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Quick-Fire Guide: Overcoming Anxiety about Going to Work
Are you feeling a sense of anxiety about going to work?
Do you find yourself feeling anxious on a Sunday evening, or when you when you wake up in the morning, with the prospect of going into work?
Naturally, stress is a part of our working life (whether you’re employed or self-employed) and most of us will experience it at some point. However, feeling constantly anxious about going to work is harmful for your wellbeing and health – you should take this as a clear warning sign from your body that something isn’t right and your needs aren’t being met.
But, there are ways we can help redress the balance in your life so you don’t have to let your job be a painful daily experience.
In this blog, I will help you discover:
(1) that the cause of your work stress and anxiety is
(2) the ways in which you can tackle your anxiety and re-centre
This Quick-Fire Guide on how to tackle your work related anxiety, even if you feel that the job is not yet ideal, will allow you to regain a sense of freedom which always improves satisfaction and calms us down.
Free up 15 or 20 minutes, pour yourself a cup of tea, get out a notepad and let’s do some thinking...
✅ 1 – What are the causes of my anxiety at work?
There are many factors that can set off anxiety and even feelings of depression in the workplace. Sometimes the anxiety that shows up at work is caused by what’s going on at home. If you’re a working parent for example, unsatisfactory childcare arrangements can be enough to keep you on edge all the time that you are at work.
Here are three common causes of dissatisfaction that arise from the workplace itself.
Think about how relevant they might be to you.
A. A Toxic Work Culture
Have you ever thought about the culture at work?
The sad truth for many people in our modern gig economy is that they are overworked, underpaid and their jobs are insecure. Room for dignity and respect is missing too; not so much because colleagues lack humanity, but because we find ourselves trapped in a system where shareholders matter more than stake holders, such as employees.
Examine the turnover of employees in your company. That will tell you a lot about the value placed upon keeping workers and give you some idea of the limitations within which you operate.
Think too about whether your company invests in you by allowing you to continue learning and growing.
B. Permanently overwhelmed at work
If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer relentlessness and volume of the demands made on you, your inner alarm bells will be chiming for good reason.
They are there to protect you.
A GP told me that the only small element of control left to her was when she opened the door to start her day. She began 20 minutes late every day. Opening the door to her patients felt like opening floodgates to an inescapable tidal wave. Time passed and she lived with her anxiety but became more disconnected from her patients, as a result.
What might be stopping you from giving your best at work? What are the ways in which you defend yourself?
Often people are accountable for too much while ultimately not properly responsible for anything much. This prevents them from being able to organise and execute tasks in a way that would suit them best.
C. Work Isolation
Human connection is like food for the soul. It is not a luxury for in our spare time. When we give or receive real interest, kindness or other warm expressions of what makes us truly human, we actually calm down.
Information overload, targets and constant demands on the other hand, turn us into zombies: absent and disconnected from each other.
For all the time that we are preoccupied, hurried, clustered to digital devices we are not able to also be present with each other in the here and now. Any surprise then that without proper human connection we are left feeling isolated and anxious?
Consider whether you’re receiving enough human connection ‘nutrition’ whilst at work?
✅ 2 – Quick-Fire Guide: Overcoming Anxiety about Going to Work
It is never too soon to lovingly take your own life into your hands and build a framework that increases resilience and lowers negative emotional states.
Stress is the state we get into when the demands laid upon us are bigger or different, than what we think we can deliver. It arises when we are not treated with respect and our efforts go unacknowledged or when we feel a lack of justice in the way things are run.
Stress Buffer: Foundation Level
o Make time for regular exercise to burn off excessive adrenalin and cortisol (that comes with the anxiety) while simultaneously producing feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin.
o Get out of doors as much as you can, even by walking a bit further to get to the train or taking a stroll at lunchtime.
o Learn to meditate or develop breathing techniques to calm down as the stress rises in the workplace.
o Drink plenty of water.
o Cut down on sugars and caffeine.
o Disconnect from all digital devices at least an hour before bedtime and leave your phone outside of the bedroom.
o Reduce your use of social media - it increases anxiety.
Advanced Level: Tackling Workplace Anxiety and Stress
1.Remember What Matters and Make ‘It’ Matter Every Day
Stress and difficulties are an intrinsic part of life. They can even be good for us when they come in short term boosts and leave us feeling good about what was accomplished. Rarely, in fact, is anything worthwhile achieved without some accompanying stress. We worry because we care.
Research also tells us that the extent to which our challenges are aligned with what we value, will determine our ability to handle the stressful situation.
A film maker suffering from anxiety over unrealistic deadlines turned her attention to the stress it was causing her line manager. By reassuring and reminding her colleague of his greater worth, he calmed down, they felt more connected and the atmosphere changed. Together they became more realistic about the limitations they were under. They were able to opt for doing a ‘good enough’ job.
The film maker values her work and how it educates and brings meaning into the lives of viewers. Circumstances beyond her control stopped her from doing the job the way she would like to. She also values human connection and friendship. By bringing this value more sharply into focus every day, as she stepped into the workplace, her anxiety subsided. She put a lot of conscious attention into the human factor which led to them feeling they were in it together.
List some of your values and how they make your life worthwhile.
Is it important that you help others? Do you value family or connection? Maybe learning or adventure? You might need nature or art?
Pick out one or two of your top values and see how you can align the situation at work with your values. Imagine how that will be and notice if to already changes how you feel about work.
If caring for others matters and you are in a servicing role, can you ask yourself what small difference you can make under the current circumstances. You may be constrained to perform your duties as you would like to, but you can still offer care or real human interest within the context as it is.
If doing things well matters to you, can you decide which things you will do well and for which tasks you’ll accept ‘good enough’?
If you are not receiving any acknowledgement for the efforts you make, it might be possible to offer just that - the recognition of others - to colleagues yourself. Show genuine interest in others and make the connection you are not getting.
2. Learn to Be Kind to Yourself
Because kindness and personal recognition are such an integral part of our mental health it is important to learn to offer that compassion to yourself. Your brain will respond very positively.
Start by tuning into your anxiety and vulnerability. Embrace them tenderly as you would a wounded puppy. Say to yourself that ‘this hurts’ and acknowledge how hard you try. Even the recognition that anyone would find this difficult, can bring great relief.
Keep asking important questions like ‘what can I learn from these difficulties?’ or ‘what do I need right now?’
Think about how concerned you would be if someone you love was suffering in the way that you are at the moment. Offer yourself that same kind concern for your difficulties.
When we embrace our hurt, it no longer needs to call for our attention in the same way.
Research shows over and over again how favourably self-compassion effects our emotional state and how it reduces anxiety.
3. Fill Your Spare Time Wisely
Once you are reminded of your values and what really matters, think about how you fill up your spare time.
Can you free yourself up to fit in some more time in nature or with your family? Could you pick up that old guitar again?
Sometimes a small change and conscious effort to reconnect with what feeds our soul, can cause a domino effect. I hope that just the time you put aside to read and think about this blog, are already giving you ideas about how to take back some control.
When that happens, the anxiety reduces.
Still not sure where to start?
I hope this guide allows you to realign with what your core values are and that you begin to see improvements - both at home and at work. Sometimes however, it can be difficult to know where to begin when you’re so overwhelmed by everything. So if your anxiety persists, and you wish to seek further support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
You can send me a message here and we’ll go from there…
Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.
Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.
Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.