Experiencing Anxiety About Work: What Can You Do?

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster
Updated February 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety can come in many different forms. Some individuals may have mental health disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder, while others may experience intense feelings of anxiety in response to certain situations. One common source of stress and anxiety for adults is work. Whether there is a certain group dynamic that is making them dread going to work, they have more work than they can handle, or they are under extremely tight deadlines, work can be stressful. If you are feeling anxious about work, let’s take a look at why this may be and what you can do about it. 

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Workplace anxiety can be difficult to manage

Workplace anxiety: why you may be feeling anxiety about work

There are various factors that may contribute to increased anxiety around work, such as a stressful workplace, tight deadlines, high levels of responsibility, difficult coworkers, and more. If you are feeling anxious about going to work, it could be that your workload is too demanding. 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 may take up more time than you have, 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 anxious thoughts and stress.

If you can relate to the above, you are not alone.

Plenty of individuals experience workplace anxiety 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 or navigating unrealistic deadlines, attempting to balance both your work and personal life, or a host of other concerns.

In addition to factors that may have caused workplace anxiety over time, it’s also possible that your workplace is aggravating an existing mental health condition. Say, for example, that you have generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder that makes it harder for you to speak in front of others. When you are asked to give a presentation at work, your anxiety may worsen.

What can i do about workplace anxiety?

Regardless of the exact source of your anxiety, it can cause disruptions in your life, so it can be helpful to identify ways to tackle these concerns and make it easier for you to manage anxiety in your workplace. To get you started, here are some tips to consider for coping with anxiety and feeling more comfortable in your work.

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  1. Assess the situation

One of the first steps that may be beneficial to take when you are experiencing anxiety at work is to assess your current situation. Try to identify the specific sources of anxiety to better understand the dynamics at play. Are you being given too much work? Are you dealing with a difficult boss? 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, those could be some of the major issues contributing to your anxiety. If not, it may be helpful to reframe your thinking and learn new skills that can help you better tackle your work and do so more confidently.

With that in mind, it can also be important to know your own limitations and maintain realistic expectations regarding your work. If you know that you need time to recharge but expect yourself to take on so much work that your job is all you have time for, this is likely going to exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Make sure to set realistic expectations for yourself so that you are able to get your work done but still have enough time to be able to take care of yourself.

  1. Identify your stressors and develop coping strategies 

As we discussed in the previous section, there are several different reasons why you may be experiencing increased anxiety as a result of work. Not everyone has the same fears or worries, and it is important to know your own personal stressors that may cause your anxiety to spike. For example, do you struggle to give presentations to your office? Do you experience intense anxiety when having to do a particular task related to your job? Whatever may cause your anxiety to flare up, try cultivate more awareness around these issues, and keep a list of them somewhere. 

Then, when they come up, try to utilize coping strategies such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, time outside, journaling, and grounding exercises that can help you to combat anxiety and find a sense of calm. 

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Workplace anxiety can be difficult to manage
  1. Break down your to-do list and goals to make them more manageable

When you look at your to-do list, do you feel completely overwhelmed? Do you look at your daily goals and fear that they are simply too large to accomplish? Do you find yourself feeling anxious about the projects before you’ve even begun? If so, this can make sense, but there are ways to tackle these feelings. If your anxiety about work stems from this type of issue, it can be helpful to take a look at each of your tasks and break them down further to make them easier to accomplish. Getting organized, breaking down projects into smaller chunks, and planning out your day may help to make things feel more manageable. 

For example, rather than listing a large project as one of your to-do items, break this project down into smaller steps that you can check off as you go. You may also consider planning out how much time you can spend on each task and scheduling your day accordingly. While this may grow the length of your to-do list, it can make it easier for you to work through your tasks and can help boost your confidence in yourself as you check through each step of the task.

  1. Speak with your boss about your concerns if possible

While it may feel intimidating to speak with your boss about your concerns, it may be an important step depending on your situation. If you are dealing with an unmanageable workload or unrealistic deadlines, for example, it may help to speak with your boss about the situation and see if you can find a solution. If circumstances in the workplace have made the situation untenable, it may be helpful to discuss the situation with your manager and see if there are ways to improve the situation. 

  1. Spend time taking care of yourself

When we’re stressed and anxious about work, it can be easy to stop taking good care of ourselves. We may get poor sleep, eat poorly, not exercise, not socialize, and not take any breaks. But, if you are ignoring your own needs, you may feel even more anxious and have an even more difficult time being productive. Try to take care of yourself by getting adequate sleep, eating well, getting exercise, connecting with friends and loved ones, and taking breaks that allow you to get away from your hectic day and recharge. When you take care of yourself, you may be better able to tackle your workday.

Getting help through therapy 

Experiencing anxiety about work can be very challenging, and sometimes, the above strategies may not be enough. If you need additional support in coping with anxiety, speaking with a therapist can help. A licensed therapist can help you navigate life’s stressors and challenges and help you find ways to address anxiety. 

Individuals experiencing work-related anxiety may be feeling stretched thin, overwhelmed, and short on time, so the prospect of fitting therapy into their busy schedule may feel very difficult. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can speak with a therapist from wherever is most convenient, so long as you have an internet connection, which may make it easier to fit into hectic schedules. 

Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns, including anxiety. For instance, one such study explored the research on the effectiveness of internet-based interventions for anxiety and depression. For anxiety disorders, it found that therapist-assisted internet-based interventions showed similar effectiveness as face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy. The researchers concluded that internet-based interventions were shown to be “effective in reducing symptomatology for both depression and anxiety.”

Takeaway

Anxiety about work can very uncomfortable and can be related to a variety of factors. If this is something you’re experiencing, you may consider trying some of the tips above to address it, such as assessing the situation, identifying your stressors and coping strategies, and making sure to take proper care of yourself. For additional support with managing anxiety that’s work-related, an online therapist can help.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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