​Dealing with work anxiety?


​Dealing with work anxiety?

Posted on 15 May 2023

Dealing with work anxiety?

How work anxiety is different from anxiety at work


In a perfect world, your biggest concern would be just getting through your to-do list at work, and life would be predictable. Unfortunately, anxiety can make your work life feel out-of-control. It’s hard to know when an anxiety attack will come up, so it’s hard to plan out your responsibilities. On top of that, anxiety has an unfortunate habit of popping up exactly when the stakes are high and we need to be at our best.


A little bit of nerves before a big presentation is normal, and it’s common to worry about things like doing a good job at work or hitting a deadline. In fact, in these situations, our anxiety can provide us with a bit of a competitive advantage. But when it becomes maladaptive (the psychological term for when a response becomes unhelpful) it can start to make work feel impossible.


What causes work anxiety?

Generally speaking, there are four kinds of anxiety at work:

Performance anxiety, Impostor syndrome, Urgency, Generalized anxiety

Here’s how they differ from one another:


Performance anxiety

If you’re generally pretty comfortable at work or around your colleagues, but get nervous when you have a project or presentation to complete, you likely have performance anxiety. This is a short-lived phenomena that tends to disappear after you’ve successfully completed the project (or even sometimes, in the middle of it when you start to build confidence).


Impostor syndrome

Imposter syndrome makes us feel as if we don’t deserve the level of success we currently have. People that deal with imposter syndrome tend to second-guess themselves and dismiss compliments. They constantly worry that someone will find out they’re not qualified for their role — despite evidence to the contrary.



Some jobs require quick decision making or crisis management. These roles can be inherently stressful. Particularly when someone’s decisions can mean the difference between life and death (for example, emergency medical staff) the body reacts by triggering the stress response.

Ideally, this response dissipates when the immediate threat is gone. However, over time the result of chronic workplace stress and trauma can accumulate, leading to anxiety disorders.


Generalized anxiety

For many people, anxiety is an invisible companion that accompanies them everywhere — even into the workplace. Nearly one in four workers say that they’re affected by stress, anxiety, and performance pressure at work on a weekly basis — and 1 in 20 say that it affects them daily.

Unfortunately, most people are taught to sacrifice their mental health to achieve peak performance. Doing this on a regular basis can make anxiety disorders worse — just as repeated strain at work can exacerbate an existing injury.


Managing Anxiety at Work

You may find some of these tips useful:


Plan ahead

Take the time to plan out your days and weeks. That way, you will have full visibility of the tasks you want and need to accomplish. A well-structured plan will help you to feel in control of your work and your working day, which can ease any feelings of anxiousness.


Break each task down into manageable chunks

While this may extend the length of your to-do list, breaking bigger tasks down into smaller action points will help you to methodically work through tasks. This way, you avoid becoming overwhelmed by the idea of having to complete the larger project. Being able to tick off each step you do can also be a great confidence boost.


Give yourself realistic deadlines

Setting ambitious deadlines for projects will only ever add to your anxiety. By breaking down bigger tasks into smaller steps, you can start to get a realistic picture of how long a project will take – use this planning stage to set deadlines that you are comfortable with. If you need to, make people aware of the different steps that need to be completed, to help them understand why’ve you’ve set certain deadlines.


Ask for help

We understand that asking for help at work can be difficult for someone with anxiety, as you worry that people will view you as inadequate. If your workload becomes too much - or you need a little bit of support on a project - a reasonable manager will respect you for being responsible and will want you to have the support that you need to get the work done.


Accept that you will experience some anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety from time-to-time. When people experience stress, it’s the natural human response. For people struggling with an anxiety disorder, who may experience anxiety more intensely or more often than people without the condition, it is important to have the coping strategies in place to help manage the moments that feel overwhelming. Professional support and therapy can help you to develop these coping skills for the future.


Take good care of yourself

Good self-care is important, as it can stop your stress and anxiety from becoming unmanageable. Take proper breaks during the working day so that you have a chance to rest and recharge. And make sure that you are getting adequate sleep, eating healthily, exercising, and taking part in social activities.

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