12 tips for managing anxiety
Anxiety is a common condition in Australia – one in three women and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage in their lifetime. While anxiety and stress are natural experiences in life, there are times where it can take a severe toll on your mental health and quality of life.
Generally, stress and anxiety are simply biological and physiological reactions to threats to your safety or external danger. Once the stressful situation, or the ‘stressor’ has gone, these feelings should go away.
An anxiety condition might be present when these feelings don’t go away, happen without any particular cause, or make it hard to cope with daily life. There are several types of anxiety conditions including workplace anxiety.
Understanding workplace anxiety
Workplace anxiety is when a person develops fears or phobias specifically in relation to their workplace or their ability to do their job.
It’s important to distinguish between healthy, productive levels of stress and that of anxiety. Anxiety can impact a person’s mental focus, satisfaction, motivation, and ability to carry out their work duties.
7 common workplace anxieties include:
1) Fear of public speaking or speaking up in meetings
2) Fear of working in groups or authority figures
3) Fear of not meeting deadlines
4) Worrying that work won’t be up to scratch
5) Fear of humiliation
6) Avoiding committing to new tasks
7) Feeling inadequate for a promotion.
When a person doesn’t address these anxieties, they can worsen and cause serious implications to both emotional wellbeing and workplace performance. Ignoring the warning signs can lead to bigger problems, such missing out on promotions, less work hours, salary reduction, and even job loss.
Signs and symptoms of workplace anxiety
Some of the common signs to watch out for include:
- Feeling irritable or depressed
- Disappointment with yourself even when you haven’t made mistakes
- Increase in emotional reactions
- Loss of interest in work
- Loss of confidence in your abilities
- Poor memory
- Changes in eating habits and stomach issues
- Problems sleeping and fatigue
- Trouble concentrating and headaches
- Social withdrawal and changes in work attendance
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope.
How to manage workplace anxiety
Should you recognise any of these symptoms, take steps to reduce job stress by taking care of yourself.
When stress interferes with your ability to perform in your job, manage your personal life or adversely impacts your health, it’s time to take action. By protecting your physical and emotional health, you’ll become stronger and more resilient to stress. Essentially, the better you feel, the better equipped you are to manage workplace anxiety.
The good news is that even minor changes can make a difference. Managing stress doesn’t mean a total lifestyle overhaul. A range of positive changes will greatly impact your stress levels over time.
12 tips for managing workplace anxiety
1. Get enough sleep
Stress at work can cause a vicious cycle when it comes to sleep. Stress can cause you to stay awake at night, and this lack of sleep will leave you vulnerable to even more stress. Being well-rested will make managing your emotions and coping with stresses much easier. To set yourself up for a better night’s sleep, read tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
2. Talk to an attentive listener
Talking face-to-face with good listener can help calm your nervous system and relieve stress. The goal isn’t to have the person “fix” your problems, it’s just an opportunity to offload.
3. Eat well
Diet can have a profound effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing, with processed meats, packaged meals and sugary snacks all being strongly linked to today’s higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Foods rich in zinc, magnesium, omga-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and B vitamins have been found to reduce anxiety.
4. Create a balanced schedule
Those who find themselves very stressed at work often might be giving too much value to what happens in the workplace. While there’s nothing wrong with trying hard and being ambitious, try to remember that the purpose of work is to enable you to live a great life. If you can learn to change your priorities so that work is not your only priority, you may find that your workplace anxiety will decrease. Analyse your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks and try to find some kind of healthy balance. All work and no play is a recipe for a burnout, so be sure to include time for work, family life, social activities, solitary pursuits, daily duties and downtime.
5. Leave earlier in the morning
Rushing to your desk every morning will leave you feeling flustered and add to your stress levels. Try leaving 15 minutes earlier each morning and slow down your commute. Leaving a little earlier will let you ease into your day. This may also mean that you miss the worst part of rush hour, meaning you will have a more relaxed journey.
6. Learn when to say no and when to delegate
Over-committing yourself to many projects might mean you simply have too much on your plate. Firstly, understand when to say no, and then find ways to delegate tasks you don’t need to do yourself. Let go of the desire to control everything and realise you can’t do it all on your own. It’s okay to ask for help.
7. Break projects up and prioritise
If a large project seems overwhelming, break it up into smaller tasks and create a step-by-step plan. Focus on the most manageable and important tasks first, and before you know it there will be light at the end of the tunnel. You could also try getting the most unpleasant of tasks done first so that the rest of the project seems more enjoyable.
8. Improve your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is just as important as intellectual ability, if not more so. It has four major components: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and relationship management. Taking steps to improve these components, such as looking for ways to inspire, influence, and connect with others in your workplace can help distress your work environment. Recognising your own emotions and the impact they have will also help the situation. Laugh more, resolve conflict quickly, and factor in your feelings and those of your colleagues when making decisions.
9. Break bad habits
Workplace anxiety can be the result of some of your own undoings, such as working in a messy environment, always requiring perfection, and trying to control the uncontrollable. Turning these habits around can make an impact on your overall anxiety levels. Understand that no project is ever going to be perfect, and that it doesn’t have to be. File work straight away and keep your desk clear. Look for the good in your work instead of the bad and accept the aspects that are out of your control.
10. Find the “off” button
Carrying your work with you wherever you go can be extremely exhausting, so be sure to hit the “off” switch now and again. Turn your phones and gadgets off between 7pm and 7am, and refrain from checking emails at lunch. Take your sandwich away from your desk and focus on simply eating or chatting with friends.
Exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness and is known to reduce stress and anxiety. Physical activity produces endorphins that act as natural mood-boosters and help promote sleep, which in turn reduces stress. A brisk walk or other simply physical activity can deliver several hours of relief from anxiety, and regular exercise has been shown to have long-term effects. Try aiming for three hours a week of moderate exercise or two hours of rigorous exercise a week. Look for consistency rather than perfection, by including 20 minutes of exercise into each day.
12. Know when to open up
If you feel that your workload is unreasonable or your deadlines are too rushed, talk to your supervisor. Engage them in the process and explain your concerns so that if you miss a deadline, they are aware of the reasons in advance. Telling your boss about your stress and anxiety is a personal decision, and one only you can make. Always seek professional advice if you think you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Where to get support
Getting help now over the phone or online
If you or someone close to you needs help now, there are several phonelines and websites available.
For immediate help in a crisis:
For general mental health support:
Seeing your GP
Your GP can assess you, prescribe some medications, and refer you to a mental health professional if necessary. They can put you on a mental health plan, and this means Medicare may help pay for up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can learn more about the different types of mental health professionals at Healthdirect Australia.
- Treatments for anxiety at BeyondBlue
- Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety at Harvard Medical School
- Exercise and mental health at healthdirect
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified health care professional.
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