4 steps to help you manage anxiety at work

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Laura Lillo Pulido

Laura Lillo Pulido

Forensic health psychologist

Anxiety is an emotional response to situations that a person perceives as threatening or difficult. It is activated by three response systems: cognitive, physiological and motor. It becomes a problem when it no longer serves to motivate us to perform a specific task, gets in the way of our routine and when we cannot control its intensity.

In this article we will talk about the dreaded anxiety attacks, which can appear during our working day when it could happen that our body and mind can’t cope with them. What can we do to stop them? Is it possible? What is our body telling us?

Symptoms of anxiety

As we have mentioned, anxiety is an emotional response that has a function. It is our body communicating with us. Sometimes, work overload, stress, endless tasks or a bad conversation with a co-worker can provoke a peak of anxiety or even burnout. What can I get to feel at a physiological, cognitive and motor level?

The National Institute of Mental Health explains some symptoms: 

  • Having difficulty concentrating, feeling that our mind is “blank”. 
  • Difficulty in controlling our emotions and worries. 
  • Being more irritable than usual.
  • Having muscle tension, backaches and headaches. 
  • Having trouble falling asleep, or problems staying asleep such as nightmares or poor quality sleep. 
  • Feeling out of control.
  • Rapid palpitations, feeling our heart beat very fast. 
  • Shortness of breath and sweating.

In addition, in this article from Very Well Mind, they talk about specific problems associated with anxiety in the work environment. Among them: inability to meet deadlines or take too long to do tasks, inability to concentrate, or even absenteeism. Can anxiety cause sick leaves? In this Wemby article we share answers to this question.

4 steps to help you manage anxiety at work

1. Subdivide large tasks into short-term objectives

It may be that what is causing this overactivation is the feeling that your resources do not cover your work demands. If you have a project as a goal, or a process to deliver that is very large, uncertainty is triggered and the perception of control decreases a lot. These circumstances facilitate stress, and as Business Insider explains, managing stress is even more complicated for people who suffer or have suffered from anxiety. 

So, is it possible for that project to be subdivided into small tasks? Could you plan some short-term dates for these small tasks? These modifications increase our sense of control, and therefore can be a first step in managing anxiety in the work environment. 

Along the same lines, Ideas Ted explains how our brain goes into “catastrophe mode” when we feel overflowing anxiety and any deliverable becomes a real challenge. In this case it will also help us to look for tasks as small and simple as possible. 

2. Listen to what your body is telling you

Many times the symptoms of anxiety are messages that our body sends us to communicate with us. Maybe you can’t handle so many responsibilities? Is it time to stop? Are you taking enough care of yourself physically and mentally? What would help you not to go to that extreme? Have you tried breathing to relax your muscles? 

3. Accept the message

Marla Deibler, a clinical psychologist explains that anxiety is a normal response to stress. “That’s why it’s best to let it in when it shows up. Practice acceptance. Instead of trying to push it away (which tends to be futile, creating a sense of increased overwhelm and less control), leave room to feel it.”

Sometimes the only thing we can do is to accept and listen to the message that anxiety brings us, and once the peak has passed reflect on it. It is also possible that the fear is so great that it prevents us from seeing beyond because it paralyzes us. If this happens we can go to a specialist to initiate this acceptance. 

4. Ask for professional help

If anxiety becomes overwhelming for a long time or in many aspects of your life, it is time to get help from a professional psychologist like our experts at Wemby.

Asking for help at the right time is a strategy as important as any other. If you want your organization to count on our team, write us at and we will be happy to provide support. 

About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura Lillo, a forensic and clinical psychologist. I  strongly believe that psychology services should be accessible to all.  I’ve worked in prisons and with kids with risks of social exclusion. This has taught me the importance of constant learning and improvement as a person and as a therapist.

If I’m not cooking, drawing or singing, the most likely scenario is that I’m playing board games. Right now, I’m busy learning and writing content for Wemby, an online psychology platform. During my weekends I’m Game Master in Exit Madrid, a escape rooms company.

Wemby provides online therapy and wellbeing services delivered by experienced psychologists. Our team is here to help you start building your balance and emotional wellbeing today.

Download the app, complete a matching questionnaire and get paired with a therapist with the best licensed professional to match your needs.

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