Having an anxiety disorder can have a major impact on workplace productivity and wellbeing. However, anxiety and stress affect us all and an understanding of their effects can help to build resilience to minimise the impact on our work and home life.
Anxiety, if left unattended, can become persistent and overwhelming. In order to manage it within the workplace an understanding of the particular stressors affecting you is important. In general, however, looking closely at how you spend your time at work can provide insight into what is making it difficult to deal with anxiety at work.
The following are some exercises that might aid this insight and, as techniques themselves, begin to reduce the stress and anxiety in your environment.
- Practice time management – Prioritise your work by making lists in order of most vital first. Estimate how much time each task will take, if you are busy all day but still cannot complete all vital tasks, your workload may be too high.
- Plan, prepare and target – Large projects require careful planning, the more targeted this is at the beginning, the easier it will be to cope. Communicate your plans to colleagues to encourage their support from the beginning.
- Maximise your focus – If your role involves answering emails, set a certain time of day to handle them, an hour in the morning and one in the afternoon if needed. Avoid emails first thing; the morning for most people can be a creative and productive time, an email at this time can distract you from your important work with a less vital task.
- Be realistic – Honesty is important here, try to avoid taking on tasks and projects that you don’t have time for. Remember, if someone is asking you to do it, it could be just because they don’t have the time! This leads into the next point…
- Ask for help – If you begin to feel overwhelmed, speak to a colleague, they may have tips on what you are doing or even have time to help.
- Clear communication – When we are worried we can shut down to avoid being noticed. Speak up calmly as soon as you feel you have too much to handle, others may have no idea how much you are doing.
- Take breaks – This is vital. 10 minutes away from your desk, outside if possible, can help you clear your mind and reset. Try to take breaks in-between tasks to allow each to properly finish before the next starts. This is also a good time to praise yourself for your success.
- Set clear boundaries – As above with setting time for emails, keep work within work hours. Avoid taking work home with you and change your mobile device settings so work emails don’t ‘ping’ after hours.
- Relationships – Some work relationships can be difficult, avoid those centred on gossip and negativity surrounding work. Give energy instead to constructive relationships and your social support outside of work.
- R&R – Activities that rest and relax you are quite personal, have you thought about what yours are? Try to plan a restful or relaxing activity 2 or 3 workday evenings a week.
- Physical wellbeing – Avoid resilience depleting behaviours that often increase with stress and anxiety (e.g. alcohol, smoking, drugs etc.). Give yourself time to eat well, exercise and practice good sleep hygiene.
If anxiety at work does begin to overwhelm you on a weekly basis, to the point where the above suggestions seem too difficult to do, consider contacting the confidential support of your Employee Assistance Programme.