Stress and Anxiety at Work

Safety Moment

How do I deal with stress and anxiety at work?

It's important to maintain your physical and mental well being, especially at work. Anxiety and stress may seem minor, but all can lead to serious risks and accidents, as well as influence your physical and emotional health.

What is workplace anxiety?

Workplace anxiety is a learnt response to stress and can be triggered from a range of factors. It is not General Anxiety Disorder, as these symptoms are specifically related to the work environment. However, workplace anxiety may develop as either phobias or even hypochondrial anxieties regarding working conditions, interacting with colleagues and superiors, and fears of inadequacy or judgement.

What causes workplace anxiety?

The main culprits of work-related anxiety:

  • Deadlines
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Staff management
  • Arisen issues/problems

What causes stress and how can I manage stress at work?

Stress at work is often caused by a fear of being laid off, more overtime due to staff cutbacks, and pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction are all causes of excessive workplace and job stress.

While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with productivity and impact physical and emotional health. Your ability to deal with it can mean the difference between success or failure. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless--even when you are stuck in a difficult situation. Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes or rethinking career ambitions, but rather about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control: you.

How do I know if I'm stressed? 

Being able to identify excessive workplace stress is important. Signs and symptoms of excessive stress include:

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping or fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal

How can I lower my stress and anxiety levels at work?

Getting stressed out at work happens to everyone, and it’s perfectly normal. However, if you experience any of the listed symptoms of stress or anxiety, you should take responsibility to work on it. Keep these ideas in mind to keep your work life manageable and reduce potential anxiety and stress:

  • Educate yourself. Learn to recognize the symptoms of your anxiety and how to handle them if you experience any at work. Avoid pitfalls by identifying negative habits and attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work.
  • Practice time management. Make to-do lists and prioritize your work. Schedule enough time to complete each task or project.
  • Plan and prepare. Get started on major projects as early as possible. Set mini-deadlines for yourself. Anticipate problems and work to prevent them.
  • Be realistic. Don’t over commit or offer to take on projects if you don’t realistically have enough time.
  • Ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask a coworker for help. Later you can return the favor.
  • Communicate. Learn better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and co-workers. Speak up calmly and diplomatically if you have too much to handle. Your supervisor may not realize you’re overextended.
  • Stay organized. Filing and clearing your desk and computer desktop may rank low on your priority list, but they can save you time in the long run and may prevent a crisis later.
  • Avoid toxic coworkers. Try to ignore negativity and gossip in your workplace.
  • Take breaks. A walk around the block or a few minutes of deep breathing can help clear your head.
  • Set boundaries. Try not to bring work home with you.
  • Be healthy. Eat healthfully, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and limit caffeine and alcohol. Try to keep your body and mind in shape to handle challenging situations.

What can I do outside of work to reduce stress?


Lifestyle changes can help you deal with the symptoms of stress and improve your day-to-day:

  • Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Be sure to start your day with a healthy breakfast and reduce your caffeine and sugar intake throughout the day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. Accidents are more likely to occur when you are sleep deprived.

We all respond to stress differently so, there isn’t one solution to managing stress, but if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action.