Everyone feels anxious on occasion.  It’s a normal emotion when faced with a difficult problem, situation or making an important decision.  However, approximately 40 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 54 suffer from anxiety disorders.

Having an anxiety disorder can make a major impact in the workplace. People may turn down a promotion or other opportunity because it involves travel, crowds, or public speaking; make excuses to get out of office parties, staff lunches, and other events or meetings with coworkers; or be unable to meet deadlines.

For those an anxiety disorder, the fear and worry are overwhelming and can keep them from living a normal life.  The disorder can run in families or may stem from changes in the brain and environmental stress. In addition to the feeling of excessive panic and fear, symptoms may include:  sleep problems, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and heart palpitations.

Although the constant terror can be disabling, there are treatments to help manage those feelings.  There are also some tips that may help control or lessen the symptoms.

  • Avoid Caffeine. Drinks such as coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks contain caffeine, which is a mood-altering drug and may make symptoms of anxiety disorders worse.
  • Get some exercise.  Aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, and cycling help release brain chemicals that can reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Eat healthy. Avoid fried and processed foods, and those that are high in sodium and sugar.  Add foods to your diet that are high in Vitamin B, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Zinc, Magnesium and Antioxidants.  And, don’t forget the water as dehydration is known to cause more anxiety.
  • Find something that relaxes you. Music or art therapy, a massage, yoga, meditation, or learn a relaxation technique.
  • Plan and prepare. Prioritize your work, make a to-do list and set aside enough time to complete each task. Rather than letting projects overwhelm you, set a schedule and small realistic deadlines.
  • Don’t over commit. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help or speak up and let your supervisor know you’re overextended.
  • Tell a trusted coworker or manager. Just knowing that someone is aware of your condition may reduce the added anxiety of having a panic attack at work.
  • Educate yourself. Learn what may trigger your anxiety, what your symptoms are, and how to deal with them if you are at work.  Try keeping a journal and look for a pattern.
  • Take regular breaks. Walk away from your work area for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.  Slowly count to 10 a few times. Don’t bring your work home with you – and don’t check your e-mail after hours.
  • Join a Support Group. Being in a support group helps you realize that you are not alone and that there are other people with the same problems.  Not only can you support each other, but you can learn new ways of coping. Talking openly about your feelings can help reduce stress and anxiety, giving you more confidence and a sense of control.

Don’t be afraid to get help if your anxiety disorder is overwhelming you.  With therapy and treatment, most people find significant improvement.