How to Overcome Work Anxiety

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.

Importance of Taking Time Off Work

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.

Why Movement Breaks Should Be Part of-Your-DayWhy Movement Breaks Should Be Part of Your Day

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:

  • Use a standing desk to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 minutes
  • Schedule walk breaks throughout the day
  • When discussing a task or project with a colleague, walk or stand together instead of sitting
  • During your break, walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch
  • Instead of sending e-mails or calling a colleague, walk to their workspace
  • Park your car further away from the building to increase your walk when arriving and leaving
  • Incorporate sitting stretches that can be done while at your desk

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.

Meditations Role in Helping to Overcome Anxiety at WorkMeditation’s Role in Helping to Overcome Work Anxiety

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.

Disconnect From Work At HomeHow to Disconnect From Work at Home

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:

  • Establish Reasonable Boundaries- In order for your plan to work, it needs to be reasonable. For some people, it may be possible to completely disconnect from work while at home. Others might not be able to fully detach as their responsibilities may still be in play outside of the official workday. On-call employees certainly fall into this category. The boundaries that need to be set and followed will vary from job to job. Determine what aspects are causing your anxiety and develop rules for those.   
  • Create an Agreeable Plan- If your plan isn’t compatible with your employer and family, it won’t work. Having the buy-in and support of those around you will increase the chances of its’ success.
  • Inform Others of Your Plan- Before you start following your plan, discuss it with anyone that will be affected. Doing this will help others know ahead of time what to expect and eliminate surprises. Letting others know about your plan can have other benefits as well. Your brave plan to distance your work and personal life can inspire colleagues to do the same. If you are a leader, your decision and the message will be even more powerful.
  • Customize a Do Not Disturb Schedule- Most modern smartphones offer a convenient do not disturb feature. This feature can be extremely helpful in accomplishing the goal of overcoming work anxiety. There are ways to customize this feature to allow specific notifications and calls through while blocking others. Creating a truly custom do not disturb system that fits your needs can be extremely effective.Disconnect from Work Make Family Time
  • Make Time for a Hobby- Even with the tips mentioned, some people still can’t resist the urge to work. Making time for a hobby or leisure activity can have a number of positive benefits. These benefits include distracting your mind from drifting back to thinking about work and reducing stress.

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.

Daily Planning Tips

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.

What to Do When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

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:

  • Chew gum- Studies have shown that chewing gum reduces sleepiness
  • Drink water to stay hydrated- If your body gets dehydrated, the effects of the grogginess will worsen.
  • Take a 20-minute power nap- Researchers suggest a 20-minute nap is an ideal choice. This leaves you feeling rested without the feeling of being tired when you wake up.
  • Avoid high carb foods- These foods are known to have high levels of tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid.
  • Stay in a well-lit area- Low-light environments make it easier to fall asleep. Around bright light, our eyes are forced to pay attention and are less likely to close.

Maintaining healthy sleep habits can reduce the chances for anxiety symptoms to appear.

Seeking Professional Help For Work AnxietySeeking Professional Help For Work Anxiety

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.  

When to Consider Looking for a New Job

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:

  1. Identify the biggest source of stress in your current job
  2. Picture the type of work environment where your anxiety will be lower
  3. Search for companies that promote an employee-centric approach
  4. Read reviews from present and past employees about their experience at a company during the interview process
  5. Ask questions while interviewing about the work environment to gauge the stress level
  6. Be honest during your interview about what you’re looking for

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