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Anxiety and Productivity

Have you ever noticed that during times of high anxiety you become less productive? Often, this in and of itself can lead to even an additional increase in stress as you feel you are falling further behind. But, how exactly does anxiety affect your ability to work, and what can you do to lift yourself out of those paralyzing moments?

Identifying Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of general nervousness and unease, which typically transforms into a state of worry. It is completely normal to feel anxious from time to time about aspects of life. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety affects approximately 40 million Americans over the age of 18. Anxiety does not necessarily have to have an exact trigger or source and can range from simply an inability to concentrate, to heart palpitations and exhaustion. So, if you are feeling anxious, and it has become a hindrance to your productivity, how can you identify the cause?

  • First, take a step back and review how you are feeling. Is your lack of productivity due to outside distractions or is it an internal dilemma that is veering you off track?

  • How do you feel during the times when you are unable to concentrate or experience a lack of motivation to complete a project?

  • Take another step back – if you are feeling anxious during those times, what is the cause of the anxiety? Is there an outside situation you are focusing on such as financial issues, a family disagreement, or additional pressure at work? Are you dwelling on the past or the “what if’s” of the possible future? Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time and space necessary to really get to the source.

  • Once you have narrowed down the possible causes of the anxiety you can then begin to address the issues at the root and take the steps towards learning effective methods of alleviating the symptoms of anxiety when it surfaces.

How Anxiety Affects Productivity

You’ve been balancing the multifaceted chaos of modern life without a break for months – up before dawn and returning home after sunset in a Starbucks-fueled race to success. You’re tired. You’re frustrated. Meanwhile you’ve noticed your ability to complete tasks and meet deadlines slipping a little more every day. Enter anxiety. It doesn’t take an expert to note that your ability to perform at your optimum level is greatly decreased when you are stressed and anxious. However, when you are in the midst of life it is often difficult to identify the exact ways in which your anxiety is directly affecting your productivity, as well as your life in general. Here are a few reactionary shifts to keep an eye out for:

  • Your temper is becoming shorter – things annoy you more than usual.

  • Even the smallest task feels like an emergency.

  • You can’t sit still at your desk for more than a few minutes at a time.

  • You find yourself making more mistakes than usual.

  • You are not finding the enjoyment in what you are working on that you once did.

Six Methods to Alleviate Daily Anxiety

  • Make sure you get enough rest. No one performs to the utmost of their ability when they are exhausted. Get off social media, turn off the TV, and go to bed.

  • Make sure you stay hydrated. When your body is well hydrated with plenty of water and electrolytes, it naturally performs better. Keep a bottle of water near you at all times or set alarms on your smart phone or watch to remind you to grab a glass.

  • If your stress is work related, talk to your manager about ways you can change your work environment – i.e. new lighting, more focused assignments, more open communication, better work schedule to accommodate your life, etc.

  • Take regular breaks. If you are working in an office, get up and walk away from your desk a few times per day. Step outside and get some fresh air or a glass of water.

  • Breathe. It may seem like something that is impossible to forget to do, but have you ever noticed yourself holding your breath when you are anxious? Sit back, close your eyes for a few minutes and breathe.

  • Limit your caffeine intake. I know, I know, coffee is the fountain of life. While a cup or two in the morning does indeed have its health benefits, overdoing it can have negative effects, which can worsen existing anxiety.

  • Talk to a good friend. Sometimes all we need is a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen.

Nearly everyone will experience anxiety, in one form or another, at some point in their lives. But this, like many other hurdles in life, can be overcome. What are some ways in which anxiety has affected your productivity? How did you alleviate it? I would love to hear from you! Tweet to me @Gabrielle_Faust.


This article was originally written by myself, for Michelle Prince's motivational speaking blog in 2015. I hope you will also find it highly interesting and useful.