I know myself enough to recognize the symptoms of anxiety at work right off the bat: a knot in my throat, rapid heartbeat, and the constant shaking of the leg. My anxiety is acting up, and it’s the middle of the workday.
Anxiety is the bane of my existence (well, one of them). It makes it really hard for me to be productive; if it’s not my mind racing with a million thoughts a second, then it’s the physical symptoms that make it nearly impossible for me to sit still at my desk.
The thing about having to deal with anxiety at work on a regular basis is that it is equal parts exhausting, and also just routine. Anxiety is like that annoying coworker who never leaves you alone. You want to tell them so badly to go away, but you know you can’t, so you just deal with it.
A recent survey states that “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 performance at work, the quality of the work, relationships with colleagues, and relationships with supervisors.”
Moreover just like you have tiny things you do to avoid that pesky coworker, there are certain mechanisms you can adopt that make it easier for you to handle your anxiety at work.
Focus on your Breathing
Yeah, I know. I’m really reinventing the wheel, here. But it actually is a good starting point for managing your anxiety. When my thoughts are going a thousand miles a minute, focusing on one simple thing is the easiest way that I can break that mindframe.
Deep breathing forces me to focus on my lungs swelling with oxygen, my belly expanding with the air I take in, and the sound of my breath as I exhale. When I force myself to shift focus on what my body is doing, I interrupt the flood of thoughts that pummel me, and I can focus on the now.
Recognize your Triggers
This is especially important if your anxiety can lead to panic attacks (welcome to the club, there are cookies in the back). We all have different triggers that can set us off, and sometimes it may not be immediately clear what they are. Learn to recognize your environment so that you know what sets you off, and what to do when triggers occur.
You may not be able to always avoid them, but in the off chance that you are confronted with one of your triggers in the workplace, knowing what they are lets you feel more prepared, and you can take the necessary steps to stave off the anxiety at work, and more importantly, a panic attack.
Have Someone to Talk to
People do not need to know your personal business, and of course, if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details of your life, you shouldn’t have to. However, it is nice to have someone at work who can act like a confidant or a distractor for you. Someone who understands where you’re coming from, and why sometimes you might show up at their cubicle with a tear-streaked face and ask them to go on a walk with you. They may not be able to take away your anxiety, but they can at least distract you or make you laugh.
Allow Yourself to Feel What You Need to Feel
Speaking from experience, there are days where it won’t matter how many deep breaths you take, or how many confidants you have. Anxiety will take a hold of you, and will not let you go. Days like these are hard, and more often than not, you’ll have to deal with them on your own.
Allow yourself the space to process whatever emotions come to the surface, so if you need to cry, remove yourself and go to the bathroom, or an office, or any space where you have privacy to do so. anxiety at work Once you’ve calmed down, go for a walk. Breathe some fresh air and remind yourself that you are only human, and sometimes these things happen.