Anxiety is both common and debilitating, and the work environment can make it a whole lot worse. Pressure, deadlines, difficult people – it’s everything you’d rather avoid whilst experiencing anxiety. I’ve shared the top five ways I manage my anxiety disorder at work.
Keep a routine
Whilst it might not sound all that exciting to take your breaks at the same time every day, it can really help to reduce anxiety levels. Set your alarm for the same time every day (yes, including non-work days – sorry), take the same lunch break, and always try to leave at around the same time. I know this can be difficult – particularly if your job can be unpredictable – but try to keep as many stable elements of your day as possible. Perhaps you like a cup of tea at 11am every day, have all of your meetings in the afternoons, take lunch at 1pm and leave by 6. Find whatever works for you – but keep it consistent.
It’s not always easy to take time out from the tasks at hand, particularly if your anxiety is around workload, pressure or time restraints. Anxiety fogs up our thinking: stepping away from your desk for a few minutes is actually more likely to make you more productive. It doesn’t have to be walking outside for an hour if you’re worried about time, even if you just stand outside the office entrance for a moment, try to get outside at least once every day – and don’t forget to breathe.
Looking at a long to-do list is overwhelming on any day, let alone an anxious one. I find it helpful to start the day with smaller tasks that are more easily ticked off the list to get into the swing of things, rather than kicking off the day with a massive project and coming back to my to-do list after lunch and seeing that nothing has gone (I learned this the hard way). Get a few things ticked off for a boost before you tackle that frog.
Find an anxiety ally
Your manager may not be supportive or you may not feel comfortable sharing something so personal with your senior, and that’s OK. If your manager is somebody who you can talk to, I’d really recommend being honest with them – as honest as you feel comfortable – so that they are aware at the very least. The last thing you need right now is an awkward meeting with your boss about a missed deadline or drop in quality of work – this way you can own and manage the conversation.
You may prefer to choose a different colleague to turn to – and you don’t need to give them all the details – but a simple ‘I’m really struggling right now’ to a colleague that you trust can immediately relieve pressure and shame around your anxiety and provide an important reminder that you are not in this on your own.
Your workspace is important
You don’t have to be an interior designer to create a positive work environment. Focus on what you like. If you work from home you may find this a little easier, but it’s not impossible to turn your desk at work into a space that you actually want to be in.
Spending some time in the events industry taught me that spaces can literally be designed to aid productivity, creativity and mood – you just have to know what to do. Creating an inspiring space can make your work day feel a lot more like it’s yours, and less that you’re being carried along by the inevitable flow of life that is get up, work, sleep and do it all again. Remove any clutter and add a few things that make you feel calm, or perhaps even just a bit brighter: a desk plant, stationery that you love, your favourite mug, a candle. Make it yours.