My number one anxiety trigger: driving. My number two anxiety trigger: WORK.
Let me preface this blog by recognizing my privilege and the opportunities I’ve had in my life. I am beyond grateful for my current full-time job and the path that has led me here. I know that not everyone has equal opportunities, and I never, ever want to diminish that.
With that, it’s part of my story that a lot of the stress and anxiety I’ve experienced throughout my life has been work-related.
Since I was old enough to process this, success has been the ultimate goal … and failure has been the ultimate fear. And how do I (and most of y’all, probably) measure success? Get good grades in school, graduate from college, land a solid job, and make a lot of money. Basically, my biggest goal for most of my life has been centered around one thing: work.
When I was 25, I suffered from the start of an ulcer. After seeing multiple specialists, taking allergy tests, and getting an endoscopy, the doctor determined the start of the hole in the upper left side of my stomach was most likely due to stress. He said, “You are the youngest patient I’ve ever had that has suffered from a stress-related issue like this. Whatever is stressing you out, you need to address it.” And address it, I did.
Although I had an established anxiety toolkit (regular therapy, medication, movement, etc.), I still needed to find more work-life balance (not that work-life balance is easily attainable, but I was so far from even the idea of it). As an anxious person, I fear failure and letting anyone down – especially a boss. So, in the workplace, I work … a lot. For most of my adult life, I defined myself by my career and the success of it. If someone ever asked me to describe myself, I usually started with my job title.
Since my ulcer-scare 5 years ago, I’ve made some changes when it comes to my job, and I’m excited to share them with y’all! Here are 6 tips to help manage your work-related anxiety:
1. REMIND YOURSELF: YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR JOB.
If you read my story above, you know that this is something I struggled with – and still struggle with to this day! Instead of measuring success by your job title, salary, or productivity, measure it by asking yourself these questions:
Am I happy? Do I feel fulfilled? Am I able to truly be present?
You are SO MUCH MORE than your job.
2. SET (AND HONOR) BOUNDARIES AROUND WORK.
I used to answer emails at any hour of any day, and had my email alerts on … always. Now, I do not check my email before a certain time in the morning or after a certain time at night. And yes, there are some days where this feels impossible, but setting this boundary and fully disconnecting from work is so important for your mental health.
PRO TIP: whatever boundaries you set, share those with your manager.
3. IF YOU NEED A MENTAL HEALTH DAY, TAKE ONE.
Mental health is health. If you have sick days or PTO included in your benefits at work, don’t be afraid to use one (or two!) when you feel burnout comin’ in hot (yes, pun intended there). If you do not have these benefits at work, plan a mental health day – or just a few hours – into your schedule ahead of time. Explain your situation to your employer and work with your coworkers to make something work.
In short, make your mental health a priority.
4. SCHEDULE BREAKS THROUGHOUT THE WORK DAY.
… And do not spend those breaks looking at the screen. Schedule 15 minutes during the day to stretch, walk, read, or just relax. May it’s 5 minutes before work, 5 minutes after lunch, and 5 minutes in the evening, but that time to yourself will make a difference.
5. VOCALIZE YOUR STRUGGLES.
If work is a main cause of your anxiety, share that with your manager, Human Resources Department, or someone you are comfortable speaking with at work. There may be projects that can wait, coworkers that can help out, or other resources available to alleviate the anxiety you feel from your job.
6. ASK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES THROUGH YOUR EMPLOYER.
Many companies offer mental health resources to their employees, such as an employee assistance program (EAP). Ask your manager or Human Resources contact what resources the organization offers, and don’t hesitate to tap into them.
While I do still struggle with some mental fatigue around work, I’ve made strides in finding more of a balance in life (and I have to give my current employer a shout out – they’ve been so supportive and understanding of mental health!).
What helps you with work-related anxiety? Share below or send me a DM on Instagram.
Please note that I am not a mental health professional. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.