Anxiety in the Workplace

Posted by Caitlyn Norwood on 10/8/18 8:00 AM
Caitlyn Norwood
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At one point or another in your career, work stress is bound to come into your life. The stressors that cause anxiety won’t always be work-related. It can be chronic, it can stem from issues in the home, finances, sickness and a multitude of other things. No matter the cause, anxiety can affect your work, relationships with coworkers, and your overall view of your job.

Avoiding Work Stress

As someone who has struggled with this since elementary school, I’ve seen that anxiety manifests itself in many ways. I would stress and worry for days before a performance such as a Christmas play or piano recital. I had a hard time eating and sleeping. Then, all through the performance I would be shaky and nervous.

My first two years of college, I was a Music Education major. Feeling that I didn’t have near the talent my fellow classmates did, added with the fact that I was hours from home, caused a lot of problems. I shut down and didn’t practice - I was worried about others hearing me practice and hearing that I wasn’t as good as them. I had no motivation because I did not have my support system from home there to encourage me daily.

I’ve also been in work situations where the environment was high-stress and consistently tense. There were days I had breakdowns. There were days I just left angry. There was even a job I eventually left for the sake of my own mental health. Although I was fortunate enough to have another job lined up, leaving is not always a viable option. A toxic workplace is one thing, but coping with anxiety while simultaneously having a job is another. So here are some things that can help manage those stressful times:


Anxiety in the workplaceA way my anxiety manifests itself is through panic attacks. My body tenses up and I get really fidgety, and if it is really bad, I feel like my  lungs are closing. It’s in these moments I have to remind myself to take a deep breath. It may seem silly, but anxiety can push you into fight or flight mode. You have to slow down. Take a deep breath, then exhale slowly. Practice this a few times. It will help calm your mind.

Get on your feet

Even if it’s only a short distance, getting up and walking can help you loosen up. While you’re up, get some water to stay hydrated. Outside of work, exercise is really good for you. Whether it’s going to the gym, practicing yoga, or just taking a nice stroll in nature, exercise helps you relax and relieve tension. 

Eat well

I enjoy having coffee once in a while, but have found that caffeine, especially on an empty stomach, can make my anxiety worse. Instead of starting out your day with tons of caffeine, try drinking water or some nice decaf teas. I personally love chamomile. While, it’s normally a tea people drink to help them sleep, it is calming at the start of the work day. Additionally, try eating a wholesome breakfast with protein, fiber, and healthy carbs. Don’t skip meals. Hunger makes everything worse. You are important and it is important that you get the nutrients you need to stay well!

Share your story

If you are struggling, talk about it. More often than not, you will find someone who understands how you are struggling because they’ve been there before - even if it wasn’t under the same circumstances. If you can’t find that support at work, find a support system outside of work like a trusted friend, family member, spiritual leader, or counselor.


There are some people who absolutely embrace the Avoiding work stressart of meditation. There are others that feel completely uncomfortable with the idea of it. A lot of times, feeling uncomfortable stems from preconceived notions about what meditation is. The idea of it made me nervous for a while, but I learned after meditating a few times that there are so many different forms and it can help in various areas of life. It is a way to clear your mind and focus on existing in the present. If you are interested in learning more about it, here is a resource that explains the usefulness of meditation. You can also find guided meditations by doing a simple YouTube search!


Sometimes it helps to just write out what you are feeling. Even if you don’t share it with anyone, journaling helps you come to grip with your feelings, fears, and thoughts. There were times when my anger toward a person or a situation contributed to anxiety and although journaling may not have completely resolved the issue, it helped me take a step back and think about why I was angry and what steps I could take to help make things better.

These are just a few ways that you can combat anxiety. You may find that a certain technique helps in one situation but not in another. You have to figure out what works for you so you can avoid work burnout. If none of these help, here is a list of other techniques you can try to help resolve and cope with the stressors that affect day-to-day life.

Above all, take care of yourself. You are important and you are loved. This is an important factor of Human Resources. Work stress does not define you. Your situation does not define you. Just remember you will get through this and will come out stronger on the other side. Keep up the good work!


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About the Author: Caitlyn Norwood

Caitlyn is a very proud wife and new mom. She often believes she should have been born in the 1960s. The progressive thought and change that occurred in that decade is very inspiring to her. She is the Social Media Strategist at VTR. She loves coming up with new ideas to provide products with innovation and relevance. Her favorite things include political science, alternative history, going to the beach, and listening to all kinds of music-but especially music from Motown.