Work Anxiety: 5 Ways to Cope with Work-Related Stress

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Does your anxiety rise when you’re heading to work?

Is stress a major issue in your work day?

Do scattered nerves choke you up at work meetings?

Do you get a sinking feeling of overwhelm when you start new projects?

Anxiety is one the top issues that my clients deal with at work.  Work anxiety is common given many work environments are so fast paced, competitive and stressful.

Some professions even openly require employees to adapt to continuous high-stress situations and get comfortable with high-stakes circumstances. Also, more and more companies expect high levels of productivity with tight deadlines due to constant pressure from their customers or competition.

Unchecked, chronic workplace anxiety can lead to short term health problems and even raise your risk for other long term mental health issues, like mental fatigue, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) [1].

Coping with your anxiety effectively can mean the difference between achieving your career goals and succumbing to "procrastination paralysis" at best or full debilitating burnout at worse.

Here are 5 stress management techniques that can help you overcome work anxiety when you do not have an option to change your department, company or job: 


  1. Take High Quality Breaks

Use your breaks wisely and make them count. More than just momentary relief, breaks can invigorate you mentally and energetically. When you take a clean break and get away from all work-related tasks for set times in the day, you're likely to work more productively and be more relaxed. The work day may even feel like it's going by faster because it’s broken up into 3 or 4 periods.

Do something active, fun and enjoyable during your breaks. Do not check you email, work on your phone or do useless tasks. Go outside to walk around the building or around the city block to get a change of scenery. Lunch with a friend can be more refreshing than eating alone behind your desk. Do something creative and fun that gets a different part of your brain involved. Read an article or listen to a podcast that is totally unrelated to your work.


  1. Try a Quick Meditation

Meditation is perhaps the simplest way to fight work anxiety, so it's no wonder a growing number of celebrity and executives are becoming known for practicing meditation. Studies involving thousands of participants have shown meditation improves symptoms of anxiety and reduces the physical markers of stress [2]. In one 2-month study, a daily meditation practice lowered short-term work-related stress and boosted feelings of job satisfaction and self-compassion in nurses [3].

Meditation does not have to take long. With practice you can get great benefits with a 10 – 15 minute meditation (or breathing exercise) in an office, outdoors or in your car. Think of it as a mental reboot that melts away your worries, stress and anxiety for a short period of time so you can get back to work refreshed and restored.


  1. Set Healthy Boundaries

Respect and guard your focus and energy. Set the boundaries you need in order to manage your time wisely. That may mean saying no to meetings, tasks or requests for help, that do not relate to you directly.  It may mean logging off your email by a certain time each day and turning off notifications. It may take telling your manager or co-workers to respect your private time. 

One rule of thumb for work-life balance is to stop all work activities at the same time each day. This way, your family or your significant other and even your work associates know what to expect. Moreover, you know when to expect relief from your work during your breaks or at the end of the day. 

Consider talking with your employer if your workload is too heavy, or delegating one or more of your responsibilities to a coworker. Take advantage of technology to communicate your needs and intentions with your co-workers. If you show that you respect and guard your own private time, so will they.


  1. Start a Journal Writing Practice

This has worked wonders for some of my clients. Use a journal to dump your work-related grievances, or whatever else is on your mind. It helps to express your frustrations or anger on paper the way you can't do directly to your boss or co-workers. It’s a great tool to get everything out of you and “store” it outside.

A daily journal writing habit (during or after work) isn't just a way to vent, but also to brainstorm potential scenarios for solving problems at work. It is very difficult to deal with problems that are bouncing around in your mind. But when they are on paper (or on a computer) you can deal with them more effectively. You can also use it to track your work-related goals and hold yourself accountable to them.


  1. Talk with a Coach or Therapist

Do not hesitate to seek professional help if you need it. A mental health professional can help you talk through the sources of your work anxiety and help you to come up with the best solutions. More and more companies are offering resources and programs for employee mental health, so be sure to check the benefits your employer or insurance offers.

Most individuals can benefit from therapy, and there are different types to consider to target anxiety issues. For example, hypnotherapy, cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy--an approach that focuses on desensitizing you through repeated exposure to what causes you anxiety.


Of course, achieving the perfect work environment or work-life balance is unrealistic. We should shoot for continuous progress and constant improvements instead.  The act of paying attention to your feelings and listening to your body by itself will reduce your stress and anxiety.  You are acknowledging the issues, taking responsibility for them and are doing something about them.  

Without finding some degree of balance, you risk chronic stress and anxiety crippling your career and derailing your success. By doubling down on coping strategies, you can perform better at work, be more relaxed and keep issues like procrastination, nervousness and burnout at bay. 

By Rafael Tomik -  Career Transition Coach at




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