Many people develop severe anxiety because of their workplace situations. Toxic work environments or stressful tasks can create chronic stress, and chronic stress has the potential to cause long term anxiety - possibly even the development of anxiety disorders.
Overcoming work anxiety is difficult when you're stuck in the same job, but it's not impossible. It simply takes imagination, a little bit of fun, and the willingness to motivate yourself every day.
Do You Have Bad Work Anxiety?
If you feel like your anxiety at work has gotten out of control, find out for sure with our free 7 minute anxiety test. It allows you to compare your anxiety score to others, see a graph of your symptoms, and find ways to treat it.
How to Overcome Work Anxiety
Work anxiety is never just work anxiety. It often bleeds into your home and personal life, and if it goes on for too long you may also develop anxiety that lasts long after you leave the job. Make sure you take my free 7 minute anxiety test now to see graphs of your anxiety and ways to treat it.
For the purposes of this article, we're going to make a few assumptions. Your own situation may be a little different, so not all of these will apply to you, but the information should still give you an idea of how to treat your anxiety. The assumptions are:
- You're at a job you can't leave, either because you haven't found a new job or because you have to stay for family reasons.
- You have a job in a company that has cubicles or offices. Retail jobs, restaurant jobs, and work-from-home jobs should still be relevant for the tips below, however, but a few of them may be more difficult.
- You're good at your career. Trying hard is still a very important part of overcoming anxiety. If you're not trying hard, then being anxious is more likely. So make sure that you're doing your best to be a great employee.
- Your anxiety isn't about money. Work anxiety related to the money you earn is a different type of life anxiety, and often the key to overcoming that anxiety has a lot to do with changing your priorities and budgeting. You may not get paid what you're worth, and that may cause some anxiety, but we're going to assume for the purposes of this article that financial stress isn't the cause of your anxiety.
Another thing that's important to remember is that you decide how important your work is to you. Work itself is supposed to be a means to an end. Those that find themselves very stressed at work often give too much value to what happens in the workplace. While you should always try hard and be ambitious, you should also remember that the purpose of work is to live a great home life - if you can learn to change your priorities so that work doesn't bother you as much, you'll find that your anxiety work isn't as severe.
With those caveats out of the way, the following are several strategies for overcoming work anxiety:
- Stay Busy After Work The tendency for those with work stress is to go home and try to rest it off. But this leads to a situation that overvalues work, and causes you to be lost in your own thoughts and tensions. Ideally, you should do your best to stay busy after work spending time out with friends and family and replacing the work anxiety memories with new, better memories. Try to avoid moping, and instead live a great life so that your work doesn't overcome it.
- Exercise Before And/Or After 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. Exercises 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 many different 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 slacking off coworker, 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 it is that's occurring.
- Work Stories Creativity is one of the greatest parts of the human experience, and a great tool for reducing anxiety. If your work constantly provides you with nightmare or humorous stories, make it your goal to create them. That way - when something anxiety inducing happens - you'll be able to come home and write something interesting about it, turning a negative into a positive.
- Inside Jokes With Yourself Another strategy is to try to create inside jokes with yourself. Make sure you don't 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, and more can all be advantageous and make your work a less serious place.
- Fake Being Okay Finally, a difficult strategy that can be very effective is simply faking it. Pretend that you're not anxious or bothered by what happens at work. Because of something known as cognitive dissonance, the mind can actually adapt to the way you act. If you act like a great, confident, happy employee every day even when you're genuinely not, you can start to feel the very same positive emotions that you're pretending to experience, and ultimately reduce your anxiety that way.
These types of strategies may seem unusual, but they can have a very genuine effect on work anxiety. You should also strongly consider taking my free 7 minute anxiety test now. This test will help you learn more about your anxiety overall, and show you numerous comprehensive strategies to cure it.
Start the test here, now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jul 09, 2018.