Feeling anxious at work is never on our daily to-do list…but it happens, and often when we least want it or expect it. Read on for my best ways to manage anxious moments at work so you can get back to feeling like the productive boss babe you are.
I remember one day during one of my first few weeks of work at my new job last summer, I was sitting paralyzed at my desk. I had started my job during the height of my busy season, just three weeks before the largest event of the year that I was in charge of running. I was so far out of my comfort zone in so many ways, but I was proud of myself for how much I was pushing myself, and I could tell I was growing and improving. But of course there were moments (and still are) where my anxiety gets the best of me and I just freeze in panic.
Now, normally when this happens at home I’m able to fully express my emotions, I can maybe lie down, call one of my loved ones for help, or meditate with no distractions. But at work, as we all know, that kind of privacy can be hard to come by. So there I am, sitting in my cubicle, in full view of everyone walking by, and I’m feeling so overwhelmed I can barely move. What’s more is that I have a meeting in less than 10 minutes that I need to get to.
You may have had a similar experience. Our workplaces are somewhat of a double bind in that as a “professional,” it’s assumed that you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Emotions don’t belong in the workplace. But as we all know, workplaces are filled with emotion. We may have received some difficult feedback and needed to cry in the bathroom (hello, been there!) or been hurt by petty office politics (also been there). We may get upset if someone we supervise leaves or quits, or even if a coworker leaves or quits. Workplaces are inherently emotional because, well…humans are emotional.
But as adults and professionals it’s obviously important to be able to manage our own emotions as well. No one likes it when a boss or coworker flies off the handle in front of the entire office. It happens, but we obviously want to avoid that kind of tantrum if we can. And as for anxiety…it can be hard to “hide” your anxiety when it hits you. So here are some ways to proactively handle anxiety in the workplace that have worked for me.
Do a quick five-minute meditation or breathing exercise
When I’m feeling really overwhelmed and paralyzed, the first thing I do is grab my headphones and listen to the 5-minute emergency calm meditation from Calm.com. I usually don’t use guided meditations in my daily practice, but when I’m really overwhelmed, I need a guided meditation to help calm me down. If I don’t have time for or am not feeling like doing a meditation, I love this gif to help slow my breathing down. I have used this so. many. times. And I LOVE it! It really helps slow my breathing down, which is the first step to managing our anxiety.
Check in with yourself
If you’re not sure why you’re anxious at work, check in with yourself (after you’ve gotten a little calmer). Maybe take a few minutes to journal, or think back to what’s happened so far at work that day. Was there a comment from a coworker you may have perceived in a negative way? Is there an assignment you’re afraid you won’t do well enough? It’s important to reflect on why you may be feeling so anxious so you can then reframe these thoughts.
Take a short walk outside
If your office and schedule allows, just changing the scenery around you can really help shift perspective and can be a great time to reflect as well. Plus, if you’ve been sitting at a desk all day, it may help to get your body moving a little bit. Even if you just take a walk to the water cooler to rehyrdrate, getting away from your desk for a minute can really help ease anxiety.
I write down different affirmations and words of encouragement to myself in the Notes section of my phone often, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or am doubting myself. I can then easily access these affirmations later when I need them most. I then repeat them to myself, either in my head or out loud, and I often instantly feel calmer. It’s like the voice of a friend reminding me about all of these wonderful attributes about myself that I may have forgotten. To learn more about affirmations and to get some ideas on ones you may want to use, check out this article!
Being anxious at work is not fun at all – our offices are often very public environments that expect us to not wear our emotions on our sleeves. Hopefully the steps above help bring you a state of calm rather than fear. What are some steps you’ve taken when you get anxious at work?