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Coping Mechanisms for Work Anxiety amidst the Pandemic

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“With every inhale, you receive affirmation. With every exhale, you release anxiety.”

This is what you will usually hear when you listen to a guided meditation, and you might have tried it once or twice. This is one of the ways in order to cope with work and the ongoing pandemic, and there are countless more to try.

Work anxiety can manifest in two ways: stress from work that eventually leads to an anxiety disorder, or an anxiety disorder that affects a person’s work performance. It has not been officially classified as an anxiety disorder yet, but the closest to it is the World Health Organization’s newly-changed definition of burnout, which refers to a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

According to the World Health Organization, the signs and symptoms that someone is experiencing burnout include: loss of motivation and lack of energy, increased mental distance towards their job and having negative feelings about it, and a reduction of their productivity in the workplace.

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, mental health professionals warn the world of an exponential increase in anxiety-related disorders. This is due to the constant uncertainty caused by lockdowns and government responses, paranoia from health-related issues, social upheaval, economic problems, and lack of companionship and intimacy due to social distancing measures. With abrupt changes in the workplace ranging from various Work-From-Home struggles to Zoom Fatigue, incorporating healthy coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and burnout is as essential as our masks, alcohol, and tissue paper.

Here are some healthy coping mechanisms to help you

deal with possible work anxiety and burnout:

1. Know what you can control and what you cannot control.

These trying times can be challenging to separate yourself from what’s been going on in the world, given that we all have our social and moral responsibilities. One thing you can do is list down the things you can control and what you cannot control; this is how you know which items you can change and those you must accept for now. Some examples of the things that you can control include: following quarantine protocols, passing quality work outputs, being punctual and disciplined with work schedules and deadlines, dealing with work conflicts, and being proactive in dealing with societal issues. Some examples of the things that you cannot control are other people ignoring quarantine protocols, inadequate government response in handling the pandemic, weight of workload, state of the work environment, and low reward. Keep in mind that you can always have a dialogue with your fellow employees and your bosses to improve the state of things.

2. Have a strong support system.

Your mental well-being is not just an individual endeavor—it is a community endeavor. Having a group where you can share your struggles and be proactive about them is necessary. Besides this, companies must be one of these support systems. Company owners must also do their best to create a safe space for their employees where each individual can express their thoughts and feelings, with the knowledge that these will be considered and actively worked on by their bosses.

3. Make time to do things you enjoy outside of work.

While your work is of utmost importance to you and your family, having too much of something is dangerous to your mental well-being. You need to take some time away to do things that feed your soul. Some examples include: meditation, working out, reading books, watching movies, writing in a journal, dancing to your favorite music, biking around your neighborhood, and painting some landscapes. You are not a machine. Be kinder to yourself and do more of the things that make you human.

4. Be aware of your bad habits and actively try to get rid of them.

When you’re experiencing stress and anxiety, you are more likely to cope with them in unhealthy ways. Some examples include procrastination, substance abuse, binge eating, smoking, and living a sedentary lifestyle. Keeping these up will worsen the stress you are experiencing. While it is difficult to eradicate them completely, the first step is always to be aware that they exist, that they are a problem, and that you are willing to slowly and consistently let go of them.

5. Seek professional help.

While it is helpful to research the signs and symptoms of work anxiety and burnout, it may be dangerous to self-diagnose. Seeking professional help will be one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. Mental health professionals are trained to listen to you properly, to guide you in processing your emotions about your work amidst the pandemic, and to help you practice more healthy coping mechanisms that work for you based on your unique experiences.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Dealing with work anxiety may not be as easy as breathing exercises, but it starts with a certain kind of awareness that can be achieved when we put ourselves in the present moment. The future, though uncertain, is composed of Nows. Acknowledge that you are struggling, and be kind to yourself while in the process of healing.


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