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Anxiety About Going to Work

Many workers experience the ‘Sunday Scaries’ - a dreading feeling on a late Sunday when the weekend is almost over and a new work week is about to begin. But for some, the feeling is much worse, and it’s not just on Sunday night. The thought of work can make people anxious all the time but the good news is there are a few things one can do to overcome work-related anxiety.

What is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is an emotion that includes worrying thoughts, feeling tense, and experiencing physical reactions such as a racing heart and increased blood pressure. The anxious feelings aren’t easy to manage, may not have a clear cause, and may be out of proportion to the actual possible danger. It can be long-lasting and result in avoiding a place or situation that causes anxiety.  

What Anxiety Can Look Like

Most people feel anxiety at some point in their life and may benefit their performance to some extent. But anxiety becomes a problem when a person suffers intense negative feelings such as fear or terror. For some, the fear reaches a peak within minutes, known as a panic attack. 

The symptoms and signs of anxiety can include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Feelings of impending doom or danger
  • Avoidance of anything that may trigger anxiety
  • Feeling tired and weak

Why Work Can Cause Anxiety

Work-related anxiety can arise from a variety of aspects like job performance, interacting with co-workers, speaking in front of a room of people, receiving work emails, interacting with a difficult manager, feeling unqualified, working on an urgent project or task, having poor relationships with colleagues, and a lack of purpose around work.  

Strategies for Feeling Less Anxious 

Knowing what triggers your anxiety is the first step in finding a solution. Once you can identify those rising moments of strong emotions, try the following techniques:

#1 Take Short Breaks

If you can feel you are getting anxious at work, get up from your desk and take a short break. Going to the kitchen for a sip of water or outside for a walk around the block can be enough for the anxiety to subside or to view the "problem" differently.

#2 Ask for Help to Fix a Problem

For some people, the anxiety is caused by one specific issue. It may be a project they don’t have experience with or a difficult call they need to make. Speak to a manager or a colleague to ask for advice - they may be able to help solve it and remove the angst.  

#3 Do the Hardest Task First

If procrastinating at work is making you anxious, consider trying a new approach to complete your tasks. Get started with the tasks you least want to do first thing in the morning before anything else. Also known as ‘eat that frog’; many workers find this approach a good way to stop procrastinating. Get the task done, and then you can move on to more pleasant tasks for the rest of the day knowing you have ticked these tasks from your list - a daily confidence booster. 

#4 Decide if it’s the Right Job for You

If work-related anxiety is impacting the quality of your life or health, it might be time to rethink the role's suitability for you. List the things that cause you anxiety and ask yourself: are these caused by a lack of knowledge or experience in some areas? If so, enquire about getting more help from colleagues or training. If these are tasks you don’t enjoy and often make you procrastinate, can you do less of this work in another role? Make a list of what you like and dislike about the role and if it’s possible to reduce the anxiety by making adjustments. Before quitting and finding a new job, consider small, easy changes you can make on your own - you may realise you're not ready to leave your current organisation.

#5 Talk to a Professional

It can be difficult to see problems objectively when dealing with them and in the heat of the moment. When anxiety levels are high, some people struggle to think rationally and come up with solutions. Speak to a psychologist as part of your workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP). They can help you navigate through the situation, come up with an action plan, and give a different perspective to consider. 

Should You Quit Work to Eliminate Anxiety? 

For some people, anxiety takes a toll on their mental and physical health. It can get to a point where they feel the only way to stop the anxiety is to evacuate and quit the job. But this may not be the only answer. Seek advice and attempt to modify the triggering situations at work first. However, resisting change and staying in the role may not always be the answer either. By looking around, you may find a role that is a better fit and can make you happier. 

Feeling anxious about going to work may be common but it shouldn’t be the norm, and we are here to help you. Find out if your workplace offers guidance on strategies to improve your overall well-being through Wellbeing Services. When anxiety and worry impact daily living and relationships, it’s best to seek professional treatment. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for more information.

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