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Top 10 tips to deal with anxiety at work

Man sat outside the office on a picnic bench taking a break from work, taken from iHASCO's returning to work online training course

On top of the anxiety that many people may be currently feeling from the ongoing pandemic and future uncertainty, further anxiety may be experienced from their job. Everyone can experience work anxiety from time to time, even if they love their job! Causes of work anxiety can include tight deadlines, difficult working relationships with colleagues or even the amount of video calls/meetings or lack of contact with a manager/supervisor. Many employees may be feeling increased levels of anxiety as they return to the workplace or equally if they face a further period of working from home when they would rather be back in the office. Concerns about their role, not being part of a team whilst furloughed or the overflowing inbox they may return to may be further contributors to anxiety.

Anxiety presents itself as an uneasy feeling that you start to become aware of, as a result of a specific situation. It can cause physical symptoms too, such as an increased heart beat, shortness of breath, as well as shaking or sweating. Everyone is familiar with these anxious feelings to varying degrees, but with the following 10 tips it is possible to find some effective coping strategies to help stop anxiety taking hold. 

1. Talk about your concerns

If you are starting to feel anxious, maybe chatting to a colleague will help ease your concerns. Even just expressing your feelings out loud to someone else could help you refocus and feel that something is more manageable by having acknowledged it. You could also talk to your manager or supervisor and they can help address whatever is making you anxious and provide support. You should remember that your manager will be happy to help you stay focussed and productive. If you are the sort of person who tries to avoid certain situations which cause your anxiety to rise, sharing this information with your manager will help them check in with you regularly and offer support when you have tasks or issues that may add to your anxiety.  

2. Stay connected / ask colleagues for help when you need it

Sometimes work can be hectic and when workloads are heavy with no let up anxiety levels can start to build. By asking colleagues for help or setting realistic expectations for meeting deadlines when someone asks you to do something, will help keep you in control and stop anxiety building. Communication is vital, and however tempting it may be to avoid colleagues or certain situations it will cause more anxiety in the long run. Dealing with things head on and talking to those around you will over time help decrease anxiety levels, and eventually some of these anxiety triggers will become less of a concern. 

3. Take regular breaks

It is incredibly important to take regular breaks, as this can help towards ensuring tasks get the required attention and focus. Working through breaks is a sign that you need to slow down. It is actually helpful to take a break as it can help refresh your mind and allow you to become more productive and improve creativity. If you feel in a rush or that things are getting on top of you a quick break could be enough to reset you and allow you to continue with reduced anxiety. A walk around the office or going to get a cup of tea could be all you need. Make sure you have a lunch break too to get something nutritious for lunch and even step outside for some fresh air.  

4. Make a list and prioritise

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to do, sometimes making a to-do list can help you. Once you can see what you need to work on you can look to prioritise tasks, as well as see whether there are any on the list causing you to feel particularly anxious. If that is the case, then it may be a good idea to look at the tasks causing your anxiety first. It makes sense to get these out of the way to help reduce your anxiety levels and you will feel much better once they are completed. You may also be able to see where you can fit smaller tasks in between the bigger tasks. As you complete things and cross them off the list, your anxiety will hopefully begin to diminish. 

5. Try gentle stretching

Sat at a desk or staying in one position for too long is not good for you as tension and anxiety can build. On days where a long lunchtime walk is just not possible you can still get moving with some simple stretching at your desk. Have a look at iHASCO’s exercise sheet, which provides a guide to help stretch your muscles and give your eyes a rest. You’ll be surprised at how effective it can be.

6. Stay hydrated

We all know that drinking water is important to keep our bodies hydrated. The NHS recommends drinking 6-8 glasses a day. Even mild dehydration can have a negative effect on our mood and be a contributing factor to symptoms of anxiety. Keep a bottle of water to hand and help keep anxiety at bay.

7. Breathe

A simple breathing exercise can help reduce feelings of anxiety. You can try this anywhere and at any time, without drawing attention to yourself. The act of breathing deliberately can help you focus on being aware of your breathing rather than all those anxious thoughts swimming around in your head. 3 deep belly-breaths will help focus your mind and calm you down.

To start off, simply become aware of your breathing, and then breathe deliberately. You may find it useful to count in your head as you breathe in and out, it can help you focus. Let’s try right now. If you can, roll your shoulders back and place one of your hands on your stomach just above your belly button. Then slowly breathe in through your nose. And fill your belly with air so it expands and pushes against your hand; Then start to breathe out through your mouth, slowly. All the way out. And relax your shoulders. You can do this no matter what the time, no matter where you are. You can do it as many times as you need to.

Taken from iHASCO’s Returning to Work (during & after Covid-19) online training course

8. Meditate

Meditation can help reduce tension by allowing you to be mindful. By becoming aware of the present moment and focussing on your thoughts and feelings, you can gain perspective. Meditation is something that takes practice but can be a useful tool while at work. Just a 5 minute meditation break could help shift your focus, allowing you to return to the task in hand with a clearer mind. The more your practice the art of meditation, the more effective it may become. There are apps available such as Headspace, that can help you with this.

9. Acknowledge your anxieties

If you are feeling particularly anxious and your concerns seem to be taking over, you could try writing them down. Try allocating a specific time in the day to look at what is concerning you, to help you consider solutions rather than panicking. Can you switch tasks to give yourself a break from what is making you feel anxious and look at ways to deal with it once you have had a chance to clear your mind? It is a normal part of life to feel anxious at times. If it is taking over your life, then you should seek help from your doctor or visit the NHS website for further information.

10. Use support systems available to you

Anxiety can be frightening and overwhelming. It is helpful to remind yourself that these feelings will end no matter how terrible you feel at the time. One of the best ways to help yourself is to make sure you use any support systems available to you to help you manage anxiety. Maybe your workplace has an Employee Assistance Programme which can put you in touch with trained counsellors or do you have Mental Health First Aiders at work you can talk things through with? Even buddying up with a colleague who you can talk to when you feel overwhelmed can help manage day to day anxieties and help you learn to deal with them over time.

How can employers support their employees?

It is important to support employees with their job roles as well as their mental health and wellbeing. By supporting your employees you will have a happier and more productive workforce. It is easier to train someone to do a specific task but how do you provide them with the tools to manage their anxiety, look after their mental health or build their resilience? 

Online training in areas of Managing AnxietyMental Health Awareness, Resilience, Stress Awareness & Management can ensure you have staff that are confident and can grow in their roles. The whole company will benefit from having employees who feel better equipped to manage difficult situations, build better relationships with colleagues and feel more positive about their performance.  

iHASCO provides cost effective, online training for these areas and more! Claim a no obligation, free trial today!

Managing Anxiety training by iHASCO