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  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

How Can You Tell if Anxiety is Holding You Back at Work?

Anxiety is a very common mental health issue, so many people understand some of the basic signs. Things like a racing heart, worried thoughts, or even labored breathing can all be telltale symptoms of anxiety. But, even when you aren’t directly experiencing those symptoms, your anxiety could be affecting you in other areas of life — including the workplace. 

If you’ve been struggling with work performance and productivity, anxiety could be to the culprit. But it’s not always easy to see that connection unless you know what to look for.

It’s important to recognize the impact that anxiety can have on your life. If it isn’t addressed and treated properly, the condition will threaten to take over everything. 

So, how can you tell if anxiety is holding you back at work?

Your Productivity Suffers

Anxiety can make it difficult to stay on task with things you’re supposed to get done. It can distract you from managing your time effectively, and you might end up procrastinating because you start to develop “small worries” that seem bigger than they are. 

For example, you might start to worry about what your boss thinks of your work, so you procrastinate turning it in, or you spend too much time reviewing it to make it perfect.

As a result, you’re less likely to meet your deadlines. This can serve as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. The more your productivity suffers and the less work you turn in, the more you might feel like your fears are justified.

You Have a Hard Time Working With Others

Anxiety often makes people withdraw from things they might typically enjoy. But, it can also cause you to pull back from people, including family, friends, and coworkers. 

Collaboration and communication are incredibly important to most jobs. Unfortunately, your anxiety can make it difficult to put your ideas and opinions out there. You might worry about being judged or evaluated. Anxiety can also cause irritability, which might make it difficult for coworkers to get close to you — even for small talk. 

You Can’t Concentrate

Anxiety thrives on the “what if” thoughts running through your head at any given moment. Most people have those thoughts sometimes, but anxiety causes them to spiral out of control. You never know what might trigger them or how bad they might become. 

At work, you might start to worry about getting fired or whether you’re doing a good job. Those anxious thoughts can make it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Again, that goes back to a lack of productivity and time management. But those thoughts can also trigger more severe symptoms of anxiety, including sweating, shakiness, and shortness of breath. 

When physical symptoms start to take over, it can be difficult to focus on anything else, and you might start to get noticed by others who recognize there’s a problem. 

What Can You Do?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to take charge and fight back against anxiety before it threatens to harm your career. 

If you start to feel anxious at work, pause what you’re doing, and practice mindfulness. Close your eyes and focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Try to become more in tune with your senses. What do you hear, smell, and feel? 

Mindfulness and deep breathing are great ways to feel more grounded. As anxious thoughts try to creep in, you can let them pass by. This helps remove the power from the “what ifs” and keeps you centered in the present.

While self-care practices like mindfulness can help, don’t feel like you have to tackle anxiety on your own. A therapist can help you better understand the root cause and work with you to develop symptom management techniques you can use at work and beyond. 


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.


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