Who else can say that they can get extreme anxiety, especially when it comes to work! I know I can say that I have this issue from time to time. Luckily, Jen from BuddhaBelly was kind enough to write up this beautiful article on how she handles anxiety when it comes to her workplace! All of these words are Jen’s and I am so thrilled to have her sharing these tips with you all! Jen O’Neill is the founder of Buddha Belly, a wellness and lifestyle blog focusing on fitness for the mind, body, and soul. Helping others find their most kickass selves is her greatest passion right after coffee and Buffy the Vampire slayer of course. She’s a proud lover of oatmeal raisin cookies (haters gonna hate). You can find her hiking with her boyfriend and Husky around the Chicagoland area, taking pretty pictures for her Instagram or nerding out over the latest wellness trends.
How to Tame Your Workplace Anxiety
Every time I see an email pop up, or the phone rings at work I get a tiny jolt of unease shooting down from my chest to my stomach. When I get overwhelmed at my job my brain starts to go into hyper drive and my thoughts get so jumbled I can’t think straight. If I get an email from my boss telling me to come see him my brain automatically goes to the worst case scenario. I spend so much time getting worked up and being fearful at work that I’m stressed out constantly. It follows me home from work and invades the rest of my day. That’s no way to live. Sadly, there’s a lot of people dealing with this intense workplace stress. Your job is one of the largest causes of anxiety and stress, but unless you’re a 1 percenter then you have to earn a living wage. Some workplaces are definitely more stressful than others, but no matter where you work there’s always going to be some stress. So how do you deal with workplace stress? Let me show you how I learned how to slay my workplace stress and set myself free.
Meditation and mindfulness
One of the biggest ways that I took charge of my workplace stress was incorporating meditation and mindfulness into my daily behavior. Meditation and mindfulness has completely turned my life around and not just in my career. It’s made me calmer, happier and allowed me to be in the moment. I try and wake up 15 minutes earlier than I usually do to fit in a nice meditation session before work. I feel like getting your day started off on a good foot can really help your headspace at work and limit your workplace stress. If getting up early is a no-go for you then try taking 10-15 minutes at lunch to go to your car to meditate. I try and do a quick meditation at lunchtime too if the day has been particularly busy so I can slow down mentally. Practicing meditation and mindfulness at work can help you stay present in the moment, notice mental and physical tension as it arises, take time to think before you act, open up your creative problem solving skills, have fewer thoughts about the past and future and so much more. Not only can you use meditation and mindfulness at work to ease your workplace stress, but it can also make you a better employee!
Leaving your email open to check throughout the day while you go about your tasks isn’t always the best way to manage your workload. In fact, it’s usually one of the worst ways to manage your workload because it requires you to lose your train of thought on whatever you were trying to work on before that email popped up. After I write my to-do list each morning I check all my emails and respond. Then I turn my email off until right before lunch and answer emails again then. That way I’m not being constantly bombarded by emails while I’m trying to update spreadsheets, put through work orders, check in with my teammates or whatever else my job requires that day. By doing a bunch of one thing at the same time I’m not losing time going back-and-forth between multiple tasks and I become much more productive at what I am doing. Before I started batching, updating a spreadsheet would take me around 2 hours. Now I’m done in 1/2 hr. Talk about a productivity increase! Just because a certain work style works for something doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Feel free to change things up and find out what fits you.
Not trying to multi-task
This piggybacks onto batching, but it’s the downfall of many so it’s worth mentioning. In reality, it’s been proven that humans can’t multi-task. It’s really just you shifting your attention from one thing to another very quickly. It leads to lots of smaller mistakes and having your brain on hyper drive can cause you a lot of stress because your thoughts are all over the place making it hard to concentrate. You can see how trying to multi-task can lead to a lot of workplace stress. If I’m in the middle of something I will let a phone call just go straight to voicemail. Obviously, this won’t work for certain jobs like those who are in call centers, but for those who can utilize this please do. Each time you get pulled away from a project it takes you time to get back into the groove you were in before. So if possible try to ignore everything else going on around you (except maybe a fire alarm, duh) and then return phone calls, emails or check in with coworkers at the times you have scheduled. Emergencies arise, but more often than not a phone call can wait until you’re done with your current task.
Your brain can only focus for so long. As time goes on your brain starts to become more and more unfocused leading you to be less productive. The solution? Take breaks regularly if possible. I try to take a break every hour or so just to walk around my workplace and stretch my legs. It allows me to get away from my computer screens for a minute, the endless barrage of emails and allow my brain to go somewhere besides work for a quick few. Then when I return to my desk I feel refreshed and able to refocus back on my work. I’ve noticed I am definitely more productive when I’m taking the breaks that I need. I love following the Pomodoro Technique. Now traditionally it’s working on a task for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. You continue on from there until the task is done or after four Pomodoro you can take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. I find it much more realistic to work for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break, but again it’s about finding what works for your unique and amazing self. Check out the custom Pomodoro timer I love right here. Make a to-do list I use Todoist and Evernote to keep track of my workplace to-do lists, but you can really use any to-do list tool. The first thing I do each morning when I arrive, after getting my coffee of course, is to make a to-do list for the day. If writing one out by hand works for you then do that. Figuring out your jam is will help you tame your workplace stress and be the best boss babe you can be! When you have a to-do list you don’t have to jump from task to task. You can prioritize what needs to be done by numbering them with 1 being the most important or when you type them out you can write them in the order they need to be done. The little frisson of excitement you’ll get from marking off each task will encourage you to want to check off the next one and there’s less of a fear that you’ll forget to do something. I am floored when I hear from my coworkers and friends that they don’t write to-do lists. I would be completely lost without mine. For more tips on starting that to-do list and kicking its butt check out my post here.
Journaling has not only helped me in my life but also in dealing with my workplace stress. Workplace stress and anxiety have a way of messing with your head and distorting your thoughts. So when your boss emails you something vague like “can I see you in my office” or a client says “call me ASAP” your head runs to all the negative possibilities before you even know what they want to talk to you about. My biggest issue was angry customers emailing me. It would either turn me into a puddle of nerves or an angry mess. Now when I get to that place I write in my journal real quick about how I’m feeling and the beliefs I’m having. Usually, when I go back to read it in an hour I can read it with a clearer brain and realize that my thoughts were incorrect because my brain was spinning with workplace stress and anxiety. Stepping away from a situation can work wonders sometimes.
Pick up the phone or walk to their desk
Email is hands down amazing. You can communicate with people from around the world in seconds, but nothing can replace a simple phone call or in-person meeting. Body language and tone play a huge part in how others receive your message and how you receive theirs. I can’t count the number of times that a person I thought was rude due to short, blunt emails was a fantastic and warm person when we had an in-person meeting. I know phone calls can come with a stress all their own (try writing out what you want to say beforehand), but they can really limit miscommunications that can occur via email. A phone call or a quick meeting can also help clear up an issue that could take 10 emails back-and-forth (how annoying). If you find that what you’re saying isn’t being understood or you don’t understand the other person do yourself a favor and just give them a ring. I promise it’ll be easier in the long run.
Reevaluate your job
If your work environment is hostile, making you compromise your morals or you are still experiencing workplace stress after trying numerous coping methods, then it may be time to start looking for employment elsewhere. There is absolutely no shame in not being able to make a job work out when you’ve tried your hardest. My advice is to continue where you’re at unless there is some form of abuse occurring and touch up that resume. Sometimes a career shake-up is exactly what you need to get on the path you’re meant to be on. Workplace stress is always going to be there whether it’s from a few unread emails or a huge mistake. The key is learning how to deal with the stress and making calm decisions on how to fix the situation…if it even needs to be fixed. I used to be absolutely glued to my work phone. So much so that I had to beg my boyfriend at the time to turn off the sound at night because if I did and saw that I had an unread email I would start to get super anxious. It was bad. Once he started turning off the ringer for me though, I got in the habit of not looking at my work phone after 7 and after a while I was able to turn it off myself without looking. Even though I didn’t look at my emails after 7 PM the sky did not fall and I had peace of mind. I’m human and there are still going to be days where I have workplace stress, but I’ve developed coping skills that help keep it from sending me into a tailspin or invading my personal life and you can too!