Help, I Can’t Relax! 6 Tips to Beat Work Anxiety
A Survey proved that work is good for your health and well-being. It keeps you focused and driven towards achieving your life goals.
You may be working to earn an income and be able to do what you love on the side.
Maybe you are working because you want to use your skills in a meaningful way.
Or probably you are just working so you can make lots of money and enjoy a comfortable and convenient life.
Whichever the case, you are doing well to be working.
Or is it that you are lucky to be working?
Unemployment is always a concern as many people find it difficult getting a job.
This problem gets compounded when more graduates get into the job market.
Elsewhere, children are being born and schooled and grow up knowing that their dream jobs await them once they graduate. It then comes as a shock when that doesn’t happen.
If you have gone through the job searching process, you know that it is not an easy one. It is not the smoothest road to travel.
All the same, it is the only road that the majority travel.
For others, either by choice or forced by circumstances, they choose differently. They chart a unique path for themselves. Such people are commonly referred to as entrepreneurs.
Regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, the bottom line is that you have some work to do.
Also, it is important to note that you don’t really get to determine the amount of work to be done.
For you to achieve any goal, the amount of work to be done is already cut out. You just cannot control that. If you cut down on the amount of work, then the results reduce.
What you can quite comfortably determine is the amount of work you personally get to do.
For example, you have a goal you want to achieve. This goal will only come with a lot of hard work.
Since you cannot do all the work alone, you get someone to handle certain parts of it while you handle others.
This lessens the burden of work on you though the total amount of work remains the same.
To reduce the workload, a company has to consistently make more money in order to hire more employees.
For this to happen, those already hired have to work harder to bring in more money. After they have achieved the goal of making more money, then the work can reduce.
For others, it is the fear of losing their jobs that keeps them working. They keep working even when the conditions deteriorate. This is how many experience work anxiety.
Anxiety can easily bring you down if left unchecked. Depression can naturally follow and literally rob you of life.
The below video shows how anxiety can progress into worse states of mind. It however also provides an encouragement that the situation can be changed.
Whatever level of work anxiety you are at, you need not despair.
All hope is not lost.
There is something you can do to prevent its effects.
Below we look at six tips for beating work anxiety.
TIPS TO BEAT WORK ANXIETY
There are steps you can take to deal with the situation.
Bad situations start when issues arise but don’t get resolved. If the issues got resolved but there is a bad situation, then the resolving was not done well.
The tips you will learn from this article will help you deal with the situation and reverse it.
Implementing them will rescue you from work anxiety. Sticking with them will keep you away from it.
Prioritize your tasks
It is interesting to note that there will always be something that needs to be done.
Whether at work or at home.
In fact, even when you go on holiday, there are still things seeking to be done. Aren’t there places to visit? Aren’t there activities to engage in? Aren’t there special cuisines to be be enjoyed?
Unfortunately, you will never have enough time to engage in all the things that desire your attention.
Yet you cannot shrug them off in ignorance hoping they will go away. If you do, you will be surprised to see them set themselves as reminders all over your life.
So, how do you deal with them? Which tasks do you work on and which ones do you ignore? Among those you choose to work on, how do you prioritize them?
You do this by differentiating between the important and urgent tasks.
By using a decision matrix called The Eisenhower Method, you can easily differentiate between these two.
This method is simple in approach and delivers great results.
It recognizes that there will always be tasks to be handled yet not enough time to handle them. It thus seeks to identify the important things to be done versus the urgent ones.
These are the tasks which require immediate action or response. They have to be done now.
If not, something unpleasant may happen.
For example, replying to an email from your boss is urgent.
These are tasks which can be done at a much slower pace but are necessary for the long-term good.
They need time to be dedicated to them so they get done. Their accomplishment sets the foundation for the achievement of certain goals.
An example is exercising. This is not urgent but helps you achieve the long-term goal of staying healthy.
The Eisenhower Method was developed from a quote attributed to the 34th president of the USA, Dwight D. Eisenhower: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
Below is the decision matrix.
Using this method makes it easy to see things in their true perspective.
Some of the tasks in your hand are really out to waste your time. Unless you decide to eliminate them, you will end up not being productive at all.
You need to decide what to do then start doing it at the appropriate time.
Otherwise, you will strive to do everything but never succeed in achieving anything.
You can number the four quadrants in a ‘Z’ shape. This makes important and urgent to be number 1 while important but not urgent will be number two. Not important but urgent will be number 3 then not important and not urgent will be number 4.
Start at number 4 and eliminate what you don’t need to do. Secondly, go for the tasks you can delegate. Resist the feeling that you are bugging someone else. Delegating tasks helps you avoid biting more than you can chew.
After dealing with the above two types of tasks, you now remain with only the important ones. The difference between them is that some are urgent while others are not. This is where your To-Do list comes in. Schedule time to do the things which are not urgent and stick to that time.
Lastly, get to what you really need to do Now! This is where you should start your day. These will most likely be small to medium-sized tasks.
Break down the medium-sized tasks so you can see the progress in working on them. This helps you get motivated towards finishing the tasks.
An important aspect in using this method is training yourself on discipline. You will need to focus on the things which move you towards your goals.
If you do this, you will find yourself having some time for rest. You can then use this time of rest to do the things you enjoy.
Check your work culture
How do you work? How do you do the things you do?
Below are some of the things which define your work culture.
You may not have given them much thought. As you will see, working on them can drastically improve your work culture.
A good work culture helps you prevent work anxiety.
A careful look at how you go about your duties will help you see where you have been going wrong.
For example, if you have a certain task whose deadline is due in two days, how do you handle it? Do you postpone working on it till the deadline day because you can finish the work in four hours?
You may see the task as small thus not a difficult thing to complete. You may be confident in your abilities and decide to take some rest now.
If you are doing this, then you may be confusing resting with taking a break. You can take a break between tasks but resting is only after working.
How does diligence help against work anxiety? Diligence helps you achieve your goals.
When you practice diligence, you get to finish a lot of work. You take one task and work on it untill you finish it.
If it is a big task, you break it into smaller portions and work on those portions. Finishing those portions or the whole work gives you much joy. You also get to celebrate valid success.
On the other hand, when you don’t work diligently, the tasks will pile up and you will soon run out of time to complete them.
As they pile, you will have a hard time choosing what to work on. All their deadlines will be approaching in quick succession.
Such a situation only aggravates work anxiety.
It is important and noble to pursue excellence, but not perfectionism.
Perfectionism is an extreme and just like any other extreme, it is dangerous.
Don’t fool yourself in pursuing perfectionism by thinking you will have quality work done.
Perfectionism is not the definition of productivity.
You are productive when you have something to show for your efforts. Consistently doing a good job develops excellence.
On the contrary, seeking to do a perfect job guarantees that you will not be productive at all.
“If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” – David Foster Wallace
The problem with perfectionism is that it sounds too good not to be true.
We want a perfect life partner. One who loves us unconditionally, even though we can’t love them back in a similar manner. One who will do everything we have always imagined. Understanding us when we are angry. Encouraging us when we feel like giving up.
We want a perfect car. One that does not break down. One that does not need maintenance. In any case, don’t we already have maintenance-free car batteries? Is a maintenance-free car then too much to ask for?
Perfect seems so attainable that you can be tempted to pursue it.
It is however only a catalyst for stress. It is simply a mirage. A facade. There is just no truth in its existence.
It nonetheless has very strong pulls and can render even the best to be the most unproductive.
Not because it has any strength really, but because it is simply a principle in life. The wisest man who ever lived, king Solomon of the old Israel kingdom, had this to say about perfectionism.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. – Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NIV)
This talks of a farmer who is waiting for the perfect conditions to do his work.
Obviously, he never does it.
There will never be a perfect condition for work.
When it comes to work anxiety, you could be in either of the below two situations.
1. Seeking to do a perfect job
Are you looking to ensure that all the details are covered in your report? All? That cannot happen. There will always be something changing every second.
What do you do then?
Just indicate on the report or inform the relevant people that the report is as per a specific date and time.
This will put things in the right perspective. You will not be asked to account for new data not captured.
If you are to include all the data, you will live in a state of perpetual report-making. That kind of report will never be completed since there will always be new data to be added.
2. Waiting for the perfect time to work on a certain task
Are you waiting for the right time to start a task? No problem.
How do you define the right time? Consider someone seeking to start a business. He is currently unemployed, has enough money only to sustain him for three months. When is the right time to start the business?
He needs to rent an office space and hire some people to handle sales and others to manufacture.
He needs to get a factory space and relevant equipment for the manufacturing. With all these people, he needs a qualified HR manager and security personnel.
He needs trucks to transport goods to customers. With trucks, he will need drivers and turn boys.
But wait a minute, does he need all these?
This potential entrepreneur is simply planning to start big.
It won’t work because his resources are limited. You are in a similar position.
Your most important resource—time—is limited.
As you wait for all the ‘necessary’ input, you will realize rather late that you actually have no time.
Learn to differentiate between excellence and perfectionism. Embrace excellence as you actively reject perfectionism. Note that it is the small every day’s good work that results in excellence.
Your work environment
You may have an office with a computer, printer, vast stationery and a secretary.
If not, you may be having only a desk with a bunch of papers. Maybe you just have an in-tray and an out-tray. All the same, you have a work environment.
How does it look like? Neat and organized? Cluttered?
Your work environment has the ability of either describing or defining you.
If you are normally disorganized and leave things all over the place, then a disorganized work environment will describe you.
You may be adequately organized (not perfectly) but your work environment does not reflect it.
Soon enough, you may start being disorganized at a personal level. Your work environment will thus end up defining you.
None of these situations is ideal. So you need to do something about it and enjoy the benefits of being organized.
Check the papers on your desk. Find out what needs to leave and what needs to stay.
You probably have some paperwork finished and just waiting to be passed on to the next person handling a task.
But because your desk is disorganized, you may not find the paperwork when looking for it. You know you did your part but just can’t prove it.
That opens the door wide for stress and anxiety. You may need to re-do the work yet some other tasks await your attention.
When you have a clean and neat work space, your mind is able to take in the work in an easier way. It then processes the information well and you get to work with a clear sense of direction.
If you have too much paperwork, it may help to have some open shelves or multiple trays labeled accordingly.
The clear picture of the situation will help increase your peace of mind as you engage in the work.
Wisely talk to your boss about it
Although it is highly dependent on the workplace culture, many people generally fear their bosses.
Your boss may look mean, sound harsh and even raise his voice when speaking.
Still, he is human. He is able to listen to you and consider your thoughts and opinions.
All you need to learn is how to speak with him. Watch the below video for a great tip on how to communicate a problem to your boss.
All bosses have at least one thing in common. They all need results.
This is what makes them willing to consider different methods of achieving a goal.
When you are overwhelmed by your work, you are definitely not productive. This reduces the possibility that your boss will get results from you.
Your boss may be under pressure due to responsibilities you may never understand or get to know about.
Therefore, as you plan to speak with him, ensure you handle the whole process with wisdom.
Remember that you can only get limited time with your boss so seek to utilize it well. Below is a good way of going about it.
1. Take stock of the work you have
You definitely have a lot of work. But just how much work do you have?
You should be able to quantify it.
Some only need a little input before being passed on to someone else. Others probably just need you to go through them and give an approval. Others may be requiring the whole of your day and all your efforts because it is your primary duty.
Separate all these and have a short, clear summary of them.
This way, it is easy to see just how much work you have. It also makes it easy for your boss to delegate any of the duties if that seems the best solution.
2. Come up with a plan for finishing it
All the overwhelming work may squarely fall within your job description. In such a case, you have to first take responsibility for it.
This means you should be ready to work on it as much as you are hoping to get some assistance.
Since you have separated the various tasks, come up with a plan.
Planning is key if you are to handle the situation.
Consider the possibility of getting some free time to deal with the overload. Your plan has to be investment material. You will be seeking to have your boss invest some time in you to allow you deal with the situation.
3. Get an appointment
Show respect to your boss by booking an appointment.
This will tell him that you respect time; the company’s time and his time.
If you need to go through a secretary, ensure the need and importance of the meeting is clear.
Do not however make known to the secretary the details of your planned meeting. It is your boss who needs the details.
If you have direct access to your boss, look for an appropriate time to ask for an appointment. First thing in the morning will be great unless you notice that he got to work already stressed.
4.Talk about it
Once the meeting is secured, go straight to the point.
Describe the situation briefly pointing out specific tasks and your plan for finishing the work. If you need some of it to be delegated, request for that.
Be careful however not to imply that the overall work is too much for you. You may lose your position or maintain it but have some duties taken away.
Unless things favor you, the reduction of duties will normally come with a reduced pay.
Take a break
Work will always be available and waiting to be done. It is therefore important to plan for breaks. Breaks don’t just happen. You have to plan for them.
This is especially true if you are already experiencing work anxiety.
Things can get worse when your proposed dates for taking leave approach yet you still have pending work. You may be forced to postpone your leave, pushing you into deeper anxiety.
“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.” – Doe Zantamata
Taking a break calms down your mind and helps you think more clearly. You will be able to see things from a different angle.
The first thing you do is make a decision that you need to take a break. This decision may seem counter-productive considering that you have work to be done. But did you know that a tired mind is an unproductive mind?
If you push yourself to work harder when you are tired, you will most likely make many mistakes. If you deliver work that is full of mistakes, you affect the quality of the overall work. If this happens often enough, you will be setting yourself up for disciplinary action. You definitely do not want to go down that path.
How many hours are you supposed to work? Eight? Ten?
Stick to that.
Do not give in to the temptation of working late.
Your mind is already tired for the day and so pushing it harder will only make things worse.
What your mind needs at this point is a break. Taking a break results in more productivity. The mind itself is designed to shutdown after working so that repairs can be done in the body.
Failing to take a break is taking your mind into overdrive. You can safely do this once in a while but this should never be a routine.
When you take a break, your mind switches to a different task. It thus breaks the monotony of struggling with one issue.
This way, the next time it encounters the same issue, it is likely to come up with a solution.
Deal with the cause
The best solution to any problem is to deal with its source.
Some of the suggested ways of dealing with problems may actually be ways of running away from them.
These are normally the easy solutions which require little effort. Just as they are easy, so are they temporary. Issues not dealt with are sure to recur.
The more they recur, the stronger they will be and you become unable to handle them.
A good way of solving problems is using the method called Root Cause Analysis. This method seeks to get to the bottom of the problem instead of dealing with symptoms.
To get to the bottom of the problem, you will need to ask hard questions. Watch the below video to get some insight into this method.
When you seek to deal with the issue from the core, you will essentially be eradicating it completely. It is more like uprooting a tree as opposed to cutting it and leaving the stump.
For your work anxiety, it is important to be prepared psychologically to deal with the issue. You will be required to do some thinking so as to uncover the real cause of your anxiety.
The joy and peace of being free from anxiety should drive you to want to take this journey.
- Get comfortable and clear your mind – this is the first step to take. You cannot deal with the cause of work anxiety if your mind is clogged with thoughts. Ensure you are relaxed though ready to do some serious thinking.
- Find out when the anxiety began – this is where you take a journey into history. Have you received a promotion recently? Did the anxiety start after that promotion? Did it start immediately or after some time? If immediately, then you know that the amount and kind of work you have is the norm in that position. If it started later, then you need to know what caused it. Is it a new project that is too demanding? Is it extra work coming to your desk though not due to some new project? Was the extra work officially communicated? Is it in line with your job description? If it was not communicated or is not part of your job description, then you should officially complain about it. This is an opportunity to get that extra work out of your desk.
- Come up with a permanent solution – you already know how the anxiety began. It is now time to get the solution. There are two things which will comprise the permanent solution.
- Deal with the situation at hand – your first priority is to get out of your current situation. Depending on how you answered the questions above, plan on how to delegate the extra duties or finding time to finish it yourself. The option of getting it done by someone else is the best because you really need the burden to be lifted.
- Set up mechanisms to ensure the situation never recurs – this needs some strategic thinking and implementation. Here, you are simply trying to outsmart everyone else—for a good reason. If you don’t do this, you will get into a situation of anxiety leading to depression.
Cover the loopholes which allowed extra work to come your way.
Be on the lookout for recurring habits of colleagues who seek to ‘dump’ work on your desk.
Gently but firmly reject such moves and you will maintain your sanity.
Get a life
Dealing with work anxiety is not something you will finish in a single day. It is a journey that will take several strategic actions. You however don’t need to wait till you finish the journey so as to enjoy life.
Do you eat at your desk? Do you hurriedly have your lunch and finish it in fifteen minutes in order to get back to work? Do you carry your work home? If this is how you are currently living your life, then you need to put an abrupt stop.
Don’t even think about it. Just stop doing things this way.
You are actually doing yourself a big disservice.
For example, eating quickly so as to avoid ‘wasting time’ can cause problems for your digestive system.
Food digestion starts in the mouth and with hurried eating, you are likely not chewing it well enough. The main purpose of chewing is to break down food so as to enable digestion by your digestive enzymes.
Without proper chewing, much of the food will not be well digested. This makes you malnourished due to lack of nutrients. You will then lack the energy to carry out your duties.
Another problem with this habit is that you will slowly but surely lose friends. Not because they start disliking you but because you have no time for them.
The lunch break is a time to relax and catch up while eating. Since your mind is purely on your work, only work-related conversations will interest you.
Whenever you speak, all you will talk about is your work. It will be very difficult for you to maintain contact with your friends as long as this situation remains.
To avoid facing the difficulty in relating with your friends, you will opt to isolate yourself. “At least I understand myself,” you will say.
This is however very far from the truth. You will just be denying yourself the opportunity to enjoy life. As you deal with work anxiety, keep the end result in mind. You can start living out the results now.
You should also stop carrying your work home. You should not take your mind through work struggles both during the day and night. It may seem reasonable to finish a part of the work at home.
But you are creating a dangerous pattern.
For example, carrying work home means not having time for your family.
This creates a disconnect between you and your spouse and kids. Is it a wonder then that your children will not be able to relate with you? That they will not open up to you when they have a problem?
Yet you want to guide and advice them on matters to do with life. They will just not be open to your advice.
“If you want to have the time of your life, change how you use the time in your life.” – Tim Fargo
For a better connection with friends and family, incorporate these tips into your life.
- Spend your full lunch break outside the office with friends and colleagues.
- Carry no work home. Let your time at home rejuvenate you after working during the day.
- Do not check your mail the first thing you wake up. Doing so starts your day with increased stress levels.
- Do not take work-related calls after working hours. You can switch off your mobile phone or have a separate phone for work. You can then switch it off or leave it at work.
- Leave work on time and get there on time.
- Plan for your day the previous evening.
You should never take work anxiety as a normal part of your work life.
It is too unhealthy to embrace. You are better off living life with a clear mind.
This is the only way you will be productive. Whenever you get tired, take time to rest your body. This will enable you to continue with the tasks at hand with a fresh mind.
Some people seem to enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with stressful situations. Adrenaline is important when your body needs to deal with an urgent situation.
If your adrenaline is always flowing, then your body will get worn out quickly.
Consider the brevity of life and seek to make the most of it. Do not allow your life to be defined by work anxiety. That will only make you lose out on both your work life and personal life.
As a quick summary, here are the tips for dealing with work anxiety.
- Prioritize your tasks
- Check your work culture
- Wisely talk to your boss about it
- Take a break
- Deal with the cause
- Get a life
When faced with a seemingly long path, there is no better way than to move forward. After all, a …