How to Manage Anxiety and Maintain Productivity in a Fast-Paced, High-Level Role

manage anxiety

If you’re having difficulty working from home or finding it hard to focus at the office, anxiety might be the culprit. Countless professionals across the country experience the pressures of looming deadlines and an increased workload. However, these everyday stressors might have you feeling overwhelmed, resulting in something called high functioning anxiety.

Executives with this type of anxiety may appear calm and efficient on the outside but struggle with racing thoughts, lack of motivation, and productivity. In leadership positions, these mental challenges can compromise your work and wellbeing as well as impact those that work under you. Efficiently managing projects and personnel is difficult enough without the added stress of dealing with anxiety.

Thankfully, there are tried-and-true methods to get a handle on your stress and develop a healthy work-life balance. Each strategy works differently for every person, so moving through them one at a time can help you find which one suits you best. The better you take care of yourself, the healthier you and your organization will be.

Acknowledging Your Feelings

It can be easy to downplay your anxiety or ignore it and hope it goes away, but this kind of thinking usually only worsens things.

Managing stress at work starts with acknowledging it. Anxiety is a genuine mental health disorder, and minimizing its effect on your overall health and productivity does more harm than good. Show yourself the same empathy that you would show to others.

It is often tricky, especially for motivated people, to acknowledge your faults and feelings. Being your own worst critic is a toxic yet pervasive mentality, and the first step towards wellness is getting over that negative impulse. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and cut yourself some slack when you need to, and you will find managing your mental health to be much easier.

Setting Boundaries

In fast-paced managerial positions, it’s far too easy to feel overwhelmed by your work. Especially at crucial moments like the start of a new business, this feeling is all too common. The stress of juggling multiple projects, managing staff, and meeting deadlines are enough to trigger anxiety in even the most efficient worker. For this reason, it’s essential to know when to give yourself space.

It can be tempting to bury yourself in your work to stave off negative thoughts and anxiety, but this can lead to burnout that only exacerbates your problems. Establishing boundaries is a vital step in managing stress, even if it’s doing something as simple as turning your work phone off before bed. While your work is important, so is your mental and physical wellbeing.

Getting Things Done With High Functioning Anxiety

Before you start implementing these techniques into your daily life, it’s a good idea to slow down and look at the work ahead. Mental health isn’t a time-sensitive project you can wrap up in an all-nighter.

On that same note, pushing anxiety aside or forcing your way through it is unproductive and likely to make things worse. Instead, permit yourself to tackle your anxiety one step at a time.

Avoid Common Stressors

When we’re anxious, depressed, or just not feeling like ourselves, we often lower our emotional defenses. This can be tough to manage, especially when news, media, and the internet are constantly vying for our attention.

Until you build up your resilience to stress, try to limit your exposure to sights, sounds, and even people that might increase your anxiety.

Organize Your Workspace

It’s hard to get anything done when your outside world reflects your inner one, so take steps to declutter and organize. Start with sorting out papers, recycling what you no longer need, and filing the items you’ve been putting off. You can also make small improvements like upgrading your desk lamp and tossing those old ketchup packets from the back of your drawer. 

Taking the time to tidy up can be a relaxing activity in itself, and the finished product is a much more enjoyable and productive workspace. One of the best steps toward having a clear mind is to have a neat work area. By removing the physical clutter you’re actually ridding yourself of distractions and probably taking care of minor tasks that you’ve been avoiding.

Use Productivity Hacks

From time-management apps designed to play like a video game to setting a timer during work sessions, finding a tactic that works for you is easy. Consider choosing specific times to check your email, or use website blockers to avoid time-sucking sites you know will distract you.

Another great idea is to ask coworkers what tips and techniques they use to stay on task and get their work done every day.


Doing nothing might sound counterintuitive to being productive, but meditation is a scientifically proven method for taming racing thoughts and bringing focus to your day-to-day activities. You may think you don’t have time to meditate, but all you need are a few moments in your car before heading into the office.  In addition to the peace and relaxation it offers, the health benefits of meditation are staggering. 

Those who practice regular meditation report experiencing an increased resilience to stressors, improved motivation, better relationships, and enhanced creativity. Sometimes our brains just need a break from the stimuli of modern life, and meditation is effective in doing that. Even better, you don’t need any tools, just your mind and a few undisturbed minutes.

If you’re having difficulty calming your anxious mind, consider using guided meditation to help you along the way. These usually consist of audio files or videos featuring a soothing voice that walks you through the steps of relaxation. You can also attend in-person breathing meditation sessions with a professional for a more connected experience.

Listen to Music

We unconsciously process an abundance of random noise during the day, and not all of it is beneficial. However, you can control the music you listen to during your commute or while working. The trick here is to use a targeted approach by creating a playlist of music you know makes you feel better. High-energy rhythms are great for lifting your spirits, while somber ballads typically have the opposite effect.

Another option is to explore the use of binaural beats to trigger a healthy state of mind. This strategy involves listening to sounds containing specific auditory frequencies known to activate different parts of the brain. Simply playing this music in the background while you work can increase focus, improve mood, and relieve work anxiety.

Take Care of Yourself

Being more mindful of your physical health can significantly improve your mental health. Consider exercising, eating healthy foods, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake.

Taking better care of your body is a great way to let out stress and build a more positive mindset. 

Seek Professional Help

If these simple stress management methods prove ineffective, consider consulting with a professional therapist or another mental health expert. It can be helpful to have someone to talk through your issues with, especially in a safe, professional, judgment-free setting.

Many mental health professionals offer in-person and virtual sessions, so it’s easier than ever to fit therapy into your busy schedule. 

How to Calm Down When You’re Feeling Anxious

We can easily get lost in our racing thoughts. Sometimes, when we don’t catch ourselves, this can lead to moments of panic and alarm that cause us to make poor decisions.

Left unchecked, these fight-or-flight moments might occur more frequently and result in even worse outcomes. When your anxiety reaches its breaking point, it’s best to have a plan to calm down and come back to reality.

Talk It Out

While creating routines and using productivity hacks helps overcome work anxiety, sometimes talking to someone is the right call. Verbalizing our worries helps us better understand them, leading to a more realistic outlook.

From speaking to a friend or family member about your concerns to talking with a professional, putting it all out there can be a freeing experience.

Take a Break

Whether it means going on a long-overdue vacation or just stepping away from the computer for ten minutes, giving yourself a breather from work is important. Our brains need regular breaks to process the information we receive so we can make better decisions.

Taking time to recharge can help you stay motivated, develop creative solutions, and more effectively manage anxiety.

Acknowledge Your Successes

The fast-paced nature of executive work means that you’re bouncing from one project to the next as soon as it’s finished. As busy as you can be, it’s critical to take the time to celebrate a job well done.

Slowing down and rewarding yourself is an excellent way to reinforce positive thinking and mitigate the anxious feeling you get when faced with rapidly approaching deadlines.


Our breath is something we often take for granted, but it can also be what anchors us when we’re feeling most anxious. Breathing exercises can lower your heart rate and calm your thoughts.

Knowing you have a tool in your arsenal when panic strikes can be a relief in and of itself. Couple this with a meditation practice, and you have a healthy coping mechanism for getting through tough days.


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