How to Deal If Anxiety at Work Is Making It Hard to Do Your Job

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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By the way, you can also have this conversation with HR instead, or loop them in afterward if your boss isn’t amenable. “If you feel weird about seeming like you’re going over your boss’s head after she said no, you can frame it to her as, ‘Because I think this is likely covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, I’m going to check with HR about how to navigate it from here,’” Green suggests.

Even if you do work something out directly with your manager, Green says it may still make sense to document the accommodation and get it on file with HR, just in case anything changes in the future (like if your boss leaves or doesn’t stick to what you agreed on).

5. Practice deep breathing.

Though it’s hardly the flashiest tool in the belt, deep breathing is an MVP on the anti-anxiety roster for a reason. For one, you can do it pretty much anywhere, making it especially useful on the job, where you might not have the time, space, or privacy for other soothing strategies, like plugging into a guided meditation or journaling. More importantly, it’s reliably effective.

“You’re putting your body into a state of calm, which sends feedback to the brain that you are calm. It’s a relaxation response,” Dr. Wei explains. In other words? You can trick your brain into thinking you’re not actually anxious. Or at least, not as anxious as you felt at first.

You can also use this tool proactively, ahead of a specific trigger (see why we suggested tracking your patterns above?). Dr. Wei recommends practicing deep breathing exercises leading up to something you know makes you anxious, like 10 minutes before a big meeting or in the morning before a stressful day.

6. Let out restless energy.

On the flip side, sometimes the best way to settle anxious energy is to get it out of your system. If you notice that you’re bouncing your leg, switching positions, or fidgeting, that might be a good sign to take a lap around the office, run in place, or do whatever is realistic for your work environment, Ryan Howes, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Southern California and the author of the Mental Health Journal for Men, tells SELF.

“If you move your body in a way that honors that extra energy and lets it run its course, you may find that your head clears and you’re able to focus a little better too,” Dr. Howes says. Even shaking out your arms or stretching as you work can get some blood pumping if you can’t step away.

7. Embrace a little distraction.

It may seem counterintuitive—especially if you’re worried about productivity and job performance—but even without anxiety, you’re a human, not a worker bot. Breaks are healthy and needed. Dr. Howes recommends distracting yourself by listening to music, playing a level on a mindless mobile game, or something else that takes your mind off your anxious thoughts. “For people who get locked into rumination, sometimes you have to pick up the train and move it onto another track for a couple of minutes before you can break out of it,” he says.

Even something as small as pausing to text a friend can ease the burden, especially if someone you know can relate. “Oftentimes anxiety makes us turn inward and isolate ourselves from other people,” Dr. Howes says. “It’s good to remind ourselves we’re not alone, and reaching out can help us realize, ‘Oh, wow, I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way.’”

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