Is Your Job Affecting Your Generalized Anxiety? Coping With Daily Stress
Workplace stress is normal and to some degree, healthy. Yet when stress and worry on the job threaten to overwhelm anxious tendencies, it becomes a real problem. For someone living with generalized anxiety disorder, the workplace is full of landmines that worsen their symptoms. In addition to professional help, coping strategies such as meditation, getting outside for a break, and reaching out to others can help.
Work can be stressful for anyone. Deadlines, a boss’s expectations, public speaking, office politics and gossip, and other workplace elements can be anxiety-inducing. If you have an anxiety disorder, the effect is amplified. You may dread going to work every morning.
If you are living with generalized anxiety, work is full of pitfalls and triggers, but you can do something about it. Make changes to reduce stress where possible, and learn and practice healthy coping mechanisms for the things you can’t change.
Do I Have Generalized Anxiety?
Generalized anxiety disorder, GAD, is a mental health diagnosis characterized by excessive worry and anxiety that is difficult to control. Unlike other anxiety disorders, GAD doesn’t have a specific trigger.
Many different things and situations cause anxiety. You might struggle with generalized anxiety if you have several of these symptoms:
- Excessive worry over ordinary, daily situations
- Difficulty controlling your worry
- Difficulty relaxing
- Unexplained pains, especially stomachaches and headaches
- Irritability and feeling on edge
- Easily startled
- Feelings of lightheadedness or shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks or activities
Anxiety Triggers at Work
Anxiety is a normal emotion. We all experience it at times, especially when triggered by something like an upcoming event or financial difficulties. If you have GAD, your worry is excessive and out of proportion with your current situation. Anxiety persists, even when a trigger goes away.
Constant or near-constant anxiety is typical of GAD, but it can also be worsened by specific triggers. Work is a common source of stress and worry for many people. If you have GAD, consider which job factors worsen your condition.
For example, it could be the stress of your workload or tight deadlines that trigger anxiety. Maybe you dread working with certain people or have to perform or speak in front of groups. Money can also be a stressor. If you’re worried about finances, the thought of losing your job could trigger major anxiety.
What to Do When Your Job Causes Serious Anxiety
Identifying your on-the-job triggers is the first step to better managing workplace stress and worry. If you know what makes you feel worse, you can start to make changes. While you cannot control every element of your workplace, you might be able to take some steps to reduce stress.
If you need more time to get projects done, for instance, it might be a reasonable request to make to your boss. If money is a problem, consider asking for a raise. For factors you cannot change, learn how to cope with the daily stresses of working:
1. Write Out Your Worries.
An important strategy for managing anxiety is to allow your negative feelings to pass through you. Recognize them, acknowledge them, and then let those worries go. Try writing down what makes you anxious or nervous. Set aside a time during the day when you let the feelings wash through you. Writing them down in the moment is a powerful way to release unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts.
2. Talk to Someone About Your Feelings.
Talking it out is another excellent way to release negative thoughts and worries. Turn to someone you trust, whether a coworker or a friend you can call. Tell them how you’re feeling. They don’t need to provide advice for you to feel better. Just having someone who listens and cares can help you manage stress in the moment.
3. Take Mindfulness Timeouts.
Try a quick mindfulness meditation: close your eyes, breath in and out slowly and deeply, and focus on the breaths and your physical sensation. This focus on the present moment and physical sensations takes your mind away from anxious thoughts and will help you feel relaxed. A break of just a minute or two can help you relax and get your mind back on track, even in the middle of the workday.
4. Question Your Anxious Thoughts.
When you’re in the throes of anxiety, your thoughts are not very reliable or accurate. Your brain is inflating a stressful situation and creating misplaced anxiety. When you have these thoughts, stop and question them. Are your thoughts true or exaggerated? Are you being unnecessarily critical of yourself? Dismiss or contradict the thoughts that are not rational or helpful.
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5. Get Outside on Breaks.
Numerous studies have shown that being outside benefits mental health in multiple ways. Being outdoors reduces anxiety and stress, boosts energy, and helps you stop dwelling on negative thoughts that keep cycling through your brain. When you have a break at work, spend it outside. Even if there is only a small patch of green near the office, a few minutes in the fresh air will boost your mood and relax you.
6. Try Relaxation Exercises.
Anything you can do to relax your body will also calm your mind. For example, progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then relaxing muscles one at a time. It’s a simple exercise you can do right at your desk to release tension in your body. Other useful activities include stretching, deep breathing, and guided imagery.
7. Replace Afternoon Coffee With Tea.
If you’re battling stress and anxiety on the job, you likely feel exhausted, especially during the afternoon slump. Reaching for a coffee seems logical, but the caffeine will enhance your anxiety and jumpiness. Instead of coffee, reach for something more soothing. A hot cup of herbal tea is better for relaxation and calming racing thoughts.
8. Practice Positive Self-Care on the Job and at Home.
The more you prioritize your physical and mental health, the better you’ll feel. Good self-care prepares you to face difficult situations and to cope in the face of work stress. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Get to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning for a healthy routine.
Add regular exercise to your schedule and eat a varied, nutritious diet. Come to work prepared with a healthy lunch and snacks, so you’re not tempted by sugary treats that will only make you more anxious.
When to Get Professional Support
A trained therapist or recovery program can help you get to the root of your anxious thoughts and practice coping with them in healthier ways. Although the above coping strategies can make a big difference in your daily life in the workplace, they may not work for some. If they aren’t enough, it might be time to seek professional help.
Getting professional help is a significant step that helps you understand what is triggering your stress and allows you to cope better.
Keep in mind that generalized anxiety disorder is a real illness, which means professional care helps. Although there is no cure or one-size-fits-all solution, the proper support can help you enjoy and even thrive at work and the rest of your life.