7 Stress-Less Strategies for Dealing with Anxiety on the Job
7 Ways to Get Over Work-Related Anxiety
There's a reason the phrase "TGIF" was created—work is stressful. Job-related stress is consistently ranked by the American Psychological Association among the top three stressors we struggle most with, along with money and family issues. But working your well-toned butt off for that next promotion isn't necessarily the solution for a less stressed existence. In fact, it might be just the opposite.
A new study from Columbia University in New York found that people who are near the middle of the social hierarchy (all the middle managers say hey!) suffer greater rates of depression and anxiety than those at the top or at the bottom. In fact, almost twice as many supervisors and managers reported suffering from workplace anxiety than did non-managerial workers. (Plus, there's these Two New Reasons You Seriously Need to Find a Work/Life Balance.)
"We suspect it's this dual role of middle management—being expected to enforce policies in which they have little say, but also facing the antagonism of subordinates," says Seth J. Prins, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia and lead author on the study. "In other words, middle managers take flak from the top-down and the bottom-up."
The good news is, finding fulfillment in your current role and nixing career anxiety is largely a matter of attitude. Use these seven tips from career coaches if you find yourself in the stressful middle part of climbing the corporate ladder.
Stop Complaining and Start Taking Control
"Stop focusing on where you don't have control and start focusing on where you do," says Maggie Mistal, a career change and executive coach in New York, who finds that constantly complaining about work is often a source of anxiety for her clients. "You are in control of setting your boundaries and priorities with your boss. That's what a leader does," she says. (Heed The Best Advice from Female Bosses.)
Learn From Your Current Role
According to Steve Errey, a career coach in the U.K., a lot of workplace-related anxiety comes directly from your attitude about it. "A lot of people get pissed off because they think they should be elsewhere doing better things," says Errey. "Think about it as being at your best regardless of circumstances rather than being at your worst because of them."
Are you getting enough sleep? Seriously. "You're more likely to experience stress when you're running on empty," says Errey. "Nourish your head by keeping your mind active and challenged. Nourish your body with proper rest, healthy food, and exercise. And nourish your heart by doing things that return you to source, like spending quality time with a partner." (Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?)
Skip the afternoon Starbucks run in favor of some mid-day meditation. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Organizational Psychology
found that workers who took a 20-minute meditation break felt less stressed than workers who used that time to catch up around the water cooler. (Plus, you'll score these other 17 Powerful Benefits of Meditation.) Try a meditation app like Calm to tune out for a few—we promise your inbox can wait.
Skip the morning workout rush and see if you can sneak in a lunchtime sweat sesh instead. Your body performs best between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to researchers at the University of Texas, Austin. If a mid-day workout seems impossible, sneak in a quick calorie burn with The Best Workout for the Time You Have.
Get a Change Of Scenery
Spend a few minutes outside in the sun or take a quick stroll through the local park. A study published in Public Health Reports found that coming into contact with nature daily significantly reduced people's stress and increased general perceptions of health. Try turning that daily check-in with your direct report into a walking meeting. (Or overload on The Health Benefits of Shinrin-Yoku and try full-blown forest bathing.)
Start Where You Are
If you think you're just not in the right role, do a little soul searching to get a better picture of the things causing you anxiety and the kind of role you'd like to be in. (And find out Why Burnout Should be Taken Seriously.) Mistal says it's less a matter of starting over and more a matter of making a lateral move from where you are. "Find one thing in your current role that you really like and expand upon that," she says. "If you're good at something and you enjoy it, why not ask for more? Then you're building your resume in your current role." At the same time, start scheduling those coffee dates and networking happy hours.