If you struggle with anxiety, keeping up with all of your obligations in life can be a challenge. Anxiety can cause feelings of fear and result in fatigue, upset stomach and other physical ailments. It can also make concentration feel impossible.
Doing the bare minimum feels hard enough. When you add in maintaining employment at your workplace, things can start to feel downright overwhelming.
Many people don’t realize they can talk to their supervisor and request anxiety accommodations at work. I’m an anxiety therapist for millennials, and I help my clients figure out how to keep anxiety from running their lives.
If you’re like many of my clients, asking for workplace accommodations for anxiety might feel like a scary thing to do. But it can make a big difference in your quality of life, relationship to yourself, and ability to do your job.
Whether you work remotely, commute to your job, or experience some combination of the two, having to keep up with job duties when you’re anxious is tough.
Anxiety can make it feel impossible to concentrate on anything except the anxiety itself. Just getting through the day can feel like a Herculean task. Adding in work on top of it all can seem like a cruel joke. You might find that you simply don’t have the bandwidth to care about your job the way you normally might, or the energy to do your job thoroughly.
So what can you do about it?
You can ask your supervisor to help you with workplace accommodations for anxiety. You can also make small but distinct changes to your own schedule to help reduce your anxiety both at work and outside of work.
The Americans With Disabilities Act states that employers are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” to people with disabilities in the workplace.
You might not think anxiety qualifies as a disability. However, it does – if it meets the requirements of a disability according to the ADA, and if you’ve been diagnosed by a qualified medical provider.
Some of these regulations may vary by state. For example, the ADA states this must apply to any employer with over 15 employees. But many people work for small companies with fewer than that amount of employees. Some states require this accommodation to be in effect regardless of the company size; others don’t.
In general, if you have a caring supervisor or boss who wants their employees to succeed, they’re likely to be flexible with you on working on accommodations. Sometimes the ask can be the hardest part – after all, it can be challenging to talk to your employer about mental health, especially if it isn’t part of your workplace’s culture. Plus, anxiety can tell us all kinds of lies, including that we’re a burden for asking for what we need in order to be healthy and happy.
The truth is that most employers want their employees to be happy and healthy. You may just have to ask for what you need first.
Depending on your job, there are plenty of accommodations that are considered “reasonable.” Here are three examples of reasonable accommodations for anxiety options to consider.
If your job is office-based or partly office-based, ask your boss for more freedom in your schedule.
If you find you’re more anxious in the mornings, for example, you might ask your employer if it’s okay for you to flex your hours so you come in a little later in the day and stay a little longer.
Or you can ask for a longer lunch break so that you can work in time at the gym or a walk. Some employers even have built-in time for their employees to exercise during the workday. More exercise can improve your mood, help you sleep better at night, and help you feel less anxious.
Flexibility can also look like asking to switch to remote work for part of the time. If the Covid-19 accommodations taught us anything about our work lives, it’s that most of us don’t need to be in the office as much as we thought. Many employers are now more familiar and comfortable with remote work as an option, which is a benefit to you.
Anxiety can wreak havoc on physical and mental performance. Luckily, there are ways to reduce this impairment at work.
Think of what might make your life easier at work and then ask your employer to provide those supplies or tools.
For example, maybe you’re much more fidgety when you’re anxious. Ask for a standing desk so you can move around more.
Or maybe you have difficulty remembering and organizing things during a spell of anxiety. You can ask for things like whiteboards, large calendars, or a note-taking system to help you feel more organized and focused.
Asking for simple changes to be made to your work environment can make a big difference.
If you work in a cubicle or shared office, you may find yourself getting overwhelmed by noise or getting easily distracted. In this case, try asking for a room divider. It can help you focus and drown out some office chatter. Or you can ask for your desk or cubicle to be moved to a quieter section.
You can also try using things like earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or listening to white noise and relaxing music.
What if you work for yourself? Or what if it doesn’t make sense to ask for accommodations for your particular job?
In these cases, there are still ways you can reduce anxiety symptoms and feel better.
If your anxiety is being caused by something in particular – say, not enough exercise or alone time throughout the week – consider making lifestyle changes in these areas.
Waking up with enough time to have a morning routine is a great option if this works for you. Some people feel much better when they’ve had time for a quiet coffee, journaling, meditation, yoga, or whatever else feels sustaining in the morning. But other people don’t want to or can’t get themselves out of bed for a morning routine – and that’s okay! It’s just one option, and there’s no shame if it doesn’t work for you.
The point is to try to ensure you have enough time to yourself throughout the week to ground and stabilize your nervous system. If a morning routine works, great. If not, fit in some time elsewhere – take some time to yourself during lunch, or take a break and go outside for some deep breaths every couple of hours.
If your job isn’t very physical, try to work in exercise when you can. Can you switch to bicycle commuting? How about trying a gym or yoga class after work a few days per week? Or maybe you could do some bodyweight exercises during lunch?
Figuring out what you need – and then making a plan to implement those things – will go a long way in helping reduce your overall anxiety.
If you want support coming up with anxiety accommodations at work, consider therapy.
I’m here to help you find ways to reduce your anxiety symptoms, figure out examples of reasonable accommodations for anxiety, and set goals to feel better at your job and in your life.
Our work together will help you feel empowered and confident, knowing you have the skills and tools to better manage your anxiety.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.