The average day at work for many of us is much like running a multi-talented solo act at the circus. From juggling deadlines and walking the tightrope of office politics to taming lions/dealing with your boss’ multiple personalities.
Given what we’re all coping with on a daily basis, it’s no wonder more than 560 million people suffer from depression and anxiety disorders globally — many of whom live with both conditions together. So the chances are that many of your colleagues — and at least one of your boss’ personalities — are also dealing with workplace anxiety too.
Part of the issue behind anxiety is struggling through the emotional spectrum such worrying encompasses. We’ve all experienced the low-level burn that exists as you accept yet another project even though you’re already working at full capacity. Just as we’ve all endured the last minute panic to get a document finished as the white-knuckle, heart-stopping deadline arrives all too swiftly on the horizon.
Stress vs. Anxiety
Many of us assume anxiety is the same as stress. While the two are related and often intertwined, stress tends to go away if you tackle the source of the problem. Anxiety is the body’s psychological albatross — it exists all on its own and can endure long after you resolve the stressful trigger. Dealing with this ongoing feeling of dread takes time and energy. It’s like having two jobs. And anyone who’s juggled two jobs knows that performance and productivity are the first to take a hit.
A recent World Health Organization study discovered that such anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity every year. This lost productivity can exhibit itself in two ways:
- In absenteeism: According to this study, people suffering from mental health problems take 5% more time off work.
- In presenteeism: Employees work increasingly longer hours but with little impact.
Why is the distinction important? Sustained or chronic workplace anxiety needs to be addressed as its own snowflake-like issue, rather than as a consequence of stress. Your worries won’t melt away just by taking a vacation or hitting the spa for a well-deserved massage. (Though these will certainly help reduce your stress.)
Free Yourself from the Anxiety Albatross in 3 Steps
- Share your problem — No matter what you’re dealing with, it’s important to know that you don’t have to struggle with workplace anxiety alone. Step one to increase your productivity is to share the load. As the saying goes, “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
- Have a digital detox — Regularly schedule time into your working day free from the constant buzz and demands of your email and social media accounts. Being ‘on-call’ 24–7 is wearing on the soul. Relax and take the evening off from your tech.
- Reframe your anxiety — You can waste a lot of time and effort trying to fight free of your worries. Instead, refocus all that pent up anxious energy and channel it as excitement into what you’re working on. Let yourself be revitalized rather than overburdened.
Lucy is an entrepreneur, writer, content creator, and digital marketer who specializes in helping others out when they’re lost for words. Twitter @inkedlj