The Top Reasons Your Workspace Gives You Anxiety (And What to Do About It)

Simples changes can make a big difference

messy desk

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Does your workspace give you anxiety? To be honest with you, that’s not how it should be. Of course, your cubicle—no matter how decorated or ‘homey’ it feels—isn’t going to be as comfortable as your couch. And sure, even your most personalized work-from-home desk won’t always give you the warm and fuzzies. But sitting down to work shouldn’t feel so stressful that you can’t focus on your tasks.

Here are five reasons why your workspace is actually stressing you the heck out (whether you consciously realize it or not) and five things you can do about it.

1.  Your Space Isn’t Conducive to Work

Whether you have stacks of paper littered across every open surface (guilty) or your shelves and walls are so decorated with plants and pictures that you can’t actually focus, this can create an atmosphere that isn’t conducive to work.

If you’re continually getting distracted by what’s around you, it’s time to make a change.

Focus on ways to remove or intentionally organize the clutter. Rearrange your to-do piles in a way that leaves space for you to write, type, or take notes. And be purposeful about the design of the area so that you can prioritize your most meaningful tasks first.

2.  You’re Not Comfortable in the Space

Take it from someone who spends a good amount of time on a screen each day, sometimes I find myself hunching over or sitting in weird positions because I’m not thinking about what my body physically needs. That’s the thing about our workspaces—we get focused (or we try to focus) on our tasks so much that we often neglect ourselves in the process.

Perhaps your workspace gives you anxiety because you’re spending a good amount of time in an uncomfortable position: wrists reaching for the keys, back slouched, eyes squinting at the screen… the list goes on.

The next time you sit down to work, take inventory of your body: Are you sitting with good posture? Are your legs crossed or flat on the ground? Are your eyes strained?

These are just a few simple questions, but they can help you reset. You can also actively stretch before sitting down, do a mid-task walk, stand every thirty minutes/hour, or even invest in a movable desk where you can arrange the height to stand or sit. The key thing is recognizing what your body needs and making sure that you’re not creating more stress by ignoring your warning signs.

3.  You’re Overwhelming Yourself With Long-Terms Instead of Short-Terms

One of the biggest stressors is looking at long-term to-dos instead of what is happening right in front of you. And again, I share this from experience. It’s easy, especially when you’re a career-driven person, to think about all of the things you want or need to accomplish. But if you’re not careful, you’ll obsess over these things… which actually prevents you from moving forward.

If you find yourself feeling ‘stuck’ or so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start, it may be because you’re stressing yourself out over the future instead of focusing on the present. And unfortunately, your workspace has become a constant reminder of that.

Try to shift your focus by creating more intentional and short-term task lists. Sure, you may have a giant project coming up but you don’t have to write every single step on that daily to-do. Perhaps you can break the tasks into smaller pieces and tackle three steps at a time.

By focusing on the smaller chunks, you’ll actually feel more energized by the rate you’re able to finish them, and this will push you forward.

4.  You’re Feeling the Pressure to ‘Keep up’ or Compare

The comparison trap. We’re all guilty of this. But maybe your workspace gives you anxiety because you’re constantly feeling this self-imposed pressure to prove.

As hard as it is, try to focus less on what you think you ‘should’ be doing and more on what feels right for you. There will always be someone who appears to have it more together or looks further along than you in their career.

But the thing you have to keep in mind is that you are not that person. And that’s okay.

Stop thinking that you have to do or be a certain way in order to be successful. Success, really, is individually defined. Let your workspace be something that motivates you to be you and follow your unique path.  

5.  You Haven’t Truly Designated a ‘You’ Space

Sometimes it’s hard to separate work from play. And as more and more people shift to remote positions or working from home, finding those ‘you’ spaces becomes even more of a challenge.

One of the reasons your workspace gives you anxiety may be because you don’t truly have a space to call your own. Perhaps you share an office space with a loved one or roommate. Maybe your workspace doubles as a garage or laundry room (yup, that’s me), or maybe you have kids and you’re constantly interrupted during work so your ‘office’ doesn’t truly feel like a place of work.

Whatever your experience, first understand that you’re human and it’s okay that your work-from-home situation (or even your desk in your office building) doesn’t always feel as ‘professional’ or ‘legitimate’ as it should. That doesn’t mean you can’t get work done.

But… it’s important to create a space where you feel empowered and confident, or a space where you can truly pull away and be alone.

While I’m not advocating for completely redoing the interior of your house or kicking your kids outside when you need to buckle down and get something done (ha!), what I am suggesting is that you take time to figure out places and times where you feel the most aligned. For me, that was working early morning hours or hanging a sign on my ‘office’ door when I’m on a call or podcast. While I’m never *alone* during my workday, I can still create spaces that are mine (and that has helped tremendously).

Remember: it’s important to have a balance and even if it’s hard, strive to create those healthy boundaries. You (and everyone else in your life) will benefit.