How to Deal with Anxiety at Work

Article | July 2018

How to Deal with Anxiety at Work

What is work anxiety?

Work anxiety is a form of emotional distress associated with real or anticipated pain around your job. Many people experience it and use a range of tactics to manage it.

What causes work anxiety?

You can experience work anxiety at any job and it can be brought on by several causes:

  • You’re without the resources necessary to do your job effectively
  • You’re in a toxic work environment that is led by an abusive boss or co-worker
  • You’re underemployed and/or underpaid
  • You dislike the industry you’re working in
  • You feel trapped in the very job that is causing you work anxiety
  • You lack the skills or knowledge necessary to do your job effectively.

You can also experience new job anxiety. This could stem from a fear you may have about meeting the expectations of a new role or new boss. The unknown can be stressful, particularly if you’re under pressure to quickly deliver results.


How do I know if I have work anxiety?

Work anxiety expresses itself differently in everyone. But here are some common symptoms:

  • Sense of dread, that something's really wrong or going to happen
  • Obsession over routine, which may make you hyper-controlling over your space or tasks/responsibilities
  • Intense focus that can suddenly become an inability to concentrate and stay on task

If your behavior has changed on the job, or you regularly experience any of the above symptoms, you may have work anxiety.


What are some good tips on how to deal with anxiety at work?

  1. Identify the source of your work anxiety
  2. Better understanding your circumstance will help you figure out whether or not you can adapt. While some work problems can be managed, others are so large that changing jobs is may be the best solution.

    If you dislike the industry you’re working in, your work anxiety isn’t likely to go away until you change the type of work you do. If an external force such as an abusive boss or co-worker is the source of your work anxiety, it’s unlikely you’ll feel better until either you or they are removed from the place of employment. Depending on where you work, some companies offer Employee Assistance Programs and other services that can help you deal with this type of challenge.

  3. Organize your workday
  4. Organize your work tasks in a to-do list that includes breaks. Once you’ve accomplished a few tasks, reward yourself. This approach can help motivate you to complete the tasks that you might otherwise avoid doing.

  5. Establish a timeline
  6. Knowing that your work anxiety doesn’t have to last forever is a great comfort. Be clear with yourself about how long you’re willing to manage your work anxiety before taking a bigger step, like getting another job.

  7. Exercise
  8. Try working 30-60 minutes of exercise in to your daily routine. This can help you clear your mind and rid yourself of the bad feelings associated with work anxiety. Consider going to the gym before work. If necessary, go afterward, as well or go for a walk, bike ride, or even go dancing. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

  9. Work from home
  10. If your job allows, you can minimize your exposure to a stressful work environment by working from home a few days a week. In your own environment, the stress is typically less and you may be more focused.

  11. Focus on your own goals
  12. Define what you want to accomplish in your career. This can help minimize the impacts of a toxic work environment. Excitement about your future can help you refocus so that the problems you’re currently presented with become nothing more than temporary annoyances on your way to accomplishing bigger and better things.

Figuring out how to deal with anxiety at work is unique to everyone. Start by identifying what’s causing your work anxiety—is it due to a job you’ve been in for a long time or is it new job anxiety? Narrowing it down can help you focus on the possible solutions for managing your stress.

If work anxiety is impacting your physical health or if you have any concerns related to your mental health, always consult your doctor or seek appropriate treatment from a qualified behavioral health clinician.


This information is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Always consult your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.