Whether or not you've ever been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you've probably felt, at least sometimes, like you have symptoms of stress and anxiety (it probably feels like intense fear or a severe anxious sensation surrounding your job).
Maybe you’re intimidated by your boss or feeling anxious because you’ve just got way too much on your plate. Whatever the trigger of your anxiety is, you’ll want to find some ways to manage your stress, prioritize your mental health and figure out how to deal with anxiety so that it’s not debilitating. You also need to identify the root cause of your anxiety and understand how it is affecting your life in order to really solve the problem once and for all.
5 signs of debilitating work anxiety
Sure, some amount of pressure is healthy and can keep you motivated. But there are some signs you're suffering from work anxiety that's out of control.
1. Excessive or irrational worrying.
You worry about work all the time. You often experience racing or invasive thoughts about your work stressors that keep you from fully experiencing the rest of your life.
2. Trouble falling or staying asleep.
You may struggle to fall asleep because you are worried about work or having invasive thoughts about your to-do list. You may also suffer from stress-induced nightmares.
3. Feeling jittery, shaking or trembling.
You may always feel on edge and full of nervous energy. This may manifest itself in your physical body, resulting in shaking extremities, fidgeting or humming.
4. A racing heart.
If your heart is always racing or pounding in your chest when you're thinking about work (or when you have a sudden thought about work while you're trying to cook dinner or work out), you may be suffering from serious work anxiety.
5. Fatigue or tiredness.
If you feel worn out just about all the time — or especially during or after work — your work anxiety may be causing mental and physical fatigue that's impacting your quality of life.
If you're suffering from these signs, you need to take some action that’ll help you chill out and enjoy your life and the people around you.
7 ways to deal with anxiety at work
Here are some strategies that will help you crush your debilitating thoughts and help you sleep through the night... and make it through the next day without biting off all your nails.
1. Don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed.
Seriously, don’t. If you're wondering how to deal with anxiety, especially work-related fear, this should be a priority. Yes, there are still old school alarm clocks - so that’s not an excuse. You’re staring at a screen for enough hours every day; it doesn’t need to be (slash absolutely shouldn’t be) the last thing your mind experiences before bed and the first thing you do when you wake up.
Checking your work email during these times is bound to make you worry, spike up your nerves and make you more stressed during two moments that should be peaceful. Start your sleep — and then your day — by clearing your mind without stressing about what’s to come.
2. At the end of each work day, take note of what’s on your agenda for tomorrow.
You don’t need to write a long report each evening, but jot down some thoughts, notes or a quick list of things you want to accomplish the next day. Planning ahead a bit and creating a brief to-do list will save you from feeling overwhelmed when you arrive at your desk the next morning.
3. Move it, move it.
A.K.A., exercise. Maybe you feel like there’s just no time to exercise during the workday. And sometimes there isn’t. But whenever you can - even if it’s for 20 minutes two or three times a week - get your butt to the gym, to a yoga class where you can focus on deep breathing, or jog around your ’hood. Exercising relieves stress, so even if you’re feeling overwhelmed about trying to fit a workout into your schedule, you’ll feel a lot better after getting a quick sweat session in.
Your workout can also be a good time to reflect. There’s no better time than while you’re running to try to figure out how to resolve whatever’s been keeping you up at night.
4. Give yourself a break.
This doesn’t just mean “don’t beat yourself up.” Give yourself an actual break. It doesn’t have to be an hour lunch break (do those even exist?)...but go outside -- even if for 15 minutes -- to get some sun, a coffee or some food. You’ll be more at ease and productive if you let yourself take a breather once or twice a day.
5. Relax after a stressful day.
After you leave the office, stop thinking about work. Meditate. Take a bubble bath. Do some deep breathing exercises. Take a walk. Whatever relaxes you and gives you some distance from the day, do it. That will help you separate your work life from your home life and allow you to stay calm.
6. Set aside designated time to stress.
In a 2011 study, Penn State researchers found that designating a 30-minute period of time to worry and putting away your anxieties until that time could help people manage their stress. The process involves thinking of a time and place to have this worry session and consciously making an effort to put aside your stressors until then.
7. If it’s really too much, talk to your manager.
You might be concerned that it will seem like you can’t handle your job. But you also may just have way too much going on -- and your manager likely isn’t aware of everything that you’re doing. If your workload has become unreasonable, talk to someone about it before you explode. People will respect you for being responsible and assertive about what’s doable, especially if it’s clear that you’ll be more productive if you have a bit more support.
Finally, take a step back, clear your mind, and remember that your job is temporary. It’s only one part of your life, and while it’s an important one, you can always explore other options if it’s starting to feel like a parasite or you're constantly on the verge of a panic attack. Your day-to-day life should feel full and happy.
And if you like what you’re doing (besides the parts that cause nightmares) -- and you feel like your anxiety is more a function of your personality than your actual job -- try to remember that work is work, and it’s going to be stressful sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad days, but no job is worth compromising your sanity.