Anxiety 9 to 5: How to Cope With Stress in the Workplace

It’s no secret. While some anxiety can help keep your focused and motivate you to work harder, too much stress will harm your performance. Feelings of anxiety typically arise when people feel that they have lost control of a situation. The workplace is a breeding ground for feelings of anxiety. Many companies find themselves struggling in today’s economy. Few jobs offer long-term security, and many positions carry more responsibility than they once did.

If you feel like your list of responsibilities keeps getting longer or that you are being inundated with new tasks that are outside of your skill set, feelings of anxiety are the natural result. Anxiety can affect a person in many different ways. Physiological responses can manifest, resulting in headaches, muscle tension, pounding hearts, sweaty hands, and shortness of breath. Motor skills may also be affected! Emotional responses include a change in temper, impatience, or a tendency to be withdrawn from social situations. Cognitive effects include a shorter memory span and an inability to focus or process information. Each of these effects can impact how effectively a person can do their job.

If anxiety has invaded your office, it may be time to deal with its causes. Instead of struggling through your job with sweaty palms and an inability to focus on the task at hand, take charge of your situation. Many people find that they are able to manage their anxiety by looking for the specific causes of their problems. Tell your manager that you are feeling overwhelmed, and suggest a few ways to help manage this in the office; many employers are willing to work with you to ensure both your wellness and your productivity.

If you’re not ready to talk to your manager, there are still a few ways to get yourself back into a healthy mental state.

Try these tips to quell your anxiety during your 9 to 5:

1. Take a break: If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of work in front of you, the best thing that you can do is to step away from it. This may mean that you take a walk to the water cooler and then head straight back to yourself, but a few minutes to yourself and a little distance can help you get your stress under control. Don’t work through your lunch break, or spend this time talking about work. Use anytime away from your tasks to focus on yourself. Clear your mind, take a few deep breaths, and relax before you have to start up again.

2. Talk to someone: Whether you’re just beginning the feel the brush of stress at work, or you have been burdened for a long time, you may benefit from talking about your feelings. Talk to your significant other or your best friend about your feelings. They might be able to prescribe some off-time fun to get you feeling better about your situation. If you are close to a co-worker, try asking for their advice in coping with the office. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, a counselor or psychologist might be able to offer helpful insight to your situation.

3. Take care of yourself outside of work: If you are beginning to feel off-balance because of anxiety, it is time to take action. This might mean that you re-arrange your social schedule to allow you time to recover from the work week. You might need to add something to your routine that makes you feel in control of your life. Many people choose exercise; aerobic activity is great for lifting spirits and sharpening focus.

4. Reconsider your workload: Take a good look at your daily tasks and major projects. Consider each one, and make a schedule. Prioritize each of your work tasks, and order them accordingly. Start on high priority items early in the day, so that you aren’t in a rush by closing time. Break any major projects into small, manageable steps. If you can’t manage everything that is on your plate, delegate items you know others can handle.

5. Don’t bring work home: Work should always stay separated from your home life. This is especially true if you are already anxious about your job or workload. You need the time at home to calm down from your work day.

Take time off: If you just can’t beat the anxiety you feel at the workplace, take time away from it. Use your vacation time or tell your boss that you need a leave of absence. Don’t spend this time answering work emails or focusing on projects. Recharge for a few days. Focus on yourself. You may want to use this time to straighten out any stressful situations outside of work, or simply to relax. Do what helps you so that you can return to your work confident and ready to take on your responsibilities.