Managing Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace

Person at computer with other work being handed to her

Identify the differences between stress and anxiety to begin to manage each                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Let’s Address Workplace Stress and Anxiety for Ourselves and Our Colleagues

Interest in this topic has never been higher than in the last three years. This article will address important facts about workplace stress and anxiety, as well as some proactive actions that, if adopted, will help to address the issues impacting our workforce.

As leaders in organizations, our people look to us for direction and reassurance through challenging times. Often managing our own anxiety and stress is difficult enough, but we need to do more to help our people. Let’s start by looking at some facts relating to the types of stress our people are dealing with both at work and at home. Then, learn about ways to lower stress and the impact it has on individuals and organizations.

What Is Stress Versus Anxiety

So, what is the difference between stress and anxiety? Stress is something external that invades your life while anxiety can and usually is the result of stress. An event, such as being diagnosed with a major illness, occurs. Anxiety is your reaction to the event and the subsequent challenges resulting from the diagnosis. Anxiety can be related to how you will maintain your normal work and family responsibilities.

Facts to Remember

Anxiety is a person's specific reaction to stress; its origin is internal. Anxiety is typically characterized by a “persistent feeling of apprehension or dread” in situations that are not actually threatening. Unlike stress, anxiety persists even after a concern has passed. Anxiety is the body's response to that stress. Many people will recognize anxiety as the feeling of distress, unease, or dread that someone has before a significant event. However, when long bouts of stress occur, there is an increase in cortisol and corticotropin present in the body for longer periods of time. That boost in the presence of hormones may lead to clinical anxiety and mood disorders.

Mental Symptoms You May Notice

  • Being more emotional than usual
  • Feeling overwhelmed or on edge
  • Trouble keeping track of things or remembering
  • Trouble making decisions, solving problems, concentrating, getting your work done
  • Using alcohol or drugs to relieve emotional stress

Armed with the Facts…What to Do Next

Knowing the facts, how do we all deal with stress or anxiety in our lives? Do we ask for help or go to the doctor immediately as we would with any other illness? Most of us do not. We simply do not look at mental distress the same as we would a physical ailment. When we do not address anxiety in a timely manner it often escalates to unmanageable levels, even to physical symptoms and inability to cope with everyday life. Our typical response to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m fine and you?” We don’t even think about it. Can we get in front of this type of illness before it turns into serious anxiety? As the world around us becomes more complex every day, let’s learn some skills to help ourselves and others cope.

Managing Stress

The most effective strategy for managing stress is to be intentional about addressing it as a part of our daily lives, by developing healthy new habits. Prioritizing these new behaviors and help the people around us to do the same can have major impact on well-being and productivity.

“Stress brings strain whereas relaxation reduces it.”

Here are a few behaviors we can introduce into our lives to reduce stress. Some may be familiar, others new, to you. This is not an all-inclusive list.

  • Deep breathing exercises learned and then practiced daily. (Note: a smart watch or phone app can aid in providing reminders to breathe.) Touch point devices that can be handheld or placed on the body are another reminder option.
  • Meditation or quiet mindful times when we intentionally slow our brains down. Several excellent apps are available to teach and guide meditation.
  • Cognitive Strategies. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help restructure how one thinks and feels about themselves and the world around them. The therapy focuses on replacing faulty and unhelpful ways of thinking.
  • Sleep is essential to mental health. Again, there are many apps to support improved sleep hygiene.
  • A healthy diet is important in helping the body to cope with stress. Many people turn to unhealthy eating in times of stress when good nutrition is most needed.

Leaning into it means we don’t try to deny it, but we face it and address it!


By Lucy Dominguez, Chief Strategy Officer, Injury Management Organization, Inc.

Insights Home