Early symptoms of workplace anxiety do not always feel abnormal or unusual. Often, it starts with worrying about something specific about work or work generally, like worrying about a deadline you need to meet or your work performance. These seem like legitimate causes of concern, do they not?
Then often, it progresses to racing or pounding heart (palpitations) when you get a call or message notification from a specific colleague or any work-related call; overreacting to situations on the job; focusing too hard on the negative aspects of the job; having an irrational feeling of dread; obsessing over actions or comments that you would otherwise not think too hard about, or constantly feeling tired.
Workplace anxiety causes poor outcomes for employees and leads to more worrying. It is like a mental trap you cannot escape from because, a large percentage of the time, you do not realise you are trapped.
What workplace anxiety means
Workplace anxiety involves feeling nervous, stressed, uneasy, or tense about work. It could include anxiety about job performance, interactions with colleagues, or public speaking. It refers to stress caused by work that leads to apprehension or the impact of an anxiety disorder at work.
How do I know I have workplace anxiety?
Generally, symptoms appear in the following ways:
Constant or irrational worrying about work performance
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Exaggerated reactions or overreacting to situations on the job
Sustained fatigue or tiredness
Focusing too much on the negative aspects of one’s job
Excessive worry over mistakes and feeling the need to be perfect all the time
Eating too much or too little
Apathy or indifference toward the job
Feeling irritable or tense
An unnecessary rush of emotions and crying spells
Avoiding friends and family
Having trouble concentrating at work
Feeling jittery, jumpy, with a racing heartbeat
For healthcare providers, it could include:
Reduced patience/empathy with patients
Poor concentration that leads to frequent medication/prescription errors
Negative attitude toward other members of the healthcare team
Lack of confidence when among other HCPs
Diminished passion (questioning one’s career choices)
Causes of workplace anxiety
What causes workplace anxiety varies among individuals. It is also peculiar to the characteristics of the workplace. For example, leaving an old job for a new one will make anyone anxious. If you are an introvert and an important part of your job is giving presentations, public speaking, or socialising at a high level, bouts of anxiety may set in when it’s time to engage in such activities.
Causes of workplace anxiety could include:
Excessive workload, leading to working long hours
Fear of not meeting deadlines or performing poorly
Dealing with workplace bullying or conflicts
Having a lack of direction in tasks
Having a demanding boss
Feeling a lack of control over the work environment
Maintaining relationships with co-workers
Experiencing a lack of perception of fairness
For healthcare providers, it could include losing a patient or fear of losing a patient and a feeling of being overused and undervalued.
How to cope with workplace anxiety
Workplace anxiety can have negative effects on other things that are not work-related, transcending to other aspects of life. It goes without saying that coping with, or efficiently managing workplace anxiety is crucial
Have a clearly defined job expectation
Include time for resting while making daily plans
Maintain proper diet
Take outdoor walks during breaks
Create time for yourself away from work
Change scenery from time to time
Identify triggers (difficult patient or colleague) and avoid them if possible
Know when you need time off.
Deliberately create time for loved ones
If it does not improve,
Change job roles (seek transfer to another department, ward or branch)
Change jobs completely
Explore the option of changing careers
Seek professional assistance
To properly manage workplace anxiety, it is necessary to identify specific triggers and learn how to avoid them. In the next edition we will take a deep dive into identifying factors that trigger workplace anxiety.