Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. Eighteen percent of the population is affected every year. Living with anxiety usually means going to work with anxiety. If you have panic attacks while working on projects or anxiety in social situations, not only is your quality of life likely suffering, but your work productivity probably is too.
You can have anxiety and hold a job. Plenty of people do it! Here are some helpful tips to manage your work anxiety.
Smart phones and social media have become a huge part of our lives in less than a decade. It’s not a coincidence that meditation has become so popular in that timeframe. We’re constantly stimulated in our daily lives, so the opportunity to unplug for a few moments is hugely beneficial. There are a number of studies with scientific data showing how meditation can help people cope with stress and anxiety. It’s an excellent way to ease some of your work-related anxiety.
If you want to learn how to meditate, there are two great options available as mobile apps:
Headspace is a bit like “training wheels” for meditation. It was created by ordained Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. He spent 10 years studying meditation around the world and came back to civilization with the goal of teaching it to others.
The mobile app uses guided cues with reminders to teach you how to properly do mindfulness meditation. This is the most common type of meditation, where you sit and watch your thoughts come and go without engaging them. Over time, this retrains your brain to allow anxious thoughts to be there and pass, which prevents them from spiraling out of control. It’s recommended to do mindfulness meditation for about 10 minutes each day.
InsightTimer is based largely on guided meditations that help you relax. There are thousands from which to choose. Subjects range from depression and anxiety to everyday stress, cultivating better relationships, and help falling asleep.
Headspace is a teaching tool that gets you into a daily meditation habit. InsightTimer is beneficial right away for coping with anxiety.
How Can Meditation Help with Workplace Anxiety?
The nice thing about meditation mobile apps is that you can use them in different situations to help with stress and anxiety. Here are some examples:
- Meditate in the morning – Many people with anxiety experience a spike in stress first thing in the morning. Making meditation part of your wakeup routine can be a great way to handle this. InsightTimer has guided meditations specifically for setting your day up for success.
- Use it at work – If you have your smartphone and a pair of earbuds, you can take a meditation break whenever you need one. If you can get 5 to 10 minutes to yourself outside the office—or even in the bathroom—use them to reset your brain. Even very short meditations or breathing exercises can help you re-center before something stressful like a meeting.
- Decompress after work – Getting your mindfulness meditation in soon after getting home can help your brain “reset” from your workplace stress. You may be more able to set aside time for family, friends, and fun and relax and recharge for the next day.
- Use it to sleep – Anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. Guided meditations such as yoga nidra are very effective at helping your body and mind relax for a great night’s sleep.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends exercise to help treat anxiety disorders. The benefits are enormous:
- Better sleep quality
- Elevated energy levels
- Improved cognitive function
- Keeping your appetite at a healthy level
It may seem difficult to get in exercise with a full work day, but there are some options:
- First thing in the morning – Go for a walk or a jog after waking up.
- On your lunch break – If there’s a gym nearby, you may be able to squeeze in a quick workout. Otherwise, even a brisk walk in the sunlight can do wonders.
- After work – Exercise can be a great way to let out accumulated stress. Play outside with your child, or consider joining a community sports team.
3. Medical Treatment Options
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you’re likely suffering in a way that’s aggravated by workplace stress. A work week can be stressful for anyone, but coping with anxiety can be downright painful if you’re having panic attacks, social anxiety, or generalized anxiety five days a week.
If meditation and/or exercise don’t cut it, there are several treatment options available:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
With CBT, you work with a therapist to reframe your negative thought patterns into positive ones.
Here are some examples of how CBT can help you manage anxiety-provoking situations at work:
- Presentations – A CBT therapist may have you prepare for presentations by going over your catastrophic thoughts (stressing over a “worst-case scenario”). By reframing your thought patterns, you’re more likely to be relaxed and not put so much negative importance on the event.
- Happy Hours, Lunches, and Other Social Situations – CBT can reframe social anxiety in the workplace. A work lunch or party can feel like an emotional minefield, but a CBT therapist can step you through the process. You’ll discuss your biggest fears when it comes to social interactions and how they’re distorted. Then you’ll come with a plan of action to approach these situations from a more realistic point of view.
- Overwhelming Work Weeks – Everyone has periods where work is particularly stressful. You may have lots of tight deadlines, emails to answer, and meetings to attend every day. It can feel stressful to get anything done! With CBT, you can learn important self-care skills to prioritize your well being when stress provokes your anxiety.
Antidepressants can treat both anxiety and depression. You could take a dose before work to help you get through or before bed to help you sleep and wake up rested. Anxiety medication and antidepressants help many people get through their workdays, but others can’t tolerate side effects like drowsiness, trouble concentrating, and insomnia.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS is a non-invasive treatment that works by regulating your amygdala. This part of your brain becomes hyperactive when you have anxiety.
TMS is especially helpful for busy people because it’s:
- Virtually side-effect-free – TMS treatment has none of the side effects associated with antidepressants and anxiety medication.
- Convenient – Treatment sessions last between 18 and 19 minutes, so you can easily go in for one during your lunch break. HPR Treatment Centers has locations in more than 30 cities across the country. Find one that works for you here.
Know Your Rights and Privileges
It can take some time for anxiety treatment to work or to find the one that’s right for you. In the U.S., if you qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it can protect your job for up to 12 weeks while you undergo treatment. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees who have mental health diagnoses. You have a right to privacy, but if you choose to disclose your mental illness to your boss or company, you may be able to receive accommodations.
You should also talk to your human resources department about non-mental-health benefit perks. For example, many employers are keen to support your physical well-being and offer discounts at local gyms or for weight plans like WW®.
Don’t Minimize the Problem. Get Help.
Trying to work with an untreated anxiety disorder not only affects your quality of life in a negative way; it affects the enjoyment you take in your job. Good habits and treatment from a health professional can help put your work and life back on track. Know your options, know your rights, and get the help you need.