Work anxiety is a learnt response to stress and can be triggered by several factors, with some cases more severe and debilitating than others.

While most people experience some levels of stress in the workplace, workplace anxiety differs in that it goes beyond the body’s natural response to fear.

It’s important to distinguish between healthy, productive levels of stress and anxiety, which can impinge on an individual’s mental focus, satisfaction, motivation, and ability to carry out their work duties.

Scrabble tiles spelling out the word anxiety

It is reported to be triggered mostly by deadlines and dealing with difficult people. Workplace grievance and disciplinary procedures can often result in increased levels of workplace anxiety. Perfectionism and stress can also lead to clinically significant levels of anxiety.

Additionally, ineffective communication contributes to anxiety at work.

The Health and Safety Executive reported over 300,000 cases of work-related stress in 2017.

The following are signs of work anxiety:

  • Increased irritability and angry outbursts at work.
  • You find that you no longer enjoy your job.
  • Negative emotional reactions at work.
  • Negative thoughts.
  • You doubt your competence and ability at work.
  • Deterioration in memory.
  • You feel depressed.
  • You feel dissatisfied and disappointed with yourself even if you have not made any errors.
  • Loss of motivation.
  • Eating too much or not eating enough.
  • You find it difficult to sleep.
  • You find it hard to concentrate.
  • Increase levels of absence from work.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Stomach upsets.
  • You suffer from an increase in headaches and muscle tension.
  • Crying for small things and becoming more emotional than usual.
  • You withdraw socially from others.
  • You might turn to alcohol or drugs to cope.

Wellness Action Plans for Work Anxiety

A Wellness Action Plan is a great tool to map out what triggers your anxiety and what keeps you well. It is your personalised, practical tool to help you identify your triggers.

Once you know this you can:

  • Talk to your employer, they may be able to make some changes to help you – agree on realistic deadlines, and sensitive communication.
  • Learn different coping techniques:
  • Practice mindfulness – focus on the here and now. It might help you to find calmness and clarity to respond to stressful situations
  • Visualise your happy place in the moment, distracting you from the anxiety
  • Take time out – just 5 minutes away from the situation, out in the fresh air if possible, giving you space to be calm and gather yourself
  • Practice mindful breathing – this can be done in the moment again. Breath in for 4, hold for 4, and breath out for 4. This slows your heart rate down and calms the mind
  • Look after your physical health – eat well and exercise or gentle activity like going for a walk or more physical activity
  • Take some ‘me time’ for a massage, a hobby, time with friends, some yoga
  • Focus on healthy eating and your sleep which we have discussed many times and have a program you can join – reducing caffeine
  • Build support networks at work – trusted friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Communicate when you feel calm.
  • Try to rebuild positive listening/communication with a colleague who triggers your anxiety and do face-to-face rather than by email where possible.
  • Prioritise, and break down larger tasks into small achievable goals.
  • Consider if you need to look for a less anxiety-provoking job.
  • Set boundaries around work, leave on time and try not to bring it home.
  • Take regular breaks at work. Outdoors is best to boost your vitamin D and melatonin.
  • Use relaxation techniques that help manage your anxiety, e.g. mindfulness, visualisation, deep breathing, and going for a brief walk.
  • Put your well-being on your daily to-do list.
  • Access your organisation’s well-being programme/resources, Employee Assistance Programme, your GP, NHS therapy and private therapy.

Need assistance?

Tudor Rose Workplace Well-being work with employers on all aspects of workplace well-being. We offer a bespoke solution to help optimise performance and reduce absence.

For further information speak to Jane today.