What is workplace anxiety?
Workplace anxiety is the feeling of being stressed, tense, uneasy, and overwhelmed about your duties or environment at work. This anxiety can revolve around your job performance, socializing with co-workers, and public speaking. Some stress at work is normal, though when becoming unmanageable, it can impede your functioning in other areas of your life outside of work. Uncontrollable stress will negatively impact your mental and physical health.
It is more prevalent in our culture than some think; 40% of Americans report feeling stressed during the workday. This level of stress can lead to symptoms of cognitive-motivational processing and performance issues, emotional exhaustion, self-regulatory processing decline, absenteeism, and disability leave of absence.
Identifying you have anxiety in the workplace
Workplace anxiety can be debilitating and often result in symptoms that cause problems in your professional and personal life. Signs to look out for are:
- You may experience worry while driving to work
- Stress can present financial problems
- You may be overthinking about interacting with your co-workers
- Worry about your participation in meetings
- Worry about your performance being reviewed
- Stress that you’re giving a presentation
- Worried about meeting deadlines
When stress and worry become unmanageable, you find that your performance when self-evaluating looks like this:
- Late to work, or calling in sick and loss of productivity
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Over-focus on yourself or perceived judgment of others at work
- Somatic symptoms of body/muscle tension, upset stomach or digestive issues, loss of appetite, undereating or overeating, and headaches
You may also find that you are short-tempered, irritable, agitated, and have symptoms spill over into your personal life.
Causes of Anxiety in the Workplace
Often it is many issues that cause workplace anxiety. It creates an overwhelming, unmanageable metaphoric heavy weight on the shoulders.
- Conflict with co-workers is left unresolved.
- Feeling a loss of control of the work environment or duties
- Feeling lack of job security
- Short deadlines
- Competitive with a lack of sense of job security
- Work duties are too difficult or unclear
- An unpredictable environment
Other situations that cause anxiety in the workplace can be your personal life spilling over in the work environment. This spillover causes distraction, lack of concentration, low motivation, lack of confidence, and difficulty managing emotions. When left to continue, it causes the severity of symptoms leading to mental health issues.
Managing your workplace anxiety
- Talk to a Manager: Not everyone feels comfortable initiating a conversation with their manager about concerns. Though if you feel there is an opportunity to have a solution-based discussion, it may help and may provide accommodations that could improve your work performance and stress and worry.
- Talk to a Co-Worker: Speaking to a trusted co-worker about what you are experiencing could lend you some social support and decrease your sense of feeling alone, lowering your stress level.
- Look at what you have control over and what you don’t have control over
- Break down tasks into steps, so to focus on one thing at a time
- Follow a schedule
- Use calming techniques such as listening to music, taking breaks to get up and walk away from your workspace/go outside, and stretching.
- Practice mindfulness techniques
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour to get enough sleep
- Take time outside of your work hours to do things you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, spending time outside, exercising/staying physically active
- Avoid misusing alcohol or drugs. They will increase symptoms. If you are taking psychotropic medications for symptoms, it is essential to follow the guidance of your physician and take them as prescribed.
Coronavirus and mental health issues for employees
This pandemic has changed the way people live and work. Many workplace environments are understaffed and overworked. Individuals may be showing up in fear every day, not just fear of getting sick, but the loss of income, bringing the virus home to their families, ambivalence over vaccinations, and fear they are not protected.
Individuals must acknowledge the difficulties in managing the workplace with coronavirus and take steps to manage our mental health. Talk openly about the struggles with co-workers and managers about solutions, expectations, and mental health resources.
Workplace Anxiety Treatment in Orange County
If workplace anxiety symptoms worsen and are unmanageable, you can seek mental health treatment. Mental health treatment serves to help individuals get back in the driver’s seat of life. First Light Recovery offers anxiety treatment in Orange County, CA.
- National Institute on Mental Health
- APA PsycNet: Cheng BH, McCarthy JM. Understanding the dark and bright sides of anxiety: A theory of workplace anxiety. J Appl Psychol. 2018;103(5):537-560. doi:10.1037/apl0000266
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention