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8 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety in the Workplace

Deep breaths—you've got this

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If you struggle with anxiety at work, you're not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the United States—roughly 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, and women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. 

As if dealing with anxiety in your daily life outside work isn’t enough, dealing with anxiety and stress in the workplace can be even more taxing when that’s where you spend the bulk of your time. Meeting deadlines, tiptoeing around toxic coworkers, and public speaking can contribute to workplace anxiety— decreasing your performance and leaving you feeling isolated. 

It’s important to always remember:

  • Your feelings are valid. Anxiety is a mental and physical condition. Your feelings are completely legitimate, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

  • You’re not alone by far. More than 18 percent of the adult population suffers from some form of anxiety. 

  • You won’t get fired if you have a panic attack at work. Despite the unfortunate truth that there’s still a stigma attached to anxiety and mental health disorders, your boss is human and will most likely understand your situation. If your boss is not understanding, it might be time to look for a new job—one that is more flexible and offers more wellness initiatives

Read more: How to Get a Better Job Sooner Than Later

Here are eight tips for dealing with anxiety in the workplace (whether you’ve been formally diagnosed or not):

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1. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

One of the main ways to manage high levels of stress at work is to sleep more. Sleep is proven to improve your memory, boost your creativity, revive your mood, and keep your heart healthy. Can’t sleep? See below. 

2. Meet with your doctor and/or therapist

There’s no shame in seeking help and treatment—in fact, it’s the best thing you can do for your mental health. If the thought of going into a therapy office gives you the shivers, check out Talkspace, an online therapy site that will match you with a licensed therapist after you take a quick assessment. You can message your therapist from anywhere, like your desk, whenever you need to throughout the day.

3. Keep a work journal

Keeping a record of your thoughts and emotions throughout the day can sometimes help you pinpoint what exactly is making you anxious. If not, staying organized and aware of your goals, upcoming deadlines, and meetings can help ease your nerves. 

Read more: Why You Should Keep a Work Journal

4. Try to identify your stressors and onset symptoms

This isn’t always possible (hi, generalized anxiety, we know you make us anxious for no particular reason at all), but if you have a specific phobia, you should try to figure out how your anxiety manifests itself. For example, if you know that juggling multiple projects makes you anxious and that anxiety manifests with a cold sweat at first—take a break and get some fresh air. When you feel a panic attack coming on, have a plan of how to handle it. 

5. Work with your anxiety, not against it

I know I’m not the only one who gets red in the face when tasked with public speaking, interviewing, or meeting with new clients...as well as sweaty palms, weak knees, and heavy arms, just like the great Eminem. If you’re worried your mind will go blank in a presentation, keep a few notecards with key points in your pocket. If your face gets beet red, don’t worry about it—let it happen and make a joke if you want. Everyone can sympathize with nerves. 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for an In-Person Interview

6. Always celebrate your successes

Stayed true to your ethics at work? Landed a new client? Defused a conflict between coworkers? Celebrate it. Always give yourself credit for a job well done, and show yourself that you’re worthy of praise. 

Read more: How to Finally Kick Imposter Syndrome

7. Take a personal day or even a vacation—you deserve it

Prioritizing self-care is super important when dealing with anxiety, and taking some time for yourself can help you reset your mind, ease your nerves, realign your goals, and simply allow you to let go and relax. Identify what makes you happy outside work (cooking, reading, running, etc.), and make the time to let yourself recharge. 

Read more: Why You Should Take a Personal Day, According to Research

8. Finally, talk to your boss

Only one-fourth of workers diagnosed with an anxiety disorder have told their employers. Some fear their boss will interpret anxiety as lack of interest in their responsibilities, that it will affect promotional opportunities, or that it will go in their thick, scary permanent file with a huge red “X” across their name. But that’s not true. Vulnerability does not equal weakness, and filling your boss in on your situation will only strengthen your bond, and help you create a plan that works for both of you.

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Do I Talk About Mental Health with My Boss—or Prospective Employer?

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By Cara Hutto

Contributor

Born and raised a Tar Heel, Cara Hutto is a content writer and freelancer who specializes in women's issues, food, and travel.

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