If you deal with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults have an anxiety disorder. While most people with anxiety try to cope on their own, some circumstances are more challenging than others. One of the biggest challenges for many people with anxiety is how to manage it while at work. Here are some strategies to help you deal with anxiety on the job:
• Build in Systems to Make Work Easier and Decrease Anxiety
You can do a lot to reduce your anxiety at work by creating systems and shortcuts designed to minimize chaos and stress. Chaos is a surefire recipe for anxiety.
Avoid the stress of the last-minute rush by working on projects right away instead of procrastinating.
Use reminders in your phone or on your computer to stay on top of deadlines.
Keep an organized desk and workspace as well. You’ll appreciate being able to easily find the files you need.
• Set Appropriate Boundaries
Many people have trouble setting appropriate boundaries at work. We often think we should say yes to everything that’s requested of us, whether it’s staying at work until 10 pm (again) or picking up a coworker’s slack. While it’s important to be a team player and take on extra work when needed, it’s also essential to avoid burnout.
Realistically, doing well on the job may sometimes require saying yes to extra work when you would rather say no. But remember that you do have a right to say no at times as well, especially when the request is too frequent or routinely comes from a peer rather than a boss.
• Treat Yourself Well
Proactive efforts will help you to manage your anxiety at work. All the things you’ve heard about as good for your health are even more important when you’re dealing with anxiety.
Make sure you get enough sleep on a regular basis. Many people, especially women, stay up too late every night to get some time alone. This can backfire when you’re too sleep-deprived to function well later.
Similarly, eat a healthy diet and get some regular exercise. Nutrition and exercise play a major role in anxiety—both in relieving it or making it worse.
Use caution with caffeine as too much can exacerbate anxiety.
• Take Advantage of Available Resources
Many employers offer a variety of assistance programs to increase workplace satisfaction and productivity. Some of these programs may be offered through your employer’s health insurance plan. You may be able to get three to six sessions with a counselor at no additional charge to you.
Should You Tell Your Employer?
Whether to tell your employer about your anxiety is a personal decision. The law is on your side if you do choose to tell. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act protects against employment discrimination for people with conditions that affect their ability to work— this includes anxiety. You have little choice but to tell your employer if you need accommodations for your anxiety. However, there are many ways to treat anxiety without medication so that you can avoid needing long-term accommodations.
Beyond that, there are pros and cons to disclosure. On one hand, your disclosure could bring greater awareness to the issue. But some people choose not to tell to avoid the unfortunate stigma that still remains.
Regardless of whether you choose to be open with your employer, it can be useful to have at least one trusted friend at work to tell about your anxiety.
Don’t Give Up
On days when your anxiety is at its worst, quitting your job can seem like a welcome relief. But it’s important to remember that most research shows that having a job is good for your self-esteem. Keep your focus on your accomplishments and let go of the rest. Your workplace is better with you in it!
Take the first step…
There are many ways to treat anxiety these days that do not involve medication or years of therapy. You can truly get to a point where your anxiety is a thing of the past.
If you’re ready to take a step toward dealing with your anxiety, I would like to help. Please contact me by phone or by email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT