My anxiety definitely comes and goes, kinda like the weather. I have times where my anxiety is higher like around the beginning of my period, when I forget my medication, throughout a break up, when someone is mad at me or under high stress situations at work. It is particularly challenging to “hide” anxiety at work because you don’t want to seem like you can’t socialize with coworkers, perform well under stress or meet deadlines.
A few months ago I took a step back from a job that I had for almost 4 years. I took a hard look at what my responsibilities were and how it was effecting my mental health. It can be challenging to manage anxiety while at work and it can be even more challenging when you realize your work is actually contributing to your anxiety. Every PING! on my phone started to get to me.
Are you curious about your own anxiety symptoms? Check out this quick anxiety quiz
Want to get help but you aren’t sure where to start? Do yourself a favor and get a therapist!
After I took a step back, I talked with my therapist and psychiatrist about how I can “make it work” at work for the time being. Here are the strategies I used for overcoming anxiety at work:
Find a friend at work. Friendships can be hard to find as an adult but I can almost guarantee that your life at work will be more enjoyable if you make at least one positive friendship at work! 4 Ways To Make A Workplace Friend
Make your physical work space enjoyable. Figure out if you like pictures of family and friends, artwork, dry erase boards, decorations, cute pens, planners etc and make your space your own. If you don’t have an office and share a space with others, figure out how you can make your physical work space your own while you are on the job, this can be done!
Know when to say no. You gotta figure out your limit for projects, deadlines and direct reports. I had a lot on my plate. I had multiple hospitals, 12 direct reports and a ton of catch up projects. I had to learn to say that I had a lot of deadlines to meet and I want to do all of my responsibilities well and if I take on one more thing, something else will suffer. Standing up for yourself is hard but it will almost always be worth it if you can do it with diplomacy.
Under stress? High anxiety? Feel like you are actually gonna lose it on a coworker or you boss? Find a quiet space to breathe. This is IMPERATIVE. You don’t have to work every second of every day. If you are at work and you need a breather, take one. Go walk around the parking lot for 5 minutes, step outside for some fresh air, shut your door of your office and play calming music. This is where the work is. When your anxiety is high, lean into it and sit with it. This is where you can make a choice in the moment to help yourself overcome the panic or anxiety.
Create a life worth living outside of work. This one was hard for me but it is important. My therapist explained that focusing on things that actually bring joy to me outside of work will make my workday go by much faster. My therapist basically told me to get a life. While it was kinda hard to hear, it made complete sense to me. Ever since she told me to get a life, that is what I have been working on. I can honestly say that finding my passions in life has been the most rewarding part of going to therapy.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Contemplating “Creating a Life Worth Living”
- What makes you happy?
Happiness to me is a few different things. I feel truly happy when I can sit on the couch, watch the news and drink coffee with my daughter. I can do this with 100% peace of mind when my phone is not being blown up from work with hundreds of emails and missed calls. Happiness to me is peacefulness. For me, this meant wanting to be on call a lot less. This meant not wanting as many direct reports.
- What makes you want to get out of bed?
I get out of bed to make a difference, provide financially for my daughter and climb the ladder. I want to do more, learn more and have the ability to be more. For me, this looks like throwing myself into projects. I enjoy motivating myself (for my career) by taking free courses on edX. I enjoy planning for the future and when I have something to look forward to, I don’t have a problem getting out of bed.
- What brings you joy that you could share with others?
Being authentic and relatable brings me joy. It makes me happy when I hear that someone benefited from me sharing a story or saying something that they felt like they couldn’t say. I hope to inspire others to share raw and authentic stories about themselves. It also makes me happy af when someone I haven’t talked to since high school messages me and says they are loving my blog or Instagram..hello turning the tables!
- If you could do anything, regardless of pay, what would you be doing?
If I could do anything, I would be a crime scene investigator or a detective. True Crime is definitely a passion for me. I have looked into what it would take to do this realistically and unfortunately, I am not willing to take the pay cut in real life. I spend time watching True Crime series and reading True Crime books. I fill my passions in other ways!
Here is a list of things I started doing outside of work:
- I joined a kickboxing gym
- I told a story to 300 people at a Storytelling Event Me. A Microphone. 12 minutes and 300 strangers.
- I started doing things that I feared (public speaking, speaking about mental health, standing up for myself to my family)
- I started blogging and being more authentic on Instagram
And ultimately.. I quit my job.
I found that the stress wasn’t worth it and I have moved on to another opportunity. I still use the above tips in my new job and I challenge you to do the same!
Do you have other tips for overcoming anxiety at your job?