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Published on March 10, 2020

How to Effectively Cope with Work Anxiety

How to Effectively Cope with Work Anxiety

According to the American Institute of Stress, approximately 83% of American workers suffer from work-related stress.[1] Some of this stress can be moderate to mild, while at other times, the stress can lead to more complex problems, such as depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.

The average American is juggling more responsibilities now than in prior generations, so it’s not a surprise that work anxiety creeps in. If left untreated, it can morph into physical and mental ailments that can prevent you from living your best life.

How Does Anxiety Affect Your Work?

Before we can dive into how anxiety affects your work environment, we have to first break down what anxiety is in the physical body.

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress.[2] When you’re faced with situations that are new and unfamiliar, normal feelings of fear or apprehension may arise. On a physical level, your palms may start to sweat more and your pulse and breath will quicken.

You also may notice changes on a mental level, particularly in how difficult it becomes to keep your thoughts on task. This is often evident in moments when you have to give a presentation: have you ever lost your train of thought hen everyone’s eyes turned toward you? It’s fairly normal. This is because anxiety steps in full force, and physical reactions take over. Essentially, the mind shuts down, as if your internal circuit breakers blew.

Because symptoms of work anxiety are very physically-based, it becomes difficult to stay on task when working. Your body begins redirecting the mind away from what it’s supposed to be working on and into the worries vying for your attention.

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This is a typical, primal fight or flight response mechanism. We rely on this survival coding to help us in situations where our actual survival may be threatened. However, at work, this mechanism doesn’t serve us. In fact, it creates more problems by gearing the body up to respond to stresses and perceived threats in an overactive way.

Think of a time when you were overloaded with deadlines and projects at work. You likely experienced a heavy dose of work anxiety. You may have also experienced symptoms and stresses of fear at not having enough time to finish everything, or failing to meet your boss’ expectations.

When experiencing work anxiety, you may have trouble concentrating on your work, even when you’re motivated to do so. You may also jump from one task to another and have a hard time settling down to see one project through to completion.

Your restless behavior may impact other people on your team or in your department. This is more evidence to show that one person’s anxiety isn’t localized to their experience only: your energy affects the energies of others around you.

When these anxiety and fear-based emotions reach their peak, they can act as a time bomb. We usually see this as employees overwhelmed with work “flying off the handle” or succumbing to aggression in order to release their anxiety. As a result, not only does your work suffer, but so do your professional relationships.

How to Cope with Work Anxiety

Now that we know what work anxiety is and how it presents itself, we can dig into how to stop it from making us miserable at work. Fortunately, for many of us, the idea of a work-life balance is no longer a taboo subject. More and more employers are jumping on board to ensure that the work environment is fair, balanced, and conducive to health.

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With all of that in mind, however, it is still imperative that you find what works for you. Anxiety may present itself when you least expect it, and it may still come around, even if you’ve worked hard to keep it at bay. Remember that your mental health is an ongoing journey.

Below are some tips to help you gain clarity into how you can effectively cope with work anxiety.

1. Take Breaks Throughout the Day

It’s easy to get sucked into the daily grind. We often dive into emails and work calls immediately upon waking, or we’ll work through our lunch break. However, taking breaks throughout your day is essential. They allow you to disconnect from your task for a brief moment, to give your brain some much-needed rest and resetting.

Consider setting a timer on your phone or computer to go off every hour. When it does, take a quick walk around your office, or go outside if you have more time. Do something other than work: text a friend, listen to your favorite song, or simply close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes.[3] The reset will help you curtail the anxiety before it sneaks up on you.

2. Switch Your Coffee for Something Lighter

While your favorite cup of Joe may be your magical elixir to boost your productivity, it will also cause you to crash throughout your work day. While you may not want to cut coffee altogether, you can supplement your hydration. Reach for some water. Fill your favorite reusable bottle, and maybe add some lemon for zest. Lemon is also great for detoxing the body and regulating your metabolism and gut pH levels.

You can also switch to low-sugar smoothies or juices that give you more energy throughout the day.

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3. Ensure You’re Getting Quality Sleep at Night

This is really the gem of coping with work anxiety. Sleep is often an underrated activity, but it is so important, and it is directly correlated to your productivity and energy levels in the morning.

Lack of good, quality sleep has been linked to anxiety as it causes hyperactivity and restlessness, both of which keep you from focusing on your work effectively.[4] When getting ready for sleep, ensure that you are undisturbed from any screen time and that you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of rest.

4. Ask for Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and buried with work, reach out to your managers or co-workers. Often, just speaking out about how you’re feeling can be a gateway to resolving the issue. Many employees may feel hesitant about approaching their bosses and instead accept their workload or environment as normal.

It is vital that you help challenge the stereotype and speak up when your health is being compromised for your job. In such a way, you can also open the door for others to feel comfortable in sharing. This not only de-stigmatizes mental health and dealing with anxiety, but it also puts more importance on having a solid work-life balance.

5. Set Honest Deadlines

Become more practical in the work deadlines that you either set for yourself or agree to. Ideally, everyone would love to be able to get everything done as quickly as possible. However, there are only so many hours in the day.

You should draw boundaries around what we can and cannot take on. Work anxiety really peaks when we say yes to everything and then realize we cannot complete it all. In order to stop this from manifesting, begin to draw your boundaries around work that you’re willing to do. It’s okay to say no, and it doesn’t make you a lazy or unproductive employee. Rather, it makes you one who is working smarter, not harder.

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Final Thoughts

Anxiety is our body’s way of reacting to stress. One of the most common places we experience stress is at work. Between juggling deadlines, projects, and people, it can be overwhelming to complete and excel at everything we pile onto our plate. This is where anxiety takes the front seat, but you can take it back.

By drawing boundaries around what you’re willing and able to accomplish, you keep yourself from spiraling down into the rabbit hole of stressful work. At the same time, tapping into resources of better sleep and richer nutrition will allow you to handle any anxiety that comes your way with a clearer perspective.

While anxiety may feel crippling, there are tools at your disposal that will bring you back into alignment with yourself and your work.

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on October 13, 2020

How to Spot a Burnout And Overcome It Fast

How to Spot a Burnout And Overcome It Fast

Burnout at work is an issue that most people who suffer from it, suffer unknowingly.

Have you ever felt that you can’t start an assignment, have an immense urge to Netflix binge, or couldn’t get yourself to wake up on time even though you have a lot on your plate? The cause for these might be burnout.

According to Deloitte’s report, “many companies may not be doing enough to minimize burnout.” This is to say that the responsibility is not only on the employee. According to that report, nearly 70 percent of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization, and they definitely should.[1]

Too many companies don’t invest enough in creating a positive environment. One out of five (21%) said that their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate burnout. It is the culture, not the fancy well-being programs that would probably do the best work.

This is a significant problem for individuals and companies, and it’s also an issue on a macro level. A Stanford University research found that more than 120,000 deaths per year, and approximately 5%–8% of annual healthcare costs, are associated with the way U.S. companies manage their workforces.[2]

It is both the employee and the employer’s responsibility—and the latter can certainly take more responsibility.

In this article, I’ll guide you on how to know if you suffer from burnout and, more importantly, what you can do about it.

Who Are Prone to Burning Out?

For starters, it is a good thing to know that you’re in good company. According to a Gallup poll, 23% (of 7,500 surveyed) expressed burnout more often than not. Additionally, 44% felt it sometimes. Nearly 50% of social entrepreneurs who attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018 reported having struggled with burnout and depression at some point.[3]

According to Statista (2017), 13% of adults reported having problems unwinding in the evenings and weekends. According to a Deloitte survey (consisting of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees), 77% of respondents said that they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.[4]

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Burnout is not only an issue of the spoiled first-world. Rather, it is a serious matter that must be taken care of appropriately. It affects so many people, and its impacts are just too significant to be ignored.

Some occupations are more prone to burnout, such as people who deeply care about their jobs more than others. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Passion-driven and caregiving roles such as doctors and nurses are some of the most susceptible to burnout.”

The consequences can have life or death ramifications as “suicide rates among caregivers are dramatically higher than that of the general public—40% higher for men and 130% higher for women”. It is also the case for teachers, non-profit workers, and leaders of all kinds.[5]

Deloitte’s survey also found that 91% say that they have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration. Heck, 83% even say that it can negatively impact their relationships. Millennials are slightly more impacted by burnout (84% of Gen Y vs. 77% in other generations).

What Is Burnout Syndrome?

So, what is it, exactly? Burnout was officially included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and is an occupational phenomenon.

According to the World Health Organization, burnout includes three dimensions:[6]

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

The 5 Stages of Burnout

At this point, you must have a clue if you’re at risk of burnout. There are different methods for understanding where you are on the burnout syndrome scale, and one of the most common ones is the “five stages method.”

1. Honeymoon Phase

As you may remember If you’ve gotten married, there’s always the honeymoon phase. You’re so happy and feel almost invincible. You love your spouse and at this stage, you’re very excited about everything. It’s the same when it comes to taking on a new job or role or starting a new business.

At first, most of the time, you’re hyper-motivated. Although you might be able to notice signs of potential future burnout, in most cases, you might ignore them. You’re highly productive, super motivated, creative, and accept (and take) responsibility.

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The honeymoon phase is critical because if you plant the seeds of good mental health and coping strategies, you can stay at this phase for extended periods.

2. Onset of Stress

Let’s continue with the wedding metaphor. Now that you’re happily married for some time, you might start noticing certain issues with your spouse that you don’t like. You might have seen them before, but now they take up more space in your life.

You might be less optimistic and feel signs of stress or minor symptoms of physical or emotional fatigue at work. Your productivity reduces, and you think that your motivation is lower.

3. Chronic Stress

Let’s hope you don’t get there in your marriage, but unfortunately, some people get there. At this stage, your stress level is consistently high, and the other symptoms of stage 2 persist.

At this point, you start missing deadlines, your sleep quality is low, and you’re resentful and cynical. Your caffeine consumption might be higher, and you’re increasingly unsatisfied.

4. Burnout

This is the point where you can’t go on unless there is a significant change in your workspace environment. You have a strong desire to move to another place, and clinical intervention is sometimes required.

You feel neglected, your physical symptoms are increasing, and you get to a place where your stomach hurts daily. You might obsess over problems in your life or work and, generally speaking, you should treat yourself.

5. Habitual Burnout

This is the phase in which burnout is embedded in your life. You might experience chest pains or difficulty breathing, outbursts of anger or apathy, and physical symptoms of chronic fatigue.

The Causes of Burnout

So, now that we know how to identify our stage of burnout, we can move on to tackling its leading causes. According to the Gallup survey, the top burnout reasons are:[7]

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  1. Getting unfair treatment at work – This is not always something that you can fully control. At the same time, you should remember that even if you’re not calling the shots, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept unfair treatment. The consequences mentioned above are just not worth it in most cases.
  2. Workload – Another leading cause of stress according to dozens of interviews conducted before writing the article. According to Statista, in 2017, 39% of workers said a heavy workload was their leading cause of stress. We live in a busy work environment, and we will share some tips on how to manage that.
  3. Not knowing your role – While not something you can fully control, you can, and probably should, take action to better define it with your boss.
  4. Inadequate communication and support from your manager – Like the others above, you can’t fully control that, but as we’ll soon share, you can take action to be in better control.
  5. Time pressure – As mentioned, motivated, passionate workers are more in danger of experiencing burnout. One of the reasons is that they’re pressuring themselves to do more, sometimes at the expense of their mental health. We’ll address how to work on that as well.

How to Overcome a Burnout

After going over the stages of burnout and the leading causes of becoming burned out, it might be a good time to let you know that there is a lot you can do to fight it head-on.

However, let’s start with what you should not do. Burnout cannot be fixed by going on a vacation. It should be a long-term solution, implemented daily.

According to Clockify (2019), these are the popular ways to avoid burnout:

  1. Focus on your family life – 60% of adults said that stable family life is key to avoiding burnout. Maintaining meaningful relationships in your life is proven to reduce stress (instead of having many unmeaningful relationships).
  2. Exercising comes in second, with 58% reporting that jogging, running, or doing any exercise significantly relieves stress. Even a relatively short walk might improve your body’s resilience to stress.
  3. Seek professional advice – 55% say they would turn to a professional. There are online websites where you can speak with professionals at reduced costs.

Aside from the three most popular ways of avoiding burnout, you can also try the following:

1. Improve Time Management

Try understanding how you can use your time better and leave more time for relaxation. That’s easy to say (or write) but more challenging to implement. It would help if you started by prioritizing yourself. Understanding the connection between your values and your everyday tasks is a tremendous help. You can use proven methods to improve the relationship between your vision and goals to your daily life tasks’ lists. Check out the Horizons of Focus or V2MOM methods to get started.

2. Use the P.L.E.A.S.E. Method

The P.L.E.A.S.E. is a combination of things you should do to be at your best physically. It means Physical Illness (P.L.) prevention, Eat healthy (E), Avoid mood-altering drugs (A), Sleep well (S), and Exercise (E).

3. Prioritize

You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes across your way at work (or in other aspects of life). You’d be surprised how easy it can become once you start saying no. Some might even describe it as exhilarating.

4. Let Your Brain rest

Culturally, most of us are already wired to think that hard work is essential, and while that’s true in most cases, we sometimes forget that our brain needs to rest for it to recharge. Seven hours of sleep are essential (depending on your age). Meditation might be helpful, too.

5. Pay Attention to Positive Events

According to Therapistaid.com, we tend to focus on the bad things in our lives. However, by focusing on positive things, we can change our mindset. One way to practice this daily is by writing three good things about your life every morning or evening. It’s been scientifically proven that doing so for a few months can help rewire your brain.

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6. Take Some “You” Time

A Netflix binge is not always good for you, but it might be in some cases. The better the leisure time is, the better you’ll feel in the long term. It’s usually better to read a book or start a new hobby that requires more cognitive skills than just lying on the couch. But as long as you feel good watching a movie, that might be a good start.

7. New Technologies Might Be Helpful

There are tons of self-help apps such as Fabulous, Headspace (meditation), Noom (diet and exercise), and others. They’re good to use, but you should also be careful not to run away from your problems only to watch social media for hours. It’s not real, and no one’s life is perfect (even if their Facebook or Instagram feeds might seem so). You should also be aware not to be in an “always-on” mindset.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re at the first or the fifth stage of the burnout phases, the goal of this article is to show you that there are always ways to fight it. The first thing is self-awareness—knowing that there’s a problem. The second step is to decide what to do about it.

You can also consider using Lifehack’s community. You’re more than welcome to share your burnout story on our Facebook page.

Bonus: Rebound from Burnout in 8 Hours

Watch what you can do to rebound from burnout quickly in this episode of The Lifehack Show:

https://youtu.be/MNnyqQWK_zg

Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

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