Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, according to statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. These disorders can certainly affect sufferers’ careers, making it hard to cope with workplace stress. But not every anxious person is suffering from a disorder. Some are just dealing with tough situations at work.
To make things more complicated, sometimes anxiety is the appropriate response to situations that arise on the job. For example, anxiety is a healthy response to danger. If you work in high-rise construction or air-traffic control, your anxiety is understandable.
Most of us are not in impending physical danger at work, however, nor are we in charge of saving other people from life-or-death situations. Sometimes, anxiety can be a sign that things need to change in order for you to create a career that’s truly satisfying.
Consider the following factors:
Underemployment/Worries About Job Security
Workers who need full-time, permanent work but can only find temporary arrangements may experience work-related stress. Even those with a permanent job who are unsure if the company will downsize may feel the same way. And as technology marches on, some workers fear their skills will become obsolete. Lack of job security can create anxiety.
Lack of Autonomy and Power
Some trades and professions create a sense of powerlessness for those who perform them. The American Psychological Association (APA) states, “Secretaries, waitresses, middle managers, police officers, editors and medical interns are among those with the most highly stressed occupations marked by the need to respond to others’ demands and timetables, with little control over events.”
Some workers are expected to shoulder the burden of responsibility, but have no authority in the workplace. This puts them in a situation where they are held responsible for things that they do not always control. This lack of power and autonomy causes undue stress.
Coworkers Who Don’t Pull Their Weight
Workplace settings can also cause anxiety and stress. If you work with strong personalities who bully to get their way, you may feel overwhelmed and unable to get your own needs met. The opposite is also true; if you are orderly and like things done well, but your coworkers are more laissez-faire, you may find yourself working too hard and feeling exhausted and stressed.
What to Do When Your Job Is the Problem
If you are feeling a lot of anxiety and stress, and just recognized the factors above as problems, there is hope. First, recognize that your anxiety is a normal response to a difficult situation. The knowledge that you are normal but your workplace situation could use improvement may help you feel better right away.
Depending upon the work-related cause of your stress, you may be able to obtain additional training — for example, a customer service person might benefit from learning how to handle difficult customers. Or, you might want to add to your skillset, with an eye toward moving into another job that’s a better fit.
Some companies will pay for employee training, so it never hurts to ask. In the end, however, if you have an anxiety-producing work situation, your best bet may be to look for another opportunity, and keep looking until you find the right one. Identifying the source of your stress will help you prepare to make a move.
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