Would you know if you suffered from anxiety at work?

Maybe, but maybe not and you wouldn’t be alone.

Since most people don’t willingly walk around the office with a sign on their chest saying “I have anxiety” – it’s pretty hard to distinguish if someone is just having a bad day, bad week or a bad life.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

Anxiety exists in all of us but since we don’t readily use that word to label others it goes silent and you’re simply left with the symptoms and signs all of which can easily derail our performance in the workplace. Don’t believe me?

According to the Mayo Clinic, here’s a list of common signs and symptoms of what anxiety can look like:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating & trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping

Sound like anyone you know?

Watch this video to get a better understanding of what it’s like to live with anxiety.

We often talk about the common habits of successful people and how they overcame what seemed like insurmountable odds but rarely do we look at what these people had to confront emotionally to achieve their greatness.

The fact is, anxiety is taboo topic around the water cooler and since people tend to be worried about their job security and looking good, it’s not a subject that you’re probably going to hear about anytime soon – at least not in public.

That’s too bad because anxiety in the workplace is real and it’s being felt not just professionally but personally as well.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Here are some statistics from the ADAA and the results are startling. On the job employees say stress and anxiety most often impacts there:

  • Workplace performance (56%)
  • Relationship with coworkers and peers (51%)
  • Quality of work (50%)
  • Relationships with superiors (43%)

Outside of work: More than three-fourths who say stress interferes with their work say it carries over to their personal life, particularly men (83% vs. 72% for women).

Romantically: Seven in 10 of these adults report that workplace stress affects their personal relationships, mainly with their spouses. Men (79%) report it affecting personal relationships more than women (61%). The main culprits of work-related stress:

  • Deadlines (55%)
  • Interpersonal relationships (53%)
  • Staff management (50%)
  • Dealing with issues/problems that arise (49%)

Fear In The Workplace

The impact of anxiety is real and the potential for it to become a type of disorder should not be overlooked. There’s a ton of data on the impact of both men, women and children and I encourage you to take a look at it but the real eye opener here is that:

  • Fewer than 40% of employees whose stress interferes with work have talked to their employer about it. 

According to the ADAA, here’s why:

  • Fear their boss would interpret it as lack of interest or unwillingness to do the activity (34%)
  • Fear being labeled “weak” (31%)
  • Fear it would affect promotion opportunities (22%)
  • Fear it would go in their file (22%)
  • Fear being laughed at or not taken seriously (20%)

How To Manage It

Since every person, condition and outside circumstances are different – so will be how you choose to manage it. The positive here is that there are proven methods to help you manage your workplace anxiety that doesn’t involve a prescription from your doctor. Here are some methods I have used over the years that have worked well:

  1. Exercise. Enough can’t be said about the all-around benefits of getting out of your seat and start moving. Change up your environment and get the blood moving. You don’t have to do a WOD at your cubicle, a brisk walk outside will do the trick.
  2. Mindful Breathing. Slowing down is a key component to regrouping your mind, body and spirit. Breathing is an excellent way to gain balance. The key is to take deep breaths from your abdomen versus shallow breaths from your lungs.
  3. Change Up Your Conversation. Misery loves company and anxiety is like the 3pm sugar fix in the workplace. Avoiding the negative self-talk is key to gaining both perspective and balance. Stay clear of the pity party as that will only keep the negative conversation alive.
  4. Use A Life Line. If you feel like you are drowning (metaphorically of course) then reach out to someone who you know will help you, not hurt you. Having someone in your life who won’t judge you but listen to you with intention can help in so many ways.
  5. Fuel yourself. What you eat will absolutely impact your moods and ability to think on the job. If you aren’t willing to ditch the donut for a gluten free bran muffin, then at least stay hydrated – yes hydrated. Drinking enough water is so important and the impact and data is real regarding your workplace performance.
  6. Make A List. Not your bucket list but rather a list of tasks and begin to prioritize them. Many times, the stress we incur is due to the perception of being out of control. Get this back by putting down on paper what’s happening in your head.

Final thoughts: You are not fears. I repeat, you are not your fears. We’re all battling something inside and outside of the workplace, so the next time you get the urge to judge your coworker, maybe try practicing more patience versus being presumptuous.

The floor is yours: How do you manage workplace stress?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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