Workplace Anxiety: signs, symptoms and causes of workplace anxiety and how to overcome it

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Updated on February 13th, 2022

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a person’s response to stress and is typically characterized by a feeling of dread. In small doses, stress and anxiety are a normal part of neurological functioning. It can help us to handle difficult situations more effectively and perform better. But when these feelings become persistent or overwhelming, anxiety becomes detrimental.

The fear of going to work is called workplace anxiety disorder. People with workplace anxiety disorder often feel upset at the thought of dealing with workplace stress related to their job duties or co-workers. Workplace anxiety involves feeling stressed, nervous, uneasy, or tense about work, which could include anxiety about job performance, interactions with co-workers, or even public speaking.

Workplace Anxiety

SIGNS OF WORKPLACE ANXIETY

The signs and symptoms of workplace anxiety can include:

  • Restlessness
  • A feeling of dread
  • Feeling ‘on edge’
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth

CAUSES OF WORKPLACE ANXIETY

Various environmental factors may contribute to increased symptoms of anxiety, such as a stressful workplace.

If you are experiencing anxiety around going to work, the underlying issue may be related to the work you are doing being simply too demanding at the moment. This can cause a host of issues that lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety disorders.

Say, for example, that you are constantly being given major projects by your boss. These assignments often have tight deadlines and the amount of work that you are given often takes up most of your time, leaving you unable to properly rest without worrying about having to get your work done and making it harder to meet your other important needs. This issue then drags on over the week, building upon itself and further contributing to your anxiety and stress. The following is a list of some of the causes of workplace anxiety:

1. Fear of losing your job:

This can lead to increased stress and pressure at work which in turn causes a heightened feeling of anxiety.

2. A boss that is too hard on their employees and criticizes them all the time

This might make you feel bad when things go wrong at work and it can also make you anxious.

3. A work environment where people are very competitive or demanding

They always seem to have more success than you do, no matter how hard you try. That is very stressful because you want to be better than everyone else around you.

4. Anxiety during interviews

This is very common. This often happens when you are new to this situation or if you are afraid of the unknown.

5. Feeling Stuck

Feeling stuck in a frustrating circumstance that you believe you can’t get out of is something that drives many individuals to anxiety at work since they are unsure how to end it without angering their boss or coworkers.

6. Destructive Criticism

Bad criticism or abuse by your boss, coworkers, or clients might cause worry about the job you do, especially if it is frequent and/or severe. It’s possible to lose interest because of this bad feedback at work.

HOW TO DEAL WITH WORKPLACE ANXIETY

The following are some actions we can take to help reduce workplace anxiety:

1. PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING (But Maintain Realistic Expectations)

Work can be one of the more difficult aspects of life as it often requires us to truly know ourselves and what we are capable of achieving. While we don’t want to be overloaded with work, we don’t want to be on the other end of the spectrum, constantly doubting ourselves and underperforming as a result of negative thought patterns. One of the first steps that you may be beneficial to take when you are experiencing anxiety at work is to assess your current performance level and workload and honestly evaluate your current work rate. you must also know your limitations and maintain realistic expectations regarding your work. If you know that you need time to relax but expect yourself to take on so much work that your job is all you have time for, this is likely going to exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Make sure to set realistic expectations for yourself so that you can get your work done without pushing yourself too hard.

2. STOP FIGHTING THE ANXIETY

When our bodies slip into fear mode, the automatic response is fight. This can lead to a vicious circle of the more we fight, the more we fear. And at times, this can even lead to avoidance. Try not to fight or run from the things that are making you anxious, instead accept what you are experiencing is a bunch of symptoms that cannot harm you. Calm your body and mind and flow through these feelings.

3. CREATE TIME FOR YOURSELF

In our society, we tend to value individuals who are high achievers and who dedicate themselves to their work and appear to be productivity machines. While you likely do want to do your best in your current role, these types of values can be harmful as they often ask you to forget about other aspects of your life and to focus solely on your work. The truth is that you cannot be productive if you are ignoring your own basic needs, as the latter is likely to result in mental and physical health issues down the road as you neglect yourself. While work is important, make sure that you are also taking time out of your day to do things such as have fun, eat proper meals, get enough sleep, exercise, and take breaks that allow you to get away from your hectic day recharge. When you take care of yourself, you are better able to tackle your workday.

4. EXERCISING

Exercising releases endorphins which are hormones that make us naturally feel good. Exercise also increases our body temperature which can have a calming effect as well as burning off excess energy that can lead to anxiety.

5. SPEAK WITH YOUR BOSS

If you are having an issue with your work that is causing you to experience high levels of anxiety, you may want to consider reaching out to your boss and letting them know about your current situation. Sit down with them and discuss any possible solutions that can help you feel more comfortable.


Daniel is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and cognitive behavioral therapy practitioner. Daniel helps his clients overcome a variety of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. He also writes about mental health in his blog and helps us review popular online therapy platforms.

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