Why office environments trigger my anxiety

Office environments and I don’t mix. It’s me, not the office, the poor office never asked to be built after all. Besides, if I’m honest, it’s the people in said office that trigger my anxiety.

In no particular order:

Noise

I don’t want to listen to your music, youtube clip, or podcast. Please be considerate and use f**king headphones.
Furthermore, nor am I interested in how many ‘birds’ you banged in Marbella SCOTT. So if you could wait until lunch to share that with your friends, rather than shouting it across the room, that’d be just dandy. Ahhh, the joy of open plan spaces.

Noise is a huge anxiety trigger for me, it’s a sensory thing. Once I hone in on a sound, I have trouble zoning it out.

Space

Or rather, a lack of it. I’m big on personal boundaries, especially when I’m eating. The idea of someone observing my behaviour freaks me out. I have a lot of weird habits ok….
Why yes, Sarah, I am having a halloumi wrap for the third time this week, whilst watching Women Who Kill. I’m just going through a halloumi and poorly made murder reenactment documentary phase at the moment. THAT’S MY PREROGATIVE! GO BACK TO YOUR LENTIL SALAD AND LEAVE ME ALONE!

Irritating or disgusting habits

Over the top sneezing, loud chewing, farting (only happened a handful of times, but I still believe the person should’ve been sacked)! Sighing, humming, loud yawning, sniffing, slurping… or a personal favourite, repeatedly stating how busy YOUR life is, just loud enough so that we all can hear. I get it Naomi, you have kids, a full-time job, marathon training, several weddings this year AND you’re throwing a BBQ for Megan & Harry. You’re amazing…. happy now?

Germs

When I worked in an office I was ill at least once a month. The common cold, viral infections, Noro bug, Gastroenteritis. You name it. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria.
Then there’s always that martyr who insists on coming in, even though they’re at death’s door.
Thank you very much for infecting the rest of us!
Being ill is another big anxiety trigger. It drains my energy and makes me feel raw.

Office politics

Nothing sends a chill up my spine quite like the phrase, “you have to play the game.” WHAT GAME? THERE’S A GAME? THE ONLY ONE I’M GOOD AT IS TABOO! The idea that the office is like ‘The Godfather’ or an episode of Game of Thrones is unnerving. I don’t have any dragons and Rigby is more of a hamster than a Direwolf.

The ‘bums on seats’ culture

There’s always a manager who takes great pride in spending every waking moment at their desk. The type that makes a comment if you’re 3 minutes late, or if you ask to leave early.
I mean seriously, we’re all adults here. You hired me to do a job, so trust that I’ll do that job in the time given. Not everybody works in the same way.
Besides, just because I’m sat here doesn’t mean that I’m working. Chances are I’m on BuzzFeed or Instagram…

Office survival tips

To be clear, I don’t hate everyone who works in the office. In fact, some of my closest friends were made from across a desk.
However, I didn’t thrive in that atmosphere and it was anxiety-inducing.

Some tips to help you stay sane:

  • Earphones. Self-explanatory. If I found myself getting wound up by somebody else’s noise, it was comforting to know that I could cancel it out with The Beatles, or a historical documentary.
    Top tip – buy two pairs and leave one set at your desk. That way you’ll never make the dreaded mistake of leaving them at home, but only realising when you’re halfway through your commute. THE HORROR!
  • Aromatherapy oil. Scent goes straight to the Amygdala (responsible for emotions, especially stress and fear). It’s why certain smells makes you feel happy, like pine trees, whilst others make you angry. I used to keep a vial of lemon oil on my desk, to be sniffed if the office was sweaty, or if some dick had an egg sandwich for lunch. The lemon was so strong that it instantly overpowered all of the other smells, and reset my senses. After a good sniff, I felt energised and as though I had reclaimed the air around me. Peppermint is good too.
  • Antibacterial Gel. Never underestimate this stuff. Obviously, still wash your hands, but antibacterial gel is just an extra line of defense against germs. I used mine 3 times a day, along with hand cream to prevent dry skin. If there was a particularly nasty bug going around, I’d even put some inside my nose! (Mixed with a little moisturiser).
  • Leave the office. I don’t care if you prefer to eat lunch at your desk, that’s cool. But be sure to get out for some fresh air. It will help to clear your head and burn off any adrenaline that’s been triggered by stress. A change of environment will also change up your headspace and ultimately your mood.
  • Leave your desk. As tempting as it is, don’t just sit and stew over some annoying colleagues having a loud conversation. It’ll make you feel angry and powerless. Instead, accept that they’re not going anywhere and leave your desk for 5 minutes. Go and make a cup of tea, visit the loo, or just go for a wander. It’s a simple way to take back control and change your headspace.
  • Bigger picture. Finally, take a deep breathe and try and have a ‘bigger picture’ mentality. Rationalise that a situation is ‘annoying’ or that the people involved are ‘inconsiderate,’ but in the grand schemes of things, is it really that big a deal? Try and focus your energy in a more positive way, such as what you’ll have for dinner or plans for the weekend. Angry can be a real drain on the soul.
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9 Comments

  1. Andy Taylor
    March 12, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    Ah, I am so glad that I sometimes work in an office or I’d never have met you, and I am so glad that I don’t always work in an office or I’d have happily murdered some of the people there.
    Headphones are a great sanity perserver!

  2. March 23, 2019 / 8:11 pm

    I love this post. I would add to sounds the person who insists on listening to that radio station that advertises as being “for everyone in the office” just loudly enough that we all can hear it. Some days I just want to go over and cut the cord. I’d probably electrocute myself in the process.

  3. March 26, 2019 / 11:00 am

    I’m ‘lucky’ that I only have to go into the office 1-2 times per week because otherwise I’d have a mental breakdown. I don’t have a designated desk, so I can’t leave anything there. I do bring a headset for phone calls, and tend to wear them all the time – because a) it drains the noise, and b) it makes other people think I’m on a call even when I’m not. I will definitely add aromatherapy oil to my purse – because this is a great tip and easy to carry around 🙂

  4. April 2, 2019 / 7:36 pm

    Great post! I used to hate working in an office, it would trigger my anxiety, then I started taking care of my anxiety and also discovered the wonders of headphones, especially as you mentioned, it’s good to get two pairs!

    • allmadhere
      Author
      April 3, 2019 / 10:13 am

      Headphones = my happy place!!

  5. Alicia
    April 16, 2019 / 4:38 am

    I’m currently going through something at my office, mentally speaking. And these are all great tips I can’t wait to use. I’m so glad I found your blog. Thank you!

  6. Sophie
    May 13, 2019 / 9:33 am

    This post is just what i needed to read today, sadly we cant wear earphones at my work place, but that would help me so much. I’ve already started going for a 30min walk on my lunch break just to get me away from my desk which makes a huge improvement. Definitely reading more of your posts at some point today.

  7. Sam
    May 19, 2019 / 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the post, all very good ideas, my biggest issue is the office politics!! Yes, very much makes me think of The Godfather, I sometimes feel like standing up and shouting “just stop b**ching and get on with your own job!!!” but that’s not such a good idea so may opt for the headphones instead 🙂

  8. November 7, 2019 / 6:25 am

    This is why I left teaching. The constant stress I felt in the classroom and from my colleagues told me I had to take time off. I found it challenging to administer classroom management and help those who simply refused to learn. I left work everyday stressed out and it took a toll on my family and driving.
    The key was to find something I enjoyed and with writing I found a lifestyle I could put a singular focus into. It is what I enjoy doing and the noise is at a much lower volume.

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