How to manage anxiety at work

How to manage anxiety at work
How to manage anxiety at work

posted 15 May 23

When we’re feeling anxious, it can feel like we’re the only one who feels that way. While everyone’s experience is different, more than eight million people live with anxiety in the UK alone.

Feeling stressed at work can be a normal response to the daily demands of your job. However, if you’re experiencing chronic overthinking, feeling overwhelmed or if it is preventing you from doing the things you love, stopping you from going for a promotion or affecting your work, you may be experiencing anxiety.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to share four ways you can help manage anxiety at work.

Ask for help

It can be hard to tell someone that we’re struggling. But by sharing how you’re feeling, your employer can then make adjustments to support you during this time. This could be flexible working arrangements, adjusting your workload or free counselling sessions.

Before you speak to someone at work, mental health charity Mind suggests deciding:    

  • How and when are you going to tell your employer? A private and quiet setting may be best to keep your conversation confidential. This way, you won’t be disturbed or overheard by colleagues, which could cause further anxiety. You may also want to provide a doctor’s note if you have one.
  • Who do you want to speak to? Perhaps you want to tell your manager or supervisor, maybe you’d feel more comfortable speaking to HR, or it could be that your company has a mental health first aider or champion you can talk to.
  • What information do you want to share? Talking about mental health can be a sensitive subject; it is up to you how much or how little you divulge. If you don’t want to go into too much detail, you could simply focus on how your anxiety is affecting you at work.

Create a wellness action plan

A wellness action plan (also known as a wellness recovery action plan) is a personalised and practical tool that anyone can use, whether we have a mental health problem or not.

Everyone has mental health, and a wellness action plan is there to help you identify:

  • What keeps you well at work
  • What can cause you to become unwell (including any situations that may trigger your anxiety)
  • How poor mental health might impact your work
  • What support you need from your manager/employer
  • How anxiety and mental ill-health anxiety affects you
  • What signs and symptoms you and your employer can look out for

This can not only help you to manage your anxiety, but it may also help you have more job satisfaction and feel more productive and engaged at work.

A wellness action plan can also open up a conversation between you and your manager, so they understand your individual needs and experiences in order to better support your mental health.

Mind has a free guide to a wellness action plan, including what it should cover and a template to help you get started.

Find daily strategies to support your wellbeing

Once you have created your wellness action plan, you will hopefully have a list of what keeps you well at work. To help you manage your anxiety, you may want to incorporate some or all of these personalised coping strategies or mechanisms into your daily working life. 

This could be:

  • Working in a quiet space (whether that’s in the office or at home)
  • Getting some fresh air or going for a walk
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Breathing exercises
  • Writing in a journal
  • Exercising before or after work or on your lunch break

Everyone has their own journey and doing everything at once could cause further anxiety for some. Remember to go at your own pace. You can add one thing at a time to your routine, rather than everything at once.

Find out if your company has an EAP

Many businesses now offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as an employee benefit. They often include counselling sessions (which could be face-to-face, over the phone or via a video call), as well as expert advice and resources. Your workplace EAP may even be able to connect you to local organisations or support groups that can help you with your anxiety.

If you are unsure if your employer has an EAP, you could speak to your line manager, HR or any mental health first aiders or representatives your company has.

It is also worth looking at your benefits package as a whole. Your employer may also have other resources or schemes you can tap into, which could include everything from access to mindfulness apps to health insurance.

While it may be beneficial to speak to your employer or find out what benefits they have that can support you, if you’re not ready to open up at work, Anxiety UK has helpline and text services that are open Monday to Friday. Samaritans also have a free helpline, which is available 24/7.

If you feel anxiety is preventing you from effectively conducting your job search or you are struggling in your current role and need help to find a new opportunity, get in touch with our team today to see how we can help you.