Dealing with Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace & How to Cope
There is no doubt about it, there is not one single job out there that won’t cause you some form of stress or anxiety at one point or another. Work wouldn’t be called work if it was easy peasy and stress-free. For someone without mental health disorders, work can have its moments where you feel like you’re about to lose your mind and you just want everything to pause for a moment. For people who struggle with mental health disorders, it can become even more challenging because you’re already dealing with daily battles inside your mind that no one else knows about.
There are some things that you can do and try to help relieve some of that stress and anxiety while you are at work. Plus, there are some changes you may be able to make to help keep you from losing your mind and feeling like you’re going to have a meltdown.
One way you can help minimize stress at work is to make sure that you stay organized. Create lists and outlines of things that you need to do and get done. Create documents with important phone numbers and email addresses that make it easy to find the numbers of the contacts you need to get in touch with. One app that has been helpful with staying organized is called Microsoft To-Do. You can create multiple lists and categories that can help keep you organized. You can also add notifications and due dates. I’ve also found that, depending on the type of work you do, if you have a lot of different logins and passwords to manage, try purchasing or creating a password log book. This way you can keep all your usernames and passwords in one place. Any way that you can think of that would help you stay organized is helpful.
Ask for Help
Sometimes we are taught how to do certain tasks at work that we might not be able to fully figure out right away on our own. Or maybe you’re swamped with work and have deadlines to meet and are falling behind. Perhaps you’re new and are learning certain tasks for the first time. What ever the reason, if there is something that you are not understanding, it is always best to ask for help from someone who knows exactly what to do. It is better to ask for help and learn how to do things correctly instead of guessing and further sinking into confusion. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. We all need help from time to time. Everyone learns at different paces, so if you have need extra help with completing a task because you don’t understand you could try writing down the steps that they are taking while they are teaching you so you have it documented and will know how to complete a specific task.
If your swamped and are falling behind, try to find a co-worker who has a light load on the plate or that maybe has some down time to help you with some of your workload. There is no harm in asking for help with your work. The worst they could possibly say is no.
Learn Co-Workers Names & Roles
When you are starting somewhere new, it can be hard to remember who is who and what they actually do. But learning people’s names and roles can make work a bit easier, especially if you have to work directly with others and would need to reach out to a co-worker for any reason or if you have to go find someone who has a specific role. I have found that repeating the person’s name out loud by saying something like, “Hi, Samantha, it’s nice to meet you.” while looking at their face can potentially help you remember the persons name better. It’s the first step for trying to get to know the people you work with. And if you ever forget someone’s name, don’t hesitate to ask them again because most people understand how hard it can be to learn names especially if you work with a lot of people.
Take a Moment
When you are starting to get overwhelmed and stressed at work and you feel like you might lose your head, when it’s possible see if you can walk away from a moment to compose yourself and take some deep breathes. Even if you have to take a trip to the restroom to get a moment to yourself, it’s worth it to able to gather your thoughts for a moment and just be able to breathe. You can even try splashing some cold water on your face to help snap you out of your mood and just try to focus on the cool, refreshing water on your face and how good it feels. When you go back to your work area after taking a moment to yourself, it should help you regain some focus.
Vent to Someone You Can Trust
If you have co-workers that you really get a long with and that you can trust, vent your work frustrations to them while avoiding trashing other co-workers because that can get tricky. Getting out how your feeling can often help you find some relief. Even if you don’t have co-workers you can trust, when you get a chance make a phone call to a close friend or someone you trust and vent about your workday. Don’t let the feelings sit and fester. Maybe the person you are talking to can offer you advice and at least console you and try to make you feel better. You might be able to gain some new perspectives.
Avoid Trashing Co-workers to Other Co-workers
As hard as this may be sometimes, especially when you are stressed, try to avoid trash talking one co-worker to another because you can never be 100 percent sure that what you said will stay between you and the person you’re talking to. You don’t want to get mixed up in workplace drama that could have been prevented. Vent about your co-workers that are irking you to your best friend or your significant other. Someone you know you can trust. You don’t want to get mixed up in the he said, she said triangle that could potentially cause you even more stress. You also want to try to avoid bad mouthing your higher ups to co-workers as well because there is always the chance that it could come back to bite you in the rear end.
Distract Yourself with Some Thinking Putty
Thinking putty can be found at certain craft stores and is usually found in a little tin. All it really is, is some putty like clay or playdough that won’t dry out and that gets softer the more you play with it. Thinking putty or even getting some silly putty (like we used to play with as kids) can help ground you when you roll the putty in between your fingers and squish it around. When you’re anxious or stressed, grab your putty and start to do a brief mindfulness exercise with it. Focus on your senses while playing with the putty. Think about all five senses; touch, smell, taste, hearing, and vision.
Think about how the putty feels in your hand. What is the texture like? What does it feel like? Then think about how it smells. What does it smell like? Does it remind you of anything? Then think about how you think the putty would taste and the kind of texture it would give you in your mouth. Would it be squishy? But don’t really taste the putty. Then think about the sounds it makes as your playing with it in your hands. What does it sound like and does it remind you of anything? Finally, focus on how it looks. What color is it? Is it in a certain shape? Does it resemble something else.
By the time you run through all five senses, it should only take a few minutes to complete. By the time you’re done with this mindfulness exercise you should feel some relief from the stress and anxiety. This has been known to hold ground people and bring them back into the moment.
Take Some Deep Calming Breathes
When we are stressed or anxious it affects how we are breathing and for some people their breathing can become shallower and/or rapid and not taking in the full amount of air. So, taking a moment to take some deep calming breathes can help lower your heart rate. According to Vital Health and Vein, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps lower your heart rate and dilates the blood vessels which, in turn, helps to lower your blood pressure as well and as your body starts to realize that your breathing has slowed your brain associates it with a state of relaxation. The more deep breathes you get to take, the better you may start to feel.
I know many people suggest deep breathing as their first choice or thought when it comes to stress and anxiety relief. That’s why you hear so many people tell others to “relax and just try to breathe” during times of stress and it actually works. Deep breathing is something simple that you can do anywhere, at any time.
Use Neutral Language
This next tip comes from Psycom, when you are interacting with your co-workers try to use neutral language. Psycom says that disagreements are more manageable when you start with a statement such as, “Here’s what I am thinking…” and ending it with, “What are you thinking?”
It can make people feel like they have some input and it could make them more willing to listen to you and hear you out. You could also try statements like, “What could we do about this issue?” or “How could we prevent this from happening in the future?” By using the word “We” in the sentences it can make people feel more involved and like you actually care about what their thoughts and opinions.
Avoid Lashing Out & Acknowledge Your Anxiety or Stress
Sometimes we have no choice but to feel our overpowering anxieties and stressors while at work. When your stress levels are high, some people tend to lash out at others easier. You start to raise your tone or perhaps you start to increase the volume of your voice. When you take your stress out on others it can hinder work relationships and cause more problems that you already have. Some people may even lash back out at you which will further dampen your mood. Sometimes we have to play pretend for a little and try to watch our tone and volume and act like everything is fine externally when really, your insides feel like they’re crawling.
Acknowledge how you are feeling, and try to breathe deep, as you think about other times you were anxious and weren’t able to do anything about it but focus more on how those feelings eventually passed and you felt better. Keep telling yourself that what you are feeling is temporary and that by the end of the work day you’ll be able to unwind.
Some people name their anxiety and talk to it by saying things like, “Okay Bessy (or whatever you choose to name your anxiety), I know that you’re here but it’s time to go now.” Having a conversation with your anxiety can also sometimes distract yourself enough to feel some relief.
Go for a Walk on Your Lunch Break
If you are able to, on really stressful or anxiety producing days, try to talk a brief walk during your lunch break or whenever possible. Exercise has been known to elevate your mood. You get to breathe in some fresh air and clear your mind. You might even feel like a new person by the time your walk is over.
These are just a few of the ways that you could try to reduce your stress and anxiety while at work. Stress and anxiety are things that can’t be avoided and happen to pretty much everyone.
For some people, it’s harder to deal with than others. Create a list of the coping techniques that have worked for your stress and anxiety and keep it on you so that in case you start to become overwhelmed and can’t think of techniques off the top of your head at the moment, you’ll have something to fall back on.
Some of the tips and coping techniques listed above can also be helpful even when you are not at work. Try them out and see which ones work best for you, and don’t forget to add them to your list! The more you practice coping techniques, even while you are in a good mental place, the better they tend to work when you need them the most. Plus, the more your practice them the easier they are to remember during times of high stress or anxiety.
Advice, Anxiety, Articles, Featured, Health & Wellness, Mental Health, Samantha Steiner, Tips & Techniques
Samantha View All
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.
I work at home now but when I used to work at an office I remember how great it felt to get fresh air on my lunch break with a walk. After sitting for hours, it’s great to get moving. Even just standing up to stretch every hour can be helpful. Terrific tips here for reducing stress and anxiety on the job!
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Thank you so much, Christy! That means a lot. I currently work in an office so I’m always looking for any excuse to get up 😆
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Great tips! Work place stress is a challenge many face on a regular basis. Unfortunately, most employers don’t have resources readily available to support their staff.