Working in the city can be very stressful. Working under high pressure, with tight deadlines, dealing with the competition, the anxiety of avoiding making any mistakes and the possibility of losing one’s income can feel as threatening as if we would be in danger of being eaten by a bear. No wonder our bodies react in the same way, by going into fight or flight. However, in a high achieving, with big expectations and highly competitive work environment, being under stress is the norm and the body feels constantly as if it is under imminent threat. Our minds tell us that we cannot switch-off, there is no time for it. Sleep becomes difficult and adding lack of sleep to stress fuels anxieties. Everything feels too much and sometimes people may end up ‘letting off steam’ with the people closest to them, their closest relationships ending up as collateral damage.
On the other hand, being continuously in fight or flight overwhelms the body with stress hormones which can lead to exhaustion, brain fog and potential illness.
If you get to the stage where you are experiencing high anxiety at work, don’t ignore it.
Feeling anxious as soon as you walk through the office door is damaging to both you and your work and the more you try and put it to the back of your mind, the more the quality of your life at work and at home will suffer. And don’t think that you are alone; 3 out of 4 people suffer from anxiety at work, finding their performance, relationships with colleagues and health affected negatively.
The first thing to do is take action. Seeing an experienced therapist can help you not only have a space where you can feel safe to share your worries and stresses without being judged; it is also a space where you can explore different perspectives, solutions and healthier coping mechanisms, where you learn to self-care so that you will begin to feel less pressured and anxious and as a by-product, more productive. Talking about and acknowledging our worries are a great stress reliever and by opening up to someone about our thoughts and feelings can be very powerful in conquering anxieties.
Here are just a few ideas on how you can deal with anxiety at work. By managing the problem more efficiently, you can gradually begin to get on top of it.
Get used to saying ‘No’
Many people use stress as a motivator to do more, to be more, to succeed. And this can work well for a short time. However, being constantly motivated by the stick will end up hurting you more than helping you. Are you the one that always says ‘Yes’ when extra work needs to be done? Do you work overtime so often that it has become the norm? Do you end up sacrificing your diet, your relationships and your health in the process? It is important that you stand up and ask for help before it’s not too late. If you are struggling with deadlines or workload, it is important that you talk to someone and find ways to address it. The longer you push yourself too hard, the more inefficient you will become. On the other hand, people around you will get so used to you doing everything that you will become the go-to person for extra work that no-one else wants to touch. In therapy, you learn to take care of yourself, take a step back and treat yourself with more kindness because in the end, you can’t give from an empty cup.
Make your deadlines manageable
When you set deadlines and map out work in your diary, make sure that you can achieve them. Planning to do the work of two people in one day on a constant basis is a major recipe for stress at work and for making mistakes, which in turn will generate even more work. Learning to self-care will also involve healthier boundaries and being assertive when needed, learning to say ‘no’ to impossible deadlines and unrealistic expectations. Get used to talking honestly and be straight; if you can’t do it, say so. The secret is to work at a manageable pace that leaves you with some energy at the end of the day for a home life.
Talk and communicate
If you are worrying about something at work, no matter what it is, tackle it head-on. Maybe someone has sent an email that you don’t understand or you are worrying about its content. If there is a difficult subject that you need to talk about, don’t delay. Whatever it is that is making you anxious, pick up the phone and talk to the person concerned. Clarification and communication is a big help. You may have misunderstood something and ended up feeling overwhelmed. Talk about how you feel and what you need to be happy at work and in turn more productive, and learn to explore worries from a solution focussed way rather than over-focusing on all the potential issues.
Remember to question the possibility versus probability of problems happening
One of the biggest issue with anxiety is the ‘what ifs’. We know our mind wants to protect and prepare us for all these scary scenarios. However, our brain did not manage yet to evolve and adapt to the stressful environments of a demanding workplace and it reacts as if we are still cave men/women sometimes. Here we have to intervene and remind our minds to balance out the possibility of something bad happening with the probability of that to happen. In this way we learn to prioritise and prepare for those couple of things that are more likely to happen and then relax.
If you are looking for a therapist in the City, in SE1 area, close to your workplace that has the experience and knowledge to help you deal with your workplace anxiety, feel free to contact me and book a session. No matter your type of employment – you may be feeling anxiety as a lawyer, business owner, anxiety as an investor or working in the financial sector – anxiety at work can be crippling. As you face up to the problem rather than trying to hide it, you will find that your anxiety at work becomes far more manageable and your productivity will increase as you learn to spend your mental energy in a healthier way.