Surviving Anxiety in the Workplace

To say Iím anxious is an understatement. I suffer from what I like to refer to as the ďanxiety trifectaĒ ó generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.

Needless to say, work can be an absolute nightmare; I mean hell, itís stress-inducing for people who arenít affected by mental illnesses. Over the years, Iíve developed some coping mechanisms to help me get through particularly rough days, and Iíd like to share them with my anxious brethren.

Talking it Out

Itís amazing just how much talking to someone about your stressors can help. Iím so very lucky to be surrounded by supportive co-workers who are always willing to lend an ear when I need to vent or a shoulder when I need to cry.

Whatís even more helpful is talking to someone who is going through the same thing I am. There are a number of other anxious people in my office, and discussing our issues is incredibly cathartic. In fact, a new study out of USC found that stress hormones drop when you share your troubles with someone coping with the same worries as you.

If you don’t have that relationship with your coworkers, step outside and call a friend.

Desk-Friendly Meditation

Finding a quiet space to meditate in an open office is damn near impossible. Luckily thereís a breathing technique that Iíve found to be astonishingly helpful ó and I donít even have to leave my desk to do it. Itís called Pranayama and itís a simple exercise that even beginners can master.

Begin by inhaling through the nose for a count of three. Then, exhale through the nose for a count of three. Keep this up for at least five minutes ó more if you need it.

Deep breathing† ó like the kind you do when you practice Pranayama ó increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calm.


Xanax is a lovely drug, but it can be addictive ó and unfortunately for those of us with anxiety and mood disorders, weíre twice as likely to suffer addiction to both illegal and prescription drugs.

Looking for an alternative to Xanax, I came across Kava, a root found on South Pacific islands. In the U.S, you can find it in the dietary supplement section of stores, prepared in either a powder or a tincture. I use the tinctureó about 40 drops in an ounce of water and tossed back like a shot.

Kava has a calming effect that can be used to relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness and stress-related symptoms such as muscle tension or spasm. It doesnít interfere with mental sharpness or REM sleep.

You can use Kava instead of prescription anti-anxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants ó however, Kava should never be taken with these prescription drugs. You should also avoid using alcohol when taking kava.

Sensory Deprivation

When things get completely overwhelming, I create my own sensory deprivation chamber at my desk. I put on a hoodie, zip it all the way up, cinch the hood tight around my face and put in headphones playing white noise. The hoodie keeps air off my skin and feels a bit like a constant hug. The white noise blocks out all outside sounds without overstimulating me like regular music will.

Itís not easy to work in a fun-loving, boisterous office when you have anxiety. It can be hard to manage symptoms when everyone around you seems to be completely unaffected by stress. However, if you take my advice, you just might find yourself having an easier go of it.

And remember, if things ever get to be too much and you think of harming yourself, please call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. You are loved, and I promise, things will get better.

Liz Greene is a makeup enthusiast, rabid feminist and an anxiety-ridden realist from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can follow her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Jennifer L.
Jennifer L2 years ago

FYI to anyone interested in trying Kava - you can introduce yourself to it using Kava tea (I know Yogi has one). It has a weird taste but I swear by it at night to get to sleep. Also, kava is commonly used in Vanuatu - the "happiest place on earth" - so it's worth a try! But I'd do a little research too. Like this article says, it's not to be taken with rx drugs, but it's also not supposed to be used consistently.

David R.
David R2 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Rhonda B.
.2 years ago


James G.
James Benway2 years ago

I find that the people who are stressed out about work, tend to become tired, exhausted and anti- social. They are grumpy but at work are like robots going about their duties as if there is nothing wrong at all. This deception may work for awhile, but their superiors take little notice and seldomly reward the employee with encouragement or a raise, that money is usually ticketed for themselves who come in late and leave early.We should be more like the Japanese who provide a quiet the room where employees are encouraged to take a nap when the stress builds up in the employees. Sadly in North America our motto since the depression has been " you are lucky to have a job " there are plenty of people who are just waiting to take your job. We all know that it is true. That is why production is down. Who wants to work and be happy in a threatening approach to a productive workplace. Just sad, very sad.

chris b.
chris B2 years ago

Will try Kava. Don't want to take drugs. Just a natural calmness. thx

carol smith
carol smith2 years ago

I empathise with you C.T., I found I got the same treatment as you over the years from office colleagues until I had a full blown 'breakdown' and walked out never to return. I find now its suits me to be domestic help to a lovely family and not mix with large groups of people to work with.