How to deal with work-related anxiety

Do you dread going to work each day?

Does the sound of your morning alarm send shivers through your body? Maybe your mood changes on Monday morning?

Well, you could be experiencing work-related anxiety and stress.

A recent survey shows almost 70% of employees are stressed at work. 

The research conducted by customer service provider alldayPA found that over a quarter of respondents (29%) attributed the cause of their stress to feeling overwhelmed with increasing workloads. In comparison, 27% said that juggling a work-life balance was stressful. 

Accountancy, banking and finance were revealed to be some of the most stressful sectors to work in, with high work-related stress levels most commonly reported in London, where 9% of respondents reported being always stressed, 28% stressed most of the time and 42% some of the time.

Work anxiety can occur in the form of performance anxiety, impostor syndrome, urgency, and generalised anxiety. And these feelings aren’t limited to the workplace. You can experience work-related anxiety while working from home too.

Signs and symptoms

If you have workplace anxiety, you might experience range symptoms: 

  • A sense of worry, apprehension, dread or hopelessness
  • Feeling trapped 
  • Feeling fearful or tense
  • Anger and impatience
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Tension in your body
  • Sweating palms
  • Stomach pain or nausea

You should also look out for the following:

  • Feeling worse in the mornings
  • Feeling physically ill when thinking about work 
  • Having a hard time focusing on work tasks
  • Reductions in your motivation
  • Avoiding meetings, new projects, or work events

Burnout and the side hustle

Burnout can cause our bodies to enter a state of stress, anxiety and depression, causing us to experience decreased motivation and difficulty sleeping. Burnout can also impact our physical health.

‘The belief that our productivity determines our worth is one of the main reasons people say yes to work they don’t have time for, or even take up an extra side hustle,’ says expert psychotherapist Brooke Schwartz.

‘Our society places significant value on hard work and hustle culture, and even deems those who take time to rest and practice self-care “lazy” or “unmotivated”.’

Brooke stresses the importance of time management in order to prioritise personal wellbeing.

‘Consider using a time blocking strategy, which involves breaking up your calendar into chunks of time designated for specific tasks,’ she says. ‘Having time blocks reduces the likelihood of procrastination, which delays work and makes it more likely that you end up working past work hours.’ 

Brooke also suggests blocking off personal time too: ‘Having scheduled personal time signals to your brain that you are supposed to be off the clock, and it gives you something to look forward to.’

With the rising cost of living, alldayPA also found that 30% of workers have a side hustle alongside their day job. Experts warn this is causing extreme levels of burnout and increased anxiety.

‘People are taking up a side hustle for financial gains, but they should ensure that they manage their time effectively to avoid burnout,’ says business and marketing consultant Fab Giovanetti.

‘It’s important to create work hours for your side hustle when possible so as not to feel like you are “always on”. Set boundaries and separate physical environments,’ they say.

‘Try not to work on your side-hustle in your bedroom or on the couch. You don’t want it to take over other areas of your life.’

Fab, author of Reclaim Your Time Off, also noted a clear divide regarding work-related anxiety, with more women aged between 25 and 34 years old experiencing higher levels of stress due to the pressure they feel to multi-task.

What can employers do?

Reuben Singh, Founder and CEO of alldayPA suggests that businesses can help employees with work-related stress and anxiety through regular check-ins and flexible work hours.

‘At my company, we have handed the rota management back to the staff, allowing them to work flexible hours to suit them,’ he says. 

‘We have increased staff’s pay by up to 14%, with shorter and split shifts to accommodate their lives outside work.

‘Since we have given them autonomy, we have seen an increase in both their level of happiness and their sense of involvement.’

Mike Jones, founder of Better Happy, an employee well-being and engagement consultancy, recommends educating your managers and employees on anxiety.

‘It’s good for employees to know that anxiety is a natural part of being a human,’ he says. 

‘A little bit [of anxiety] is OK, but doing it too much can be unhealthy.

‘Managers and leaders should be open about their worries to make it easier for employees to talk about theirs.

‘Encourage employees to talk, give managers basic training to recognise when employees are anxious and facilitate a conversation around it.

‘The key is not to be scared of it or try and avoid anxiety but to accept it and educate around it.’

Tips to tackle work-related anxiety

  • Communicate with your team – Don’t suppress or hide your feelings. If you have a trusted coworker or friend, open up to them. This will help you feel more supported and less alone.
  • Ask for help – Be open with your manager and tell them if you have too much on your plate. They won’t know you are struggling if you don’t tell them, and they may even be able to offer accommodations to help you.
  • Take breaks – And make sure to step away from your desk.
  • Stay present – ‘Worries and anxiety are about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future,’ says Ros Jones, Business Wellbeing Trainer and Guide. ‘We cannot change what happened in the past and we cannot predict what might happen going forward. A useful tip is to stay present and focus on what is happening at this very moment.
  • Avoid toxic coworkers – If there are people who get you down at work, try to avoid sitting next to them. While you probably shouldn’t ignore them, try to limit the time you are around them.
  • Set boundaries and know your limits – Don’t push yourself or offer to take on projects if you don’t have enough time. If possible, avoid taking work home and make sure not to check on work emails out of hours.
  • Pace yourself and be realistic with what you can achieve. Work within your limits and be kind to yourself.
  • Plan ahead – that way, you know what to expect, and you can feel more in control.
  • Coping strategies –  ‘Teach and practice simple grounding techniques at work that bring you back to the present moment – such as focussing on the body or breathing,’ says Mike. Grounding involves using the senses to connect to your physical surroundings. So you could listen to music, take breaks outside, watch something funny or smell essential oils.
  • Bring comforting items with you – Take your favourite drinks or snacks to work.
  • Reward yourself.
  • Switch off after work – ‘Find something you love to do outside of work, or take up a new hobby,’ says Ros. ‘There are endless opportunities to do something creative, like reading, writing, listening to music, learning to play a musical instrument or taking part in voluntary work in your local community. All of these activities will help boost your mood and if you do something in a social group, your sense of belonging and connection will increase too.’
  • Stay in touch with loved ones.
  • Take care of your health – Try to get adequate sleep, eat foods that fuel your body and exercise.
  • Get outside A 2021 study by the University of York found that engaging in outdoor activities, like gardening, can improve mood and reduce anxiety. 
  • Get a new job – While this isn’t easy and can seem very daunting ​​if your job makes you unbearably stressed, changing jobs could solve the problem and improve your mental health.

If things get worse, it is important to seek professional medical help.

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