anxiety at work

Anxiety at work: Part 7 of anxiety series

Do you have trouble managing anxiety at work?

“My anxiety is silent. You wouldn’t even notice a change on the outside but I’m honestly so stressed I can’t even manage simple tasks. People call me lazy when, in reality, I’m just overwhelmed.” (HealthyPlace)

Which of your co-workers lives with anxiety?  Are any of them in therapy? Do they take medication?

The likely answer is that you have no idea.  Many times we attribute symptoms of anxiety to personality flaws.

That person is lazy.

They never get their work done on time.

They’re not good with people.

He really bombed that presentation.

In reality, anxiety is a silent illness that affects 40 million Americans in the US each year.  That equals roughly 18% of the population in this country, or nearly 1 in 5 people.  

So, to answer the question above, if you work with 100 people, 18 of them suffer from some form of anxiety.  It just might be hard to tell which ones.

Anxiety at work is the sixth fact that I wanted to talk about in this series.  The series is based off of a post about anxiety that I wrote several months ago.

It affects millions of people every year, and many do not speak up until it gets to be more than they can handle.

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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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Anxiety at work

Anxiety was a major factor at all of my post-college jobs. (I am going to lump my irritability that is a result of my bipolar disorder with anxiety, because I think they can be similar.)  At my first post-college job, I got hired as a teacher’s assistant at my old school district. I worked with kids with learning disabilities and special needs. It was hard work. Very, very rewarding but hard.  I ended up leaving the position after 2 years due to massive interpersonal conflict.

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Likely, these conflicts I was having were due to my mental illness.  

  • For one thing, I had a hard time relating to other people.
  • I was very anxious about confrontation.
  • I don’t do well with not being liked.  (At least, in that stage of my life, that was true. This was 10 years ago.)
  • I am a bit absent-minded.

All of this led to a shit storm of little things where ultimately, my boss said, “I like you as a person, but maybe you should quit.”

Ouch.

It took me a long time to realize that my failure there wasn’t due to character flaws.

  • I’m not unfriendly.
  • I can work well under pressure.
  • I don’t need to be liked.
  • My flightyness is not my fault.

It took a lot of doing work on myself to realize that my health was the issue, and I needed to get well. The book The Four Agreements really helped me while I was in the process of healing.

Has that ever happened to you?  Your emotional health got in the way of your job performance?  Or maybe you do not live with anxiety, but you are reading this to better understand your employees or peers in the workplace.

The main thing to remember is that anxiety is incredibly common.  

How to spot it in a friend

Maybe you’re not the anxious one.  Maybe your loved one is suffering from anxiety.  As I mentioned in my previous post about anxiety, it is incredibly common.  40 million adults live in the United States live with anxiety per year, and approximately 4-5 million children.

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Here are some common symptoms of anxiety at work:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor communication
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Obvious nervous symptoms
  • Frequent bathroom breaks
  • Keeping their office door closed while working
  • Taking longer breaks or lunches
  • Skipping out on happy hour or other workplace activities

If your coworker has even one or more of these symptoms, they are possibly living with some form of anxiety.  Speaking from experience, these are awful feelings to live with, and they can be the reason that many anxious people find themselves not speaking up.

What you can do to manage anxiety

This article about anxiety at work gives an awesome list of ways you can manage your symptoms while working, and I will add a few of my own at the end.  Here are theirs.

  • Work. (The article states that completing tasks can boost your self-esteem, and I agree.)
  • Tell a trusted coworker. 
  • Educate yourself.
  • Practice time management. 
  • Plan and prepare. 
  • Do it right the first time. 
  • Be realistic. 
  • Ask for help. 
  • Communicate. 
  • Stay organized. 
  • Avoid toxic coworkers. 
  • Take breaks. 
  • Set boundaries. 
  • Savor success. 
  • Plan a vacation. 
  • Take advantage of employer resources and benefits.
  • Be healthy.

I would add the following suggestions:

Make sure you get help.  

If you are not taking care of yourself, you are going to struggle to be successful in the workplace.  An unwell person is not able to think as clearly, because their mind is often preoccupied with symptoms of their illness.  Especially in the case of someone with anxiety, we are very predisposed to obsess about our health.

Exercise.

Exercise is so important for overall physical and mental wellness.  It releases feel good brain chemicals that ease our mind and give us a boost of energy to get through the day.  It’s not a cure for anxiety, but it can help you to manage the severity of your symptoms.

Take your medication.

My anxiety and depression make me forgetful, and that is very common.  But it is very important that you do what you can to remember to take your medicine.  I am a fan of setting reminders on my phone. You can also ask a friend or partner to keep you accountable by reminding you.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep is life.  Same with exercise, it is not going to cure your anxiety.  But find me a person that does not feel a little better after getting quality sleep.  There are lots of ways you can freshen up your sleep habits, so make sure you are sleeping enough, but not too much, and that it is restful.

Go out there, and get to work.

Ultimately, the working world was not for me.  Not necessarily because of my mental health. I just personally was not happy there.  I’m grateful to be able to stay home with my children. But these tips can apply to anyone.  Corporate workers, retail employees, nurses, teachers, stay at home parents…  

We all need to be doing what we can to nip our anxiety in the bud before it affects our job.  I never advocate hiding who you are, but the reality is that a lot of workplaces are not sympathetic to people like us.  

anxiety at work, managing anxiety at work

They don’t care that you’re having a hard day.  They don’t care that it was difficult enough to get out of bed. That’s just a sad reality in our current day and age. Things are getting better, but there is still a long way to go.

I know this from personal experience. 

So what we need to do is take care of ourselves and get well. 

Related Reading- Loneliness: The workplace anxiety of the “new normal”

Do you live with anxiety at work? Share your story in the comments, and make sure to share the article!

It’s not easy, but you can get to a place where you can work in peace without your symptoms affecting your job.


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Related posts about managing anxiety:

Facts About Anxiety

7 Interesting Facts About Anxiety

Anxiety: What It Is and What You Can Do

Anxiety and Loneliness

46 thoughts on “Anxiety at work: Part 7 of anxiety series”

  1. These are all great tips to manage anxiety at work! It’s not easy having anxiety and trying to function like a “normal” person. The way I look at it is this; we all have our own unique quirks that make us who we are. Focus on taking care of ourselves with healthy habits and exercise, and just embrace who we are. Definitely be open to letting a worker or boss know where you’re coming from so they can allow you the time to get into a rhythm that works for you.

  2. Anxiety at work can be the worst, it can really eat into how you feel and how you are coping. I don’t think I could manage a proper job at all and I think goodness for blogging. Anxiety is part of the reason for that.

    1. Hey Sarah, I’m sorry that anxiety hits you so hard. It really is tough. But hang in there. Just do what you can and hopefully the anxiety finds a way to dissipate a little. Thanks for reading!

  3. I work from home and I get nervous about some of the things I have to do. I try to take deep breaths and calm myself. I know my husband in the military has his anxious days.

  4. My anxiety used to be awful at work, I’d be irritable and just constantly on edge, and in the worst cases I’d have a terrible upset stomach. I found that the best way for me to deal with things was often just to knuckle down and focus as best as I could, and I sometimes think because of the adrenaline I’d end up getting so much more done 😂 I’ve been a lot better the last few months where we’ve been working from home but I still occasionally have days where I’m not feeling 100% – it’ll go one way or the other, I’ll either get on with things and be really productive or I’ll just feel awful and won’t be able to concentrate! Thank you for sharing, I also loved how you highlighted spotting anxiety in a coworker too, it’s so important!

  5. I love when you said anxiety is a silent struggle. That statement is so true. I personally am not a high anxiety person, however I can remember times in my life where I silently struggled with anxiety. These are such great tips and such valuable information people need to know. I will be sharing this with others.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I have anxiety too. I had to leave my last job because of anxiety and depression. It kept getting worse. I’m working from home for now and working on self-care to get my anxiety and depression under control.

  7. I currently keep my medicine and vitamins where I can’t miss them. I forgot my Lexapro for about 5 days at one point. It was not fun for anyone. That deck of affirmations is going to end up in my cart. This seems like something I need. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Yes, keeping them visible is very helpful! I have to put reminders on my phone. Thanks for reading! Let me know how you like the affirmations cards 🙂

  8. Great post and some really important tips for dealing with an anxious co-worker too. Anxiety (combined with OCD) made my last job a living hell and there were some days where all I wanted to do was cry, and others I just hated everyone I came into contact with purely for existing. I feel as though the management were a lot to blame too – they would make out they understood but at the same time if you said you weren’t feeling well you’d be told to man up and get on with it because there was a queue of customers waiting. I’m much better now given I no longer work in the toxic retail environment I used to but I still find at times I get very irritable and I’m best just left alone! I confessed this to my boss and thankfully that now happens and I’m just able to get on with things! X

    1. I find that it’s pretty rare that retail isn’t toxic sadly. Which is a shame, because there are so many entry level positions that can give people work experiences, help young kids learn about earning money etc. It sucks though! Glad things are better now for you 🙂

  9. This is good stuff. Keep putting it out there. Anxiety is a beast and can really wreak havoc when it takes over a life. Disorder or not, it creates illness while it lasts. I love how involved you are in finding solutions for anxiety to benefit others. Thank you!

  10. Great post, as always. I used to work a 9-5, and my anxiety made things really hard. The position was created out of all the tasks my co-workers didn’t want to do, and the workload was too much for one person. But instead of bringing this up with my boss, I struggled through until I had to rage quit for the sake of my own sanity! Thank you for bringing up the fact that a lot of “faults,” are anxiety in disguise, and for guiding people to take care of themselves and seek help when needed.

    1. Ugh that’s hard. When i worked retail full time, a lot of times my anxiety either made me withdrawn or “unfriendly.” It’s so hard. Thanks for reading!

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