If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed out at work, you’re not alone. Understanding your triggers and how to manage them can help you feel more empowered and confident.
Check out these tips for managing anxiety about work – and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
1. Don’t over-commit
Saying yes to too many things can overcrowd your schedule and make you feel overwhelmed. Even though it can be hard, learning how to say no is an important skill.
It might help to set up boundaries around your work life to make sure you’re also getting time to rest and time to socialise. For example, don’t take work home with you, don’t check your emails outside of the office or set timers on your phone to avoid overworking.
It’s also important to be realistic about deadlines and not put too much pressure on yourself to complete things quickly.
2. Work on one task at a time
If you find your mind often runs ahead to all the things that need to be done, it might help to practice ‘single tasking’.
Single-tasking involves focusing on one task at a time, rather than trying to do many things at once. At the start of the day, divide your time into chunks for every task you need to do. This technique can help minimise distractions and keep you focused on the present task.
Organisers, schedulers and timers can be really useful if time management is a source of anxiety. There are plenty of tools out there, so testing a few out to find one that works for you is a good idea.
3. Widen your perspective
When you start to feel overwhelmed, it can help to zoom out and take a wider look at the situation. It can feel like our anxieties are very urgent and unavoidable, but taking a step back can help us get a more realistic view of the bigger picture.
Observe your thoughts. Think of it like you’re watching your own brain, like a scientist. Don’t be afraid to critique your intrusive thoughts.
Simply observe what’s going on and why you might be feeling that way. This technique can help you recognise your triggers better, and empower you to take steps to look after yourself.
4. Understand your anxiety
The more you understand yourself, your mind, your body and your needs, the better you can handle situations in the future and practice self care.
Understanding your triggers might involve speaking with a psychologist or GP, as well as reflecting on things in your own time.
If you notice certain situations trigger your anxiety, think about ways you could avoid or manage these situations in the future.
5. Invest in relationships
Connecting with others is an important part of overall mental well being.
In addition to checking in with your friends and family outside of work, spend time building relationships in the workplace too. When you have people you can trust in the workplace, it might help you feel more safe.
You don’t have to tell your boss or colleagues about your anxiety, but some people find that it helps to be transparent. Your employer may be willing to make reasonable changes in the workplace to help you manage your symptoms better.
6. Look after your physical health
Physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing are closely linked. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying active and getting enough sleep can all help improve your mental health.
You might want to avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can amplify anxiety and affect your sleep pattern.
For sleep, don’t just focus on the number of hours you get in bed – try developing healthy habits (e.g consistent sleeping and waking times) before going to bed and when you first wake up to improve the quality of your sleep.
7. Try mindfulness exercises
Mindfulness exercises are designed to bring your mind into the present moment and can help calm anxieties. There are plenty of mindfulness apps out there, but there are also lots of simple exercises you can do, wherever you are.
Here are some ideas that are great for doing at work anytime you’re feeling anxious:
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few minutes. Every time your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
- Try focusing on a particular sensation. For example, noticing all the different sounds you can hear or noticing all the different flavours and textures when you eat a piece of food.
- Visualise a scene that makes you feel calm, relaxed and safe. It could be a serene beach scene, a walk through a forest – or whatever works for you.
8. Request workplace accommodations
Your employer might be willing to make changes in the workplace or your job tasks to help you feel secure and confident at work.
The right workplace accommodations are different for everyone. If you know you need some changes, but aren’t sure what will be helpful, you can request a professional workplace assessment to help identify accommodations that are right for you.
- Flexible schedule – for example, starting early or finishing early
- Support person or animal
- Private space to rest
- Time off for mental health appointments
- Technologies to improve time management and organisation
- Frequent breaks throughout the day
9. Ask for help
If you’re not coping, it’s important to ask for help.
Even if you feel on top of things at the moment, it’s important to build a network of support people at work and in your personal life that can help you when you need it. Feeling supported and connected can actually help reduce stress levels.
If you’re living with anxiety, you may be eligible for disability employment assistance to find a job or stay in work.
10. Consider a career change
Working can be very beneficial for people who are living with anxiety, but some environments might be more overwhelming than others.
If you’re looking for work or considering a career change, consider speaking with an employment consultant who can help you identify career pathways and job types that are a good fit for you.
The best jobs for people with anxiety are ones where you feel safe, empowered and supported. Don’t let your anxiety get in the way of chasing your career goals – support is available to help you overcome the challenges and succeed at work.