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How to beat the modern curse of email anxiety

As growing numbers of workers come under pressure to check-in outside of office hours, cases of email anxiety are rising steadily. Even opening their inbox on a Monday morning can leave many people full of dread. As one study from Virginia Tech noted, the encroachment on work email into private life “triggers feelings of anxiety […]

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As growing numbers of workers come under pressure to check-in outside of office hours, cases of email anxiety are rising steadily. Even opening their inbox on a Monday morning can leave many people full of dread. As one study from Virginia Tech noted, the encroachment on work email into private life “triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives”. Furthermore, this doesn’t just affect individuals. According to research published in the Academy of Management journal, email anxiety also affects partners and families.

Since email is an integral part of modern life, ditching it isn’t really an option. So, here are just a few ways you can help feel calmer about your emails:

Stay calm and focused

Opening up an email inbox can be a stressful experience. If this is one of your triggers, then there is only really one solution: to confront your fear head-on. After all, putting off opening your emails will only make matters worse, increasing both your inbox load and your feeling of apprehension.

A good way to get over this is to practice a little meditation before you click ‘open’. Try sitting still, getting your breathing under control and then diving straight in. At the same time, you also want to avoid “catastrophizing” – that is, assuming the very worst outcome (“maybe my boss will have sent an angry email”, “maybe there’s bad news waiting in my inbox”). Try and stay calm and keep things in perspective. Remember all the times you have suffered from severe email anxiety only to then learn there was no reason to worry. And even if you did open an email to bad news, remember that you dealt with it and it didn’t kill you. Perspective is key here.

Get to the root of your anxiety

Once you have found a way of dealing with email anxiety, consider working with a therapist to get to the root of your worries.

It could be that it’s an underlying drive for perfectionism or a fear of failure that is causing you to fear bad news is waiting in your inbox. Or it could simply be a matter of struggling to cope with an unrealistic workload and an over-demanding boss. Once you realize what’s driving your email anxiety, you can start to feel in control and become a happier – and more productive – person.

Learn more tips for promoting happiness at work

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