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How To Overcome Anxiety At Work

Can You Get Fired For Your Anxiety

How to Overcome Anxiety (at Work)

If youre gearing up to have a conversation with your boss, youre probably worried about getting fired.

The good news is thats probably not going to happen. And if it does, there are laws in place set by the Americans with Disabilities Act to help protect you if you have an anxiety disorder.

The Americans with Disabilities Act , which applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, defines a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

In the case of anxiety, an employee who feels anxious about meeting new people, but can get through it with a few deep breaths, wouldnt qualify for ADA protection. However, a person who feels overwhelming anxiety or panic symptoms that negatively impact their daily life may qualify.

You can read more about your rights, here.

The Workplace War: Work Anxiety Vs Stress

Feelings of anxiety can affect your mental health and exists on an emotional spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, you could have low-level emotional disquiet symptoms. For example, youve got a big client pitch coming up, or your car is making a strange sound and you dont have the money to fix whatever is causing it.

At the other end of the spectrum is an acute white-knuckle panic: Theres literally a bear in your yard, your house is on fire, that sort of thing.

When you experience acute panic, your adrenal glands dump cortisol and adrenaline into our system, causing your blood pressure to surge and your heart to race. This energy surge enables you to escape from the bear’s attack. Without this “fight or flight” response mechanism, you would die.

But when your body reacts with bear-in-yard type symptoms to “client pitch”-sized problems, your anxiety disorder stops being useful.

Anxiety isnt the same as stress, but they are related.

Stress is a response to directexternal stimuli that goes away when you tackle the problem. But unlike stress, anxiety is impressively self-sufficient. It can happily exist all on its own, like a delicate snowflake of existential fear that wont melt when the sun comes out.

If you feel intense relief after finishing that client pitch, thats workplace stress saying goodbye. If, however, you feel constant, residual dread when thinking about your workplace or employer, then thats workplace anxiety stubbornly refusing to take a day off.

Whats The Difference Between Anxiety At Work And Work Anxiety

Anxiety is a common feeling. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million U.S. adults struggle with an anxiety disorder. If youre feeling anxious at work, it can be hard to know if youre experiencing generalized anxiety or work anxiety.

While anxiety at work and work anxiety might sound similar, they arent the same. The major difference is the causeany number of outside factors can cause generalized anxiety, whereas work specifically causes work anxiety. Other tell-tale signs of work anxiety include:

  • Your anxiety is focused aroundand limited towork and the workplace and doesnt extend to other parts of your life

  • Your anxiety lessens when youre not at work and during your days off

  • Your anxiety developed in response to something that happened or is happening in the workplace

  • You struggle with social or physical symptoms of anxiety, but only at work or when thinking about work

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Coping With Work Anxiety

If you have anxiety at work, there are a few things you can do to help manage your physical symptoms and feelings of anxiety.

Consider telling your manager

Sharing your anxiety with others is always your choice. However, if its really affecting your performance, the benefits of telling your manager about it may outweigh your concerns. If youre still nervous about potential retaliation, get someone from human resources involved in the conversation.

Talk about previous jobs

In the book Dying For a Paycheck, Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer details how modern management tactics often contribute to worsened employee mental health. Find a colleague, friend, or therapist that you can unpack prior jobs with. A toxic work environment or difficult boss may have left you with social anxiety or work PTSD. Without treatment and awareness, you can bring that trauma into your new job.

See a therapist or coach

Managing anxiety at work often consists of two parts dealing with the symptoms of anxiety and finding effective ways of managing your responsibilities. A therapist or coach can help you identify anxious thoughts, unhelpful patterns, and create strategies to improve your experience at work.

Take a day off

Healthier Habits To Reduce Workplace Anxiety

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Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine

  • Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants which means that they can subsequently increase your anxiety.
  • Alcohol can make you feel low as it is a depressant.
  • These substances can negatively affect your sleep thus leaving you feeling more stressed.

Get enough sleep

Stress and anxiety may be keeping you up at night which can make you more susceptible to stress. Having a good night’s sleep will increase your concentration, help you regulate your emotions and cope with stress more effectively.

If you find that you are struggling to sleep at night, sleep hygiene is a useful technique to build-up a healthy sleep pattern:

Eat well

Make sure you are eating healthily as this:

  • Improves mood
  • Helps you think more clearly
  • Increases your energy

Here are some tips:

Be active

Our mental health and physical health are strongly linked physical activity releases endorphins which naturally increase mood thus reducing stress. Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day – this can be throughout the day if it’s easier than exercising 30 minutes in one go.

Big changes to your daily routine are usually not needed to achieve this, for example, you could get off at the bus stop before your usual bus stop when travelling to work.


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Start Your Day Off Right

After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combating road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of a healthy breakfast, many people arrive to work already stressed. This makes them more reactive to stress in the workplace.

You might be surprised by how affected by workplace stress you are when you have a stressful morning. When you start off the day with planning, good nutrition, and a positive attitude, you might find that the stress of your job rolls off your back more easily.

Avoid Irregular Work Schedules As Much As Possible

Salaried workers donât have to deal with varying work schedules, but hourly employees do. And itâs a huge stressor. Almost 30% of workers with irregular schedules report having serious work and family conflicts over the issue.

Random shift changes, on-call work schedules can all lead to stress, because workers are constantly in limbo when it comes to balance between work and life. They never know when theyâll need to work with much advance, and itâs difficult for them to make personal plans or even decompress when they could be called to work at any moment.

Try to create schedules that your employees can âbankâ on. Make sudden changes as rare as possible. Make it possible for your employees to rely on a steady schedule enough that they can arrange a solid personal life around their work schedule. This will help them return to work refreshed.

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This Article Was Reviewed By Megan Pietrucha Psyd

Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical and sport psychologist in private practice in Illinois. She holds a PsyPact credential, enabling her to practice teletherapy with clients in 20+ states. She completed her bachelor’s in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University.

Her interests and specialization relate to treating eating and body image concerns, college student and student-athlete mental health, mood disorders, life transitions, stress management and procrastination, health and wellness, mindfulness, and sport and performance psychology. Dr. Pietrucha also provides assessment services, supervision, and clinical consultation.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Pietrucha has served as the training director for an APA-accredited internship program. She’s also taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology. She works with high school and college athletes and teams, recreational fitness programs, artists, business leaders, and people who are motivated to optimize their potential in work and life.

Megan Pietrucha is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Last reviewed March 16, 2022.

Therapist Insights On New Job Anxiety


Pauline Yeghnazar Peck, MA, MMFT, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in CA and NY with a private practice in Santa Barbara. She works with millennial and Gen Z individuals and couples to create the love, work, and lives they want. She specializes in anxiety, life transitions, trauma, and multicultural issues.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

ZDNet: Why do people have anxiety when starting a new job, even if it’s a remote job?

Pauline Yeghnazar Peck: Anxiety is the body’s natural response to a perceived threat. Starting something new is uncertain, whether the work is remote, in-person, a similar title you’ve already held, or altogether different.

There are many questions about whether you will succeed, whether your colleagues will like you, whether your boss or manager will approve of your work, whether you will be an effective leader to those who report to you, and more.

These unknowns trigger our anxiety system and cascading worries, fears, and activation. What is new and different for the body is often registered as possibly dangerous. This is evolutionarily adaptive and has helped us to survive.

It’s important to know that it is completely normal, to be expected, and not a sign that something is wrong with you or off about the choice you have made to take the job.

ZDNet: What thoughts and emotions are normal for people to have when they’re starting a new job?

ZDNet: How is new job anxiety helpful? How can it be harmful?

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Reflect On Past Sales Calls

If the thought of hearing your own voice on a recording makes you grit your teeth and feel even more anxious, youre not alone. Most people are actually repulsed by the sound of their own voice. However, listening to recordings of your past sales calls will indeed help you.

Itll take some time, but the more you listen to your past sales calls, the more youll adapt and become desensitized. This will allow you to listen objectively, so you can focus on where you went wrong and the things you did right. Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses is key, so itll help to write them all down and keep track of your progress.

For each phone call, break everything down into segments, beginning with your introduction. Then give yourself a rating based on these questions:

  • How was my tone of voicewas I clear, concise, and friendly?
  • Did I successfully introduce myself?
  • Did I keep the goal of the call in mind?
  • Were there any long pauses?
  • How was the customer/clients reaction?
  • Did I provide a convincing solution to their problem?
  • How was my wrap-upwas I able to make a sale or schedule a meeting?
  • Did I represent my company well?

Remember to write down both the good and the bad, with notes on how you can correct any mistakes. Starting out, its a good idea to have a sales manager or an experienced coworker help you with this since theyll have an easier time being objective and can give you solid advice.

Prepare Ahead Of Time As Much As Possible

The most stressful time of the day for workers is the morning, or when they start their shift.

You canât always prepare everything ahead of time. If someone leaves a mess when you arrive for your shift, thereâs not much you can do about it other than try to work with them and get them to do better.

But, wherever possible, prep ahead of time. Think of it like this: how you start your work day sets the tone for the rest of it. If you start it in a panic, a rush, the whole day is going to be stressful. Itâll feel as if you never get caught up or on good footing.

Preparing ahead of time might be:

  • Setting up tools or products that youâll need to use.
  • Mentally considering challenges youâll face and how youâll diffuse them.
  • Exercising, or physically preparing yourself for the work you need to do to avoid physical injury or tiredness.

Read Also: How To Stop Anxiety In A Relationship

Become Aware Of Your Physiology And Practice Self

One of the best methods for managing anxiety and its negative effects is to self-regulate. When you feel anxiety coming on and start noticing symptoms, such as increased heart rate or racing thoughts, take action. You can try:

  • Deep or patterned breathing exercises
  • Exercising physically
  • Relaxing
  • Counting slowly

If you can spot your symptoms early and find an effective self-regulation method, you should be able to more effectively temper and control your reactions.

Use Quick Coping Strategies

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In addition to tackling larger issues that are contributing to your work-related anxiety, it may also be helpful to practice quick-working coping strategies that you can use in moments when you begin to feel especially anxious. These in-the-moment strategies could include:

  • Going outside for a few minutes
  • Listening to a calming song
  • Try visualization
  • Watching a funny video

Grounding is another technique that can help positively shift your attention in the moment. Grounding involves using your senses to connect to your physical surroundings. This might involve:

  • Holding on to a hot cup of tea or a cold glass of water
  • Listening to sounds that you find calming
  • Noticing specific things you can see in your environment
  • Smelling a candle, perfume, or essential oil
  • Tasting food with a strong flavor, like a lemon or lime

Also Check: Does Vyvanse Help With Anxiety

Chat With A Therapist

It can be really helpful to talk with mental health provider if youre struggling with anxiety.

It may even be helpful to write down a list of your symptoms to give to your therapist or doctor. This can be an easier way to get across what youre going through without becoming overwhelmed and forgetting everything.

Speaking about your work anxiety with a medical professional can also help you determine if an anxiety disorder is the root cause of your anxiety at work.

Keep Office Work In The Office

Carrying your work back home affects the home environment that is ideally like a sanctuary. It is more advisable to stay in the office late than to carry work back to the house. Technology has also made employees accessible all day through emails and phone calls. It may be advisable to avoid checking such emails, especially during off-hours and weekends.

You may have the opportunity to work remotely, or from the comfort of your home. This makes it particularly difficult to separate work life from leisure at home. To make the difference more defined, set up a separate room in the house that is reserved for work only. This slight gesture can make it easier to keep the home environment one of relaxation and leisure.

Read more:Work From Home Guide

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Make An Effort To Connect With People

Seeing a friendly face around your new office helps ease our nerves and makes us feel more relaxed. Knowing that we have new co-workers around us to ask questions, eat lunch with, and chat with makes a huge difference.

Even if you make friends slowly, connecting with your new colleagues will ease feelings of anxiety. It will also strengthen your collaboration and teamwork skills, which makes work easier.

Exercise Before Or After Work

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Some jobs can be demanding and tasking, even for the most experienced professionals. If you make difficult and major decisions or work on a large-scale project, stress is an inevitable part of it. Exercise is one of the best-known ways to cope with stress in any setting.

Exercising before work is an effective form of releasing anxiety, and it also helps to deal with the physiological effects of stress. You can aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity every week. You can do this in intervals of 10 minutes or more each day.

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Get Everything Ready The Night Before

Preparation can always help first day nerves. You want to get everything ready the night before, to ensure in the morning you are not flustered and caught off guard. Do a trial run the day before around the time you are due to startby minimizing all these possibilities that can go wrong, you will feel much more relaxed. Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, General Practitioner, M.D. at Prescription Doctor

Work Within Your Limits

Get to know your limits and learn to work within them. That may mean:

  • Focusing on a single task at a time and trying not to think ahead to everything that needs to get done
  • Working with your supervisor to prioritize your tasks so you know that what needs to get done versus what can wait until tomorrow or next week
  • Listening to music at work if you are allowed and if it helps you cope
  • Setting small, frequent deadlines to keep yourself focused and on track
  • Setting aside 5 minutes during the day to do a short guided meditation
  • Taking time off to recharge when you need to
  • Walking during lunch or a break

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How To Overcome Work Anxiety And Increase Productivity

A quick note: We’re social-impact experts, not healthcare professionals. If you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of distress, please be sure to contact a licensed medical professional.

Work anxiety can feel as ubiquitous as the common cold, but chronic anxiety can be especially challenging for social-impact professionals. If you count yourself among the 6.8 million adults in the U.S. who experience chronic anxiety, you may deal with racing thoughts, a general lack of motivation, or an overwhelming sense of dread that keeps you from focusing on your work.

For many, maintaining a steady work output amidst feelings of stress and anxiety can be difficult. However, there are several steps you can take to help you remain productive and focused on your social-impact work. Read on for tips and suggestions on new habits that can help you cope with work anxiety.

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