A lot of adults have a hard time turning off their work stress outside of working hours. This leads most people to feel anxious and find themselves up all night worrying. A lot of young professionals experience having a hard time creating a healthy work-life balance. Usually the stress of their job is staying with them outside of working hours and seeping into their daily life. They find it hard to fall asleep, enjoy themselves and/or relax when they are off the clock. This usually leads to burnout.
Anchor Therapy is a counseling center in Hoboken, NJ with psychotherapists specialized to help teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions.
When my clients come to me with work related anxiety, it is usually either because their job is extremely stressful and/or they are unsure if this is the right career path for them. When you are at a job you are unhappy with, it’s common to have a hard time separating when you’re in work mode and when you’re in relaxation mode. Your mind is constantly worrying, processing, and stressing about work no matter what time it is.
Work related anxiety is very popular in high stress jobs such as health care providers, attorneys, management positions, and many others.
How do you know your anxiety is from work-related stress?
Try to be mindful of what your worried thoughts are presenting as. Are you finding yourself worrying, “What if there’s an emergency I have to deal with in the middle of the night or on my day off?” … “What if I missed something in my patient and they will die because of it?” … “What if I can’t make that deadline and I’m fired?” … “What if I change jobs and I become even more unhappy?” If thoughts like these are tumbling around in your head constantly then you are most likely experiencing work-related anxiety. It is possible that your work is so stressful that it makes you worried about other things in general such as your relationships and day-to-day events outside of work.
But if your job changed in which you were completely stress-free there, then ask yourself how your mood would shift overall? It is likely that your generalized anxiety would greatly diminish overall.
What to do when you realize you are experiencing anxiety due to work:
There’s a number of options, including mental health therapy. A mental health professional could help you problem-solve what’s best for you to do in your next steps and help you decrease your anxiety to make it more manageable.
One of the first things I have my clients do who experience work-related anxiety is to create a better work-life balance. I’m aware every job is different and some companies understand their employees need a break while others may only care about working you until you’re burned out. But you really want to try your hardest to stop working at the end of your work day. This means not checking your work email or work cellphone outside of work hours. If this is not possible in your job, then you want to try to minimize it. Maybe instead of constantly checking your email every 5 minutes, set a time to check it once an hour outside of work hours. And know that if a true emergency arises, you will most likely get several direct calls.
The next step in creating a better work-life balance would be to not feel like you NEED to deal with something right that moment. You can always get to it in the morning. Unless there is a major emergency and someone is expecting an answer from you right away or else you realistically would be fired or someone may die in your care if you don’t act immediately. But in most cases, that person who is emailing you at 11pm or at the end of the day on a Friday doesn’t expect you to answer them until the next work day morning.
Usually when someone who is experiencing anxiety or overwhelm at their job tends to self inflict pressure on themselves to work more. You need to reflect if working outside of work hours is required for your job. If it’s not required for your job, you may notice that you feel anxious if you don’t address work items right away, and at any hour, since you feel something bad will happen. But really ask yourself what would be the worst case scenario? Can you hold off on answering this email or responding to this phone call?
When you take your work (mentally) home with you…
Maybe you do okay with not actually doing work outside of work hours. But you still find yourself thinking about what happened during your work day while you’re trying to relax outside of work. Or maybe you find yourself worrying about what you have to get done in the future at work when you return. This is just as important to sort through so that you can separate work and home life better. Here are some steps you can try to take after a stressful work day:
Take a moment between the end of your work day and going home. This could include a long commute to help you process what happened in your work day and then refocus on something you’re looking forward to at home. You could also use the time to de-stress by talking on the phone with a friend or family member, reading a book, playing a game, or changing your focus in some way.
Clear your mind with some physical exercise. This could be exercising at a gym class, on your own, or it could be as simple as going for a short walk. This can help you get that stressful energy out and again help you process what stressed you out about work.
When you do get home, try to be fully present in the moment. If your roommate or partner is talking to you then really try to listen to what they’re saying. If you find yourself in a bad mood and that you may take it out on them then let them know you need a few minutes to yourself. You may need up to 15 minutes alone when you get home to transition into a relaxing mode and get rid of the work stress. To do this you can try a guided meditation, take a shower/bath, or listen to music while taking some deep breaths. And if you find work-related anxious thoughts popping into your head, then you can remind yourself that you’re not at work and you don’t need to worry about that until you’re back at work tomorrow or whenever your next work day is.
Do something you enjoy. This could be vegging out in front of the TV, doing a puzzle, hanging out with friends, seeing a movie, cooking dinner, taking your dog for a walk, etc. This is something nice to look forward to after a stressful day.
When you are going to sleep, you want to have a relaxing routine in place. (Click here to read about 9 tips to getting better sleep). While you are relaxed and trying to fall asleep, your anxiety may heighten by putting a lot of worried thoughts into your head that keep you up at night. This is a time to refocus your thoughts to remind yourself that nothing is happening right now that you need to worry about. Your worry either happened already and there’s nothing you can do about that now or your worry is something that didn’t even happen yet and there’s nothing you’re going to do about it anyway now when you should really be sleeping. Just keep reminding yourself that nothing bad is happening right now in this moment and anything bad that may come your way, you will be able to handle it as it arises at that time.
Work-related anxiety is real and very common. If you find that it is really disrupting your life then I highly recommend reaching out to a mental health therapist so that you can come up with a plan to create a better work-life balance and to decrease your anxious symptoms. If you have any questions or would like to find out more information about my therapy services then fill out the form below to directly email me.
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth (video/phone) therapy sessions as well.