10 Ways to Deal with Work Anxiety
People are so overwhelmed at work that it’s costing American companies over 300 billion dollars a year and over $190 billion in healthcare costs.
This is partly because feeling overwhelmed at work manifests itself in increased sick days, decreased productivity, poor mental and physical health, more errors on the job, and increased turnover.
Moreover, stress at work is not just costing us money but also our lives. With a staggering 120,000 deaths annually attributed to work stress, something needs to change.
Let’s just be frank and put it out there that these problems won’t be fixed only by reminding people to take better care of themselves. Taking personal responsibility for our self-care is part of it, yes, but this runs much deeper than that.
1. Process Our Emotions
“So, if you’re mad, get mad!” Isn’t that how the song goes? (I’ll Stand by You by the Pretenders.) Finding healthy outlets for our emotions is a key aspect of processing and being able to truly move on.
“Name it to tame it,” is a phrase coined by Dr. Dan Siegel about the power of labeling an emotion to reduce its impact. Examples of this could be journaling or talking things out with someone. Honestly, this step really needs to come first as it is extremely difficult to think clearly when we are feeling very emotional.
2. Be Aware of Negative and Judgmental Self-Talk
Are we staying late at the office and missing time with friends (or our dog) because our internal critic is telling us that if we don’t get this project done, we are a lazy, underperforming blob of an employee? This type of self-talk is not productive or healthy.
We can overcome this by becoming aware of the story we are telling ourself and the judgment that accompanies it. This is the most important step by far. These stories and criticisms we tell ourselves that keep us working crazy hours and provoke toxic anxiety are the same cockamamie stories that prevent us from taking the time we need to take care of ourselves.
3. Question Our Beliefs
Once we notice the narrative we are telling ourself, take a step back and try to see it for what it is. “Is this really true? Why do I believe that? Is there any evidence to the contrary?”
4. Make New Beliefs
Rewrite our story with what feels right to us. Luckily, we are our own authors, and we get to choose the things we tell ourselves. It doesn’t sound like much, but the power of perspective and authentic positive thinking can be monumental. It’s healthy to evaluate our internal beliefs and self-talk from time to time.
5. Be Clear on What we Want
Be clear on what we want and how we’d like things to be different. Do I want to work a zillion hours a week and then be too tired/anxious/grumpy to do anything else in my life? What are my priorities and does my situation now reflect that?
6. Talk to our Supervisor
Talk to our supervisor to clarify expectations. Are we holding ourself to implied or self-imposed expectations? Or have they explicitly been set by our employer?
7. Have a Solid Support System
Having a solid support system helps prevent us from being overwhelmed by work anxiety. They can be our friends, family, life coach, psychologist, teammates, social groups—whoever feels supportive, positive, and encouraging.
8. Brutally Assess What we Can and Can’t Control.
This step is important as it dictates the actions we have to choose to move forward. I used to wish I would win the lottery, but the time and energy spent on that didn’t get me anywhere. Changing my work hours, taking some classes, and cutting back some expenses did.
9. Develop an Action Plan
Develop an action plan based on our findings. It’s not all going to change at once. Start with one small thing, and keep chipping away until we get wherever we want to go.
10. Talk to Someone in HR
Talk to our supervisor or someone from HR about our concerns and struggles. Find out about our options and any assistance they may be able to offer.