Many people develop severe anxiety as a result of their relationship to their workplace. Toxic work environments or having to perform stressful tasks can create states of chronic stress, which has the potential to cause long term anxiety as having elevated stress for extended periods of time can make some people more susceptible to developing anxiety disorders.
Overcoming work anxiety is typically much more difficult to avoid when you need to work to sustain your livelihood. But it is not impossible. It merely takes imagination, a little bit of fun, and the willingness to motivate yourself every day to address your anxiety symptoms.
How to Overcome Work Anxiety
Work anxiety is never just work anxiety. It often bleeds into your home and personal life, and if it continues without management for too long, you may also develop anxiety that often lasts long after you leave your job.
While all of these characteristics might not apply to you, the information should still provide you with tips of how to properly manage your anxiety at work. For the purpose of this article, we will make a few assumptions, which include the following:
- You are currently at a job you cannot leave, because you have not obtained a new job or you need to stay for family reasons.
- You are employed for a company that utilizes cubicles or offices. Despite not fitting the mold exactly, retail, restaurant, and work-from-home jobs should still relate and be relevant based on the suggestions below but how you integrate them may change.
- You are good at your career. Having high career aspirations is still a very important aspect of overcoming anxiety. If you fail to even try to succeed at work, it can impact your anxiety negatively.
- You are not anxious about finances; this kind of work anxiety is related to a different kind of anxiety in general. Financial anxiety can be overcome by changing priorities and properly budgeting. We understand that some of you are not paid what you are worth, which can incite anxiety. However, for the sake of this article, we will assume your finances are stable or not a cause of anxiousness.
An important distinction is remembering that you get to decide how important your work life is to your grand scheme of life. Work itself is often a means to an end. Those of you who find yourselves anxious about work often place too much value on what occurs at your place of employment. By all means, we are not saying that your job is worthless; however, it should not start to take more value in your life than your health, family, friends, and other life ambitions.
Remember the purpose of work is to be capable of living an enjoyable life. Changing your priorities with how you view your job might result in decreased work anxiety.
With those caveats out of the way, the following are several strategies for overcoming work anxiety:
- Stay Busy After Work The tendency is for those with work stress is to go home and try to rest it off. However, this can inadvertently make you only think about your long, anxious day as you get lost in your own thoughts. Ideally, you should do your best to stay busy after work by spending time out with friends and family and replacing your feelings of work anxiety with new, better memories. Try to avoid moping, and instead live a great life so that your work does not consume it.
- Exercise Before And/Or After Work Exercise has a profound effect on anxiety and mental health, and should be a part of anyone's life that has a stressful work environment. Exercise releases endorphins - the body's natural painkillers - which improve mood and reduce physical discomfort. It also tires muscles to weaken anxiety symptoms and there is some evidence that it burns cortisol - the stress hormone - as well. Exercising before work can reduce stress throughout the work day, and exercising after work can stop the stress from affecting you when you get home.
- Make Work Tasks a Game Another valuable strategy is to learn to make your tasks into challenges for yourself. Most workplaces have boring, menial tasks. You can time yourself to see how quickly you can complete these tasks, or see how many you can complete in a set time. There are various ways to turn your work into a game, and doing so will give you the opportunity to both accomplish more while at work and make your work slightly more enjoyable.
- Make Your Stresses a Game One strategy that many people find enjoyable is to take the things that stress you at work and turn them into a game. For example, making a Bingo card out of all of the issues that come up that cause you stress - like a criticism by the boss, a reward to a coworker slacking off, a rude customer, and so on. Try to come up with as many specific issues as possible, and then turn them into a Bingo card. If you get a Bingo, treat yourself to something nice. This will cause you to actually hope that certain things happen to you so that you can treat yourself to the reward, and possibly change your mindset about what is occurring.
- Work Stories Creativity is one of the greatest parts of the human experience, and a great tool for reducing anxiety. If your work day constantly provides you with nightmares or embarrassing stories, make it your goal to create stories based on them. That way - when something anxiety-inducing happens - you will be able to come home and write something interesting about it; ultimately, turning a negative into a positive.
- Inside Jokes With Yourself Another strategy is to try to create inside jokes with yourself. Make sure you do not do anything that can get you fired, but there are many ideas you can try including wearing funny shirts under your suit/uniform, hiding inspirational messages around the workplace, decorating your desk with personal items, etc. Overall, your intention is to make your workplace a less serious environment.
- Fake Being Okay Finally, a difficult strategy that can be very effective is simply faking it. Pretend that you are not anxious or bothered by what happens at work. This is otherwise known as cognitive dissonance, where the mind can actually adapt to the way you act. If you act like a great, confident, happy employee every day (even when you are genuinely not), you may start to feel the very same positive emotions that you are pretending to experience, ultimately reduce your anxiety that way. Keep in mind that this might possibly cause your anxiety to heighten; so if you do not think you can keep on pretending, stop.
These types of strategies may seem unusual, but they can have a very genuine effect on work anxiety.
If your anxiety leaks into other areas of your life, it may be time to consider treating all of your anxiety as a whole as well. Learning anxiety management strategies can be a great way to target workplace stress.