Most people experience stress at some point in their life due to issues involving work. It is a problem when your anxiety about your job begins taking a toll on your mental and physical health affecting work and relationships. In fact, 56 per cent of people who experience workplace anxiety report excessive fatigue, irritability and feeling unmotivated leading to lack of focus, poor work performance and personal relationship issues.
As a psychotherapist, I noticed a trend specifically among my clients who work as consultants. They express symptoms of poor physical health, anxiety and loneliness.
In general, consulting involves working on team-oriented projects to resolve problems for clients in various industries such as management or finance. Projects tend to last for a few weeks and typically occur on-site, requiring consultants to be away from home for most of the week. Once the project ends, consultants get assigned a new project often in a completely different city. This aspect makes consulting a very travel- and hotel- oriented lifestyle.
According to my clients, a typical week starts with catching a 6:30 am flight on Monday morning. The day starts by arriving at the client’s site, working until 7:00 pm, dinner and drinks with the team, working a few more hours in the hotel room and getting six hours of sleep before doing it all over again. Consultants often fly home for the weekend and resume the same schedule on Monday morning.
When I ask what a typical week is like for my clients in consulting, it became obvious to me why these symptoms of anxiety are occurring. Sunday nights provoke panic in most of my consulting clients due to the thought of leaving their home, family, and friends yet again to live in a hotel. Hopping a plane and all that entails from waiting in lines to flight delays also provokes anxiety. Additionally, my clients report panic on Sunday night about missing flights which leads to insomnia. Depending on where the project is located, meals can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes projects are located in desolate areas so fast food is the only option. Exercising is nearly impossible due to the hectic work schedule and by Friday when my clients come home they report being too exhausted to move. Consultants who are currently single report it being impossible to date because they are not home all week and exhausted on weekends. This leads to a vicious cycle of being lonely followed by anxiety about being single. Those who are in a relationship report problems in the relationship due to being away all week followed by the desire to sleep a lot on weekends. It is also difficult to maintain work relationships because once the project ends, team members change.
Of course, it isn’t only the consulting profession that induces workplace anxiety. People in high stress careers such as finance, medicine and law where there are absolute deadlines or lives on the line report symptoms of anxiety as well. The truth is, any job can cause someone stress depending on how much one can handle, interactions with bosses and colleagues and a variety of other factors.
Here are some signs that issues with work are stressing you out:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness when you think about work or are at your job
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Not being able to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
So how can you eliminate or avoid work stress? Here are a few tips:
- Make a daily gratitude list by writing down 10 things you are grateful for. Anything from your family, legs to walk on or reality TV. Focusing on what is good in your life as opposed to what is “going wrong with your job” helps relieve anxiety around work. Additionally, try and find gratitude in the fact that you are employed and earning income.
- Read affirmations every morning. Starting your day with positivity kick starts your day on the right foot.
- Start a meditation practice. Search guided meditation on YouTube or download a free app such as 10% Happier or Headspace. There are other popular apps for anxiety that you could also try.
- Practice acceptance. Make a list of what you can’t control regarding your work situation (deadlines, your boss yelling at you) and what you can control (managing your time, setting up a meeting with your boss to discuss your issues). Focus on what you can control to make change and accept what you cannot control.
- Reach out for help – whether this involves asking a co-worker for assistance or sitting down with a friend who is great at time management, don’t be afraid to lean on others for advice and support.
Kimberly Hershenson began her career as a professional ballerina. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She received her Juris Doctorate from Pace Law School and her Master of Laws in Intellectual Property from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Kimberly ultimately decided to make a career change and is a summa cum laude graduate from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. She is currently a therapist at a group practice in Manhattan, Revitalife Therapy, specialising in eating disorders, addiction, motherhood issues (pregnancy, infertility, miscarriage, parenting), anxiety and depression.