Whether you have anxiety about your future with the company or worry that your joke in the morning meeting fell flat, feeling nervous or overwhelmed at work is not uncommon. In fact, 40 million adults suffer from anxiety, a disorder that doesn’t clock out once you clock in. Not only is it highly detrimental to your health, with the influx of cortisol surging through your body, but anxiety can damage your quality of work as well. On average, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation reports that anxiety disorders lead to almost six days of reduced productivity per month, yet many of us still feel guilty for taking a mental health day.
In a world where women wear so many different hats, the office is another place so many of us feel the need to perform every second of the day. However, the never-ending thought train that is anxiety can debilitate even the strongest businesswoman. While we all have different triggers, the underlying messages are often similar. Exceedingly, women are pressured to be slavishly devoted to our jobs while also running our homes and carving out time for self-care.
Moreover, this mindset increasingly provides a facade for us to disguise what may actually be going on. Anxious minds often cling to the tasks at hand as a way to focus on something less trivial in comparison to the larger issue. For instance, we zero-in on a mistake we made during a presentation instead of feeling the pain from a bigger loss, like a breakup. The more hats we wear, the more distraction we have from the tougher thoughts.
Additionally, office triggers such as large workloads, high-pressure meetings, and workplace bullying can set off fight or flight responses. Sometimes it feels like if one thing goes wrong, everything else will, too. These feelings can lead to panic attacks, severe exhaustion, physical symptoms like stomach discomfort, loss of focus, moodiness, and more. If you don’t handle anxiety at work, it can consume other areas of your life.
The best remedy for most triggers involves coming prepared. Proactively thinking and facing anxieties head-on will put you ahead of the curve. Imagine that taking care of yourself and your mind is like stocking up on supplies ahead of a storm — but in this case, it’s in the event of an anxiety attack. In 2018, we are constantly told how important self-care is, but as it becomes more commodified, carving out time for ourselves seems like one more item on a to-do list. However, if you use self-care as an antidote to anxiety ahead of time, that check point will be worth it.
To combat anxiety at work, start by taking a mental health day. No one likes asking to take off work, but as the conversation around mental health broadens, taking time for your emotional and psychological well-being is becoming more commonplace. Give yourself a mental breather — sleep in, read a book, exercise or simply relax. Your responsibilities at work will be there when you return, hopefully with a clearer mind.
What helps me the most when I feel off-kilter is going outside. Being enclosed between four walls and feeling as if nothing else outside of them matters is enough to make anyone anxious. Once you get outside, you start to remember that more exists beyond work, and by focusing on the bigger picture, you can create your reality. Rain or shine, city or suburb, going outside is one of the most calming things you can do for yourself. Try to notice things you have never looked at before and ponder questions that are irrelevant from life at your desk. Once you return, the scent of the outdoors will linger, and your mind will be much more balanced.
Remember, there is no project on earth worth losing your peace of mind over. If your job gives you so much anxiety that you forget to take care of yourself — or feel that you are not entitled to — it may be time to look for other options. Think about your mental health as a nonnegotiable.