I Have Anxiety About Going To Work - What Can I Do About It?

By: Dylan Buckley

Updated September 03, 2020

Anxiety comes in many different forms and while some individuals may be dealing with an anxiety disorder that makes them generally anxious about most things, other individuals are anxious about specific things, which can lead to a cycle of intense anxiety if these are recurring situations that an individual must face regularly.

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One common source of anxiety and stress for adults is their work situation. Whether there is a certain group dynamic that is making them dread going to work, or if they have a lot of work that is assigned daily, work can be stressful and can make people feel anxious about deadlines or other aspects of employment.

Regardless of where your anxiety is stemming from, however, it's important to take action as soon as possible to make it more enjoyable for you to go to work without feeling nervous and stressed each time you do so. If you are feeling anxious about going to work, let's take a look at why this may be and what you can do about it.

Workplace Anxiety: Why You Are Feeling Anxious About Your Work Situation

When you are dealing with work anxiety, feeling anxiety before work has even started, or are coping with anxiety about work in general when you simply think about your current position, the underlying issue is generally the fact that the work you are doing is simply too demanding at the moment, which can cause a host of issues that lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.

Say, for example, that you are constantly being given major projects by your boss. These assignments often have tight deadlines and the amount of work that you are given often takes up most of your time, leaving you unable to properly rest without worrying about having to get your work done and making it harder to meet your other important needs. This issue then drags on over the course of the week, building upon itself and further contributing to your anxiety and stress.

If you can relate to the above, you're not alone. Plenty of individuals feel anxiety at work when it comes to things such as deadlines, high expectations from bosses or supervisors, navigating the sometimes harsh social climate of the workplace, catching up on work that should have already been finished, attempting to balance both your work and personal life, or simply just not having enough passion in some of the work that you are doing.

When it is written down in this manner, it can be easy to see where your anxiety may be stemming from, which is essential if you wish to change the current state of your work situation.

In addition to factors that may have caused workplace anxiety over time, it’s also possible that your workplace is aggravating existing anxiety. Say, for example, that you have a generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety that makes it harder for you to speak in front of others. When you are forced to give a presentation at work, your anxiety may worsen. Work-related social phobia is a very real concern that people have, especially if they experience anxiety in other areas where they are required to be social.

What Can I Do About Workplace Anxiety?

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Regardless of whether your anxiety came first or you have developed anxiety over time because of your current professional life, it is important to know what you can do in order to tackle these issues and make it easier for you to go to work without feeling anxious and stressed. To get you started, here are some valuable tips that will allow you to get rid of some of that anxiety and feel more comfortable in your work life.

Practice Positive Thinking (But Maintain Realistic Expectations)

Work is one of the more difficult aspects of life as it often requires us to truly know ourselves and what we are capable of achieving. While we don't want to be overloaded with work, we don't want to be on the other end of the spectrum, constantly doubting ourselves and underperforming as a result of negative thought patterns. The first step that you will want to take when you are feeling like an overly anxious person at work is to assess your current performance level and workload and to be honest with yourself. Are you giving too much work? Are you using your time wisely and still having to take so much time out of your day that you don't have time to meet your basic needs? If so, there is one of the major issues contributing to your anxiety. If not, it may be time to rewire your thinking and learn new skills that can help you better tackle your work and do so confidently.

That being said, however, you must also know your own limitations and maintain realistic expectations regarding your work. If you know that you need time to relax but expect yourself to take on so much work that your job is all you have time for, you are only contributing to your anxiety on a regular basis. Make sure to set realistic expectations for yourself so that you are able to get your work done without pushing yourself too hard.

Speak With Your Boss About Your Current Workload

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While it can often be a source of anxiety to have to speak with your boss about your current position, it can be necessary for your own mental health. It is likely that your boss wants a healthy, happy employee who is highly productive rather than one that is constantly stressed out and unable to tackle their work. If you are having an issue with your work that is causing you to have anxiety, you may want to consider reaching out to your boss and letting them know about your current situation. Sit down with them and discuss any possible solutions that can help you feel more comfortable. Many employers will be empathetic towards your struggles and will work with you to make sure that you are the most successful you can be.

Know Your Triggers And Exercises That Can Help You Battle Anxiety

As we discussed in the previous section, there are several different reasons why you may be feeling anxious at work. Not everyone has the same fears or worries, and it is important to know your own personal triggers that cause your anxiety to spike. For example, are you nervous about your deadlines? Do you struggle to give presentations to your office? Whatever may cause your anxiety to flare up, cultivate more awareness around these issues, and keep a list of them somewhere. When they come up, try to figure out a solution around them and make sure you have plenty of deep breathing exercises and other grounding exercises that will work to keep you grounded and fight anxiety that is rising up at the moment.

Break Down Your To-Do List And Goals To Make Them Easily Achievable

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When you look at your to-do list, do you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed? Do you look at your daily goals and feel as though they are simply too large to accomplish? If so, this is a common issue, and you’re not alone. It could be that you have projects and goals you need to achieve throughout the day, which can seem overwhelming when you look at everything you need to do, instead of tackling your tasks one at a time. If your anxiety stems from this type of issue, it can be extremely helpful to take a look at each of your tasks and break them down further to make them easier to finish. For example, rather than listing a large project as one of your to-dos, break this project down into smaller steps that you can check off as you go. While this may grow the length of your to-do list, it makes it easier for you to work through your tasks and will help boost your confidence in yourself as you quickly check through each step of the task.

Make Sure That You Have Enough Time To Take Care Of Yourself

In our society, we tend to value individuals who are high achievers and who dedicate themselves to their work and appear to be productivity machines. While you do want to do your best in your current role, these types of values can be harmful as they often ask you to forget about other aspects of your life and to focus solely on your work. The truth is that you cannot be productive if you are ignoring your own basic needs, and doing so will only lead to disaster down the road. While work is important, make sure that you are also taking time out of your day to do things such as have fun, eat proper meals, get enough sleep, exercise, and take breaks that allow you to get away from your hectic day and recharge. When you take care of yourself, you are better able to tackle your workday.

Sometimes, we all need a little help to overcome life’s challenges. It’s possible that some people are dealing with an anxiety disorder that requires medical attention in order for it to be treated. If you believe that you have a serious anxiety disorder that cannot be solved simply by following some of the tips listed above, and you believe that you could benefit from counseling, visit BetterHelp today to get started with your own online counselor who can assist you with your mental health needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why am I so anxious about going to work?

Many people feel anxiety and stress when they start thinking about work and this can lead to workplace phobia. This could be due to an existing issue with depression and anxiety or directly linked to anxiety in the workplace alone. If you're someone who is affected by anxiety all of the time, it's helpful to talk with a licensed mental health expert to learn what could be driving your anxiety.

When physical symptoms of anxiety and depression only present themselves when you're at work -- this is a sign of a stressor in the workplace.

What is the fear of going to work?

The fear of going to work is called workplace anxiety. People with work anxiety often feel upset at the thought of dealing with workplace stress related to their job duties or co-workers. To begin reducing anxiety at work, identify the sources of workplace stress that are causing increased feelings of anxiety at work. For example, you may have a work-related social phobia that comes from dealing with customers, clients, or even your co-workers.

How can I calm my anxiety before work?

Dealing with work stress begins with awareness. The good news is -- there are ways to cope. Before you start your workday, take a few minutes to focus on deep breathing to begin to manage your anxiety at work. Make sure that your workday is planned and organized to keep feelings of anxiety from growing throughout the day.

Is anxiety a mental illness?

When anxiety issues become an overwhelming (or debilitating) part of your day, this is a sign of a potential anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is classified as a mental disorder outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). People living with anxiety and serious depression and anxiety issues may also have trouble dealing with workplace stress -- especially in an elevated environment.

Can I get disability for anxiety?

People who suffer from severe stress and anxiety issues may qualify for time off work or other disability-related programs. If you're living with severe stress and anxiety issues and anxiety at work is also a factor, seek help from a medical doctor or a licensed mental health provider. They will be able to determine if you qualify for disability benefits due to an anxiety disorder.

What is the best job for someone with anxiety?

If you suffer from chronic stress and anxiety and you have anxiety about work, the best job for you is one that doesn't contribute to a rise in anxiety and depression symptoms. Look for work that you can enjoy, and that suits your personality. Working a job you enjoy can help relieve stress and anxiety at work. Talk to a career counselor or a licensed mental health provider with knowledge of anxiety disorders to get help.

How do I overcome my fear of work?

Look for solutions from popular online resources including the Anxiety and Depression Association, and leading therapy platforms like BetterHelp.com. Talking to an anxiety expert can help you learn new ways to overcome your struggles if you're chronically affected by anxiety and issues with anxiety disorders.

How do I overcome the fear of fear?

If you're struggling with the long-term effects of anxiety disorders, get help from a licensed professional. Start by visiting your primary care physician to rule out a potential medical diagnosis that may be aggravating symptoms of anxiety. A licensed physician will likely refer you to a counselor or therapist that can provide psychotherapy treatments for anxiety (otherwise known as talk therapy).

Is anxiety a reason to miss work?

If you're suffering from issues with chronic or severe anxiety, these are considered as serious physical and mental issues. Having these issues can cause you to miss work if left untreated. Get help from a licensed therapy provider to overcome issues with chronic and debilitating anxiety.

Can I be fired for having panic attacks?

If you're having panic attacks on a regular basis that are causing you to miss work, this may be cause for termination with some employers. Talk to your human resources department to learn what your company policy is on dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. One panic attack at work shouldn’t be grounds for concern, however.

What is high functioning anxiety?

People with high-functioning anxiety experience the same negative symptoms of anxiety as other anxiety sufferers. The difference here is that people with high-functioning anxiety may still perform their daily job duties and responsibilities -- despite the fact that they are still suffering from anxiety symptoms.

What's the most depressing job?

People function based on many different factors that make up their personalities. A job that may be depressing for one person, might be the ideal job for another. Find a job that makes you feel fulfilled and complete at the end of your workday (regardless of job title) to preserve your mental health.

Can anxiety stop you from getting a job?

People who are suffering from debilitating symptoms of anxiety may have trouble getting (or keeping) a job. This is due to the fact that symptoms of anxiety make it difficult for some people to bear the challenge of leaving the house and making it to work every day. When they do arrive at work, the symptoms can be unbearable and can potentially lead to quitting and developing a workplace phobia.

Why can't I keep a job?

If you're suffering from the debilitating effects of chronic anxiety or living with an anxiety disorder, even the simplest task can require most of your energy. When your anxiety takes over you may find it difficult to perform at your best and this can cause you to lose jobs. Even approaching the workplace can be a daunting task for some individuals with workplace phobia and they might stop showing up altogether.

Can you have panic attacks every day?

Some people who live with anxiety have panic attacks on a regular basis. If you're someone who suffers from chronic panic attacks, seek professional help. Talk to your primary care provider or licensed mental health professional about your symptoms.

Are stress and anxiety covered under FMLA?

The good news is that, in most cases, diagnosed and chronic mental health issues are covered under FMLA and similar programs. Talk to your human resources department or refer to your employee handbook to learn how your employer handles behavioral health issues in the workplace.

Are anxiety and panic attacks considered a disability?

When anxiety and panic attacks become a regular part of your day, this can be considered a disability. Talk to your employer to learn how anxiety and similar disabilities are treated at work. Federal programs like Social Security Disability Insurance are available for people who meet the disability criteria for anxiety.

What is a nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown happens when people are too mentally, physically, and emotionally overwhelmed to take care of themselves and their daily responsibilities. A person who has suffered a nervous breakdown may find it difficult to think clearly or to have enough energy to perform even simple tasks like daily self-care.

What is the least stressful career?

People choose their jobs for a variety of reasons. Whether or not a career is stressful depends on your individual disposition. Talk to a career counselor or a mental health professional to learn what careers are the best match for your needs and personality type.

Can anxiety affect your work?

Yes. Anxiety can worsen your work performance. If you're suffering from issues with anxiety at work, talk to your human resources department to learn about resources (like employee assistance programs) that can provide counseling and advice for overcoming anxiety issues at work.

Why do I have anxiety about going to work?

Feeling stressed about going to work can be the result of any number of things.  If you have a tense work environment or have strict deadlines to meet, it can cause work-related generalized anxiety.  Additionally, if you feel like you have more work than you can handle, it can result in increased anxiety.

How do I stop being anxious about going to work?

The first step is to figure out why you are feeling anxious about going to work.  If you are anxious because it is a new job and you aren’t sure if you’re performing well, talk to your supervisor.  You don’t have to come across as “needy” or unsure of your abilities.  You can simply tell your supervisor, “I’m so glad I have been given this opportunity to work here.  Anything you can tell me to help me work more efficiently, I’d be glad to hear it.”  This will let your employer know you don’t think you know everything, and you are teachable. It also shows that you are willing to take advice, if it is necessary to improve your performance.

If you feel like your anxiety about going to work is because of a coworker’s behavior, you may find that opening the line of communication between you and the coworker will ease some tension and give you both an opportunity to discuss feelings.

On the other hand, if you are prone to an anxiety reaction and symptoms and do not feel comfortable dealing with stressful situations, seeking the help of a counselor or therapist to help you deal with the issues related to anxiety can help improve your feelings about going to work and will likely have a positive impact on other areas of your life, as well.

How do you work when you have anxiety?

Having anxiety or stress at work can make you feel overwhelmed.  There are a few things you can do that may help relieve work anxiety and help improve your overall work performance.

  1. Don’t participate in office gossip. As tempting as it may feel, being in the middle of a gossip circle can cause tension at work, which can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being and work performance.
  2. Set realistic deadlines. It’s okay to be ambitious but setting deadlines for projects that seem unsurmountable will only add to your anxiety. You can set deadlines for small milestones leading up to the completion of a big project, rather than trying to rush and get everything done in a short amount of time.
  3. Build solid relationships. Building healthy working relationships with coworkers can give you a sense of belonging and make you feel more secure about your role in the workplace. Remember, you don’t have to feel obligated to go out to dinner every week or go have a drink after work if you don’t want to.  Establish a healthy relationship that is comfortable for you.
  4. Ask for help. If work is hectic or a project becomes overwhelming, reach out for help. Talk to a team member or an immediate supervisor.  Instead of being hard on yourself and feeling like you have to go it alone, think of how you would feel if you were a supervisor.  Would you want an employee to come to you and ask for guidance or would you prefer that they try to do the work on their own and leave them feeling they have no support?  A good supervisor would want to offer support to an employee who needs a little help getting the job done.

Can I call in sick with anxiety?

Let’s face it, there may be some employers who are not as understanding as others, or you may have a coworker who has a poor attitude about what you are experiencing.  However, if you are experiencing anxiety, you can call in sick to work.  In fact, if you are in the United States and have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, in most cases you are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Under this Act, you are to be allowed “reasonable accommodation” and sick time for therapist appointments or because of heightened anxiety is considered reasonable accommodation.

Is anxiety a good reason to miss work?

It really depends on the cause of anxiety and how severe your symptoms are.  If you are overwhelmed and need some time to calm down and focus, even taking an extended lunch or asking for a personal day could be helpful.  If, however, you are constantly anxious about going to work because you feel like you can’t complete tasks or because you are having problems with a coworker, your anxiety may only worsen by missing work.  In this case, it may be a good idea to talk to your supervisor/employer and discuss what you are feeling and ask for their input on ways to resolve your anxiety.  Be sure and express a desire to come to work and be productive.

Should I go to work if I have anxiety?

It's understandable that you may not want to go to work if you have anxiety.  Only you know how severe your anxiety symptoms are and how they impact your work performance.  If you need time off, talk to your boss and explain the situation.  If you need help dealing with anxiety, seek professional help so that you can learn to deal with the symptoms and continue to work.

How long can an anxiety last?

In most cases, anxiety is a short-term emotion in response to stress or a threat (whether real or perceived).  For some people, feelings of anxiety may only last a few minutes or may subside when the trigger or threat is removed.  On the other hand, people who experience anxiety disorders may seem to be in a constant state of stress, although it may not be as severe every day.

If you are experiencing symptoms of stress, it’s important to talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional.  Long-term anxiety can lead to medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and a compromised immune system.  Additionally, if anxiety is left unresolved, it can cause worsening of anxiety disorders and symptoms.

Is anxiety a mental illness?

Anxiety is the brain’s way of reacting to stress and making you aware of potential danger.  Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.  Both emotional and physical strain or illnesses can cause feelings of anxiety.  Occasional anxiety is not considered a mental illness.  However, when anxiety is chronic, this could indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder, which is a type of mental illness.  Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias are types of anxiety disorders.

Can I get time off work for anxiety?

If you have been diagnosed with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, in most cases you are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you need time off work to seek medical treatment for anxiety, including inpatient therapy.

What's a good job for someone with social anxiety?

Having social anxiety doesn’t exempt us from paying bills.  With that in mind, it’s important to consider what employment opportunities may be of interest to you but that also promote your sense of well-being and prevent the risk of increasing the symptoms of social anxiety.

Some jobs that are good for people with social anxiety include:

  • Blogging, editing, and freelance writing
  • Social media manager
  • Librarian
  • Pet groomer
  • Janitor
  • Housekeeper
  • Landscaper

Having social anxiety does not have to mean that you miss out on a good job and the opportunity to have a consistent income.

What is the best therapy for anxiety?

The goal of therapy for people who suffer from anxiety is to help you understand your feelings, to identify possible triggers for anxiety and help you learn how to respond in constructive ways.

One of the most widely used types of therapy for people with anxiety and anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to help you identify and understand your thoughts and behavioral patterns and to help replace those negative thoughts and behaviors with effective coping mechanisms.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT that was originally used to treat borderline personality disorder.  However, it is now commonly used to treat a variety of mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.  During dialectical behavior therapy, you learn to accept anxiety while learning to implement measures to change your anxious response to triggers.

What triggers anxiety?

Anxiety can be triggered by several things.  Health issues, such as chronic illness or pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes may cause feelings of increased anxiety.  Skipping meals or consuming too much caffeine may also trigger anxiety.  Some medications (both prescription and over the counter) have side effects of anxiety or nervousness, as well.

Can I be fired for having an anxiety attack at work?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect employees from job discrimination.  If you have a history of physical or mental impairment, such as anxiety disorder, in most cases your employer is required by law to keep you employed and to allow you reasonable accommodation necessary to promote your well-being.

Should I tell my boss about my anxiety?

Yes, in most cases you should tell your boss about your anxiety.  Having an anxiety attack at work or experiencing work-related panic can leave you feeling like you are incapable of working and performing your assigned job.  Being open and honest with your boss about the anxiety you feel can help them to understand what you are going through, and they may be able to offer options to help reduce work-related anxiety stress. It’s recommended that you seek help (for example, by speaking with a licensed therapist) before reaching out to your boss. Feeling supported and understood by a medical professional, who can teach you exactly how to decrease your anxiety symptoms, is important to do before meeting with your boss. 

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