Anxious at work? How to tell when it's time to get help

If anxious feelings are making it hard to cope at work, it's time to get help. Knowing how to deal with anxiety at work can help you feel more in control.

Stress and anxiety are natural responses when we encounter a threat or something that our brains think could be a threat.

In a work setting, many things may cause anxious thoughts, such as having too much on your to-do list, dealing with difficult workplace relationships or coping with a high-stress work environment.

While anxiety is part of everyday work life, the anxious feelings normally go away after the threat is gone.

For some people, anxious feelings can last a long time, and there might not be any clear reason why anxious feelings arise.

Knowing how to deal with anxiety at work can help you feel more in control and confident.

If your anxiety symptoms are making it hard to cope or impacting your work performance, it's important to get help.

The right support can make all the difference.

What are the signs of work anxiety?

Work anxiety can look different for everyone.

Some people experience social anxiety symptoms when working in social settings, meeting new customers or dealing with groups of people.

Others may experience performance anxiety before doing a particular task, such as speaking in front of a group or giving a presentation.

Working in a new environment with a new team can lead to new job anxiety and conflict with your co-workers can also be a source of workplace stress.

Other signs of work anxiety include:

  • Procrastinating tasks to do with work
  • Feeling unwell in the morning before or during work
  • Finding it hard to stay motivated or focused
  • Avoiding particular people, places or tasks
  • Missing deadlines, forgetting things or taking too long to complete tasks

Work anxiety may also have physical symptoms such as muscle tension, stomach pain or excessive sweating.

In some cases, anxious feelings may lead to an anxiety attack or panic attack where you find it hard to breathe or calm down.

How to deal with anxiety at work

Work-related anxiety can feel overwhelming and all-consuming at times, but with small steps, things can get better.

Here are some tips on how to deal with anxiety at work, and when to get help.

1. Tell a trusted colleague

Talking to someone you trust about what you're feeling can help you feel more supported at work.

When you feel socially supported, you might find that your work stress levels decrease.

It's also important to have people in your support network outside of the workplace who you can talk to when things are getting tough.

2. Use time management and organisation tools

Keeping on top of work tasks and meeting deadlines can be a source of workplace stress.

Using organisation tools and strategies can help you feel more on top of things, and prevent stressful situations in the future.

Try using organisation apps, recording devices, timers or other tools that make work life easier for you.

3. Look after your health

Your physical health is connected to your mental well-being.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night and have time to rest in your schedule.

A balanced and nutritious diet can also help with managing anxiety symptoms.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol where possible.

Many people find that physical exercise can help relieve anxiety symptoms, while also improving overall health.

4. Set boundaries around work

When something is causing you anxiety at work, it's easy for the anxious feelings to creep into other areas of life.

Try setting boundaries around work so that you can give your mind a break, and focus on other things that are important to you.

That could mean leaving your work at the workplace or shutting the door to your office if you work from home.

If possible, try turning your work notifications off outside of work hours.

5. Take regular breaks

Short, regular breaks throughout the day can help you reset, and you might find you come back more focused after a break.

If you're feeling fidgety or restless, try going for a walk or doing some light exercise during your break.

Starting to feel panicked? Close your eyes for 30 seconds and focus on your breath.

You could also try meditation apps, mindfulness exercises or listening to calming music during your breaks.

6. Use stress management techniques

Stress management techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing and meditation can help reduce workplace anxiety.

Other people find that listening to calm music, going for a walk or playing with a pet are effective at reducing work-related stress.

The key is to find the techniques and strategies that work for you.

7. Ask for accommodations

Small changes to your workstation, work schedule or job duties could make a big difference when it comes to dealing with your anxiety.

Your employer is obligated by law to make reasonable adjustments to help you do your job properly and safely.

This could include things like moving your workstation to a quieter area, providing software to help with organisation or assigning tasks that cause you anxiety to another team member.

If you're not comfortable asking your employer for accommodations, our team at APM can help you access the support you need to succeed at work.

8. Get help

If anxiety or stress are making it hard to cope in life and at work, it's important to get help sooner than later.

Anxiety is treatable and can get better with the right support and strategies in place.

If you are living with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, you may be eligible for tailored employment support from APM at no cost.

We can help with things like career planning, workplace accommodations and accessing mental health services to help you thrive in your job.

Looking for a new job? We can also support you with finding suitable job opportunities, work experience and employment skills training.

When to get help

We all experience stress and anxiety from time to time, but if your anxious feelings aren't going away or are making it hard to cope at work, it's time to get help.

A good first step is to talk to your GP.

They might refer you to a mental health professional who can give you tools and strategies on how to deal with anxiety at work and improve your mental well-being.

Read our guide on how to know if you have anxiety for more information.