For many people, returning to work either on each Monday or after the pandemic can be anxiety-inducing. Excessive worrying or workplace anxiety brings negative thoughts to the extent that it may impact one’s cognitive and psychological functioning. It is important to understand the sources of work-related stress before coming up with coping strategies.
Signs and Sources of Workplace Anxiety
Workplace anxiety shows up in the fear of returning to work. You might be worried about what your boss had asked you to do last week. Perhaps you dread going into a certain meeting with some coworkers. Maybe you have found the job to be too sedentary, giving you back pain. Having to put in more hours and not being able to enjoy the weekends with family can also be very stressful.
Workplace stress and anxiety have a range of causes. The most common ones include heavy workload, long working hours, difficult relationships, or an uncomfortable working environment. Not every employer invests in their employees’ emotional and mental wellbeing. Work-related anxiety may also become contagious in places where productivity and competition are prioritized over collaboration.
For people going through recovery from social anxiety or substance addiction, workplace anxiety can happen during social events with coworkers. There tends to be pressure for employees to attend these occasions, so it is hard to decline, however, not everyone enjoys being in a crowd. For those who suffer from social anxiety, these socializing events are an emotional minefield. Some recovering individuals may also find it stressful to be exposed to alcohol use.
Anxiety and the Brain
Neuroscience research has informed our understanding of how the brain processes anxiety-related memories and worrying thoughts. For example, the brain’s primal region, the amygdala, is associated with fear and anxiety-related memories. During times of stress and anxiety, this part becomes hyperactive and releases a chemical into the body.
Consequently, this leads to an increase in the heart and pulse rate, muscle contractions, etc. Another region of the brain, the posterior cingulate cortex, is also activated to circulate negative thought patterns. All these show that the brain can heighten a sense of anxiety, regardless of whether you want it or not.
Anxiety can trigger bodily sensations, causing you to feel a certain way. These feelings are the cognitive awareness of what is happening in the body. Understanding how these happen is important for you to cope with anxiety by adjusting bodily sensations, breathing to be grounded, and regulating self-talk.
Managing Workplace Anxiety
The first step is to acknowledge these anxious feelings. Bottling up your emotions can be counterproductive. The fact is, everyone experiences anxiety and stress, including children. Our body has a natural response to stressors in the environment. When stress shows up, practice acceptance rather than ignoring it, blaming yourself, or trying to push it away.
Make room for your body to react to the environment. When anxiety arises, examine it with a certain curiosity. This is practicing mindfulness. You should also examine possible lack of self-care in the past days, such as poor sleep, lack of exercise, or good nutrition. If so, work on these areas so that your body can recuperate from the stress that has been increasing daily.
There are many practical ways to reduce stress at work. Most importantly, you should re-establish boundaries in terms of how much workload to take on. Learn to say no, but with professionalism. Secure your off-work time such as evenings and weekends so that you have space for yourself and your family. Do not skip lunch, but use lunch breaks to destress by taking a walk or a short power nap. If possible, steer away from difficult personalities at work.
Meanwhile, it is important to improve your time management skills. Reorganize your workday routines so that you can be more productive without needing to compromise your own space. If you have grown into the habit of multitasking, know that it is not necessarily good for your mental health because the brain becomes overloaded with sensory stimuli when you multitask.
Seek Help and Practice Self-Care
If workplace anxiety has become a debilitating problem for you to function, maybe you should consider seeking help from a mental health professional who has experience in treating anxiety disorders. There are safe medications that can help relieve the symptoms. A therapist can also work with you to identify the triggers so that you can better prevent having an anxiety attack.
Self-care is key in coping with workplace anxiety. You need to intentionally train the brain and the body to relax. Even during a busy workday, take a few breaks to relax your body by mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Do not boost yourself with more coffee when physical or mental exhaustion arises. Instead, listen to the body and set a slower pace for it to recuperate from stress. With time and practice, you will be able to find the right rhythm at work.
Are you struggling with workplace anxiety on your own? Do you know how to re-set boundaries and practice self-care? Many people choose to ignore workplace anxiety, thinking that it will go away. It is time that you work with mental health specialists who can coach working professionals. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, we offer personalized care and attention. There are various levels of care you can choose from. We understand the importance of dual diagnosis treatment because addiction often has co-occurring mental health issues. Believing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, we offer the most customized plans that accommodate your needs. Our experienced staff help working professionals maintain a work-life-recovery balance. We are onsite 24/7 to offer you support. Workplace anxiety can trigger substance use and addiction. Early prevention is key. You can learn from recovery specialists and peers. Don’t delay. Call (949) 426-7962 today. We are here to walk alongside you.