Anxiety and Productivity

Anxiety and Productivity

Anxiety and Productivity

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18% of people live with anxiety. Frequently, anxiety co-occurs with depression or substance abuse. Around 75% of first occurrences happen by age 21.5. That means that if you are with five people, one of you will statistically have anxiety.

How does anxiety affect individuals in the workplace? People living with untreated anxiety frequently have recurring fears or worries and they often have a persistent sense that something bad is just about to happen. It can affect sleep issues as well. This can lead to trouble concentrating or achieving daily tasks.

So other than getting counseling or medication, what can someone do?


Anxiety is frequently a mixture of biological causes and environmental habits. When we begin to label situations that cause anxiety, it allows us to more easily work on creating change. According to the DSM-5 the following are symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry about several events or activities most days of the week for at least six months
  • Difficulty controlling your feelings of worry
  • At least three of the following symptoms in adults and one of the following in children: restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension or sleep problems
  • Anxiety or worry that causes you significant distress or interferes with your daily life
  • Anxiety that isn’t related to another mental health condition, such as panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or a medical condition

Any given situation typically falls into one of three areas: Comfort, Growth, and Panic.

  1. Activities in our “Comfort Zone” are easy. It’s sitting at home when we’re all comfy-cozy.
  2. Our “Growth Zone” activities are things that give us a pit in our stomach, make us worry, but we know are good for us and make us stronger.
  3. “Panic Zone” activities cause us to shut down, we can’t think, it overtakes us. We’re not in a state of learning.

Our goal, to start addressing anxiety, is to have more “Growth Zone” actives to build the muscles in our brains to respond to anxiety.

Work on Mindset

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, there are ten “thought distortions” that many people encounter. Examples are all or nothing thinking. This is where someone starts to think in very black and white terms and can’t imagine area between two options. Other examples are “disqualifying the positive,” “jumping to conclusions,” and “magnifying and minimizing encounters.”

When someone living with anxiety starts to notice their own ways of thinking that lead to an increase in anxiety, they can create a plan to build tools to make change. Here’s an image that I’ve found helpful: 

How to overcome anxiety
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Next Steps

Anxiety left untreated can often lead to unneeded emotions. If addressed, someone with anxiety can often have a sense of worry leaving them. Counseling, medication, and thought changes can all help.

Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling, who helps people in Traverse City with anxiety. He also helps small businesses to help their employees to be more productive by addressing mental health issues as a small business consultant.