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  • Writer's pictureZoe Spooner

What Does Anxiety at Work Look Like?

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

A lot of us don’t identify with the word anxiety, despite the recent rise in mental health awareness, anxiety is still considered by many a taboo.

I personally believe one of the reasons anxiety is deemed taboo is that many of us don’t actually understand what it is and therefore can’t identify it. If we can’t accurately identify it we will assume we don’t have it.

All of us experience anxiety to some degree, it is part of being human.

Anxiety is quite simply a physical, mental and emotional response. It is when our bodies go a little haywire, known as fight or flight mode.

It is useful as it can help us prepare for an immediate deadline or put us in a hyper-alert state so we are focused during a presentation.

It can difficult to know we are experiencing anxiety as it can show up in many different ways. Often when we are educated about anxiety it is at a high level.

Here are some real-life ways anxiety may show up for you within the workplace:

  1. Excessive checking - If you have a report that is due and you go over it several times. You may blame your perfectionism but actually this could stem from your anxiety of “getting it wrong”. This could also look like rereading your emails multiple times before hitting the send button or having several colleagues review your work.

  2. Becoming a “Yes” man - Do you say yes to every project that comes your way. You may think you are very helpful and working hard towards your career progression but you also may want to stop and reflect on where this is coming from. Are you saying yes because you are anxious about what the repercussions would be if you said no?

  3. Doubting yourself - Perhaps you have met with a client several times but before each meeting, you feel knots in your stomach and start to question if you are the right person for this job. Your imposter syndrome kicks in and before you know it you are convinced that actually you have been over-promoted and are a complete fraud, therefore, should actually be sacked.

  4. Rigidity - Some people who have anxiety have weak boundaries, find it hard to say no and give in at any moment. For others, they have rigid boundaries, this could look like saying no when something doesn’t suit, not being flexible if a project is turned in a little late or insisting on leaving back on 5.30 pm when the rest of the workforce are still slaving away on an urgent deadline.

  5. Over talking - In a meeting instead of holding back and not offering your thoughts, you might take over and leave no space for others to contribute their ideas. You may even convince yourself that actually you have a lot to say and have some really good points. But it could be your anxiety wants you to prove you are worthy and capable and believes to do that you need to tell your direct reports your achievements and ideas.

  6. Inability to focus - Anxiety is a physical response, it effectively lobotomises our limbic system! Meaning that concentrating can be incredibly difficult. You might switch between tasks rapidly, find yourself scrolling through social media or take a few too many coffee breaks.

  7. Get over-involved in other work - You might offer to review a colleagues article and provide feedback, perhaps mentor a junior member of staff or agree to join the corporate responsibility team in their next venture. Whilst you are still “working” ask yourself do you really have time for these extra projects or are you avoiding the anxiety of completing your own tasks? It’s an avoidance tactic that makes you feel good as you are still working.

  8. Missing deadlines - When we are anxious our brains don’t function the same as when we are calm. If we are anxious over a period of time, this can have a negative effect on our minds and we can become forgetful. Remembering to do simple tasks can become a chore, we can miss deadlines as we “aren’t thinking straight”. This might look like checking your calendar and realising you have an important stakeholder meeting tomorrow that you clean forgot about or totally missing the due date for your GDPR training.

These are just a few of the ways anxiety could be showing up for you at work. Ready to start managing your work anxiety? Get some help with your anxiety here with these tips to manage your work anxiety.

If you recognise yourself doing some of these and want some support it managing it. Then get in touch today at

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