Signs Your Anxiety Is Holding You Back At Work

Long hours, slow commutes, rigid deadlines, and company networking events are enough to provoke a little anxiety for any of us. For those who experience anxiety, Healthline reports that it can manifest in the form of nervousness, an accelerated heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, and feelings of dread or panic, amongst other symptoms. In workplace environments, however, symptoms of anxiety may present differently and can potentially impact our relationships with coworkers, work performance, as well as our own health, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey.

Survey results revealed four primary factors that most influenced workplace anxiety among respondents. 55% of participants attributed their workplace anxiety to deadlines, 53% cited interpersonal relationships, 50% pointed to staff management, and 49% reported confronting workplace issues as a source of anxiety or stress.

Career expert at TopResume Amanda Augustine lends further evidence to these findings, telling Real Simple, "[Anxiety] often rears its ugly head in the workplace when you're feeling especially stressed about an impending deadline, an important meeting or presentation, or a project that's forcing you out of your comfort zone."

Anxiety may hinder career advancement and relationships with colleagues

So how can you tell if your anxiety may be holding you back at work? WebMD states some general signs to be on the lookout for include feelings of constant worry, difficulty sleeping, trouble with memory, perfectionism, or a loss of interest in one's work.

Other signs indicating that your anxiety may be affecting you in the workplace can be more specific to the job itself, such as if you find yourself factoring in your anxiety when making career decisions. This might mean declining a promotion opportunity because it may trigger anxiety related to public speaking or added responsibilities.

Alternatively, you may experience difficulties with focus. Marriage and family therapist Hanna Stensby tells Real Simple that this can take the form of negative thinking patterns, difficulty concentrating on tasks, or trouble coming up with new or creative ideas.

Irritability can also be a sign that anxiety is affecting you at work. Feelings of annoyance with those around you can place strain on relationships with coworkers, which can leave one feeling isolated in the workplace.

Additionally, note if you find that your anxiety is stopping you from starting new projects or meeting deadlines. This behavior can often be driven by a need to be perfect or an overwhelming fear of failure.

How to manage workplace anxiety

Experts at WebMD encourage those struggling with anxiety in the workplace to start being mindful of when symptoms regularly arise in order to prepare and develop coping mechanisms. "Maybe there are some trends, like it's really more in the beginning of the day when you're first looking at everything that's due, or maybe it's at the end of the day when you still have so much on your plate but you really need to leave to pick up your kids," clinical psychologist Dr. Debra Kissen tells the publication.

The most common coping mechanisms identified by respondents in the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey included taking medication, getting more sleep, talking with a loved one, or speaking with a doctor or mental health practitioner. Developing healthy habits and practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing may also be helpful, according to WebMD.

While there are steps we can take on our own to help minimize the impact anxiety can have on our careers, there are also ways in which employers can help support the mental health of their employees to benefit the company as a whole. As reported via The Business Journals, offering time management courses, encouraging open communication with supervisors without a fear of stigma, as well as offering benefits — such as mental health services or time off – and supporting employees in utilizing them, can all help minimize anxiety in the workplace.