Tips to Manage Work Related Anxiety

Anxiety is normal, and isn’t something to be ashamed about. Anxiety calls for us to tweak how we function and look after ourselves.

Have you ever felt a sense of dread or panic flow through you as you think about work? Have you felt a sense that you are constantly being judged by your colleagues and employers to the extent that you are conscious about every little mistake you make? Chances are, you have work related anxiety.

Being stressed about workload is normal. Caring about your work, and thus making sure you give your best is a good thing. But on an extreme end of this spectrum lies work related or workplace anxiety where the extreme worry manifests in symptoms such as:

  • Inability to concentrate, difficulty in breathing, tightness of chest, overwhelm
  • Extreme nervousness or persistent nervousness
  • A need for perfection and hyper-focusing on mistakes, feeling like one slip-up will cause a massive downfall. In other words, engaging in catastrophic thinking

The good news is that anxiety can be managed and one can even channelise it in a different, healthier direction. (Shoutout to an article by Manah Wellness for inspiring us to have this conversation!)

Here are some tips to manage work related/workplace related anxiety.

Create your boundaries:

Boundaries are your best friend. Creating boundaries enables you to only take up that which you can and are willing to, and ensuring you remain in your own energetic space. Creating physical boundaries looks like owning up your space:

  • Decorate your cubicle in ways that make you feel comfortable.
  • Little post-it notes of affirmations, pictures and small objects on your desk that give you emotional support- these are all ways one can ensure one’s space remains one’s own.
  • It also involves not compromising on your health and nutrition; taking breaks as and when needed, and not forgetting to eat well and drink water.

Creating emotional and psychological boundaries can look like:

  • Politely declining to talk about one’s personal life, or using tact to make sure you don’t divulge too many personal details.
  • Finding other ways to ‘participate’, when conventional ways to socialise feel too overwhelming.
  • Declining, delegating or asking for more time if you have reached your limit and you cannot take up extra work. Work-life balance is not just a buzzword to use!

Boundaries aren’t ways to be cold to people, or to push people away. Boundaries in fact can act as our own fuel which enable us to provide the best version of ourselves.

Speaking of best version…

Understand that anyone can make honest mistakes:

Being your best version isn’t about taking extra stress to be the best! Many of us put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect colleague, or the star performer, or just to make sure we are hustling to the best of our abilities, that we forget that mistakes are a part and parcel of life. We think a slip-up from us will be remembered forever, and its impact would be irreversible. Tell your anxiety, that the world isn’t waiting to see you slip up!

The thing is, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to not be perfect and be on a learning curve. People, groups or organisations will find ways to figure things out even if a big mistake has been made.

Catastrophic thinking and fear about making mistakes and slip-ups only prevents us from living a fuller life and reaching our potential.

Ask for help, accept the good:

An attitude of seeing the positive in everything can go a long way in helping us cope with anxiety. It’s a blessing that as the world is changing, many organisations these days provide counselling services, and other resources to work with. As awareness about mental health increases, many bosses and colleagues are also willing to offer support and destigmatise in whatever they can. All you have to do is look around and ask.

There are multiple mental health well-being apps, digital well-being features on phones that are here to help in managing our anxiety.  

Anxiety about work is not something to be swept under the carpet, and it’s not something to be ashamed about. It’s a sign of our mind and body’s innate wisdom. Anxiety is a signal from our mind and body to pause, and reevaluate our approach to our well-being.

What Employers can do to Ensure Mental and Physical Well-Being of Employees

How well are people in Indian offices doing when it comes to mental-health? What can employers do to ensure their employees do not become a part of the recent statistics on depression and general psychological well-being? As an article by One-to-One Help mentions, around 42% of Indian workforce is depressed. There has been reported around 40 to 50% of increase in employees suffering from anxiety and depression, primarily as a result of demanding work schedules and high stress levels. 23% of the workforce suffers from obesity, 9% from high blood pressure, 8% from diabetes and 5.5% from spondylosis. They are all more or less caused by high levels of stress, and in a vicious cycle, keep contributing to the stress because of the way they affect the mental and physical well-being of the employees, eventually leading to a burnout.

In the light of these statistics, it is important that employers and management level personnel take steps to ensure that the workplace becomes a conducive environment for the mental and physical well-being of their employees. What steps can be taken? Let us quickly have a look.

Creating a Psychologically Safe Space:

A Gallups study shows that employees whose managers are always willing to listen to them about their problems are 62% less likely to be burned out. So, maybe one of the ways workplaces can become places conducive to employee well-being is making them psychologically safe. Psychologically safe means that the employees should be able to voice their feedback, concerns, ideas, express vulnerabilities and even negative feedback without feeling afraid or/and without fear of harsh repercussions. The workplace should be a place of trust and a space that allows the employees to be authentic within the boundaries of professionalism, of course. We have talked in one of our earlier articles about how the workplace can create spaces where it is okay to voice negative feedback and emotions without fear of being judged. It is all about acknowledging the problems, listening actively even when a solution isn’t at hand and thinking about realistic ways of dealing with the problems, instead of always trying to remain positive. This is especially needed when the issues that are said to be causing stress and burnout need to be addressed- the problem must be acknowledged instead of sweeping it under the carpet of positivity.

Fostering Teamwork, Community and Accountability:

Mental and physical well-being of the employees can also be cultivated by encouraging team-work and demanding accountability, as the article by One-to-One Help points out. The former could be achieved by undertaking fun team-building trips and activities every once in a while, or by having informal non-work-related talking chai sessions where employees can engage in casual chit-chat, and improve their individual and group dynamics. Well-being workshops can also be organised every once in a while. It is about ensuring a healthy sense of community.

Although, activities of fun are enjoyable for most people, employers also need to ensure these activities don’t become enforced demands of ‘mandatory fun’. Some employees just wouldn’t like to spend too much time in crowds because of their individual nature. If forced participation is more likely to affect their work and stress levels in a negative manner, then they should be given options to not participate.

Demanding accountability is all about creating certain ground-rules about how to approach unpleasant or difficult situations, how to respond and other rules of engagement. A sense of accountability ensures that we take responsibility about each other, which in turn fosters a safe community.

Ensuring Ergonomic Welfare:

Besides all these psychological tools, it is also a good idea for employers to ensure ergonomic welfare. As an article by The Business Goals points out, ergonomic welfare is often forgotten in the office. Ergonomic welfare includes ensuring the physical wellbeing of employees isn’t affected by long hours of screen-time, bad posture for prolonged periods of time and about maintaining a comfortable, workable physical environment for them in the office. Employers can take steps to keep reminding their employees to take frequent breaks, walks around the office etc. If possible, employers can also create small lounging areas where employees can sit around for sometime and decompress.

Thus, employers, managers, leaders can take these simple humane steps to ensure their employees can trust the office environment, be their authentic selves, create well-functioning bonds with their colleagues, be productive in their work and have better days at work. Depression, anxiety, burnout are things built up over time through the small and big issues. Ensuring an environment of mental and physical well-being in the office ultimately ensures a positive step towards fostering the desired company culture and mission