Combatting Anxiety at Work: 8 Tips from our Psychiatrists

Combatting Anxiety at Work: 8 Tips from our Psychiatrists

Reviewed by:
Nidhi Sharoha, DO
Associate Director of Clinical Education
at Talkiatry
August 15, 2023
In this article

Work can be stressful, no matter how much you love your job, but if you’re consistently dreading going to work and thinking about work even after you’ve signed out for the day, you may be experiencing work-related anxiety.    

Work-related anxiety isn’t a medical diagnosis or a mental health condition, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. There are things you can do to help ease work-related worry.    

Here we’ll cover what work-induced anxiety is, how to tell it apart from an anxiety disorder, and some psychiatrist-backed tips to help you cope.

What is work-induced anxiety?  

Work-induced anxiety or work-related anxiety is worry or stress that’s caused by work. In the absence of work (like when you finally take those PTO days), the anxiety goes away. Work-induced anxiety isn’t a medical term or diagnosis, but it’s still a very real experience for many. And if you struggle with it, you’re not alone.  

83% of workers feel emotionally drained from their work and 85% agreed that workplace stress affects their mental health, according to a 2021 study from Mental Health America.

How do I know if I'm suffering from workplace anxiety?  

Work-induced anxiety is always triggered by work-related events or circumstances such as being overworked, underpaid, feeling undervalued, or being subject to a toxic work culture.    

Some of the signs of work-induced anxiety include:  

  • Missing deadlines because you’re taking on too much    
  • Thinking about quitting your job often due to workplace stress    
  • Physical symptoms of stress like headaches, fatigue, brain fog, or frequent sickness  
  • Feeling easily frustrated with coworkers    
  • Drop in work performance or decrease in productivity      

Some of the signs of work-induced anxiety can overlap with those of an anxiety disorder or another mental health condition. If your anxiety or work-related stress is starting to interfere with your daily life, reach out to a health professional like a therapist, psychiatrist or your primary care doctor. Therapy or medications may be available to help you start feeling better.  

How is work-induced anxiety different from an anxiety disorder?  

Work-related anxiety is typically short-lived and goes away in the absence of work.  

“An anxiety disorder is a condition in which either a fear or worry is activated even without a cause. It can lead to a sensation of panic or a cycle of repetitive worrying. This can cause difficulty performing tasks, taking care of yourself, and can impact your relationships as well,” says Dr. Sharoha, double board-certified psychiatrist.  

To learn more about anxiety disorders, the signs and symptoms and how they are treated check out: Get Anxiety Relief From an Online Psychiatrist  

What causes work anxiety?  

Feeling anxious about work can be caused by a lot of different things. It might be triggered by:  

  • Pressure to perform on a specific task or project    
  • An upcoming presentation or fear of public speaking    
  • Work-related conflicts  
  • Speaking in meetings    
  • Navigating social situations like office parties or meetings  
  • Imposter syndrome or low self-esteem  
  • A toxic work environment  

You may also feel anxious at work if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder like:  

  • Generalized anxiety disorder    
  • Phobias    
  • Social anxiety    
  • Panic disorder  
  • PTSD  

Related article: Do you have high-functioning anxiety?

How do I overcome anxiety at work? 8 tips from our psychiatrists  

Here are some psychiatrist-backed coping mechanisms to help you ease your anxiety.    

1. Reflect on why you may be feeling anxious  

Feeling anxious for an upcoming presentation or project is completely expected and is a sign that you care about your work.  

“Healthy anxiety enhances our awareness of what we need to do to get through a particular situation or stressor. It also helps us perform any task to completion and with caution,” explains Dr. Sharoha.  

But if you’re feeling anxious about your workplace culture or interactions with certain coworkers, it may be an indication that you need to confront those stressors. Reflecting on the root cause of your anxiety can help you either resolve it or accept it.    

2. Practice good time management  

Between water cooler conversations with coworkers and constant notifications on our phones and computers, it’s easy to get distracted or sidetracked during the workday. These interruptions may seem brief, but they can add up and hurt your productivity, contribute to burnout, and perpetuate work-related anxiety.  

Setting up time to focus on a single task without interruptions can help boost your productivity and ease your stress and anxiety. Try blocking off time in your calendar, putting your notifications on silent, or even setting up an away message.    

That said, “if your anxiety is impacting concentration, it’s important to seek professional help as it can perpetuate the anxiety cycle further,” says Dr. Sharoha.  

3. Communicate when you need help  

We all feel overworked and overwhelmed at times. And while it can be hard to ask for help from a coworker or request an extension for a deadline, it’s important to remember that reaching out for support isn’t a sign of weakness or poor job performance. In the long-run, burnout isn’t beneficial for you or your employer. So most likely, your employer or coworkers will be receptive of you communicating your needs.    

4. Set realistic deadlines and goals  

It’s natural to bring ambition to your work. Especially If you’re someone who gets satisfaction from crossing off to-do’s, hitting new milestones, or receiving recognition from your coworkers or boss. But if your workload is causing you undue stress and anxiety, it’s time to give yourself permission to scale back. Take a look at your calendar or to-do list. Are there any tasks you can pass off to someone else or get a deadline extension for? No amount of praise or accolades are worth sacrificing your wellbeing.      

5. Take a mental health day if you can  

A mental health day isn’t going to make all your work stress disappear, but it will help you get distance from your source of anxiety. Creating temporary distance can help you get a new perspective on issues you may be struggling with at work. If you do decide to take a mental health day, make sure you disconnect from work completely. Resist the urge to check your work email or notifications. Trust us—-- they'll be there when you get back!  Work-life balance is critical for your mental well-being  

6. Practice good sleep hygiene  

Anxiety can lead to sleep issues and sleep issues can make anxiety worse.  To overcome this double-edged sword, it’s important to do what you can to develop good sleep habits: avoid exercising too close to bedtime, set a consistent sleep schedule, get sunlight first thing in the morning, and use your bed only for sleep and sex.  

Additionally, Dr. Sharoha suggests scheduling “thinking time” before starting your bedtime routine. Relax without distractions and let your mind go where it wants. Giving your mind time to process thoughts and emotions from the day before crawling into bed can help keep your mind quiet and free of anxious thoughts when you’re ready to go to sleep.  

Deep breathing exercises can also help quiet a racing mind before bed. Give these deep breathing exercises a try.  

7. Get regular exercise  

Exercise is great for training muscles, but it’s also a great way to train your body to cope with stress.  When you’re putting in miles on the treadmill or lifting weights, your body is responding by releasing cortisol and other hormones— similar to those that your body releases when you’re worried about a tight deadline or a big project. When left unchecked, chronic high levels of cortisol can have all sorts of negative effects. Think: weakened immune system, heightened anxiety. Exercise can help you build resilience to its negative effects.  

8. Seek treatment for mental health conditions    

If you’re experiencing a mental health condition like social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, or suspect you might be, you may find your symptoms make it hard for you to perform at work. It can be hard to take that first step and seek treatment for a mental health condition, but remember treatment works and you deserve to start feeling better. If you’re not sure where to start, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor, or a mental health professional like a therapist, or psychiatrist.  

What should I do if I think I have an anxiety disorder?    

If you have symptoms of anxiety that persist even in the absence of a stressor, are severe enough to interfere with your daily life, or seem out of proportion to the stress at hand, this may be a sign that you are experiencing an anxiety disorder or other mental health condition. Reaching out to a qualified health professional, like a psychiatrist, is a great place to start. They will be able to evaluate your symptoms and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan based on your needs.  

Learn more about how to get support for anxiety

About Talkiatry    

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.    

The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Sources:

Workplace Health Survey 2021 | Mental health America

Why mental health needs to be a top priority in the workplace | American Psychological Association

Impact of activity-based workplaces on burnout and engagement dimensions | Journal of Coporate Real Estate  

Running from Stress: Neurobiological Mechanisms of Exercise-Induced Stress Resilience | International Journal of Molecular Sciences  

Dr. Nidhi Sharoha is a double board certified psychiatrist in Psychiatry and Consultation Liaison Psychiatry. She completed her undergraduate training at Stony Brook University followed by medical school at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has completed both a Residency in Psychiatry and Fellowship in Consultation Liaison Psychiatry at Nassau University Medical Center.

Dr. Sharoha has held academic appointment at Stony Brook University Hospital, practicing as a consultant psychiatrist as well as the Associate Director of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry Fellowship Program. She has been deeply involved in teaching throughout her years

She has a genuine interest in treating a vast array of psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, post traumatic stress disorders and obsessive compulsive and related disorders. She also has experience in treating patients with medical comorbidities and has training in issues related to women’s health.

Patients looking for a psychiatric provider will find that Dr. Sharoha has a gentle approach to diagnosis and management of her patients. She believes in the principle that body and mind are interconnected which allows her to provide comprehensive care to all of her patients.

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