According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million American adults — about 18% — have an anxiety disorder. If you’re among that 18%, you know just how difficult managing anxiety at work can be.
Your well-being at work matters
However, according to Dr. Suhair Erikat, a doctor of behavioral health and a marriage and family therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, there are ways you — and your organization’s leadership — can make managing anxiety at work easier.
“Employee health is important to any work environment as it’s linked directly to productivity at work,” Dr. Erikat says. “Your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being.”
Dr. Erikat suggests having an open conversation with your manager about your challenges so you can both come up with a plan to help you manage the stressors. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program, including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals.
Tips to tame your workplace anxiety
She also says there are ways you can prepare for and manage your anxiety in the workplace. She offers the following five tips.
- Keep a journal for a week or two to identify the situations that create the most stress and your responses to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. It’s impossible to avoid anxiety triggers, but it is possible for you to use effective strategies to help you ride the anxiety wave, rather than allowing it to knock you down.
- Use cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) skills, a treatment approach that helps identify the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and their impact on life situations. The acronym AWARE can help:
A — Accept the anxiety, welcome it, don’t fight it and flow with it.
W — Watch your anxiety, separate yourself from the anxiety and monitor it.
A — Act on the anxiety, normalize the situation, stay with it, and your fear and anxiety will reduce. Use diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, distractions and self-soothing activities that engage the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.
R — Repeat the first three steps.
E — Expect the best. Don’t worry about the “what ifs”; instead, focus on how well you’ve done so far and tell yourself you can handle what comes next.
- Stay mindful of things or experiences that trigger you as well as your negative thought patterns, and use healthy coping strategies that include relaxation, mindfulness, exercise, a balanced healthy diet, talking with loved ones and supportive colleagues, and attending support groups.
- Take breaks when a stressful situation arises, even if it’s taking a short walk away from your workplace or simply going outside to get some fresh air.
- Practice self-compassion by talking to yourself like you would to a loved one who’s struggling, using self-encouraging statements.
“Remember, you’re not alone,” Dr. Erikat says. “Anxiety is the body’s way of communicating that there is a stressful situation. By talking about it, asking for help and utilizing the coping techniques, you will learn to befriend your anxiety — rather than fight it — and reduce the negative impact it has on you.”
However, it is important to note that while some pain or stressors are manageable, others require professional mental health care. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your anxiety and how it might be affecting the quality of your personal and professional life.
Sharp Mesa Vista offers both inpatient and outpatient programs for mood disorders. To learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), attend an upcoming free seminar.