How to Identify and Address Anxiety at Work

For many people, a lot of their lives are spent at work. Statistically speaking, it is estimated that people who work full time spend more than half their waking lives working or doing things related to work. Given the sheer amount of time that people spend working, it is natural that they may develop some anxieties related to their career, the workplace, their colleagues, bosses, or general life balance. This is a normal occurrence for any job, not just high-stress or high-stakes careers. Even experienced professionals who are good at their job (and like it!) may be affected by common workplace stressors such as performance anxiety, imposter syndrome and burn out. 

The good news is, we can help you identify signs of workplace stress and offer tips and coping skills to help you successfully face workplace anxiety, problem solve, and seek support. For more information on coping skills and therapy for workplace anxiety in Chicago, keep reading. 

Anxiety at Work

It is no surprise that emotional well-being is closely linked to physical health and productivity (and vice versa). Anxiety at work can affect employees' productivity, motivation, and overall well-being. It can also have long-term impacts, leading to burnout and other mental health issues. 

If you are an employer, it’s crucial to create a supportive workplace culture that fosters open communication, provides adequate resources for mental health support, and encourages work-life balance. By addressing anxiety in the workplace, employers can help their employees feel more comfortable and confident, leading to a more productive and engaged workforce. Pure Health Center offers corporate wellness programs specifically targeting these concerns and many of the following anxiety provoking scenarios. 

Some common anxieties at work are related to:

  1. Meeting Deadlines: Employees may experience anxiety when they have to meet tight deadlines and complete projects on time. The fear of not being able to complete the work within the deadline can cause anxiety.
  2. Workload: Heavy workloads and tight schedules can lead to feelings of overwhelm, stress, and anxiety. When employees feel overwhelmed by their workload, they may experience anxiety.
  3. Conflict with Colleagues: Interpersonal conflicts can cause anxiety and stress in the workplace. Employees may fear being disliked, rejected, or judged by their colleagues, leading to anxiety.
  4. Performance Appraisals: Performance appraisals can be a source of anxiety for employees, especially if they fear they will receive negative feedback or not meet their employer's expectations.
  5. Public Speaking: Presenting in front of a group can cause anxiety and fear for many employees. The fear of making a mistake or being judged can cause anxiety and stress.
  6. Job Security: Fear of losing one's job can cause anxiety and stress. In uncertain economic times, job security concerns can be a significant source of anxiety.
  7. Workplace Culture: A toxic workplace culture can cause anxiety and stress for employees. When employees feel unsupported, undervalued, or mistreated, they may experience anxiety.
  8. Technology and System Changes: Changes in technology and systems can be stressful for employees. Learning new systems and adapting to new ways of working can be a source of anxiety.
  9. Fear of Failure: Fear of making mistakes or failing to meet expectations can cause anxiety in the workplace. Employees may fear that they will not perform well, leading to anxiety.
  10. Professional Development: The pressure to continually improve and develop professionally can be a source of anxiety for employees. The fear of not keeping up with the latest trends and skills can cause anxiety.

Many of these fears are rooted in a lack of confidence in one’s ability to complete the tasks requested of them, in the expected way, and within the given time limit. When those employees don’t feel particularly supported by their superiors or colleagues, workplace anxiety is likely to take root. Even when someone is doing well, performance anxiety may keep them stuck. These feelings of unease are related to the fear of performing to a degree that will generate expectations of even greater success.  

Another common type of anxiety people experience in their workplace is imposter syndrome. This actually is more of a phenomenon than an actual syndrome/diagnosis. 

A woman of color shakes hands with a businessman looking insecure and dealing with imposter syndrome, among other symptoms of anxiety at work.

Imposter syndrome is defined as doubting one’s own abilities and feeling like a fraud at work. Basically, those with imposter syndrome do not believe they deserve the position or success they earned. Imposter syndrome is very commonly experienced by women who have roles of power or leadership, or are in typically male-dominated professions, but it can affect anyone. “Symptoms” of this include insecurities, doubts, and you guessed it…anxiety. 

What Can Be Done?

Here are some useful tips to help you create better work/life balance, decrease anxiety at work and utilize coping skills when you do experience anxiety in the workplace. 

  1. Take regular breaks. 

Make taking breaks a priority throughout the day. Some people prefer shorter but more frequent breaks, while others prefer one or two longer breaks throughout the work day. Take time to eat lunch (without working during it!), take a walk, get some fresh air, or read a chapter of your book. Just make sure you are taking breaks from work to regulate your stress. 

  1. Create boundaries. 

Whether it is not checking your work email during non-working hours, taking your work email off your personal cell phone or not sharing your personal cell phone with co-workers/colleagues, set boundaries that help you separate work from home (ESPECIALLY if you work from home!). Once you set the boundaries, make it a priority to stick with them and advocate for them.

  1. Practice self-care. 

No matter what you do for work, you need to make sure you are practicing self-care in your free time to boost your morale and de-stress. Figure out what you like to do, and make it non-negotiable in your daily routine to do it. Remember, it is best to manage stress regularly to keep it at bay instead of waiting to address it until it becomes unmanageable or uncomfortable. Try: walks, mindfulness exercises or any of these distress tolerance pleasurable activities to see what piques your interest! 

A man exiting the steps of his corporate office looking downcast and dealing with burnout from workplace anxiety.

Fortunately, identifying work anxieties  is the first step to mitigating them and learning healthy, positive coping skills to help them. Ignoring anxiety at work can lead to burn out, which is a workplace phenomena that refers to chronic workplace stress often due to factors such as unfair treatment at work, unmanageable workload, lack of support from leadership, lack of role clarity and unreasonable time pressure. 

Remember: your performance/professionalism at work is only as good as your well-being. Though most workplaces have policies and regulations in place to help manage their employee’s mental health and job satisfaction, it is important to be able to advocate for your needs to be a successful professional in your workplace.

For more information on anxiety, dealing with stress and positive coping skills, see how we can help you and your mental health today at our Chicago-based practice.  

And if you’re an employer, consider reaching out to us about our corporate wellness programs and how we can support your workforce. 

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