How to Deal with Anxiety at Work

No matter what job you have, it’s normal to occasionally feel anxiety at work. Taking on a new responsibility, giving a presentation to a group, or facing a looming deadline can all ratchet up the pressure, leaving you feeling nervous about performing to expectations and to the best of your ability. However, the anxiety and stress some people experience at work go well beyond the ordinary jitters you might feel over a temporary professional challenge. When anxiety is excessive and/or persistent, it can become debilitating, interfering not only with your ability to do your job effectively, but also with your overall well-being.

Unfortunately, workplace stress that can contribute to anxiety is an all-too-common phenomenon. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress, with 54% of workers reporting that their home life is affected by work stress. With work-related stress so prevalent, it can be difficult for people to immediately perceive that the level of anxiety they’re experiencing on the job is not healthy. Anxiety and stress do not have to be an invariable feature of professional life, however—it is possible to learn how to reduce anxiety at work for better mental health both in and away from the office.


What Does Workplace Anxiety Look Like? 

When people struggle to cope with anxiety at work, that difficulty can manifest in myriad ways. You might find your stomach in knots on Sunday night at the prospect of working the next day. Maybe you procrastinate on work-related tasks, paralyzed into inaction by your anxiety. Or perhaps you can’t focus on what you need to do and end up rushing through assignments or missing key details because you’re so overwhelmed. You may also increasingly avoid new projects, meetings, or work events. While at first, you may be able to power through your symptoms to try to stay on top of your responsibilities, over time, your work performance, work quality, and relationships with your colleagues can suffer.

Physical symptoms can also accompany anxiety about work. These may include headaches, gastrointestinal upset, insomnia (that doesn’t have any other obvious causes), tension and/or muscular pain, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, or even full-blown panic attacks. You may miss work more and more often, either coming in late or taking sick days because your anxiety has become so intense.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s also likely that you’re not even sure when your work anxiety became unbearable. It doesn’t have to stay that way, though.


Tips to Manage Anxiety at Work

There are many strategies for reducing work anxiety, and doing so successfully will require a multi-pronged approach. Here are a few tips on how to manage anxiety at work so you can be happier and more productive at your job.

Pay attention to your overall wellness: While good nutrition, adequate sleep, and regular exercise won’t solve anxiety problems on their own, the lack of them will almost certainly exacerbate the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. Try to avoid using too much caffeine, alcohol, or other substances as well.

Identify your triggers: Workplace stress and anxiety can spring from a variety of sources: The pressure to meet deadlines. High-stakes presentations for upper management or clients. Conflict with difficult coworkers. Take note of the situations that provoke your anxiety, as this information will help point the way to solutions.

Develop coping techniques: Because it is so easy to get swept up in worry, you should practice coping strategies that will help calm you and keep you grounded in the present moment when you feel anxiety start to build. This might mean meditation techniques, listening to music, breathing exercises, taking a quick walk—what works is highly individual, so experiment to find what works best for you.

Communicate with your employer: Some people may hesitate to tell their employer when they’re struggling with anxiety, and whether you do so is a personal choice. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect employees from discrimination due to a physical or mental disability when they are otherwise qualified to do their job, so you should not assume that being honest will have a catastrophic effect on your career. Moreover, speaking up allows your workplace to put reasonable accommodations in place that can help in reducing anxiety or to correct situations that are unintentionally contributing to your stress. For example, if a too-heavy workload or inadequate training is part of the problem, it’s important to let management know so that solutions can be found.

Set healthy boundaries: Some work anxiety can stem from a lack of work-life balance when it feels like you can’t ever escape work responsibilities. Make sure you have clear separations that define your workday, even if you work remotely—this means setting specific hours in which you don’t check your email or work messages and having a defined work space, so you have regular downtime to decompress.

Take advantage of employer-provided resources: If your company offers an employee assistance program, see if it provides benefits that might help you manage your anxiety. Other perks, such as a gym membership, may also help by facilitating useful coping strategies.

Consult a mental health professional: A therapist or counselor can provide valuable expertise and outside perspective on your situation. Often people are inspired to look for a therapist when they’ve already tried to manage anxiety on their own without success, but seeking professional advice doesn’t have to wait until things feel out of control. A mental health professional can help you figure out the cause of your anxiety and make effective changes to reduce it.


Finding Relief from Anxiety at Work

At the SF Stress and Anxiety Center, we help clients suffering from work anxiety develop psychological resilience and find balance with evidence-based practices grounded in research. With both in-person and online therapy sessions available, we make treatment accessible no matter how busy your schedule. To be matched with the right specialist who can help you feel more in control of your career and your life, schedule your free introductory phone call with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators today.


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How to Get the Most Out of Couples Therapy

Every relationship has moments of conflict or stress. Sometimes couples are able to work through these periods on their own, but other times they find themselves having the same argument over and over, feeling distant from one another, or failing to communicate effectively. Maybe they can’t quite pinpoint what seems to be out of sync. Or perhaps they’re all too aware of their unhealthy patterns of conflict but aren’t sure how to change them. In these cases, couples therapy can help improve the dynamic and rebuild the relationship.

Unfortunately, misconceptions about couples therapy may prevent partners from seeking help until problems have become entrenched. It’s not true that “good couples” should be able to solve all their problems on their own, or that therapy is only a last resort for relationships in serious trouble. Couples counseling is an investment in your relationship that can help strengthen your bonds and give you essential insight into how to create positive change so that both partners feel more fulfilled and connected. It isn’t even necessary to wait for a problem to arise—some couples preemptively seek therapy when they’re navigating a life change like getting married, having children, or changing jobs to ensure that their relationship stays strong.

If you’ve reached the point where you feel your relationship could benefit from the professional guidance of a couples counselor, knowing what to expect and how to prepare will help you make the most out of your therapy.


What To Expect from Couples Therapy

The first thing to know about couples therapy is that it is not about “fixing” one partner or deciding who is “right” or “wrong” about the issues that have brought you in. Instead, couples therapy is about examining your relationship and interactions that have created problems in the past so that ineffective patterns can be replaced by healthier ones. Unlike individual therapy, the focus is not on you, but on both partners as a unit. Your therapist provides a nonjudgmental outside perspective to help identify the ways in which you both may contribute to a dysfunctional dynamic, and helps you change your behavior, improve your communication, and become more effective partners to each other.

Keep in mind that couples therapy is likely to make you feel vulnerable. After all, you’ll be discussing issues that may feel embarrassing or painful, or that are deeply personal and intimate. Choosing the right therapist—someone who specializes in couples therapy and who both partners feel comfortable opening up to in a therapy session—is essential for the process to produce the results you’re hoping for.


How to Prepare for Couples Counseling

The most important step you can make to prepare for couples counseling is for both partners to be willing to work at it. Commonly, one member of the couple may suggest counseling, while the other may feel more hesitant. It’s okay if both partners aren’t equally enthusiastic at the start, but both must be sincere about their efforts to address their issues together with a therapist. If one partner is unwilling to engage in the process, it will be impossible to make progress.

Next, take some time before your first session to think about the issues that are bringing you to therapy in the first place. It’s best if you and your partner can discuss your concerns and goals together, but if that is not possible, you should each take some time to reflect beforehand. Knowing the specific problems you’d like to solve—such as communication issues or lack of intimacy—will help you set relevant goals, as well as helping to keep your sessions focused on what you want to achieve.

Try to go into counseling with an open mind and the idea that meaningful change takes time. It may take a few sessions before you both feel fully comfortable in relationship therapy, and it’s likely to take several months for you to explore the issues in your relationship and work to establish new, healthier patterns.


What You Can Do to Make Couples Therapy More Effective

Once you’ve started therapy, how you undertake the process has a profound effect on what you get out of it. Some tips for getting the most out of it include:

  • Make sure you schedule your appointments for a time and date that works for you both and make those sessions a priority.
  • Do your best to complete any homework assignments you receive from your therapist. The idea is to help you practice and reinforce the new skills you’re learning, so neglecting this step is a missed opportunity for growth. (If a particular assignment is hard, make sure to discuss it in your next session.)
  • Focus on changing yourself rather than attempting to change your partner. Nobody can control somebody else’s behaviors, but if each of you sincerely work toward addressing your own issues, you increase the odds you can fix your relationship problems together. 


Find a Therapist

At SF Stress and Anxiety Center, our couples therapists and counselors draw on approaches such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and The Gottman Method, which are based in relationship science. We have decades of experience helping couples build the healthy relationships they desire with research-tested, evidence-based methods. With both in-person and online sessions available, we make therapy accessible and convenient even when your schedules are hectic. We begin with a free question-and-answer call with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to match you with the right couples therapy specialist in our network of expert providers. To get started reclaiming the intimacy, closeness, and harmony you’ve been missing in your relationship, schedule your free introductory phone consultation now.

What Type of Therapy Is Right for Me?

What Type of Therapy Is Right for Me & What Kind of Therapist Do I Need?

Often, the biggest step in seeking out therapy is deciding you need it—acknowledging that your mental health could benefit from talking to a professional can take courage. Once you’ve made that decision, the next question becomes, “What type of therapist do I need?” Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, so finding both the right kind of therapy and the right therapist to address your individual needs is essential for getting the most out of your experience. Understanding some basics about your options can help you find a therapist appropriate for your situation.


Misconceptions about Therapy

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of adults of all ages who received treatment for their mental health increased from 19.2% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2021. This growth may mostly be a sign of the stressful times we’ve all been through in the past few years, but it also shows that seeking therapy is not a rare phenomenon. The truth is, almost everyone will encounter a time in their life when they could benefit from therapy. Some, however, might be discouraged from pursuing it by common misconceptions.

The first misconception is that therapy is only for those with diagnosed (or suspected) mental health conditions. While therapy is beneficial for people who know they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, it’s also a powerful tool for dealing with issues that may seem more “ordinary,” such as constantly feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.

Another mistaken view is that going to therapy means you’re weak or unable to solve your own problems. In fact, it takes both strength and wisdom to acknowledge that you could use help and to take action to tackle issues head-on. Finally, therapy is not just talk—it’s a way to help you build self-awareness, cultivate healthier patterns of thought and behavior, and develop coping skills to navigate life’s challenges.


Different Types of Therapy

There are many different types of therapy, and the right one for you depends both on your personality and your reasons for seeking treatment. Again, there’s no one “correct” way to approach therapy, and what might be effective for one person may not work as well for another. Some common types of therapy include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a kind of psychotherapy (talk therapy) based on the idea that patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors are a factor behind psychological conditions, and that learning to change those patterns can help you view and respond to challenging situations more effectively. CBT is structured and goal-oriented, taking place over a limited number of therapy sessions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is another type of psychotherapy based on the principles of CBT that focuses on how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors. DBT is considered especially effective for those who have trouble managing intense negative emotions. Features of this approach include teaching mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is in-depth talk therapy based on the principles of psychoanalysis. This therapy is focused on the “why” behind thoughts and actions, helping patients gain insight into how past experiences shape their current behavior and relationships. With this knowledge, patients can work on changing patterns that no longer serve them.

Mindfulness Based Therapy: This type of therapy uses mindfulness strategies to develop the ability to experience thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. This can help break spiraling patterns of negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety or depression and which interfere with the ability to be fully present in the moment. Therapeutic approaches include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Couples Therapy: Couples therapy is a means for partners to gain a better understanding of their relationship dynamics and work toward interacting and communicating in a healthier way. While couples might go for counseling to address a specific problem or ongoing frustration in their relationship, couples therapy can also be used proactively to preserve healthy bonds when partners are experiencing a period of transition. For instance, counseling before marriage, when becoming parents, or when one partner is going through a significant career change can help keep a relationship strong in the face of increased stress.


How Does Therapy Work?

Therapy is a very individual process, so each person’s experience will vary depending on their treatment goals and circumstances. However, there are some common features you can expect. In your initial appointment, your potential therapist will ask about what brings you to therapy and what you’re hoping to get out of it. They’ll also explain their approach so you can determine if it sounds like the right fit for you. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them. Your therapist will want you to understand how treatment works so you can feel comfortable with the process.

The amount of time you will spend in therapy or the number of sessions you may have will be different depending on the therapeutic approach, your mental health concerns, and other individual factors. Your therapist may also assign “homework”—for example, journaling or exercises to do outside of the office—to support the work you do during your sessions.


How Do I Find a Therapist?

When looking for a therapist, many people rely on word of mouth or the recommendations of friends and family. Sometimes this works, but it may not be successful unless your mental health needs and goals are similar to those of the person making the referral. Online directories of providers can also be difficult to navigate, as they often provide limited information about services and may not give you a good sense of what to expect.  

At the SF Stress and Anxiety Center, we know it can be hard to find a therapist to meet your specific needs. That’s why our process starts with a free question-and-answer call with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to help match you to one of our more than 40 licensed psychologists and counselors. We offer in-person therapy at our various California locations or online sessions via a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.

Don’t wait to make a positive change. To find the right therapist to help you meet your mental health goals, schedule your free introductory phone consultation with SF Stress today.

Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Your Mental Health

The start of a new year is a natural time to take stock of our lives and decide to make positive changes going forward. Often these insights lead us to set New Year’s resolutions around the goals we’d like to achieve: Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat healthier food. Save more money. 

While physical health and finances are typical topics of such resolutions, after the turmoil of the last few years, more people recognize mental health and wellbeing as a priority in the upcoming year. According to a Forbes Health / One Poll survey conducted in November 2022, 45% of respondents cited an improvement in mental health as one of their top New Year’s resolutions.

Just as familiar as setting New Year’s resolutions, however, is the idea that most of those resolutions are doomed to fail. That may make you hesitate to set a goal, but it isn’t entirely accurate. Readiness to change is vital to the success of any resolution, so if you find yourself inspired to do things differently in 2023, you’ve already made a significant step in the right direction. You can also improve your odds by considering how you make your mental health resolutions for the new year. Here are some tips to help set yourself up for success.


How You Set Your Goals Matters

Before you choose what aspect of your mental health you want to focus on, it helps to consider that how you set your resolution up can influence its likelihood of success. First, choose realistic goals. Small, sustainable actions that can be maintained over the long term are more likely to lead to lasting change than trying to make dramatic alterations all at once.

Try to set specific goals with concrete steps. While setting a vague goal can feel more flexible, it can also make it difficult to assess whether you’re making progress or to feel like you’re doing enough. For example, if you want to practice gratitude, your goal could be jotting down one or two things you feel grateful for in a journal at the same time each day. Keeping the action simple and attainable will help you build and maintain positive habits.

Most importantly, you should approach your goals with the knowledge that setbacks will happen. Perfection is not necessary to make progress—to use the example above, if you missed a day (or three) of journaling because work was overwhelming, the answer is to pick up again when you can, not quit.


New Year Mental Health Tips

It’s one thing to know that you want to improve your mental health in the new year, but another to know where to start. Some simple suggestions to try include:

Paying attention to the way you talk to yourself. People can develop a tendency to judge themselves harshly. Listen to the things you tell yourself internally—would you talk to a friend that way? If not, try to replace negative thoughts with more kind, forgiving words.

Limiting screen time. With current news and social media always at our fingertips, it can be hard to limit exposure even when it stresses us out. However, putting your phone and computer away, especially before bedtime, is essential for allowing ourselves to decompress from consuming a steady diet of bad news or comparing ourselves unfairly to other people’s highly curated versions of their lives.

Taking care of your body. Mental and physical health are linked, so making positive changes for your physical wellbeing can help improve your state of mind. This can be as simple as going for a short walk each day, going to bed a half hour earlier to get more sleep, or adding a serving of fruit or vegetables to your diet.  

Reaching out to a mental health professional. If you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, your own efforts to boost your mental health in the past haven’t been successful, or you’re just feeling stuck, the right therapist can be a catalyst for positive change. You don’t have to wait until things feel out of control to benefit from an impartial listener who can give you a new perspective and techniques to promote better mental health.


Individualized, Convenient Therapy

At the San Francisco Stress and Anxiety Center, we know that anxiety and stress impact every facet of your life. We offer accessible therapy in person or online to fit your busy lifestyle. Our evidence-based treatment helps you meet your goals with research-tested, structured, proven interventions. If you’re ready to make your New Year’s resolution for better mental health stick, schedule a free introductory phone consultation with an SF Stress Care Coordinator to get started.