Work can be an anxiety-inducing place. You have many tasks to complete, most with short deadlines and some even with unclear instructions. There are ways to handle anxiety in the workplace, and we’re going to be exploring 5 of them here!
One of the causes of anxiety is fear of the unknown or of what might happen next. Try to mitigate that by planning and preparing your workload. Practice time management solutions such as making daily to-do lists, keeping a calendar, and scheduling your work hours. These solutions allow for better use of your time, which can alleviate some of the anxiety of not knowing what you should start on next. Likewise, keep both your digital and physical space prepared and organized. This can save you time and stress in the future because you already know where everything is. When I was a college student and also worked part-time, making daily to-do lists and constantly updating my calendar was a lifesaver in terms of managing my time and staying organized. I even scheduled time to hang out with friends! Pro tip: Be realistic with your to-do lists and your schedule. Remember to make time for yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t check off everything on your to-do list. Always be kind to yourself!
Whether you work in an office or in a fast-paced environment, it can be difficult to find the time to breathe, literally. Shallow, fast-paced breathing causes a plethora of negative sensations, such as increased heart rate, dizziness, and muscle tension. Try to carve out at least 5 minutes while you’re at work to practice mindfulness and breathing. An easy breathing exercise is called abdominal breathing, where you focus on taking slow, deep breaths that fill and expand your lungs. You can do it for as long as you like and it’s a quick way to calm and ground yourself. My personal favorite is called equal breathing. You perform it by inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds and then exhaling for 4 seconds as well. It’s a great mindfulness exercise that also allows you to expand your breathing count. The more you practice equal breathing, the longer you can stand inhaling and exhaling, so make sure to make both breaths equal to each other! You can practice these exercises while you work, although it’s preferable if you can take that time for yourself and focus on the exercise. There are also many free meditation apps that offer breathing exercises for anxiety and stress management. Some smartwatches even offer quick breathing exercises, guided by their own vibrations.
Sleeping enough, eating well, staying hydrated, and exercising are all great ways to reduce anxiety. Make sure you get at least 6 to 10 hours of sleep each night, whichever amount is right for you. Likewise, try to keep a healthy, balanced diet that fuels you throughout your day and doesn’t just leave you groggy or in a mid-afternoon slump. Try meal prepping (remember planning and preparing?), so you always have healthy and satisfying meals to choose from. Likewise, staying hydrated is as important as eating well because it helps keep you awake and alert. Lastly, exercise is a great anxiety-reducer as it helps the body release feel-good hormones, such as serotonin and endorphins. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, you can even break up those 30 minutes into 10-minute increments. If you find that you can’t fit exercise into your daily routine, try incorporating physical movements by parking as far as possible from your work entrance, or taking the stairs.
Establish boundaries at work as well as a clear separation from your work-life versus your personal life. Try to leave your work tasks at work and enjoy your time off. Don’t answer work calls after specific hours and avoid coworkers that don’t respect your hours. Meet with friends and family members for some quality time, such as going to dinner, going for a walk, or binging your favorite tv shows. You could also develop calming hobbies, such as painting, reading, or listening to music. Likewise, some high-energy hobbies, like kickboxing, running, or swimming, can release the feel-good hormones we already talked about. I personally like to do a combination of all of the above. On my time off, I spend quality time with friends and family, and dedicate time to hobbies, such as exercising and baking. Remember: work is important, but your mental health is important just as important, if not more.
If you are overwhelmed with anxiety at your workplace, take a step back and meditate on your workload. Besides practicing breathing exercises, take a break if you need it. Learn to ask for help if you find your workload is too much. More likely than not, a coworker is able and willing to lend you a hand. While you’re at it, tell a trusted coworker about the issues you are having. Knowing that somebody has your back at the office can help reduce your anxiety. Don’t forget to talk to your boss about your heavy workload and see what can be done about making it more manageable. Communication is key in the workplace, and it can go a long way in reducing your anxiety.
Remember, if you have a medical condition, whether it is related to your physical health or mental health, talk to your human resources department about it. They’d be able to advocate for you and gain on your behalf certain accommodations to make your work-life actually work for you. Human resources are there to help employees through their work issues, and they can help you, too.
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