Anxiety in the workplace is at an all-time high. After the events of the last few years, it makes sense that since 2019, reported symptoms of workplace anxiety have tripled. At every level, the pandemic placed added stressors on the workforce. And it should come as no surprise then that 83% of US adults indicate that their level of workplace anxiety has increased exponentially.
Mental health can be a challenge for people at every level within a company, including the C-Suite. Those at the top are not more protected or immune from depression, stress, anxiety, and even burnout. After all, the high stress found in the executive ranks combined with a lack of work-life balance and sometimes limited self-care is a recipe for anxiety as well as burnout.
When anxiety rears its head, executive leaders are plagued with questions like:
“How can I lead with authority and strength when I feel anxious?
How can I inspire and motivate others when my mind and heart are racing?”
If you experience anxiety at work, you’re not alone. But solving work stress and reducing feelings of anxiety is a complex issue. For example, work stress is rarely one singular issue. And feelings of anxiety are often caused by a combination of factors like double-booked meetings, tight deadlines, and the unique challenges women continue to face as executive leaders in the workplace.
Luckily, there are effective ways to help manage stress and anxiety at work.
Signs of Anxiety in the C-Suite
Feeling anxious about work at certain times is a universal experience. However, in addition to the struggles faced by people in the lower levels of an organization, many female executives feel they have extra challenges as a result of their high-ranking position:
Some common signs of anxiety in the workplace include:
- The intense pressure of being responsible and accountable for the company and stakeholders, overall success within the community the organization serves, along with the performance and well-being of their team
- The expectation to be ‘bulletproof’ and fully committed and available at all times regardless of the impact this may have on a personal life
- The added stress female leaders feel to always show their ‘A-game’ and be successful in all endeavors
- The perceived impact on reputation and credibility as they navigate uncertainty in the market or if they make decisions that disrupt the status quo
- The emotional toll anxiety produces can lead to physical issues like insomnia, difficulty concentrating and feeling irritable or tense
Workplace anxiety can fuel emotional exhaustion in the long run, leading to a constant state of physical and emotional depletion. Not only that but fearful of losing their place at the table, female executives will continue to trade-off their personal life in order to maintain their work performance which will eventually lead to career burnout.
Causes of Workplace Anxiety
Stress at work can manifest differently for everyone. However, these are a handful of common causes of work anxiety:
- Having tight deadlines and back-to-back meetings
- Putting off personal life goals to meet work goals
- Experiencing difficulty in transitioning to a leadership role
- Working in a sonic-paced or unpredictable environment
- Feeling like your day is out of your control
What’s more, being unable to disconnect from work outside of the office can also lead to anxious feelings which left unchecked can become a chronic problem. It’s important to have strategies in place to combat these feelings, especially since the pace and expectations associated with a senior-level role are unlikely to change. The good news is, that once you’ve dialed in strategies to reduce anxiety and stress, you can thrive in your executive position.
4 Ways to Manage Workplace Anxiety
If you experience anxiety in the workplace, here are four strategies we use with our clients to help them mitigate stressful feelings and navigate even the most challenging situations with ease.
1. Disconnect At Will
It is vital to disconnect from work physically, mentally, and emotionally. Most recommended strategies like turning off notifications merely address the physical aspect of disconnection. However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Learning to disconnect mentally and emotionally will fortify you when the next work crisis arises.
2. Lean into Leadership
When deadlines and projects are looming, our go-to girl persona wants to jump into action and get it all done. However, this adds unnecessary stress and at the executive level, it’s important to lead rather than do. Give your team clear directives, keep your team energized about their role, provide the tools necessary and give them a chance to get the job done.
3. Meet Your Needs
Learning to meet your needs at a high level is the best way to protect your mental health at work. Learn to identify what you need throughout the day, whether that is meditation, stepping outside, or making your favorite tea to enjoy while you work. The strategies we use to meet our needs can vary, but it’s up to us to meet them throughout the workday to stay at the top of our game.
4. Find a Mentor
Finally, working with a mentor can make a huge difference between suffering and succeeding at the top. Globally, 24% of senior leadership roles are held by women. To learn how to navigate a high-pressure career without succumbing to the stress inherent in executive roles, finding someone who understands the unique challenges for female leaders, and has a proven track record for thriving in the C-Suite can be career-saving.
>> Anxiety often shows up hand-in-hand with burnout. Check out this article to learn how to protect your executive career from burnout.
And if you’re ready to learn more about overcoming anxiety & burnout in your career, watch our free video masterclass.