According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million American adults struggle with an anxiety disorder. If you’re in this group, you know that anything from your commute, workload, meeting deadlines, personal problems, or health concerns can set you off.
As a result, you have difficulty concentrating and focusing. While that may not sound like much, that can be so debilitating that it causes you to miss deadlines or spend too much time on a specific task. Even worse, this can impact your physical health leading you to call out sick. In some cases, this may spill over into your personal life causing relationship problems.
However, there are simple ways for you to cope and manage with work-related anxiety.
1. Use cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) skills.
This is “a treatment approach that helps identify the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and their impact on life situations,” writes the health team at Sharp Mesa Vista.
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.
2. Practice time management.
Make to-do lists and prioritize your work so that you’re only focusing on what’s truly important. After that, make sure to schedule enough time to complete each task or project.
Additionally, make sure to schedule breaks throughout the day so that you don't get burned out. Even a 5-minute break to meditate or a 15-minute walk outside is enough to clear your head and decompress. And, most importantly, establish and stick to deadlines. For example, not responding to work emails when you’re at home with your family.
3. Relieve stress from your desk.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of stress-relief exercises that you can do from your desk when you can’t get away. Examples would be deep breathing, practicing affirmations, listening to calming music, or visualization.
You could also look at funny pictures or videos that make you smile or guided meditation. “My favorite exercise is this: look at the top left corner of your computer, look at the top right corner of your computer, look at the bottom right corner of your computer, look at the bottom left corner of your computer,” writes Rebecca Jane Stokes. “Let your neck and head move slowly while you do this. It’s a gentle, easy stretch that immediately relieves that tension scowl we all get from staring at a screen for too long.”
4. Avoid triggers.
If there is a co-worker who gossips or wastes too much of your time, avoid them as much as possible. For example, you might decide not to eat lunch with them or asked to be moved to a different part of the workplace. Or, you can change the topic and be more upfront with them.
5. Ask for help.
Finally, if you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate in asking for help from your colleagues -- just make sure to return the favor. You may also want to speak to your boss. If you’re working at full capacity, can you adjust some deadlines? If your daily commute is too much, can you work from home a couple of days per week?
And, in case you are wondering, the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990 protects you from discrimination -- as long as you’re qualified to do your job and perform duties with reasonable accommodations. In other words, you can not be fired for having a mental illness.