Anxiety & Stress at Work – When is it a Problem & How Can Therapy Help?

I help professionals in fast-paced New York City deal with the emotional effects of a stressful work environment. As a licensed psychotherapist, I have an insider’s view into how a demanding work environment affects a high-achieving person’s emotional and physical health.

How Does Work Stress Affect Your Emotional Health?

High pressure and job demands, a fast-paced work environment, and constant change and conflict increase stress, which in turn can lead to anxiety, depression and other emotional problems.  In addition, you may be the type of person who is achievement-oriented and competitive, which makes you vulnerable to feeling like you must be perfect and to self-criticism and comparison to your peers. Your strengths at work may be impacting your emotional health and your relationships.  When your thoughts, feelings, behaviors or relationships start to feel overwhelming, you may want to consult a therapist or counselor to help bring more balance into your life.

Common Goals of Counseling and Therapy for Anxiety and Stress at Work

  •  Learn to prioritize your needs and say no to achieve better work-life balance
  •  Reduce perfectionism and workaholism while still striving for excellence
  •  Increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions
  •  Feel more engaged and alive with meaningful pursuits
  •  Learn stress management and relaxation techniques
  •  Enhance relationships in your personal, family and work life

Is Your Anxiety At Work a Problem?  Take this self-assessment to find out:

Anxiety at Work Self-Assessment* Take the following brief questionnaire to see how anxiety comes up for you in the workplace.
Please complete all items, rating how true each statement is for you personally, on a scale of 1-5.

1              2              3              4              5
Less True                                        More True

1. _____ I usually don’t feel satisfied with my work unless I feel it is done perfectly.
2. _____ I have high, rigid standards for the quality of my work.
3. _____ I sometimes fall behind on tasks because I spend so much time trying to do them just right.

4. _____ I am often highly critical of my work performance.
5. _____ I frequently doubt my abilities to be very successful in my career.
6. _____ In my job, I typically compare myself to others and find them much more impressive than I am.

7. _____ When I need to give a presentation at work, I become highly nervous.
8. _____ Speaking up in meetings is difficult for me.
9. _____ I try to get out of giving oral reports and other presentations.

10. _____ I typically expect the worst in my job.
11. _____ I am very anxious about messing up at work.
12. _____ I am more afraid of how my work will be evaluated than my coworkers and colleagues seem to be.

13. _____ It’s common for me to engage in behaviors to try to feel better at work, such as keeping my conversations short, planning what I am going to say, or mentally rehearsing conversations in my mind.
14. _____ When I’m nervous about doing something at work, I’ll often avoid that activity.
15. _____ I frequently seek reassurance about my work performance.

16. _____ Making professional contacts is intimidating to me.
17. _____ I get anxious when interacting with my boss or other authority figures at work.
18. _____ I frequently worry about how people will judge me in my job.

19. _____ I’ve turned down – or failed to actively pursue – promotions due to fear.
20. _____ As a boss, I feel like I am (or would be) a fraud – it all feels like an act or a front.
21. _____ I become nervous when I have to give employees feedback or reviews.

22. _____ I often worry about my job, even when I’m not there.
23. _____ Sometimes I can’t sleep because I am worrying about work.
24. _____ I think I worry about my job and career more than other people do; this worrying interferes with my life or is distressing to me.

SCORING Add up your answers in sets of three – first questions 1-3, then questions 4-6, and so on. Each three-question group targets a specific element of workplace anxiety. Any set of three with a total score of 8 or more is relevant to you, so for any set of questions in which you received a total score of 8 or more, read the relevant explanation below.


_____ Questions 1-3: Perfectionism. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you’re likely to approach your work with perfectionism. While perfectionism can be beneficial at times, it is also often linked to anxiety. A higher score within this range indicates higher levels of perfectionism and anxiety.

_____ Questions 4-6: Self-defeating thoughts. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you probably experience self-defeating thoughts at work. You may be very critical of yourself and experience anxiety as a result. A higher score within this range indicates more significant self-sabotaging thinking.

_____ Questions 7-9: Speaking anxiety. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you’re likely to be someone who becomes nervous about public speaking in a professional setting. This is a very common fear.

_____ Questions 10-12. Fear of failure. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you probably have a fear of failure regarding your work. A higher score within this range indicates greater worries about failure.

_____ Questions 13-15: Unhelpful behaviors. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you probably engage in behaviors that you may think are helpful but actually aren’t. In fact, many of these types of behaviors fuel anxiety and cause and maintain workplace nervousness.

_____ Questions 16-18: Interpersonal discomfort. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you’re likely to experience discomfort about interacting with coworkers. You may feel more uncomfortable in structured work situations or you may feel more uncomfortable in less structured, more social work situations.

_____ Questions 19-21: Being the boss. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you’re likely to either feel nervous about your role as a boss, or have intentionally avoided being a boss altogether. People with this form of apprehension often feel like they’re not worthy to be in a supervisory role and worry about offending others and appearing self-centered.

_____ Questions 22-24: Worry about work. If you scored 8-15 on this set of questions, you’re probably a workplace worrier. You’re likely to be someone who both thinks a lot and whose thoughts often shift to fears and concerns.
* Reprinted from Anxious 9 to 5 by Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA

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