If you find it is hard to peel yourself out of bed, and your mind runs over every possible thing that can go wrong in your workplace, you may be anxious about going to work. Fortunately, the good news is there are natural ways to soothe this anxiety.
Feeling anxious about going to work may mean your stress hormones are too high, or your body isn’t making enough mood-balancing neurotransmitters. Many natural supplements, lifestyle changes and herbal remedies may, fortunately, provide relief through acting on these pathways.
Let’s look at natural remedies that may help keep these in balance, including different types of meditation and brain-boosting herbs and supplements.
What are the symptoms of workplace anxiety?
Workplace anxiety is very different from simply feeling scared or worried at times. Unfortunately, it can affect our daily lives to the point of being disabling, but the first step in remedying the problem is to be aware of its symptoms.
The symptoms of workplace anxiety include both psychological and physical symptoms. You may feel like nothing is going right in your life or have another illness entirely.
The most well-known symptoms of workplace anxiety are:
- Dread and fear when thinking about work. This can be from something in your workplace, or ergophobia, the fear of work.
- Freezing up in conversation
- Finding indirectly-related situations to be upsetting, e.g. seeing a TV show that reminds you of the job.
- A need to fidget (often called stimming, or self-stimulating behaviour)
- Fear of others’ judgement
- Difficulty concentrating.
- More severe cases can involve situational anxiety attacks, which can have symptoms that last all day, or dissociation, where you feel detached or as if the world around you isn’t real.
Physical symptoms may be even scarier, particularly heart palpitations, trouble breathing, and shaking. These are part of your fight-or-flight response and are intended to prepare you to escape from danger.
However, they can appear alongside chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hot flashes, chills, or even tense or weak muscles.
You could have these symptoms and think it was just something you ate or age catching up with you. If they appear in a pattern linked to certain work situations, it may be workplace anxiety.
Workplace anxiety has a wide range of symptoms, for example, dreading going to work, being unable to tolerate reminders of your workplace, or even having panic attacks. Physical symptoms such as breathing difficulty and nausea can be harder to identify as anxiety but can happen too.
Why am I anxious about going to work?
Just as the symptoms of anxiety can be both mental and physical, there are both psychological and physical reasons behind why you’re anxious about going to work.
You may be anxious about going to work for reasons ranging from negative experiences that your job may be reminding you of low-grade inflammation or subclinical thyroid disorders.
Psychological causes of workplace anxiety
Psychological causes of workplace anxiety include:
- Lack of autonomy; the freedom to make your own decisions within your role
- Bullying, harassment or discrimination
- Insecure work
- Boring tasks
- Heavy workload or constant tight deadlines
- Changes you had no say over
- Few or no opportunities for advancement
- Poor relationships with others in the workplace
- Lack of necessary resources
Physical causes of workplace anxiety
In cases of anxiety, the levels of our neurotransmitters are either too low or too high. These are chemical messengers in the brain that affect mood and cognitive function.
The main neurotransmitters that affect anxiety are serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and GABA. These neurotransmitters can be affected by inflammation.
We now know that the immune system and brain interact, and high levels of inflammation disrupt healthy brain functioning and can lead to anxiety or depression. It goes both ways, with severe stress increasing inflammation and immune disruption.
Sometimes anxiety can also be a side effect of your period, read:
Workplace anxiety has a number of causes, both situational and physical. Bullying or harassment, discrimination, overwork and lack of autonomy are common situations, while inflammation and low levels of certain neurotransmitters are some biological causes.
Meditation to prevent feeling anxious about going to work
If you have some of the described symptoms above, you may experience workplace anxiety. Meditation can be one of your options to help you prevent feeling anxious.
Many studies show that meditation is, in fact, effective for anxiety. This includes situational anxiety, where feeling anxious about going to work fits. Different types of meditation are able to re-train the brain to think more clearly and de-fuse strong negative emotions.
Meditation can be either passive or active. Passive meditation may involve guided visualisation or simply observing your feelings, while active meditation centres your mind around movement and can include regular exercise.
Passive meditation to avoid feeling anxious
Meditation can help you avoid feeling anxious during situations such as going to work.
In mindfulness meditation, you are not meant to block out all thoughts and feelings. Instead, you are instructed to observe each thought and emotion as it comes and let it go without trying to examine or change it.
A study comparing brief mindfulness meditation to general emotional regulation found that the meditation blunted emotional reactions to negative images and situations. It also improved the participants’ ability to ignore things that would trigger negative emotions and their performance on emotional memory tasks.
Not everyone finds relaxation or improved emotional control through sitting still and focusing on one thing. There are many types of meditation that you can try.
- Guided meditation, where a recorded audio or trainer takes you through the steps
- Calming meditation focuses on an object or sensation for you to return to whenever your mind wanders. This can be your breath, a visualisation, or an object in front of you, such as a candle.
- Body scan meditation, where you draw your attention to the sensations in your body, much like a photocopy scanner
- Loving-kindness meditation involves focusing on mental images of different people, whether or not you know or even like them! You first direct positive, loving energy towards yourself, and to others, much like a ripple effect of love.
You can even drink herbal teas for stress and anxiety during some varieties of meditation, such as body scan and loving-kindness meditation, to help increase the effectiveness, read:
Exercise can be an active meditation
You may be asking, but what if I can’t sit still? In this case, you could benefit more from regular physical activity, such as running or cycling.
Regular exercise increases levels of a brain chemical known as anandamide. Named after the Sanskrit word for “joy”, anandamide soothes anxiety and relieves inflammation.
Studies on various types of aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling or swimming, find that the increase in anandamide leads to less anxiety and other negative emotions, such as depression. If you’ve heard of the “runner’s high”, where your athletic friends feel a sense of joy after exercise, anandamide is partly responsible.
Regular, gentle exercise may also reduce workplace anxiety and stress and improve our relationships with others. If you can organise to meet up with some colleagues and exercise together, it is even better!
Meditation and exercise can give us a break from working while improving levels of healthy neurotransmitters. Aerobic exercise also helps us to produce anandamide, the “joyous” brain chemical that has added anti-inflammatory effects.
Drinking ginkgo leaf tea before working to relieve anxiety
Some herbal teas may help to relieve anxiety about going to work. One of them is Ginkgo Leaf Tea, a traditional Japanese herbal remedy popular for improving cognitive function.
Ginkgo biloba, available as ginkgo leaf tea, is not only a brain-protecting antioxidant, which may reduce your risk of dementia, but could also relieve anxiety.
It turns out that ginkgo can slow the function of two enzymes that degrade several important neurotransmitters in the brain. These include serotonin and dopamine, which can turn down the fear and stress responses. This means ginkgo may provide emotional balance when your anxiety isn’t coming from an outside source, such as poor treatment at work.
Clinical trials have shown that Ginkgo biloba may relieve anxiety in older adults with dementia, alongside improving their cognitive function. This is through the ability of ginkgo to boost blood flow to the brain, which could help you to stop feeling anxious at work by improving your performance.
As ginkgo can boost blood flow to the brain, why not try drinking it as a tea every morning before going to work to help with your anxiety?
If you’re looking for a herbal tea blend containing ginkgo, and other ingredients such as Ashwagandha that bring other complementary benefits, try Anong Stress Relief Tea.
Ginkgo biloba can boost blood flow to your brain and raise levels of serotonin and dopamine. As a result, it has shown benefits in relieving situational anxiety.
Water Hyssop (Bacopa monnieri) to increase dopamine and relieve workplace anxiety
Water Hyssop, or Bacopa monnieri, is a type of herbal remedy known as a nootropic. These enhance cognitive function, and in the case of Water Hyssop, can improve mood balance, relieving workplace anxiety.
Water Hyssop is a traditional Indian herbal remedy with a wide range of brain-boosting benefits. They include improving memory and focus in the short term and may even help relieve workplace anxiety through boosting performance.
Research suggests that Water Hyssop could directly help to relieve anxiety too. It increases serotonin and dopamine, allowing you to feel more uplifted while turning down the response to anxiety, fear and stress.
Even better, it boosts blood flow to the brain and increases the cognition-enhancing neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Like ginkgo, studies on human volunteers show improved cognitive performance and emotional balance, including anxiety relief. However, it may take longer for Water Hyssop to reduce anxiety, with one trial showing a drop in scores from 11.7 to 9.6 after 12 weeks, but not five.
As Water Hyssop is more well-known for its dopamine-boosting benefits, you may prefer it over ginkgo if you are younger and struggle to focus.
Dopamine increases motivation by raising the amount of work we see as worthwhile to achieve something, a benefit we can apply to all professions.
You can also combine Water Hyssop with other herbal teas to relieve stress and anxiety, such as green tea, rose or chamomile tea.
Water Hyssop is a dopamine-boosting herbal remedy that can improve our cognitive performance and motivation, reducing our perceived workload through greater efficiency. It may help to directly soothe anxiety, when taken for long periods.
Beating workplace anxiety with organisation
Having far too much work and not enough time for ourselves can lead to burnout and symptoms such as feeling anxious about going to work. Therefore, organisation can be another way to help you beat workplace anxiety.
A poor work-life balance can keep cortisol, our main stress hormone, high, which then raises perceived stress. If our stress hormones are not able to naturally drop at night and we have no time for ourselves, not even for a short break at work, the risk of burnout, poor performance and anxiety may increase.
Correcting this balance requires us to not only look at paid work but unpaid work too. Some helpful ways to beat workplace anxiety are through improving organisation and time management, both at work and home.
These are some helpful tips that may help you to solve the problems.
- Grouping together tasks that fit in some way. For example, think of what else fits with grocery shopping or invoicing clients, which may be reordering stock.
- Meal prepping, where you cook in batches for at least two or three nights instead of having to make time every night. You can get your family members involved as long as they are old enough to participate.
- Outsource without guilt. You are only human, so it’s okay to outsource tasks to other family members, even if you usually do them. This may be appropriate for some roles at work, too.
- Have a designated space for everything in your home and workspace, so you aren’t rushing to find things at the last minute
- Prioritize self-care by setting time for yourself as an “appointment” on your phone. This can be anything from taking an online course to a real appointment at a hair salon. And, it is particularly important when you are self-employed and are not given break times by someone else.
If you’re anxious because life feels like a never-ending series of tasks, don’t be afraid to outsource chores, reorganise them or take time for self-care. This may prevent burnout in the long-term by supporting your natural rhythms of stress hormones.
Other self-care tips for managing anxiety caused by work
Coping strategies and restoring your neurotransmitter levels through dietary supplements can be useful self-care tips to manage anxiety before working.
Managing work anxiety can involve supplements and “rescue” self-care tips too. Some of these may help to reset the brain, while others provide much-needed support.
Quick coping strategies to calm you down
Here are some quick coping strategies that you can use to calm your anxiety about going to work.
- Use the 3-3-3 rule, which you can follow any time. When you feel anxiety coming on, what you have to do is name three things that you can see, three things that you can hear, and move three body parts. This is distracting and may return you to the present moment.
- Take a short break to watch a funny video or talk with colleagues to let go of negativity and stress.
- Listening to a calming song on the way to work may help control your levels of anxiety.
Using supplements to control the production of stress hormones
Besides drinking herbal teas, using some supplements can also help control the production of stress hormones and relax your mind.
Here are some popular supplements that you can try.
- Citicoline supplementation can increase your production of dopamine and acetylcholine, helping you to stay calm, clear and motivated.
- Vitamins B6, B9 (folate) and B12 assist in neurotransmitter production, including serotonin and dopamine.
- Omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-anxiety effects through their ability to relieve inflammation.
Quick coping techniques such as the 3-3-3 rule can provide convenient anxiety relief and begin to retrain your brain. Additionally, certain supplements can assist in neurotransmitter production and soothe inflammation in the brain.
When to see a doctor or seek additional support for workplace anxiety
Sometimes, self-care at home isn’t enough to relieve workplace anxiety. If the above natural remedies aren’t helpful, or your anxiety is so severe that you’re unable to leave the house, you need additional support.
One important way of knowing when you can’t relieve workplace anxiety alone is if you have other serious or seemingly unusual symptoms, such as panic attacks, dissociation or depression. Panic attacks or feelings of spacing out can be risky when driving, for example.
Additionally, certain medications may cause anxiety. They include asthma medication and thyroid medicine and require your doctor to adjust or change them if necessary. Do not try to come off medication or decrease your dose at home.
Finally, if you are currently in a situation that is causing you anxiety, such as workplace bullying or an unsafe working environment, don’t hesitate to seek help from your doctor or workplace. Meditation and supplements are no substitute for a safe, friendly workplace.
Severe anxiety that does not respond to natural home remedies requires you to see a doctor, especially if the symptoms are putting you in danger or if it began when you started a new mediation. Unsafe working environments should be discussed with relevant authorities such as supervisors.
Anxiety at work can have a number of causes, from bullying or a bad experience to insufficient neurotransmitter production.
However, we don’t have to feel anxious about going to work.
There are many ways we can at least reduce the severity of anxiety, starting with many things we can do at home. They include meditation, organisational strategies, and using herbs and supplements when needed.
And, if you realize the symptoms are putting you in danger, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.