At a glance
Stress and anxiety are common in the workplace.
There are supports that can help you manage ongoing stress and anxiety.
Some you can do on your own; others you can ask your manager about.
If you have learning and thinking differences and feel anxious or overly stressed at work, you’re not alone. Stress and anxiety often come with being neurodivergent, and work can be a high-stress place. But that doesn’t mean you should simply accept these difficult feelings.
Chronic stress and anxiety can have a big impact on performance and self-esteem. It’s important to address these emotions so they don’t get in the way of doing your job well.
Fortunately, there are workplace supports and strategies to help reduce chronic workplace stress and make anxiety more manageable. Some you can try on your own. Others you may want to talk to your manager about. (If you disclose a disability at work, you can also request formal accommodations to help with anxiety.)
Ways to cope with work stress and anxiety on your own
Recharge and de-stress
- Use time during your lunch break to reset. Try taking a walk and getting some fresh air. Even a few five-minute breaks during the day can help.
- If you fidget or make small movements when you’re anxious or nervous, try using “sensory supports.” These tools can provide an outlet for these movements and help you feel calmer.
- Listen to soothing sounds while working. Try brown noise, binaural beats, or music for relaxation. There are lots of apps available for managing anxiety and stress.
Find alternative ways of doing things
When you’re faced with a task that’s stressful, think about other ways to approach it. For example, if you’re anxious about talking in a meeting, share your ideas in an email.
Connect with a co-worker
Think about who you’d be comfortable sharing your work concerns with. Having someone to talk to who can offer guidance, help, and encouragement can make a huge difference. (Find out how to talk to co-workers about work challenges.)
Explore employee benefits and resources
Your company may offer wellness programs, therapy, mindfulness apps, mentor programs, employee assistance programs, or other resources and tools to help manage stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety supports you can ask your manager for
If you’re comfortable, ask your manager for support. There are lots of ways they can help minimize the stress or anxiety you feel. Here are some examples:
- Have frequent check-ins with you so you can get feedback on how you’re doing.
- Set clear expectations for the quantity or quality of work. This helps reduce the anxiety of wondering if you’re doing enough.
- Adjust deadlines or prioritize tasks if you’re overloaded and feeling overwhelmed.
- Share materials ahead of time when you have a meeting or presentation coming up. This helps you know what to expect and prepare.
About the author
About the author
James Emmett, MS is the lead workplace strategist for Understood, supporting our efforts to create more inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities.