How to reduce anxiety in the workplace (with steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 March 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Anxiety is amongst the most common mental health issues that the average person experiences in the workplace. Whether you're feeling overwhelmed about a deadline, stressed about the day-to-day work you do or feeling nervous about starting a new job, anxiety is more common than you may think. Knowing how to handle your anxiety is valuable for reducing your stress levels and improving your quality of work. In this article, we look at how to reduce anxiety in the workplace, the signs to watch out for and provide general tips on how to handle anxiety in the workplace.

How to reduce anxiety in the workplace

Knowing how to reduce anxiety in the workplace is the first step towards reducing your stress levels and improving relaxation. Much like many other workplace problems, knowing what to do can help you manage anxiety head-on, reducing the chance of lower productivity or struggling with work. As a starting point, here are some tips to reduce anxiety:

1. Know the signs of anxiety

Identifying the signs of anxiety can help you handle issues as soon as they arise. By having a good idea of what anxiety looks like for you, you are better positioned to know when to take measures or seek help if required. If you have experienced workplace anxiety in the past, you can use that knowledge and insight to act quickly the next time you feel anxious.

Related: 14 tips to learn how to stop worrying about work (with tips)

2. Actively work to manage anxious feelings

It's easy for feelings of anxiety to lead to long-term stress if they aren't handled effectively. Actively taking measures to reduce your level of anxiety as early as possible can be a positive step towards reducing anxiousness overall. If you are anxious regularly, taking action or planning self-care may be the best solution to help you feel better.

3. Speak up when necessary

If you find that anxiety is overwhelming or you require additional help, don't be afraid to speak up. Whether you would prefer to speak to a medical professional, call a helpline or seek counselling, speaking is an effective tool in getting relief from anxiety. You may also be able to speak to your manager or HR in your workplace to seek help.

What is workplace anxiety?

Workplace anxiety stems from your place of work, as opposed to anxiety you may feel from your personal life or other circumstances outside of your control. There are many causes of workplace anxiety, and typically, anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. But when workplace anxiety becomes continuous, persistent or has reduced your ability to enjoy other areas of your life, this is a sign that you may want to seek ways to manage and lessen your anxious thoughts and feelings.

Related: How to manage feeling overwhelmed at work (with steps)

Identifying workplace anxiety

The first stage to handling workplace anxiety is identifying it in the first place. Anxiety isn't the same for everyone, and you may find that you have slightly different signs from other people around you. Some of the most common symptoms of this type of anxiety include:

  • procrastinating with work

  • trying to avoid specific tasks or jobs

  • struggling to switch off outside of work

  • having difficulty with sleeping

  • feeling irritable and frustrated

  • struggling to focus or concentrate

  • avoiding social situations

  • feeling unmotivated and tired

  • having difficulty with tension and stomach pain

  • experiencing feelings of dread and panic attacks

  • thinking about work constantly

Related: How to get motivated at work and reduce stress in 10 steps

Tips to handle workplace anxiety

If you know that workplace anxiety is a concern or want to ensure you can handle workplace anxiety in the future, having tools and resources at your disposal is an excellent place to start. If you want to handle your workplace anxiety effectively consider these tips:

Communicate with others

Without communication, those around you may not know that you are struggling. Speaking about your feelings of anxiety can be a good way to alert others to the fact you would like help and provide context if your performance has decreased. You may choose to communicate with your manager or HR at your workplace and with trained professionals such as your GP or counsellor to get support.

Related: Coping with burnout from work (with symptoms and causes)

Have regular check-ins

Checking in with yourself is a good way to figure out how you are doing from an anxiety perspective. When you are busy at work, it's easy to let anxiety build-up without realising it. Regular reflection and self-check-ins can allow you to see if your anxiety levels are high. By checking often, you can keep anxiety levels as low as possible through proper, ongoing management and care.

Maintain workplace boundaries

A wide range of factors can cause anxiety in the workplace. While many experience anxiety from workload and pressure, personal situations and circumstances can also lead to anxiety at work. Maintaining professional workplace boundaries can help prevent anxiety in many situations. For example, establishing clear boundaries such as taking your lunch hour even if a work friend asks for help can be a way to reduce your anxiety.

Know your rights at work

Mental health is a top concern for most workplaces, and the Equality Act 2010 provides protection from long-term mental health issues such as anxiety. Understanding your rights and protections may make it easier to approach managers or HR about any support. Employers have a duty of care to support your health, safety, and wellbeing in the workplace.

Face your fears

In some cases, the thought of doing a task can cause more anxiety than the act of completing the task itself. If you feel anxiety about tasks that are a part of your job and you have been putting them off, it may be better to complete them sooner rather than later. For example, if you feel anxious about phoning a client, calling them first thing in the morning may help to reduce your anxiety.

Related: What is Perfectionism? (And How to Manage it)

Use mindfulness techniques

Practising mindfulness is an effective tool for handling all kinds of anxiety. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment instead of thinking about other things. For example, if you struggle to switch off from work in the evenings, mindfulness meditation may be an excellent way to stop thinking about the next day and instead think about the here and now.

Use management strategies

Increased awareness of what causes you to feel anxious may help to relieve your anxiety overall. Writing down what makes you anxious and why it makes you feel that way can be a good place to start. You can consider whether your feelings surrounding that action are rational or whether you are placing unrealistic expectations on yourself.

Work on your work-life balance

Finding a balance between work and your personal life is invaluable for reducing your anxiety. Taking plenty of time to relax and de-stress from work, whether that's reading a book, playing video games or taking a bath, can all be effective methods. If possible, you could also switch off your work phone and laptop and put them away when you aren't working.

Use a bedtime routine

Getting enough sleep can be challenging when you feel anxious, which leads to poor-quality rest and tiredness in the daytime. Using a sleep routine to give yourself time to relax and unwind can help with sleepless nights and support you in waking up feeling refreshed. Some examples of a bedtime routine could be avoiding screen time in bed, having a relaxing shower and making your bedroom as cosy and welcoming as possible.

Change your diet

The way you feel can have a significant impact on your diet, and you may find if you're feeling anxious that you reach more for comfort foods and unhealthy snacks. While this may provide short-term relief, reducing your caffeine and sugar intake can be an excellent way to reduce your anxiety and make your mood more even. For example, you could swap out coffee in the day for decaffeinated coffee or water.

Get some exercise

Physical exercise is a proven, effective way to lessen anxiety: the increase in endorphins gives you a natural high. Exercise doesn't have to be intensive, and a simple walk outside your office can be practical if you don't have the time or energy to make it to the gym. Getting up and walking around a little every half-hour can help relax you and relieve anxiety at the same time.

Speak to a professional

If you find that your anxiety is still high or consistently an issue, seeking professional help may be a good choice. Your workplace may be able to refer you to relevant support, or you can have a chat with your doctor about the options available to you. Getting help for anxiety from an expert source is the best path for many people experiencing anxiousness in the workplace.

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