High-stress levels in U.S. workplaces has led to more people looking for ways to overcome work anxiety. Sometimes stress can motivate us to meet difficult deadlines or accomplish challenging tasks. At other times, stress can be long-lasting and cause anxiety that persists and affect all aspects of our lives. When dealing with work-related anxiety, there are some proven strategies to be aware of that can reduce your symptoms.
Using most or all available vacation time has helped many people overcome work anxiety. Over half of U.S. workers don’t use all of their vacation time. There are a number of other ways to overcome anxiety at work including taking frequent walk or movement breaks, using meditation strategies, disconnecting from work at home, and more.
It’s important to note that if you have an anxiety disorder, you may be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The severity of your disorder and the job requirements will determine the level of accommodations that may be available.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, 52 percent of employees had unused vacation time at the end of 2017. This may not seem like an issue to some people. However, since taking time off from work has been shown to reduce stress, this becomes a troubling statistic. Not only does time off reduce stress, but when employees return from a vacation, they are typically more creative, focused, and productive.
Some of the U.S. workforce subscribes to the workaholic philosophy that often places work success and importance above all else. When employees buy into this belief, they sometimes neglect their personal life and cause increased stress. This increase can cause a number of stress-related illnesses, including anxiety. The good news is that many employers are adopting new policies that encourage employees to use their accrued time off.
Given this information, it’s vital to your overall mental health and productivity that you use your paid time off. One of the best ways to be sure that you use your time is to plan ahead. At the beginning of each year, plan your vacation time either individually or with your family. Let your employer know well in advance when you are going to use your time. Doing this will decrease the likelihood that there will be a conflict with other employees also taking time off.
Similar to meditation, frequent and regular movement is known by many people to improve overall health. Unfortunately, this awareness hasn’t encouraged widespread use yet. This is concerning as a large portion of the workforce spends the majority of their day sitting.
JustStand.org is an organization that provides knowledge and resources on including movement in daily life. Some of the research they cite shows low-intensity activities such as walking or standing can have a significant positive impact. People that exercise regularly may think that they’re safe from this. However, the negative effects of sitting for many hours can still occur.
How does all of this relate to overcoming anxiety at work? Stress from poor physical health is often a leading factor in a variety of documented anxiety disorders. Incorporating movement, big or small, into your daily work life can improve physical health. This, in turn, reduces the potential stress related to feelings that come with poor health which can lead to anxiety.
Implementing some of the following movement strategies in your workplace can potentially reduce your anxiety:
If you’re concerned that your boss might have an issue with some of these strategies, have a conversation with them. Be prepared to discuss the positive impact that these strategies can have. If you have a documented anxiety disorder, your doctor may even provide a note to your employer recommending some of these.
Hopefully, your employer is one of the many that are making efforts to support movement-based initiatives. Many leaders and HR departments are investing financial, time, and educational resources to their employees to support this idea.
It’s not uncommon to get overwhelmed or lose focus from time to time while working. When this happens, it helps to have tools to overcome this feeling and get back on task. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of the many benefits of meditation. For the many skeptics dealing with work anxiety that haven’t tried meditation, it’s time to give it a go.
A study published in the August 2013 edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry furthered this theory. The results of the study showed an improvement in stress and anxiety levels for individuals with general anxiety disorder. This was achieved through a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program that incorporates meditation as part of the overall system. Individuals diagnosed with panic disorder that have experienced a panic attack have also benefited from similar treatment.
Meditations’ usefulness is furthered by the fact that it can be used as both a preventative measure and a proactive approach. Most experts suggest including meditation in your morning routine to ideally prevent feeling anxious before it occurs. However, it can also be used during your workday to actively combat these feelings when they arise.
Luckily, this can be done quickly and easily thanks to many modern meditation resources. There is no shortage of quality meditation apps available through your smartphone. Many of these offer guided meditations that can be done in just a couple of minutes while sitting at your desk. Some even offer advanced features such as measuring your heart rate to show how it’s improved during meditation.
24/7 access to technology has completely changed the way that we work. We’re now able to do jobs remotely that years ago wouldn’t have been possible. This is a plus as it creates flexibility for both employees and employers. Unfortunately, technology has also made it possible for work to always be just a fingertip away. The often referred to work-life balance has now become somewhat of an oxymoron.
For people with anxiety, this means that anxiety in the workplace can become part of your personal life as well. Whether this anxiety is self-induced or reinforced by your boss, it can be crippling. When your work anxiety continues at home, it is likely to negatively affect personal relationships with your loved ones. Work-related stress and anxiety can have particularly harmful effects on marriage.
Unplugging from work can be challenging, but it can be accomplished by following a few helpful steps:
Regardless of how you disconnect from work, it’s important to do so. Continuing to focus on work at home will only further your anxiety.
Feeling overwhelmed is a frequent contributor to workplace stress and anxiety. This feeling often comes from having too many tasks to complete and not being able to complete important projects. Of course, we know that planning ahead will ease these feelings. With so many planning techniques and tools available, the act of planning itself can become overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.
For people with anxiety, trial and error is an important part of the daily planning process. The best course of action is to try different methods. Be sure that you give each tool and technique an appropriate amount of time and measure your results.
See If Planning at Night Works For You. Many experts tout the success of planning tomorrow the night before. In theory, it certainly makes sense. However, for some people, this can lead to feelings of anxiousness and negatively affect your sleep. When planning the night before, do so at least one hour before you go to sleep. If you find that this isn’t working, planning your day in the morning may be a better option.
Should I Write or Type my Daily Plan? For daily planning, research is limited as to the which option is best. However, research on note-taking points to writing by hand being more effective than typing. Researchers often conclude that since writing takes longer than typing, we are more selective and thoughtful with what we write. Try both and see which works best for you.
Choosing a Daily Planner. If you want to be overwhelmed, just search for daily planners on any online shopping site. The options are endless and vary in cost, size, and complexity. Read the reviews of each planner and consider how you’re going to use it. If possible, narrow your options down to 3 or 4 choices and try each one for a short time. Many planners come with a money back guarantee or trial period, so that you can return them if they don’t work for you.
Incorporate Your Daily Planning Into a Complete Routine. Simply planning your day in terms of tasks and projects to be completed is a good first step. As noted above, daily planners will vary in complexity. Some of these planners include sections to document details such as gratitude and positive affirmations. Including other details such as meditation, gratitude, and affirmations into your daily planning routine can have a big impact. Not only does this create a more solid structure, but it helps to replace anxious feelings with positive feelings.
No matter what planning tools and strategies you ultimately use, be sure that they don’t become a burden. A daily routine is meant to be helpful and not become additional stress.
It’s no secret that getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep are important to your physical and mental health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. We also know that nobody’s perfect and getting the perfect sleep every night isn’t possible.
Regardless of why you didn’t get enough sleep, you can do a few things to stay alert:
Maintaining healthy sleep habits can reduce the chances for anxiety symptoms to appear.
Your particular situation or anxiety symptoms may warrant professional help. A professional will be able to use their expertise and understand your unique situation to advise on the best solutions and how to plot your career path.
When seeking professional help for work anxiety, most people visit their primary care provider (PCP) first. Your PCP can determine if your anxiety could be related to a physical health issue. If it’s determined that you need a mental health professional, your doctor can provide a referral.
Many employers have an employee assistance program or EAP. An EAP provides services, typically free of charge, to employees that assists with various life issues. Before using professional help for your work anxiety, find out if your employer has an EAP.
Unfortunately, you may exhaust all possible solutions for your work anxiety and still not have any relief. At this point, you should strongly consider looking for a new job. This is the last resort as transitioning between jobs can come with its’ own stress and anxiety. Do a job search by degree and see what you find.
If you’ve determined that a new job is the only way to overcome your anxiety at work, follow these steps to ensure that your new job is a compatible fit: