Work anxiety can drastically affect your quality of life and leave you counting down the minutes until five o’clock comes around.  Roughly three out of every four people with stress or anxiety in their life say that it interferes with their daily lives, and the workplace is no exception. Anxiety can affect performance at work, the quality of the work, relationships with colleagues, and relationships with supervisors. And if you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, then these challenges may prove even more difficult.

People report that deadlines and dealing with difficult people are the biggest causes of work-related stress.Conflict in the workplace will elicit many different reactions. Some people love the drama, while others would rather hide under their desks until the commotion subsides. Regardless of whether or not you thrive on conflict, lack of effective communication at your job can cause quite a bit of anxiety. When several people in the office are visibly affected by anxiety, the level of stress can almost feel contagious. People begin to miss more work, the quality of work goes down, and coworkers begin to gossip or vent rather than work together to solve problems. People stop talking to one another, they start collecting mountains of grievances, and the environment can become downright toxic.

The first step in managing work anxiety is building a personal wellness plan. If you’re getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and engaging in social activities outside of work, then your odds for decreasing workplace anxiety are much greater.

But reducing anxiety in the workplace requires more than mindfulness exercises or a yoga class every now and then. You must also examine how you function in workplace system and how you deal with others. Do you hide from your boss? Do you gossip with your coworker in the neighboring cubicle? Do you wait to speak up until you’re seething with anger or bursting into tears? There are a few simple strategies you can start examining and practicing to help you arrive at work calmer and not take worries home with you. In addition to seeking professional help to manage anxiety, you can use these interpersonal strategies to help lower overall anxiety in the office and help you stay calm, focused, and productive. Let’s take a look at a few.

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Know Everyone’s Name

Having a solid one-to-one relationship with people in the office makes it easier to address problems with the original individual rather than gossiping or venting to others. This starts by knowing people’s names and their responsibilities. If you forget a person’s name, don’t be embarrassed to ask again. It’s never too late to start building stronger relationships at the office.

Ask For Help

When work is hectic, it becomes all too easy to say “yes” even when you don’t understand how to do something. But the discomfort of asking for help or clarification is worth it in the long run, and it can decrease overall anxiety about responsibilities. Asking for help also communicates to your superiors that you genuinely care about doing a good job.

Avoid Triangles

Many workplaces are built on gossiping about coworkers or venting about others. Though this might provide temporary relief or entertainment, it only serves to build up tension and stress. You can almost feel it floating in the air when an office is full of this kind of negativity. Bonding with someone by talking about a third person is called “triangling,” and it’s an unhealthy way to manage work anxiety. Examples of triangles might include gossiping about a third person, criticizing someone behind their back, and using them as a scapegoat.

Though it might be tempting to vent to a coworker, consider how you can keep the issue between you and the person with whom you have conflict. Though it might be difficult at first, you can reduce your anxiety by approaching the individual and communicating the facts of the situation. Tell them you’d like to reach a resolution and are motivated to create an open and honest workplace. If you’re an employer or supervisor, consider how you can encourage employees to work out conflict between themselves and approach you honestly if they have an issue with your leadership.

Set Honest Deadlines

Anxious people sometimes will agree to deadlines and timelines that they know they cannot meet. Often it’s better to be honest upfront than to apologize later. Not every deadline is negotiable, but it will save you hours of anxiety if you can be honest upfront and work at a manageable pace. And if you finish the job ahead of time, that will make you look even better.

Use Neutral Language

Learning to use neutral and calming language in the office can help bring down everyone’s anxiety at work. Disagreements are more manageable when you begin a statement with, “Here’s what I’m thinking,” and end it with, “What are you thinking?” This lets people feel like they have input and makes them more likely to hear what you’re saying. Questions like, “What could we each do about this issue?” or “How could we prevent this from coming up in the future?” are also great for problem-solving.

Stay in Contact

It’s human instinct to avoid or cut off contact with people who make us uncomfortable, and the workplace is no exception. Maybe you stop replying to emails that you don’t know how to answer. Or perhaps you avoid the break room after you’ve had a disagreement with a bullying coworker. Maybe you try and duck out for the day before your boss can catch you with a question. The problem with avoidance is that it’s only a very temporary solution. That twisting feeling in your stomach or other work anxiety symptoms will only get worse over time the more you use distance as a way to manage disagreement, confusion, or other difficult emotions.

Contact is a muscle you have to flex to make it stronger. The more you approach problems and communication head-on, the less anxious it will make you over the long term. Great leaders have the ability to maintain contact with people who have different points of view or styles of work. Staying in contact can also help you improve on saying “no” to additional responsibilities that make you overworked and less effective in your job.

Don’t Drag Others Down

Office drama can be entertaining at times, but it ultimately makes the environment more stressful and lowers morale. Try changing the subject when people talk poorly of coworkers or the boss, or simply come up with a reason to leave the room. Don’t respond to texts or emails that seek to drag others down.

Encourage In-Person Conversations

It can be incredibly difficult to decipher emotions and intensions electronically. Much workplace anxiety comes from misinterpreting emails or waiting to hear back about a difficult subject. If an issue is making you particularly anxious, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or have an in-person conversation to clarify things.

Focus on the Facts

Your mind and emotions can feel pulled in many different directions when you feel overloaded, under-appreciated or misunderstood. The best way to lower anxiety is to control the conversation and what’s communicated. Try to verbalize what specifically is causing your anxiety and ask other people share their views. Then be sure to express how you’d like to this specific conflict to be resolved. Focus on the facts of the situation, and stay in the present. This probably isn’t the best time to pull up past grievances, no matter how relevant they may seem.

It will be tempting to pull out your arsenal of complaints when you feel reactive, but lowering anxiety is not about winning. It’s about resolving. Try to avoid emotionally charged exaggerations that use words like “always” or “never.” Begin your sentences with “I” statements, because “You” sounds too accusatory. If you’re concerned about a volatile reaction from a coworker, then consider having a mediator, usually an HR rep, join the conversation.

Access Resources

Many workplaces have offer counseling through employee assistance programs (EAPs) or can connect you to mental health resources in the community to help you manage anxiety. Though it may be intimidating to speak up about your anxiety, when you take responsibility for your wellness, you serve as a role model for others in the workplace.

When you build more solid relationships, improve communication, and ask for help, the entire office will benefit. Anxiety is always present to some degree in your daily life, but it doesn’t have to interfere with doing good work and enjoying your profession. Remember, though anxiety is an unpleasant emotion, it’s also an opportunity for you to grow in your career. The more you face anxiety in the workplace rather than run away from it or simply complain about it, the more significant a stressor will have to be to make you feel off your game.

 

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Last Updated: Feb 13, 2018