Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the Mentally Strong People podcast.
Research has indicated that the percentage of Americans who are stressed at work is high—and it’s only getting higher. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 29 to 40% of Americans report being “extremely stressed at work.”
Work stress has significant health consequences that range from relatively benign (like getting more colds and flus) to potentially serious (such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome).
While stress at work is common, finding a low-stress job is hard (if not impossible). A more realistic approach is to adopt effective coping strategies to reduce stress at your current job. Here are some stress management techniques you can try if you are finding it hard to cope with work stress.
Start Your Day off Right
After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combating road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of a healthy breakfast, many people arrive to work already stressed. This makes them more reactive to stress in the workplace.
You might be surprised by how affected by workplace stress you are when you have a stressful morning. When you start off the day with planning, good nutrition, and a positive attitude, you might find that the stress of your job rolls off your back more easily.
Be Clear on Requirements
A factor known to contribute to job burnout is unclear requirements for employees. If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, or if the requirements for your role keep changing with little notice, you might become extremely stressed.
If you find yourself never knowing if what you are doing is enough, it may help to have a talk with your supervisor. You can take the time to go over expectations and discuss strategies for meeting them. This can relieve stress for both of you!
Stay Away From Conflict
Interpersonal conflict takes a toll on your physical and emotional health. Conflict among co-workers can be difficult to escape, so it’s a good idea to avoid conflict at work as much as you can.
Don’t gossip, don’t share too many of your personal opinions about religion and politics, and steer clear of “colorful” office humor.
When possible, try to avoid people who don’t work well with others. If conflict finds you anyway, make sure you know how to handle it appropriately.
Even if you’re a naturally disorganized person, planning ahead to stay organized can greatly decrease your stress at work. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late as well as less hustling to get out at the end of the day.
Keeping yourself organized can also mean avoiding the negative effects of clutter, and being more efficient with your work.
Another surprising stressor at work is physical discomfort, often related to where you perform most of your daily tasks (such as your desk).
You might not notice you’re stressed if you’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair for just a few minutes, but if you practically live in that chair when you’re at work, you might have a sore back and be more reactive to stress because of it.
Even small things like office noise can be distracting and cause feelings of low-grade frustration. Do what you can to create a quiet, comfortable, and soothing workspace.
Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximize one’s time and get more done in a day. However, people eventually began to realize that if they had a phone to their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) often suffered.
There is a certain “frazzled” feeling that comes from splitting your focus and it doesn’t work well for most people. Instead of multitasking to stay on top of your tasks, try another cognitive strategy like chunking.
Walk at Lunch
Many people feel the ill effects of leading a sedentary lifestyle. You can combat the physical and mental effects of work stress by getting some exercise on your lunch break.
If your schedule allows for it, you might try taking short exercise breaks throughout the day. This can help you blow off steam, lift your mood, and get into better shape.
Keep Perfectionism in Check
Being a high achiever might make you feel good about yourself and help you excel at work, but being a perfectionist can create problems for you (and those around you).
You might not be able to do everything perfectly, every time—especially in a busy, fast-paced job. A good strategy to avoid the perfectionism trap is always striving to just do your best and making time to congratulate yourself on your efforts. You may find that your results are better and you’ll be much less stressed at work.
Listen to Music on the Drive Home
Listening to music offers many benefits and can be an effective way to relieve stress before, during, and after work. Playing an uplifting song while you make breakfast can help you start the day off feeling better prepared to interact with the people in your life. Likewise, combating the stress of a long day with your favorite music on the drive home can help you wind down and feel less stressed when you get there.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Not everyone with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is able to manage their anxiety at work. Many people struggle with excessive worry about a variety of everyday problems related to work, or even their personal life while trying to get their job done.
This type of anxiety is debilitating and far greater than would be expected over simple concerns. It often also results in physical symptoms such as fatigue and muscle tension that can make work-life miserable.
People with GAD may worry about any of the following when they experience anxiety at work:
- Concerns about driving to work
- Worries about work tasks
- Family worries
- Money worries
- Health concerns
Worry-Related Work Problems
These worries may translate into the following problems at work (among others):
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to focus/excessive self-focus
- Failure to meet deadlines/taking too long to do things
- Somatic (body) problems like tension, headaches, feeling of pressure, dizziness, and upset stomach
- Sick days/lost productivity
- Spillover effect on family life
Tips for Coping
Coping with anxiety at work is possible. Below are some tips to help you manage anxiety while at work.
Speak to Your Manager
Not everyone feels comfortable doing this, but speaking to your manager or supervisor about your anxiety disorder may help. You may be offered accommodations to help you do your job more effectively.
Some people may not tell a supervisor for fear of appearing to be weak or unwilling to work, losing out on promotions, or having it on your permanent record. Ultimately, however, you cannot be discriminated against because of your anxiety disorder.
The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990 protects you from discrimination if you are qualified to do your job and able to perform duties with reasonable accommodations.
Tell a Coworker
If you tell a coworker how you are feeling, there will be someone there at work who knows what you are going through and who may be able to help keep you on track.
Work Within Your Limits
Understand the limits placed on you by your anxiety disorder and learn to work within them.
- Take time off when you need to.
- Take a brisk walk or escape for a vacation for a few days.
- Focus on a single task at a time and try not to think ahead to everything that needs to get done.
- Listen to music at work if you are allowed and if it helps you cope.
- Set small frequent deadlines to keep yourself focused.
Practice Good Health Habits
While GAD can cause insomnia, try your best to stick to a regular sleep/wake cycle. Eat healthy foods and avoid caffeine.
If you find yourself losing concentration or focus and becoming wrapped up in worry, practice mindfulness. Become observant of your surroundings and refocus on the present moment. Try mindfulness meditation or any other practice that teaches you how to bring yourself back to the present.
When You Can’t Cope
Are you still finding that you can’t cope with generalized anxiety at work? Ask yourself the following questions.
- Have you been diagnosed and received treatment? If you only have a vague notion that something is wrong but haven’t seen a doctor, now is the time. In the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Stress and Anxiety Disorders survey, 40% of respondents experienced persistent stress or excessive anxiety in their daily lives. However, only 9% of respondents were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Obtaining a diagnosis and treatment such as therapy or medication should always be your first step if severe anxiety is interfering with your ability to work.
- Have you considered applying for disability benefits until you improve? It isn’t a mark of shame or a failure to do so. Perhaps you just need time to work on your anxiety and then re-enter the workforce from a stronger position.
A Word From Verywell
If you’ve taken the above steps to address your anxiety at work but still haven’t seen improvement, it could also be the case that your job is not particularly well-suited to you. You may wish to consider career counseling or a career coach, who will conduct assessments to determine the careers that you are likely to both enjoy and in which you may excel.
Working hard should not be confused with overworking at the expense of relationships and physical health.
Everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do. In the short-term, you may experience pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming—and harmful to both physical and emotional health.
Unfortunately, such long-term stress is all too common. In fact, APA’s annual Stress in America survey has consistently found that work is cited as a significant source of stress by a majority of Americans. You can’t always avoid the tensions that occur on the job. Yet you can take steps to manage work-related stress.
Common sources of work stress
Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. Some common workplace stressors are:
- Low salaries
- Excessive workloads
- Few opportunities for growth or advancement
- Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
- Lack of social support
- Not having enough control over job-related decisions
- Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations
Effects of uncontrolled stress
Work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when you head home for the day. When stress persists, it can take a toll on your health and well-being.
A stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol.
Taking steps to manage stress
- Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings, and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting, and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
- Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also make time for hobbies and favorite activities. Whether it’s reading a novel, going to concerts, or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for the things that bring you pleasure. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
- Establish boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.
- Take time to recharge. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you’re not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on nonwork activities for a while.
- Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking, or enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice and you’ll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.
- Talk to your supervisor. Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. While some parts of the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.
- Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program, including online information, available counseling, and referral to mental health professionals, if needed. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.
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How to handle anxiety effectively.
Posted Mar 03, 2015
- What Is Anxiety?
- Find a therapist to overcome anxiety
In celebration of the release of my book, The Anxiety Toolkit, I’ve put together a cheat sheet of 50 strategies you can use for beating anxiety and feeling calmer. The book expands on many of the following techniques, and includes tons more tools, strategies and ways to help anxiety. But this cheat sheet will give you a very solid start if you’re searching for ways to reduce your anxiety and de-stress effectively today.
How to Beat Anxiety: The Self-Experiment Approach
Not all of these strategies will work for you. Self-experiment to find out which techniques you prefer. Context is important, too; you may find that some strategies work in some circumstances but not in others. Experiment to observe what works best, and when.
Also: Try thinking about the strategies in three categories: behavioral, cognitive (thinking-related), and physical. Aim to find some strategies that appeal to you from each category.
Anxiety Relief Techniques
- Take a slow breath. Continue slow breathing for 3 minutes.
- Drop your shoulders and do a gentle neck roll.
- State the emotions you’re feeling as words, e.g., “I feel angry and worried right now.” (Aloud, but to yourself.)
- Massage your hand, which will activate oxytocin.
- Put something that’s out of place in its place. (Physical order often helps us feel a sense of mental order.)
- Take a day trip somewhere with natural beauty.
- Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then, ask yourself, “How would I cope if that happened?” Now, answer those questions.
- Take a break from actively working on solving a problem and allow your mind to keep processing the problem in the background.
- Take a bath.
- Forgive yourself for not foreseeing a problem that occurred.
- Throw out something from your bathroom. (The order principle again.)
- Take a break from watching the news or reading newspapers.
- Make a phone call you’ve been putting off.
- Write an email you’ve been putting off.
- Take another type of action on something you’ve been putting off.
- Throw something out of your fridge.
- Try a guided mindfulness meditation. (Use Google to identify free resources; there are some good ones out there.)
- Take a break from researching a topic you’ve been over-researching.
- Cuddle a baby or a pet.
- If a mistake you’ve made is bothering you, make an action plan for how you won’t repeat it in the future. Write three brief bullet points.
- Ask yourself if you’re jumping to conclusions. For example, if you’re worried someone is very annoyed with you, do you know for sure this is the case—or are you jumping to conclusions?
- Ask yourself if you’re catastrophizing, i.e., thinking that something would be a disaster, when it might be unpleasant but not necessarily catastrophic.
- Forgive yourself for not handing a situation in an ideal way, including interpersonal situations. What’s the best thing you can do to move forward in a positive way now?
- If someone else’s behavior has triggered anxiety for you, try accepting that you may never know the complete reason and background behind the person’s behavior.
- Recognize if your anxiety is being caused by someone suggesting a change or change of plans. Understand if you tend to react to changes or unexpected events as if they are threats.
- Accept that there is a gap between your real self and your ideal self. (This is the case for pretty much everybody.)
- Question your social comparisons. For example, is comparing yourself only to the most successful person you know very fair or representative?
- Think about what’s going right in your life. Thinking about the positive doesn’t always work when you’re anxious, but it can help if anxiety has caused your thinking to become lopsided or is obscuring the big picture.
- Scratch something off your to-do list for the day, either by getting it done or just deciding not to do that task today.
- Ask a friend or colleague to tell you about something they’ve felt nervous about in the past, and to tell you what happened.
- If you’re nervous about an upcoming test, try these quick tips for dealing with test anxiety.
- Do a task 25 percent more slowly than usual. Allow yourself to savor not rushing.
- Check if you’re falling into any of these thinking traps.
- Try gentle distraction; find something you want to pay attention to. The key to successful use of distraction when you’re anxious is to be patient with yourself if you find you’re still experiencing intrusive thoughts.
- Go to a yoga class, or do a couple of yoga poses in the comfort of your home or office.
- Get a second opinion from someone you trust. Aim to get their real opinion rather than just reassurance seeking.
- Allow yourself to do things you enjoy or that don’t stress you out, while you’re waiting for your anxious feelings to naturally calm down.
- Go for a run.
- Find something on YouTube that makes you laugh out loud.
- Lightly run one or two fingers over your lips. This will stimulate the parasympathetic fibers in your lips, which will help you feel calmer.
- Look back on the anxiety-provoking situation you’re in from a time point in the future, e.g., six months from now. Does the problem seem smaller when you view it from further away?
- Imagine how you’d cope if your “worst nightmare” happened, e.g., your partner left you, you got fired, or you developed a health problem. What practical steps would you take? What social support would you use? Mentally confronting your worst fear can be very useful for reducing anxiety.
- Call or email a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
- If you’re imagining a negative outcome to something you’re considering doing, also try imaging a positive outcome.
- If you rarely back out of commitments and feel overwhelmed by your to-do list, try giving yourself permission to say you can no longer do something you’ve previously agreed to do.
- Do any two-minute jobs that have been hanging around on your to-do list. It’ll help clear your mental space.
- Jot down three things you worried about in the past that didn’t come to pass.
- Jot down three things you worried about in the past that did occur, but weren’t nearly as bad as you imagined.
- Do a form of exercise you haven’t done in the last six months.
- Allow time to pass. Often, the best thing to do to reduce anxiety is just to allow time to pass, without doing the types of activities that increase anxiety.
Put a letter B, C, or P next to each item to practice identifying whether a strategy is primarily behavioral, cognitive, or physical.
For many people, returning to work after the Christmas break can be a rather stressful and anxiety-inducing prospect. Here’s how to make the transition a little easier.
If logging on to Zoom was the last thing you wanted to do this morning, you’re not alone.
For many people up and down the country, today marks the return to work after the Christmas break. And while getting back into a routine may be a relief for some, for many of us the idea of returning to the hustle and bustle of the working day (even if they don’t have to physically commute) is less than appealing.
In fact, for some people, it’s actually pretty damn stressful.
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The *real* reason you’re feeling anxious about returning to work this week
“Returning to work after Christmas is not necessarily an easy task,” explains Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist at the Private Therapy Clinic. “Often people will have had a nice break, and therefore their motivation and ability to actually be in ‘work mode’ is going to be thrown off.”
According to Spelman, the culmination of feelings of sadness about the break ending, worry about the backlog of emails awaiting us and fears of returning to our working from home set-up may all be contributing to this feeling of anxiety.
Indeed, while in normal years it’s not uncommon for people to experience anxiety and stress during the first week back to work after Christmas (or any holiday, for that matter), the added pressure of working from home – which remains necessary for many of us – has the potential to amplify those feelings.
Spelman explains: “Working from home can be an amazing thing for people, but it can also be incredibly difficult depending on a person’s set-up or their preferences. While some people might focus on not having to commute or being able to focus better at home, others might have a more hectic environment where they can’t concentrate at all.
“For some, the very ritual of going to work makes it easier for them to concentrate in that space.”
With this in mind, you may find it trickier than usual to transition back into ‘work mode’ after the Christmas break, simply because there’s no ‘physical’ shift back into an office environment. After all, that’s part of the reason why any return to work after a holiday can be stressful and anxiety-inducing – when we break away from a habit or routine, it can take some time to get ourselves back into it.
A good way to start any return to work is by getting organised
The question, then, is this: what can we do to make that transition as stress-free as possible?
If you’re yet to return to work, Spelman recommends spending the time you have left to get organised – not only because it will alleviate some of the stress of the back-to-work rush, but because it’ll help to ease you back into your working habits.
“A good way to start any return to work is by getting organised,” she explains. “Before you even start your working day, either the night before or early in the morning, prepare everything that you need and set things up as well as possible so that you’re ready to go.”
As coronavirus updates dominate the news, many of us are facing disruptive changes we’ve never experienced — or even imagined. Because our routines are paused, we’re finding new footing in our work lives, social lives, and mental and physical health.
For many, a plethora of distressing feelings have emerged: anxiety, worry, fear, frustration, sadness, anger, panic, helplessness, uncertainty, skepticism, confusion, stress, and even loss. And of course, these feelings don’t just linger in the pit of our stomachs. They ripple out and impact how we behave, how we treat others, even how we see the world.
Maybe you’ve experienced difficulty concentrating or sleeping. Maybe you’ve felt more socially withdrawn or disconnected from those around you. Or maybe you’ve become hyper-focused on the news. Some of us are feeling hypervigilant about our health and the health of those around us (maybe side-eyeing anyone who coughs, or wondering when they last washed their hands for 20 seconds).
Why Uncertainty Is Linked to Anxiety
As a researcher who studies anxiety and emotion regulation, I can tell you that these are all valid and understandable responses to a disruptive event, such as a global pandemic — especially when elements of such an event are new, unknown or unpredictable, and unclear. Indeed, multiple research efforts are underway to better understand the psychological impact of global events.
One core element underlying many of these feelings and reactions is uncertainty, and uncertainty is associated with anxiety.
While we can’t make the current uncertainty go away, what can we do to cope with the distress we’re experiencing?
Read on for 9 tips, based on what we know from research, for dealing with uncertainty and anxiety.
1. Be honest with yourself.
The first step in managing distressing thoughts is to notice and acknowledge those thoughts. When you feel anxious, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of or worried about in this very moment?”
2. Challenge anxiety-driven, distressing thoughts.
Challenge any assumptions you’re making. For example, remind yourself that just because someone around you is coughing doesn’t mean they have COVID-19. Many times, we tend to respond to anxiety-driven thoughts by seeking out evidence supporting those thoughts (i.e., confirmation bias), all the while ignoring evidence to the contrary.
Challenge your thoughts by considering alternative perspectives and weighing all available evidence.
3. Look on the bright side.
Consider reframing your thoughts to focus on the positive. For example, when you catch yourself thinking, “I’m stuck at home,” you might instead tell yourself, “I’m safe at home and am able to do some things I normally don’t have time to do.” If you feel panic when having the thought, “I’m definitely going to get sick,” reframe it to, “I cannot predict the future, but I know that if I take proper precautions, such as social distancing and washing my hands, I will be doing what I can to be preventative.”
Help your leaders avoid burnout, and instead, burn bright with our online program, The Resilience Advantage, based on science-backed principles and an application-based approach.
4. Focus on what you can control.
Channel your energy into aspects of your life that you can control. For example, you can be safe and cautious through measures like social distancing and hand washing, but you cannot fully control whether others make the same choice; who or how many will contract COVID-19; and whether the government will respond in a specific, desired way.
Ask yourself, “What is within my power?” If you have done all you can, or the answer is “nothing,” consider redirecting your attention to a topic or concern over which you can exert more control.
5. Practice mindfulness by being aware and intentional.
When distressing feelings increase, notice your breathing. Oftentimes people will overbreathe when feeling anxious. Consider intentionally focusing on extending the exhale; for example, breathing in to a count of 4 and breathing out to a count of 6.
Find ways to ground yourself to the present moment. Do a 5-sense check and notice what you are experiencing through all 5 senses. Remind yourself that you are capable of tolerating the distress via calming, affirming thoughts, such as “Right now, I am fine” and “I can handle this.”
6. Take action through value-driven behaviors.
If you greatly value family, for example, find a creative way to behaviorally engage with that value. Maybe that means calling your aunt whom you haven’t spoken to in some time to check on her or to ask if she needs help.
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Watch our webinar, Building Resilience and Leadership in the Context of Crisis & Telework, and learn practical ways to enhance personal and team resilience and effectiveness during times of crisis.
7. Start a gratitude journal.
Gratitude has been shown to relate to a variety of positive outcomes, like greater well-being. Consider keeping a gratitude journal where you jot down 3 things for which you are grateful every day or sending a brief note of gratitude to someone. Giving thanks can actually make you a better leader.
8.Find new ways to connect with others.
Social distancing can occur without total social withdrawal. It is possible to remain in contact with loved ones, even if social distancing may be preventing your typical ways of connecting.
Get creative! If you normally don’t engage with video calls, consider experimenting with it for virtual “face-to-face” interactions. Or seek out an online game you can play with a friend or loved one.
9. Infuse your day with physical activity.
You don’t have to train for a marathon to get your heart rate up. Even 5- to 10-minute stretch breaks will increase your productivity and creativity. Pick a favorite song and devote the length of that song to stretching out your body. The important thing is to keep moving.
Want more ideas? Learn more about how to make time for your wellness in our article that shares 4 techniques proven to decrease stress and boost your potential.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
Help your people develop resiliency habits that create conditions for peak performance and equip them for dealing with uncertainty with our online resilience program, The Resilience Advantage. The practical, scientific, and application-based approach will allow your leaders to avoid burnout, and instead, burn bright.
Every job comes with some amount of stress, but extreme work anxiety can severely disrupt your life, including the quality of your work and your relationships with colleagues. If your worries about your job are starting to spill over into your free time and have caused you to dread going to work every day, you need to learn strategies for getting work anxiety under control.
1. Hone Your Conflict Management Skills
At some point in your working life, you’ll eventually encounter people who are difficult for you to get along with. It might be due to a simple personality mismatch, or perhaps someone is openly hostile toward you. Though you might get short-lived relief by venting to another co-worker or complaining to your supervisor, consider keeping the issue strictly between you and the source of your anxiety to avoid toxicity and accumulated stress.
Invite the colleague to coffee or lunch and outline how the situation has been adversely affecting you. Explain why you believe a resolution would be mutually beneficial in your goal of making the workplace a more honest, transparent environment.
2. Know When to Say No
Sometimes, your anxiety might make you nervous about turning people down. As a result, you might habitually bite off more than you can chew by agreeing to unreasonable deadlines you know you can’t meet. However, it’s better to be realistic upfront than to apologize later. Not every timeline is negotiable, but it will save you hours of anxiety if you learn to politely say no when your plate is already overloaded.
3. Remember to Practice Self-Care
You can’t effectively help others if you don’t focus on helping yourself first. Watch for any patterns in your thoughts or behavior that might indicate you’re feeling drained or on the verge of burning out. Warning signs may include an overall loss of enthusiasm and an inability to find the humor in everyday situations. Irritability, especially with your co-workers, is another indicator that you need to devote some time to self-care. Carve out space in your schedule to look after yourself, whether this takes the form of journaling, taking a walk or taking a leisurely soak in the bathtub.
4. Meet Problems Head-On
Avoiding contact with people who make you uncomfortable is human nature. But if interactions with a colleague make your palms sweat, calling in sick time and again isn’t the answer. Dodging problematic co-workers is only a short-term solution. As time goes on, indigestion, high blood pressure and other work anxiety symptoms will only get worse if you try to escape by sweeping conflict under the rug. Instead, confront problematic people and situations head-on. The more you do so, the more natural it will start to feel in the long run.
A Personalized Level of Care
With appropriate treatment and support, most people living with mental health challenges like anxiety, depression and PTSD go on to recover and live fulfilling lives. When you’re ready to make a change, explore our four levels of care or connect with us anytime.
Much has been made of recent studies revealing that Millennials (young people ages 18-29) are America’s most stressed generation. But younger members of Gen Y know that the pressure begins long before they’re legal. With exam pressures and college admissions anxiety at an all-time high, academic stress can become a daily struggle as early as middle school. According to an Associated Press/MTV survey, school was the most frequently-mentioned source of stress for 13 to 17-year-olds.
Whether it’s your parents pushing you to boost your GPA, teachers criticizing you for a less-than-stellar test scores, or your own drive to get in to your first-choice college — or some combination of the three — academic pressure can get the best of you if you don’t learn how to deal with it properly.
“I think it all ties in to fear,” Susan Stiffelman, author of “Parenting Without Power Struggles,” tells the Huffington Post. “Fear of not getting into a college, fear of not getting financial support if that’s what you need, fear of not shining in college or in high school so that you’re employable. Fear is a powerful motivator, but it also creates and generates tremendous amounts of stress.”
We chatted with Stiffelman, a psychotherapist who has helped countless teens cope with school stresses, about her best tips for cmanaging academic anxiety. Scroll down for five helpful ways to get through your high school years with less stress.
1. Take time for self-care.
Stiffelman emphasizes that you have to start with the basics, like sleep. “You have to give your organism the means to cope with stress, and that includes healthy food, non-harmful substances, sleep (dramatically more than most kids think they need), down time. Building into your day right-brain activity that lets you digest what you’ve been going through and process it. Those are some basic and almost biological needs we have.”
Taking time to pause from the relentless pace of everyday life and enjoy creative activities that keep you from dwelling on or stressing over school pressures can go far in decreasing your stress levels.
2. Learn to change your thinking.
“You cannot get stressed out unless you believe your thoughts,” says Stiffelman. “All stress is precipitated by stressful thinking.”
When you start stressing about not finishing your project on time, your mind builds a case for why what you believe is going to happen will happen — and this can be paralyzing. So, when combating negative thinking patterns, Stiffelman recommends coming up with specific examples to counter the stressful thoughts. Think instead of concrete ways that you can create the time to work on a project, and how your previous line of thinking isn’t accurate.
3. Take assignments one baby step at a time.
Stiffelman advises her young clients to chunk their work down into manageable, bite-sized portions that feel less overwhelming than looking at the big picture. If you have an essay to write that’s making you feel anxious, list the individual steps that lead to the destination of the essay being finished (finding sources, creating an outline, writing an intro), and the task will begin to feel less daunting.
“List what you have going on, and list how much time each thing is going to take,” she suggests. “Chunking things down makes them feel more manageable and less anxiety-inducing.”
4. Lower your goals.
No, we’re not talking about being a slacker. According to Stiffelman, following the truism “Lower your goals, you’ll achieve more,” can help to relieve stress and boost academic success.
Instead of setting your goal to be getting the highest grade in the class, set a goal to feel satisfied with your performance.
5. Stay balanced during exam periods.
The importance of taking breaks and working in time to relax during your busiest and most stressful periods can’t be overestimated, Stiffelman urges. Not matter how hard you push yourself, nobody can maintain constant focus, and you will burn yourself out if you try. Take frequent, short breaks for fun activities so that you’ll be able to go back to your writing or studying refreshed.
“Do something that, even for 15 minutes, brings you back to yourself,” says Stiffelman. “I’ll often say, ‘What did you love to do when you were six years old?’ Do a little bit of that when you’re in prep mode to counterbalance the stress — no brain can work for 24 hours.”
Tell us: How do you cope with pressure at school? Do you think schools have a responsibility to help their students manage stress? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet @HuffPostTeen.
Your phone is ringing nonstop. Your inbox is overflowing mails. You’re 45 minutes late for a deadline and your boss is knocking on your door, asking how your latest project is going. It seems impossible to cope with all the stress.
These are some examples of acute stress, which may not last beyond your workday. However, if your life feels like this every day, you may be experiencing long term or chronic stress.
This kind of stress can be potentially harmful to your health if you do not find ways to cope with it properly.
Major stressors include money troubles, job issues, relationship conflicts, and major life changes, such as the loss of a loved one. Smaller stressors, such as long daily commutes and rushed mornings, can also add up over time.
Here are 6 simple ways you can effectively cope with stress better:
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to cope with stress. Physical activities such as walking or jogging — that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly stress relieving.
Regular exercise can help lower stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins and improving your sleep and self-image.
2. Reduce your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety, although people have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate.
If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.
3. Write it down
One way to cope with stress is to write things down. While recording what you’re stressed about is one approach, another is jotting down what you’re grateful for.
Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.
4. Chew Gum
According to several studies, chewing gum may help you relax. It may also promote wellbeing and reduce stress. One possible explanation is that chewing gum promotes blood flow to your brain.
Additionally, one recent study found that stress relief was greatest when people chewed more strongly.
5. Learn to Avoid Procrastination
Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and stop procrastinating. Procrastination can lead you to act reactively, leaving you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality.
Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time, as switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful itself.
6. Take a deep breath
Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, signaling your body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. During this reaction, stress hormones are released and you experience physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing, and constricted blood vessels.
Deep breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. In the short term, acute stress can give you the motivation you need to power through a tough situation or meet a pressing deadline. However, long-term (chronic) stress can negatively affect your health.
If you feel run down, or like your health might be negatively affected by stress, you can speak with any of a licensed doctor on the Tremendoc app and receive professional advice on the appropriate steps to take, to minimize the effect of stress on your health
Gina, a former colleague of mine, spent most of her career dreading work. She constantly worried about her performance and often felt overwhelmed by the pressures of her job. As Gina’s anxiety began to interfere with her work, causing her to lose focus and miss deadlines, it became clear she needed to get help.
If you’re one of the 40 million people living with anxiety like Gina, you know that common office situations—anything from talking to co-workers in the elevator to speaking up in a meeting—can take on heightened stress.
You may find that you have trouble concentrating on the work in front of you. This may result in chronic self-doubt and work nightmares.
While it’s true that nearly everyone experiences some level of stress these days, living and working with anxiety is different. It can be crippling, but it doesn’t have to push you down. Beyond getting the right diagnosis and treatment like Gina did, you might consider incorporating some simple coping strategies into your daily life.
1. Know Your Triggers
Pay attention to situations that spike your anxiety—whether that’s getting feedback, writing important emails, being put on the spot, or starting the day with a messy desk.
Keep a journal to document your observations and look for patterns. When you know what makes you the most uneasy, you can better anticipate challenges and create a plan to deal with triggers.
When Gina realized rushing was one of her anxiety triggers, she created a warm-up ritual to practice before big meetings. She started blocking off 20 minutes before the start to review the agenda, jot down questions to ask, and grab water.
She began arriving to the conference room five minutes early, settling in if it was available, and, prepped and relaxed, she made easy small talk with her co-workers. The advance planning enabled her to feel at ease—not frantic. And this calmness in turn allowed her to be fully present and contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways.
2. Have Go-To Grounding Techniques
Anxiety activates the body’s fight or flight response, which sets off a number of uncomfortable reactions from sweating to tunnel vision. Calming yourself with grounding techniques—or ways to stay in the present moment—can get you back in control and feeling better fast.
Meditation, stretching, calling a friend, or going for a walk are all great options. You’ll have to find what works best for you depending on your personality and what’s acceptable in your office environment, but this list is a great place to start.
Your company might even offer mindfulness or yoga classes, or encourage power napping for productivity. All of these are self-care options that can benefit the anxious mind greatly.
I’m a big fan of Box Breathing, a method used by the Navy SEALS that involves slow, controlled breathing. It’s inconspicuous and many of my coaching clients use it during meetings or high-pressure situations when they feel anxiety coming on.
3. Create Conditions for Success
Make your well-being part of your daily to-do list. Simple changes like avoiding too much caffeine, working by a window with natural light, and controlling noise in your workspace with headphones can all help keep the racing thoughts at bay. While you can’t control most of your environment, make it a point to change what you can.
Prioritizing rest is huge. Studies have found that getting more sleep helps about 50% of people feel more at ease and less anxious. Outside of the office, focus on creating rock solid work-life boundaries. For instance, pick a non-negotiable time to put away your work—and stick to it.
Scheduling fun after-hours activities can help make that a reality.
4. Ask for What You Need
Know your rights when it comes to managing your mental health at work. You can ask for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, including a flex schedule, additional time for assignments, and more frequent breaks.
Consider also making reasonable requests that’ll help you enormously—things like soliciting questions ahead of a presentation or asking your boss not to send you late-night emails unless it’s absolutely urgent.
If you’re explicit about your needs, respectful of others’ time and schedules, and intentional about producing quality work, it’s likely your team will have no problem honoring your preferences.
5. Set Micro-Goals
Setting small, achievable goals is always smart, but it’s even more important when you struggle with anxiety. You want to expand your comfort zone, yes, but you also want to be careful not to overwhelm yourself.
For example, if you’re trying to grow your network and change careers, you might aim to go to one industry event a month—not one a week. Setting realistic expectations for yourself is key to not only building positive momentum, but also preserving your well-being.
Living and working with anxiety doesn’t have to be debilitating. While there may be setbacks in your journey, make sure you celebrate every little victory along the way. Rally a support team around you who you can lean on in good times and bad. And if you have an understanding boss, embrace that relationship and practice effective communication about what’s going on with you and when you might require a little flexibility.
Editor’s Note: This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not medical advice and should not be used to make a diagnosis or treat a condition. If you suffer from anxiety, please consult with a medical specialist.