Considering most people’s jobs take up about a third of their lives, anxiety at work can be a major problem. Not only does stress makes you less efficient at your job, it also has a negative impact on your mental and physical health and your ability to enjoy your time away from work.

  • Do you wake up in the morning filled with a feeling of dread?
  • Do you feel like you can never quite stay on top of everything at work?
  • Is there someone who makes your life miserable at your job?

You can’t always choose the perfect job or the perfect colleagues, but you can change the effect they have on your anxiety levels. These tips are designed to help you learn to surf the waves of difficulty that life throws at you.

Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, so take from them what fits and discard the rest!

1. Surroundings

Make your environment comfortable

Install some art or a plant in the space where you work. Music while you work (depending on the type of work you do and whether it will disturb others) can be a great stress reliever. Set up your workspace so that it is a pleasant place to be every day.

2. Planning

Make a list for the day

Put absolutely everything on it that you intend to do, down to the smallest thing. It may also help to create a calendar of what you want to achieve for the foreseeable future. Start with the broad strokes, then break tasks into smaller and smaller goals.

Work out ways to use your energy efficiently. This may mean saving the menial tasks for the end of the day when you have less creative energy (instead of trying to get them out of the way at the beginning so you can focus on the important stuff). Only you know how to make the best use of your energy and when your peak times of productivity are, so make a personalised plan.

3. Meditate

Take a few minutes to yourself

You don’t have to be a pro to meditate successfully, nor does it have to take up a lot of time. Next time you feel overwhelmed, take three minutes to gather your cool and ground yourself so you can carry on serenely while all around you is chaos.
For example, you could take two or three minutes to just think about the things in your life you are grateful for. You’ll be amazed at how much this lifts your mood. Or focus on your posture – this has a big impact on your mental state, as the latest fad of ‘power posing’ would suggest. Notice if your shoulders are hunched, whether your back is straight, are your feet planted firmly on the floor? Feel where your weight is centred and notice where your body is contacting the floor or a chair.

You can also google ‘three minute meditation’ and find dozens of simple prayers, affirmations and guided meditations that you can use as an aid. There are no rules – choose a practice that speaks to you. Go somewhere private if you can, but this is something you can do at your desk once you’ve had a little practice. Do your chosen meditation at least once a day, or whenever you need a moment to gather yourself and let go of anxiety.

4. Hidden Opportunities

Use your lunch break to wind down

Breaks at work are important. Yes, eating is essential to avoid mood crashes caused by low blood sugar, but it’s also an excuse to take 15-30 minutes in the middle of the day to smooth your ruffled feathers, rather than cramming in bites while you work. If your workplace is hectic, find somewhere quiet to eat your lunch in peace.

5. Exercise

To relieve stress & re-energise

Exercise is a great stress reliever, and gives you more energy throughout the day. Physical fitness and energy levels have a huge impact on mental wellbeing and resistance to anxiety. Stress gets stored in our bodies, which turns into physical tension, pain, and sometimes even illness. Exercising regularly can help release some of the physical manifestations of anxiety.

6. Talk to Someone

Tell people what’s bugging you

But not in a reactive way. Think about what is actually at the root of your problem, and take a moment to experience calm, before approaching the person. Letting gripes fester means they usually burst out at inappropriate moments and in embarrassing ways. You may think no one’s noticed the resentment you’re secretly harbouring, but chances are it’s written all over your face. Everyone will feel better if you just come out with it.

The trick is to come at it from the point of view of making life easier for everyone, and avoid accusations and blame. Gossiping or venting aren’t helpful either – go straight to the person concerned.

7. Communicate Effectively

Keep the lines of communication open

Doing what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it is an important part of most relationships, and determines whether you are someone that others trust and rely on. But, if you realise you can’t do what you said you would do – let people know! Part of being effective and dependable is communicating as soon as you know you can’t keep a promise.

As soon as you realise you’ve taken on too much, communicate this and set a new goal.

8. Pace Yourself

Don’t try and be superwoman/man

The second part of having integrity and doing what you say you’ll do, is being honest with yourself about how much you can get done without sacrificing your own mental and physical health!

If you’re an anxious person, you are probably someone who tries hard to work productively and efficiently. Your boss recognises this in you (if they don’t, get a new boss) and will respect your being clear about your capacity and how much you are able to take on. This brings us back to tip #2. Having a plan will help you see whether you’re being realistic about how much you can humanly do.

9. Go Device-free

Turn off your phone

Unless your job specifically requires it, don’t be on call 24/7. Either turn off your phone outside work hours, or have a separate one for work that you switch off at weekends and evenings. Make sure you set aside time that is just for you, when you aren’t going to be interrupted.

Especially for those of us with children, that’s easier said than done, but for parents it’s even more important to have those precious hours just for you. Carve them out!

10. Re-evaluate

Maybe it’s time for a change

Last but not least, if your job is really stressing you out long-term, and you feel there’s not much you can do to change this, maybe it’s not a job you should be in. As something we spend roughly a third of our lives doing, work shouldn’t be something that makes you anxious and ruins your health.

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