heart

Causes of Work Anxiety

Certain things that happen in every workplace on a daily basis can contribute to feeling work anxiety. Starting a new job, for example, is a common source of work anxiety that many people experience. Other things that can cause work anxiety include:

  • Dealing with conflict at work
  • Meeting tight deadlines
  • Relationships with coworkers
  • Managing staff
  • Long work hours
  • A demanding boss
  • Heavy workload
  • Lack of direction on tasks
  • Lack of sense of fairness
  • Lack of control over work environment
  • Low pay or lack of rewards, benefits, etc.

New Job Anxiety

Feeling nervous when starting a new job is completely normal. But if you start feeling the symptoms of anxiety, there are things you can do to help, such as:

  • Learn how to control anxiety symptoms. Be aware of how fear and stress physically manifest in you and use tools like breathing techniques to help bring your body and mind back into balance.
  • Personalize your workspace. Bring in pictures for your desk or anything else that helps you feel more at home in your new surroundings. 
  • Find someone you feel comfortable with. Chances are you’ll find at least one person who you feel at ease around who can help during the first week and beyond.
  • Establish your new routine. People are naturally drawn to a routine and having one can actually boost your mental health. Even though your daily duties will become clearer over time, controlling when you get to work, when you take lunch and when you check emails can make you feel more comfortable.
  • Remember, some anxiety is okay. Being a little anxious is normal and can even help keep you focused and engaged. It means that you care about what you do and want to do well. 

Anxiety Before Work

If you’re constantly feeling anxious about going to work, it’s important to look at the underlying reasons for your anxiety. For example, if you’re always getting large projects with tight deadlines that make it difficult to maintain a healthy work/life balance, that can cause anxiety. Maybe you have a difficult work culture or a harsh boss who demands too much of your time. By being aware of the things that cause your anxiety, you can work to make changes that help you manage your anxious feelings. 

It’s also important to note that a lack of motivation or general dissatisfaction with your work is different from experiencing workplace anxiety. 

Workplace Anxiety Treatment

Regardless of whether your anxiety was present from the start or if it developed over time, dealing with workplace anxiety is easier when you incorporate some or all of the following techniques:

  • Practice self-awareness. What’s causing your anxious feelings? Even if it’s something you can’t change, like being constantly overloaded with work, knowing the cause can help you make a plan for dealing with your anxiety.
  • Share your feelings. Talking with a trusted coworker or, if that’s not possible, a mental health professional, can help process your anxiety and the emotions that go along with it. 
  • Create a realistic, achievable to-do list. Breaking down large projects into smaller tasks can help make them easier to accomplish with less stress. While your list may seem longer, you’ll gain confidence as you take care of the smaller tasks.
  • Take time for yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself and your own basic needs, your work performance will suffer. Make time for exercise, proper sleep, fun activities, and take short breaks during the day to recharge. 
  • Talk with your supervisor. Speak up and let your supervisor know if your workload is too heavy or if there are other issues. They might not even be aware of what is going on and may be able to help find solutions.
  • Plan a vacation. This is one of the best ways to recharge, rejuvenate, and come back ready to work.
  • Practice good health. Eating healthily, getting exercise, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and getting enough sleep make you mentally and physically prepared to deal with challenging work situations.

Occupational Medicine at Baptist Health

If you’re experiencing workplace anxiety or have additional questions about how to deal with it, find a Baptist Health provider near you today.

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