By: Morgan VanderVeen | The OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center
It’s 9 a.m. on a Monday morning, and your to-do list is growing almost as quickly as your mounting anxiety. The phone is ringing, the emails are piling, the deadlines are approaching, and your head is spinning.
Whether you’re working from home, or back in the office, no one is immune to experiencing workplace anxiety. If you struggle with an anxiety disorder or are experiencing a natural spike in stress, having access to the proper tools is vital to ensuring that you remain safe, productive, and healthy at work. At the OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center, we are experts in treating Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. We asked our therapists to share their favorite tips and tricks for dealing with anxiety in the workplace.
1. Don’t Get All of Your Mental Health Advice from Google and Blog Posts. While perhaps a funny way to start our own mental health advice article, this tip is of critical importance. Comforting tidbits and encouraging suggestions are now more accessible than ever, but so are dangerous misconceptions and counterproductive instructions. If you think that you are struggling with a mental health disorder, it is important to seek specialized care, because different disorders require different treatments.
For example, an individual who requires exposure therapy for OCD would not benefit from an article that encourages readers to push away negative thoughts. Well-meaning self-care columns may advise Panic Disorder patients to engage in grounding activities, but their therapists are working hard on helping them face their fears. The examples are plentiful, and so is the amount of misinformation on the internet. When in doubt, always consult a professional who can guide you towards the type of treatment that is appropriate for you.
2. Know That You are Not Alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 71% of working adults report at least one symptom of stress or anxiety activated by the workplace, and nearly 1 in 5 US adults report having a mental illness. Struggling with anxiety is physically and emotionally taxing, but you’re not going at it solo.
3. Communicate. While sharing personal mental health concerns with your manager may feel vulnerable and nerve-wracking, communicating your situation to a trusted supervisor can create opportunities for you to get the support that you need. If you find yourself requiring access to mental health accommodations (time off, extended project deadlines, etc.), you’ll be glad that you gave your boss a heads up.
4. Know When to Seek Professional Help. When facing a mental health challenge, it is critical to make the proper distinction between experiencing anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a human emotion that everyone experiences on occasion. In fact, 94% of American workers report experiencing stress at their place of work! Individuals with an anxiety disorder, however, endure consistent and pervasive feelings of intense distress that negatively influence their everyday functioning. Both are valid, but require different courses of action. If your anxiety produces physical symptoms, impedes your ability to complete tasks, or causes you significant discomfort, it is likely time to reach out to a therapist. The OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center’s website offers free screening quizzes to help you identify whether or not you may be struggling with an OC Spectrum or Anxiety Disorder. (Click the link below to access the quizzes!)
5. Take Care of Yourself. Self-care is so much more than just bubble baths and face masks; sometimes, self-care is hard. Actively managing factors that increase your vulnerability to workplace anxiety is critical. Eat whole foods consistently, take time to move or stretch throughout the day, and enjoy restful breaks when you need them. Get protective of your sleep, and move away from glorifying unhealthy levels of workplace burnout. Distance yourself from toxic social relationships, and soak up some alone time. Incorporating these practices into your workday can feel daunting, but your brain and your body will thank you.
6. Engage in Self-Compassionate Self-Talk. You are allowed to be human. You are allowed to rest. You are allowed to make mistakes. You are allowed to need help. You are allowed to be sad, or tired, or scared. Remind yourself of it consistently.
7. Connect. An anxious mind can encourage you to isolate yourself from those around you, but engaging in healthy social interaction is proven to boost your mood and your health. The CDC even strongly recommends that social support networks be available in all workplaces to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. I know what you’re thinking: “We’re in the midst of a global pandemic!” Get creative with your attempts to associate with your peers by hopping on a short video call with your favorite coworker or prioritizing face-to-face time with family after hours.
8. Set Realistic and Healthy Boundaries. If you’re a “yes man” or a people-pleaser, this one might feel challenging. While boundaries can be tough to set, dealing with the anxiety-inducing repercussions of not having created them is tougher. Kindly and professionally voicing your opinions on excessive workloads, unrealistic deadlines, or disrespectful interactions will help to reduce stressful situations in the future.
9. Take Advantage of your Resources. Many companies now offer Employee Assistance Programs—like Blunovus’ proactive EAP—to aid employees in obtaining mental health services. You can also consult local mental health treatment facilities or your primary care physician for a list of resources in your area. If your place of work does not offer programs that increase access to mental health assistance, you can make a suggestion to your HR department.
10. Live in the Present. When you live in the present, you can let go of worries and stress associated with the past or future, and instead, you can focus your attention on what you’re working to do in the moment. This is especially valuable when you’re communicating with coworkers and managers, because when you’re fully present for those conversations, you help people feel heard, seen, and like they matter. And that helps create the psychological safety that you and your team members need in order to thrive.
There may always be weeks when you count down the days until Friday or daydream of the moment the clock strikes 5 pm, but a life that isn’t consumed with workplace anxiety is possible – you’ve just got to get to work.
Big shout out to The OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center for partnering up with us on this piece!
If you have any questions about how Blunovus can help you improve your culture and provide your employees with the emotional resources they need through our Proactive-EAP, don’t hesitate to contact us at (866) 258-6688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, report to your nearest emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Disclaimer: Blunovus content is not therapy and is not designed to diagnose or treat any condition you may be experiencing. Please contact a medical or mental health professional for treatment that is specific to your needs.