How To Manage Anxiety at Work So It Doesn’t Impair Your Productivity

Ironically, fear of being struck with anxiety can trigger anxiety. In fact, that’s kind of the textbook definition of anxiety, to begin with. You can’t predict when or a panic attack will hit you, which means there’s always the possibility anxiety takes over in a moment where you can’t take a timeout, like in the middle of work, for example.

In fact, anxiety and the workday kind of go hand in hand.

“Most individuals operate with some anxiety at all times in order to be successful,” said Kate Cummins, a California-based clinical psychologist working at Stanford University.

Dealing with anxiety in the workplace can immediately and severely impact your productivity, leading straight into a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself. Eighteen percent of people who responded to a 2017 American Psychological Association well-being survey said they had a difficult time completing their work due to anxiety and other mental health issues. That’s nearly 1 in 5, proving that workplace anxiety is a significant problem.

And it makes sense. For many of us, the workplace is where we accomplish and pursue a majority of our life’s top ambitions. Even if you’re there just to collect the paycheck, odds are that paycheck is attached to a significant amount of stress-triggering circumstances in your life. For the most ambitious of us, the fear of failure is a crippling anxiety trigger all its own. And all this happens in a place the majority of us spend at least one-third of our day, five days a week.

With all this in mind, it’s important to have some tactics for battling anxiety specific to the workplace.

First, ask yourself these two questions when you feel anxiety creeping up: “How am I feeling right now?” and “What happened today that brought me to this place?” This technique can be a part of the process that brings you away from your anxiety, forcing you to take an inventory of your thoughts and circumstances that are triggering anxious feelings.

“The more you bring the anxiety out of the subconscious dialogue in your head and into your focus point. You will feel like you have more control,” says Kate Cummins, a California-based clinical psychologist working at Stanford University.

This can help you execute the next step, which is to identify what may be triggering your anxiety. You may notice that it’s the same thing that seems to be stressing you out regularly. Maybe it's a busy commute and the prospect of being late for work. Maybe it’s that first check in with the boss each day. Whatever it is, identifying a consistent trigger can be a very helpful way to figure out how to manage your circumstances and minimize anxiety.

Outside of the office, mixing life up can help also. Moving around your morning routine, waking up just a tad earlier, and having a few tasks that aren’t focused completely on getting you to work can significantly change your mindset as you get the day started.  “Set your alarm for 15 minutes longer than you need and do some yoga, try to meditate, [or] sit with coffee and focus on all of the people or places or things that you enjoy,” Cummins said.

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