Therapy for Work Anxiety

In today’s fast-paced society, work anxiety is an issue that affects many individuals. The demands of the workplace, constant deadlines, and the weight of expectations take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, the lack of human connection now existing between coworkers due to fierce competition in some work environments or working from home.

Work anxiety is quite common, so if you’re feeling the weight of work in an extreme, you’re not alone in this struggle. There are effective ways to address and overcome these work anxiety challenges.

At The Better You Institute, we are committed to providing a professional, empathetic, and supportive environment. We acknowledge that reaching out for help is a significant step, and we’re here to help you navigate it. Together, we can work towards a more balanced, resilient, and empowered self, where you can cope with work-related anxiety and flourish professionally.

Our goal is to offer you a space to explore the possibilities of therapy for work anxiety at your own pace. We are dedicated to providing the resources and information you need to make informed decisions about your mental health and well-being.

Our Specialists & Therapists For Work Anxiety Therapy in Philadelphia

What is Work Anxiety?

Work anxiety, sometimes called job-related anxiety disorders or occupational stress, is a common emotional and psychological response to the demands and challenges of the workplace. It’s more than just the typical nerves or occasional stress that everyone experiences at work; instead, it represents a persistent and overwhelming sense of unease, tension, or worry related to one’s job.

Signs of Work Anxiety

Work anxiety manifests in various ways, affecting your mental and physical well-being. Recognizing these signs is crucial in effectively addressing and managing this type of anxiety. Here are some common anxiety symptoms to watch out for:

  • Excessive Worry: Constantly fretting about job-related matters, such as deadlines, tasks, or performance, even when off the clock.
    • Example: talking at nauseaum about work issues to your partner or friends without having conversations about other topics
  • Physical Symptoms: Experiencing physical manifestations of anxiety, such as headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal issues, increased/decreased hunger, or rapid heartbeat.
    • Example: noticing you skip lunch or your stomach turning into knots a few minutes before you start your work day
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless nights due to work-related concerns
    • Example: If you wake up around 3-4a to go to the bathroom (simple explanation for this: your cortisol levels are too high, which signals to your body to stop depressing itself, which activates your adrenal glands and fills your bladder)
  • Irritability: Feeling easily agitated, short-tempered, or on edge, often leading to strained relationships with colleagues or loved ones.
    • Example: noticing you snap at your partner for something that wouldn’t normally bother you
  • Perfectionism: Setting unrealistic standards for yourself and being excessively self-critical, fearing any mistakes or imperfections.
    • Example: waiting until the last minute to complete a project (procrastination, often stems from perfectionism), and then ruminating on whether it was good enough, asking colleagues what they thought, and needing excessive positive feedback
  • Avoidance Behavior: Avoiding work-related stress by procrastinating, avoiding tasks, or taking unnecessary sick days.
    • Example: knowing there is an email that needs a response but putting it off for days despite it being a fairly easy email to write 
  • Loss of Interest: A decreased enthusiasm for your job, once enjoyable tasks becoming burdensome, or a lack of motivation.
    • Example: waking up and feeling dreadful that you have to go to work, a job that you once loved and couldn’t wait to get to 
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Finding it hard to focus on tasks, make decisions, or stay organized due to racing thoughts and anxiety.
    • Example: finding yourself daydreaming in meetings or at your desk instead of completing tasks
  • Social Withdrawal: Isolating yourself from coworkers, friends, and family, as social interactions may exacerbate anxiety.
    • Example: discontinuing lunch outings with coworkers
  • Physical Health Deterioration: Suffering from more frequent illnesses, a weakened immune system, or chronic health issues due to the impact of stress on your body.
    • Example: you are consistently the first one to get sick in your office despite not having children in daycare or school that would bring illnesses to you
  • Impaired Performance: Decreased job performance, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.
    • Example: it takes you longer to complete a task that you’ve done in the past and know how to do it with confidence
  • Rumination: Obsessively replaying work-related events, conversations, or mistakes in your mind.
    • Example: lying awake because you go in circles replaying an event that happened at work, get worried, but are unable to come up with a solution or empathy for yourself in the situation 

Recognizing these signs early on is essential for taking proactive steps toward managing work anxiety. Seeking support and implementing coping skills helps you regain control, reduce anxiety symptoms, and improve your overall well-being in the workplace.

Causes of Work Anxiety

Various factors can trigger work anxiety, and understanding its root causes is essential for effectively managing and mitigating its impact. Here are some common causes of work-related anxiety:

  • Heavy Workload: An excessive workload, with unrealistic deadlines and high-performance expectations, leads to overwhelming and stressful feelings.
  • Job Insecurity: Fear of layoffs, downsizing, or job loss creates a constant sense of insecurity and anxiety among employees.
  • Workplace Conflict: Interpersonal conflicts with colleagues, supervisors, or management contributes to a hostile work environment and increased anxiety.
    • Workplace conflict with low oversight: not having the proper heirarchy or departments to handle workplace conflict can leave an employee feeling unsupported and directionless, which leads to anxiety
  • Perfectionism: A tendency to set exceptionally high standards for oneself and a fear of making even minor mistakes leads to chronic stress and anxiety.
  • Lack of Control: Feeling powerless or lacking control over one’s work tasks, schedule, or career advancement contributes to helplessness and anxiety.
    • No autonomy or agency within one’s day can lead to feeling micromanaged, which gives most employees anxiety
  • Unclear Expectations: Uncertainty about job roles, responsibilities, or expectations cause confusion and anxiety in the workplace.
    • Unknown work culture is also unsettling and may cause anxiety. 
  • No Direction: Not knowing where your specific project is going or what your upward movement could be in a position can bring on a sense of feeling lost and out of control, which is anxiety provoking. 
  • Work-Life Imbalance: Having unrealistic expectations within the work day can lead to overflow into personal life. Or, work culture may pressure employees to work outside of their contracted hours, which may lead to chronic stress and burnout.
  • Bullying and Harassment: Experiencing bullying, harassment, or discrimination at work can severely impact mental health and well-being.
  • Work-related Trauma: Exposure to traumatic events or high-stress situations in certain professions, such as healthcare or emergency services, without any wellness checks or aftercare can lead to work-related anxiety.
  • Lack of Support: Insufficient support from supervisors or colleagues and a lack of access to resources to do your job well exacerbate anxiety.
    • Not having appropriate supports to help employees managing stress also leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety.
  • Job Dissatisfaction: Feeling unfulfilled or unsatisfied with one’s job leads to a sense of hopelessness and chronic anxiety.
  • Poor Work Environment: Uncomfortable physical surroundings, inadequate facilities, or noise pollution contributes to stress and anxiety. 
    • This is especially true for breastfeeding mom’s who do not have adequate space to pump at work or the work culture is not accepting of mother’s leaving to pump. 
  • Role Ambiguity: Unclear job roles, frequent changes in responsibilities, or conflicting job demands creates confusion and anxiety.

It’s important to note that work anxiety can result from a combination of these factors, and individual experiences may vary. Identifying the specific causes of work-related anxiety in your life is crucial in addressing and finding effective solutions to alleviate its impact on your overall health.

How To Cope With Work Anxiety 

Coping with work anxiety is essential for maintaining mental and emotional well-being in the modern workplace. Here are some strategies to help you manage and reduce work-related anxiety levels:

  • Identify Triggers: Recognize the specific situations or aspects of your job that trigger anxiety. Once identified, you can work on addressing these triggers more effectively.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Establish achievable work goals and expectations for yourself. Avoid setting impossibly high standards that contribute to perfectionism and anxiety.
  • Time Management: Organize your work tasks and create a schedule to manage your time effectively. Prioritize tasks and break them down into manageable steps.
  • Communication: Open and honest communication with supervisors and colleagues helps alleviate misunderstandings and reduce workplace tension.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a trusted coworker to share your feelings and concerns. Sometimes, simply talking about your anxiety can provide relief.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practice mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation to manage stress in the moment. Make time for hobbies, relaxation, and self-care outside of work hours.
  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Disconnect from devices, put up an out of office or away message, and be clear in your communication that you will get to the task tomorrow.
    • Be clear about your job role versus someone else’s and your compensation. If you are being asked to do your job and someone else’s, have clear conversations about what that means for you and how your company can compensate you.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with positive, affirming thoughts. Remind yourself of your capabilities and accomplishments.
  • Professional Help: Consider seeking support from a mental health professional or counselor specializing in workplace stress and anxiety.
  • Physical Activity: Regular exercise reduces stress and boosts your mood. Find a physical activity you enjoy and incorporate it into your routine.
    • Do you have access to a walking desk at work or any other way to move your body while working?
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet, eat regularly scheduled meals, drink water, prioritize sleep, and limit or avoid substances like alcohol and caffeine that exacerbate anxiety.
    • Take off of work to go to self-care appointments. 
  • Problem-Solving: Develop problem-solving skills to address work-related challenges more effectively. Seek solutions instead of dwelling on problems.
  • Time Off: Don’t hesitate to take vacation or personal days when needed. Time away from work helps recharge your mental and emotional batteries.
  • Seek Feedback: Ask for constructive feedback on your performance and use it as an opportunity for growth rather than a source of anxiety.
  • Professional Development: Invest in learning and skill-building opportunities that  boost your confidence and competence in your job.

Coping with work anxiety is ongoing, and what works best for you may vary. Experiment with different strategies, and be patient as you work towards a healthier, less anxious work life. If your anxiety persists or becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help to address the underlying issues.

cbt for adjustment disorder
cbt for adjustment disorder

Telling Your Employer About Work Anxiety

Sharing your experience of work anxiety with your employer is a challenging but essential step in seeking support and making your workplace more conducive to your well-being. Here are some considerations and steps to keep in mind when discussing work anxiety with your employer:

  1. Identify Your Needs: Before approaching your employer, assess your needs and requirements. Determine how work anxiety affects your performance and well-being and what accommodations or support would be helpful.
  2. Assess for Safety: Although most employers will say they create an environment where they are receptive to employee feedback, many are not. Furthermore, if your work anxiety comes from upper management, you may not want to report your anxiety to them. You want to go to the right person or department that will be able to help you, not further your anxiety. 
  3. Choose the Right Time and Place: Request a private and comfortable meeting with your supervisor or HR representative to discuss your concerns. Ensure it’s a time when you can have their full attention.
  4. Plan What to Say: Prepare a clear and concise explanation of your work anxiety and its impact on your job. Write it down or have bullet points to keep you on track. 
    1. Use “I” Statements: Try to speak only from your experience and what is happening for you, rather than pointing fingers or putting blame on others.
  5. Keep boundaries: Only share what you feel comfortable sharing in the workplace. It may be helpful to keep in mind connecting your anxiety back to how it affects your work performance and productivity.
  6. Highlight Accomplishments: Emphasize your contributions to the company and your commitment to your role. This helps balance the conversation and demonstrates your dedication.
  7. Request Support: Clearly communicate what kind of support or accommodations you need. It could involve changes in workload, flexible hours, or access to mental health resources.
  8. Offer Solutions: Propose practical solutions that help you manage your anxiety while fulfilling your job responsibilities. This shows your willingness to work collaboratively.
  9. Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with your legal rights regarding mental health accommodations in the workplace. In many countries, laws protect employees from discrimination based on mental health conditions.
  10. Be Open to Feedback: Your employer may have insights or suggestions to offer. Be receptive to their feedback and engage in a constructive dialogue.
  11. Document Everything: Write down a summary of the conversations and any agreements made regarding accommodations or support. Email your summary to everyone who was in the meeting with you. This is valuable if issues arise later.
  12. Follow-up: Continue to communicate with your employer about your progress and any changes in your needs. Regular check-ins help ensure that the support remains effective.
  13. Seek External Resources: If your employer is unresponsive or unsupportive, consider contacting HR professionals, mental health organizations, or legal counsel for guidance and advocacy.
  14. Self-Care: While navigating this process, prioritize self-care to manage your anxiety. Continue to seek therapy or counseling as needed to address the underlying issues.

Sharing your work anxiety with your employer is a personal decision, and you should only do so when you feel comfortable and ready. Your health is important, and seeking support from your employer is a positive step toward creating a more understanding and supportive work environment. 

However, seeking support from your employer may also feel more anxiety provoking due to a lack of safety. If a lack of safety and continued anxiety persist, you may want to explore whether this job is sustainable for you or if exploring other career options is best. 

If you find yourself having work anxiety at all of your jobs, you may benefit from psychotherapy. Getting therapy from a trained professional who specializes in work anxiety can help you explore and uncover how you keep getting into these types of jobs that lead to work anxiety. Your therapist will help you map out different patterns at play and get to the root cause of your work anxiety. 

Lifestyle Tips To Reduce Anxiety

Manage your anxiety through lifestyle changes. These changes can profoundly impact your overall health. Here are some practical tips to help you reduce anxiety in your daily life:

  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.
  • Balanced Diet: Maintain a well-balanced diet with fibrous carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid excessive caffeine, sugar, and processed foods.
  • Adequate Sleep: Prioritize sleep by establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleep environment. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Stress Reduction Techniques: Practice techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation.
  • Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: Limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they exacerbate anxiety and disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated, as dehydration can contribute to stress and anxiety.
  • Social Connections: Maintain and nurture your social connections. Spending time with friends and loved ones provides emotional support and reduces feelings of isolation.
  • Time Management: Organize your tasks and priorities with effective time management techniques. This helps reduce feelings of overwhelm.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Avoid setting overly ambitious or perfectionistic goals. Set achievable objectives and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Engage in mindfulness practices that help you stay present and focused. This reduces rumination and excessive worrying.
  • Hobbies and Interests: Dedicate time to hobbies and interests that bring you joy and relaxation. Engaging in activities you love are a great stress reliever.
  • Limit News Consumption: Limit exposure to negative news and media, as excessive consumption increases anxiety. Stay informed, but consider taking breaks from news updates.
  • Positive Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to challenge negative self-talk and boost self-esteem.
  • Avoid Multitasking: Focus on one task at a time to enhance concentration and reduce feeling overwhelmed.
  • Be Present: Staying in the moment can help your overall focus, completion of tasks, and reduction in sensory overload.
  • Seek Professional Help: If anxiety persists or becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional who can provide therapy or medication.
  • Journaling: Keep a journal to express your thoughts and emotions. Writing is a therapeutic way to process feelings and gain insight into your anxiety triggers.
  • Spend Time in Nature: Enjoy outdoor activities and spend time in natural settings. Nature has a calming and soothing effect on the mind.
  • Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a sense of gratitude by regularly reflecting on what you’re thankful for.
  • Cut Out Toxic People: Do not engage with people who bring negative energy to you, put more on your plate than you can handle, or keep you down. Limit your time to hanging out with people who are uplifting, supportive, bring out your best self, and have your best interest in mind.
  • Limit Screen Time: Reduce excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, as it disrupts sleep patterns and increases anxiety.
  • Learn to Say No: Set boundaries and say no when you feel overwhelmed with commitments or responsibilities.

Incorporating these lifestyle changes into your daily routine will help you manage and reduce anxiety. Remember that it’s best to be patient with yourself as you implement these practices. Don’t try to implement all of these in one go. Try one per week or month and see how it goes. Seek professional help if anxiety persists or worsens.

Types of Therapy for Work Anxiety

There are several types of therapy and therapeutic approaches that are effective in addressing work anxiety. The choice of therapy depends on your individual needs, preferences, and the nature of your anxiety. Here are some common types of therapy for work anxiety:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most widely used therapies for anxiety. It helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to anxiety. In the context of work anxiety, CBT helps you challenge unrealistic beliefs about your job, set realistic goals, and develop coping strategies for managing stress in the workplace.

Attachment-Based Therapy

Attachment Therapy helps you get to the root cause of your anxiety. By understanding your attachments, you will understand your responses to your work and coworkers. The therapist will help you identify tools and techniques that are specific to your attachments and how you view yourself in the workplace to tackle your anxiety. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR combines mindfulness meditation and awareness techniques to reduce stress and promote emotional regulation. It effectively manages work-related anxiety by helping you stay present and focused, even in high-pressure situations.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT helps individuals accept their thoughts and feelings while committing to actions aligned with their values. ACT can be valuable for individuals struggling with work-related anxiety, as it encourages a more flexible and adaptive approach to handling stressors.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is often used to treat anxiety disorders, especially when they co-occur with issues like emotional dysregulation or difficulty managing relationships. DBT emphasizes emotional regulation and effective interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT focuses on improving relationships and communication skills. It is beneficial for addressing work anxiety when interpersonal conflicts or challenges with coworkers are contributing to stress.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy explores unconscious thoughts and feelings contributing to work anxiety. It is useful in gaining insight into the root causes of work-related anxiety and addressing deeper emotional issues.

Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions with individuals experiencing similar work-related anxiety provides a supportive and validating environment. Sharing experiences and strategies with peers can be comforting and empowering.

Online Therapy

Online therapy platforms offer convenient access to therapy resources, including video sessions, messaging, and self-help tools. This option is helpful for individuals with busy work schedules or those who prefer remote therapy.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is beneficial if work-related stress impacts your family life. This therapy helps improve family dynamics and communication, reducing the overall impact of work anxiety on your personal life.

Consulting with a mental health professional is essential to determine the most suitable type of therapy for your work-related anxiety. A therapist can assess your specific needs, tailor the treatment plan to your circumstances, and provide guidance and support to help you effectively manage and overcome work anxiety.

Benefits of Work Anxiety Therapy

Work anxiety therapy offers a multitude of benefits that can have a profound impact on your well-being and professional life. Therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental space to explore and address the root causes of your work-related anxiety. Therapy helps you gain valuable insights into your thought patterns, behaviors, and triggers, enabling you to develop effective coping strategies. 

Through therapy, you can learn to challenge and reframe negative beliefs about your job, set realistic goals, and enhance emotional resilience. Therapy equips you with valuable tools for managing stress, improving communication in the workplace, and fostering a healthier work-life balance. 

Over time, these skills empower you to regain control over your career, reduce anxiety’s impact on your personal life, and ultimately find greater satisfaction and fulfillment in your professional endeavors.

How The Better You Institute Can Help

At The Better You Institute, we are committed to being your partner on the journey towards conquering work-related anxiety and achieving a more balanced, fulfilling professional life. Our team of experienced and compassionate therapists specializes in addressing the unique challenges of work anxiety, offering a range of evidence-based therapeutic approaches tailored to your specific needs. Whether you seek to understand your anxiety triggers, develop coping strategies, or navigate complex workplace dynamics, our therapists are here to support you.

Our institute provides a warm, welcoming, and confidential environment where you can explore the factors contributing to your anxiety and work collaboratively to overcome them. We believe in empowering you with practical skills and insights to enhance your emotional resilience and well-being. Our holistic approach considers the immediate challenges and long-term strategies for sustaining a satisfying career.

With The Better You Institute, you can access a network of professionals dedicated to your mental health and personal growth. We’re here to guide you towards a future where work is a source of satisfaction rather than stress, where you can thrive professionally while enjoying a more serene and balanced life outside the workplace. Your well-being is our priority, and we look forward to assisting you in achieving the better you that you deserve.