Experiencing anxiety at work is quite commonplace. The problem is, that anxiety might be creeping up on you without you realizing it. Most people recognize only the obvious symptoms of anxiety, like excessive worrying, palpitations, and fast breathing.
Fatigue, restlessness, headaches, and sleep problems are also indications that you might be more stressed than you think. The same is true if you find it hard to focus, think clearly, and make decisions. People experiencing high levels of anxiety also find themselves at odds with their colleagues because they’re constantly agitated. But, these symptoms often go unnoticed or are attributed to other factors.
Does all the above ring a bell? Do you absolutely need to find out how to let go of anxiety at work? If so, maybe it’s time to take it down a notch. Read on to discover how to deal with anxiety at work and go back to being your most efficient and relaxed self.
Eat and sleep well
Following basic practices of self-care will not only help your mind and body function at their best. It can also prevent both physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.
For starters, watch your diet. Drops in blood sugar levels can cause dizziness and nervousness. To keep your blood sugar stable, eat regularly and healthily. Preferably, choose unprocessed foods with no added sugars that will keep you fuller for longer.
Getting your 8 (or whatever works best for you) hours of sleep is also essential. Adequate sleep will keep you more energized throughout the day, increase your ability to concentrate, and put you in a better mood.
Limit your coffee intake
A cup of coffee in the morning is a non-negotiable necessity for most people. But if you’re wondering how to deal with anxiety at work, limiting yourself to that one cup is a potential answer.
That’s because coffee is a stimulant — and quite an effective one actually since it kicks in within 15 minutes. This means that it increases your heartbeat and alertness, while in larger quantities it can cause the infamous coffee jitters. These caffeine-induced symptoms of restlessness feel a lot like anxiety. Even a fight or flight response is mobilized by the long-lasting restlessness in some cases. Not to mention, coffee might potentially disrupt your sleep, as it takes approximately 12 hours for it to leave your system.
If you start feeling agitated, don’t panic. You can flush coffee out of your system faster by drinking plenty of water. But as a rule, stick to one cup of coffee in the morning. If you like to drink something fancier than water during the day, or if you need something to keep you awake, try green tea, apple cider, or hot cocoa.
Keep your body fit
You’ve probably read time and again about the multiple health benefits of exercise, so let’s cut to the chase: A short walk a day keeps anxiety away. Yes, it’s that simple.
You don’t have to break a sweat at the gym every day for exercise to work its magic. A 10-minute walk can help your body release endorphins and instantly improve your mood and relieve your anxiety.
If you want to turn off your thoughts for a while, choose more intense physical activities, like strength training. Yoga and pilates are also great choices because they turn your focus to your body. If you want to shake the stress off, then choose types of exercise that require coordinated body movements, like martial arts or dancing.
Turn your office into your safe place
Our next tip is on how to remain calm at work and create a stylish workspace — well, sort of. See, you spend a good part of your day at work, so your office is your second home. As such, it should feel familiar and comfortable.
There’s no need to go to great lengths to personalize your space. Something as simple as decorating your desk with a couple of your favorite objects will instantly help you feel more relaxed. It could be a small plant, a funny gadget, or a cherished souvenir.
Did you know that clutter causes anxiety? Especially if you’re the type of person that likes everything tidy. Keep everything in place and clean, and your mind will be more at ease.
A safe place is usually secluded, right? If you work at an open-space office, you can create that sense by using a pair of headphones. Try listening to relaxing music or alpha waves to increase your focus. Canceling out the noise will help you relax and keep some distance from the distracting office chatter.
Investigate the roots of your anxiety
Although you shouldn’t overthink about anxiety, when you first start noticing anxiety symptoms, take a moment to determine where they come from. Was it a random thought that invaded your mind? Was it a new project that landed on your to-do list?
Identifying your stressors will help you take the appropriate steps to overcome anxiety at work. For example, you can tell your manager that your workload is unreasonable or the deadlines are too tight. Unresolved employee conflicts are also common causes of workplace stress. If you feel like you need to set the record straight with someone, go ahead and talk to them. You’ll feel a ton lighter afterward.
Prioritize to avoid overwhelming yourself
Are you still asking how to deal with anxiety at work? Then take a look at your to-do list. Really. First thing in the morning.
If a cluttered desk can increase anxiety, imagine what a cluttered to-do list can do. Keeping your workload under control makes a world of difference. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself racing against the clock by the end of the day or when a deadline approaches.
There’s one golden rule to win the clock race: prioritize. Sort out your tasks according to urgency and difficulty. You might be tempted to start your day with the easy tasks (hello, procrastination!), but is that really the smartest idea? Won’t you have more peace of mind when the hard or time-consuming tasks are out of the way?
If you hold a position that allows you to delegate tasks, don’t be too proud and take it all upon yourself. You should also avoid obsessive-compulsive tactics like the inbox zero approach. Just like the rest of your tasks, respond to emails according to urgency. They’ll get to zero eventually.
Learn how to self-ease your mind
Rumination is anxiety’s best friend. One thought leads to another, and soon your mind is spiraling, living unimaginable nightmares.
First things first: to ease your mind, remind yourself that scary scenarios rarely play out. It’s just your anxiety acting out again. Then, you can follow a couple of techniques that will help you relax and shift your focus.
Deep breathing is an effective way to ease your fight or flight response and bring your heart rate and breathing to normal levels. It’s best to practice several breathing exercises at home first. This way, you’ll see which one you feel most comfortable with. And, you’ll be able to do the breathes properly when you’re feeling anxious.
Trying to suppress feelings of anxiety only escalates the symptoms. Meditation teaches you how to let anxious feelings and thoughts pass by without consuming you. You can meditate for a few minutes to instantly reduce anxiety at work, but if you practice meditation regularly, you’ll enjoy long-term benefits.
Another way to manage anxiety at work and self-regulate is to write down things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude will do more than take your mind off anxiety symptoms. It will also increase your levels of happiness, as you’ll start to appreciate all the good things in your life that you took for granted.
Turn to your “safe” people
When you feel a lot of tension building up, call a close friend or relative. You can simply engage in small chit chat to distract yourself and catch up. Or, you can talk about what’s bothering you and let some steam off.
Your safe people can also be your workplace friends. Don’t hesitate to open up about your anxiety to people you trust and, why not, your manager. As we mentioned previously, your manager can help you work on a solution that will make your life in the office easier.
Take a time-out (or more)
No matter how busy your schedule is, working for 8 hours straight is a terrible idea. When you strain yourself like that, your productivity drops, you start making mistakes, and your workload piles up even higher. Which means even more anxiety. Not smart.
So, make sure you take at least a lunch break. Preferably outside and while the sun is still shining (the sun is also an excellent energy and mood booster!). If you have time to take a walk afterwards, all the better. A brisk walk will help you recharge your batteries and return to work feeling refreshed.
Taking small breaks during the day can prevent anxiety symptoms from making their (unwelcome) appearance. But if they do appear, it’s best to take a time-out and decompress.
If things get tough, ask for professional help
Our last tip on how to deal with anxiety at work is to not do it all by yourself. Sometimes, anxiety is deeply rooted and not merely due to work-related reasons. Or, it might be too much for you to handle, and it just keeps growing worse.
Check-in with yourself: Have your symptoms become more intense or frequent? Do you feel anxiety outside the office? Have you started to avoid situations and places that might trigger an anxious response?
If your anxiety has escalated to the point that your quality of life is affected, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. If left untreated, anxiety can take over your life and lead to depression.
Anxiety takes its toll on your personal life, and it hinders your professional development as well. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Your mental health deserves the same attention your physical health does. Try these tips on how to deal with anxiety at work, but if you feel like the symptoms aren’t subsiding, consult a mental health professional.