8 Tips for Managing Worry in the Workplace

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 08:02

UK researchers at the University of Warwick have found that happier people are about 12% more productive. When you consider the impact of this on workplace performance, it’s easy to see the importance of maintaining an engaged, healthy and happy workplace culture.

Unfortunately, busy workplaces and high-pressure management roles can naturally lead to stress and worry, and according to renowned psychology academic and best-selling author, Dr Tim Sharp, worry is one of the more common enemies of happiness.

Of course, you can’t always eliminate stress and worry, but you can control the way you handle them.

In his book 100 Ways to Happiness – A Guide for Busy People, Tim outlines 100 bite-sized strategies for achieving happiness in all aspects of life. Here are 8 tips he suggests for overcoming worry:

Tip 1 – Set aside a ‘worry time’

Many people find it difficult to stop anxious thoughts intruding on their minds throughout the day. A useful way to deal with this is to allocate half an hour a day to deal with your worries. If a worry pops up before then, simply set it aside for your allocated ‘worry time’ and deal with it later.

Tip 2 – Ask yourself, ‘Is the problem solvable?’

Sometimes worry is useful – it can motivate the brain to find a solution to a problem. However, some problems don’t have immediate solutions. What’s the point in wasting energy worrying about a problem that can’t yet be solved? Save your energy for problems you are equipped to deal with.

Tip 3 – Be realistic

Leaders that worry a lot are also often perfectionists and don’t feel content until they find aperfect solution. Unfortunately, perfection is extremely rare. Make sure you are considering the positives in your possible solutions – don’t just consider what may go wrong, think about what may go right.

Tip 4 – Be aware of unhelpful thoughts

According to Tim, worriers often overestimate two things: firstly, they overestimate how likely it is that bad things will happen, and secondly, they overestimate how bad they will be, should they happen. Try to be more realistic and balanced in your assessment of the likely outcomes.

Tip 5 – Be your best friend

If your best friend was saying things like “I’m not experienced enough to get this job” or “I don’t have the potential to lead this team”, what would you say? If you struggle to analyse your negative thoughts objectively, imagine you are your own best friend. Challenge your own negativity and self-criticism.

Tip 6 – Keep calm

Worry can often lead to physical problems like sleep deprivation, muscle tension and concentration difficulties. Make a conscious effort to relax at various points throughout the work day – physical exercise is a great relaxation technique, as is meditation.

Tip 7 – Be mindful

Mindfulness is a popular stress-management technique that comes from very old Eastern meditation traditions. It is based on the idea that to worry, you need to be focused on the future – therefore, you should try focusing on the present moment to eliminate your worry.

Tip 8 – Don’t forget to sleep

Most people do lots of their worrying just before they fall asleep. This can lead to many a sleepless night, as the body and mind struggles to relax and rejuvenate. Try to be firm about blocking anxious thoughts at bedtime and saving them for your allocated worry time.

By making a conscious effort to put each of these suggestions into practice, you can take a proactive approach to overcoming stress, worry and anxiety in the workplace.

Of course, managing your own worry is just one strategy for maintaining a happy workplace culture. When Tim presents at AIM Toowoomba on Tuesday 6 May and AIM Brisbane on Wednesday 7 May, he will discuss the science of Positive Psychology even further.


Dr Tim Sharp has three degrees in psychology and an impressive record as an academic, clinician, coach and best-selling author.  He runs one of Sydney’s most respected clinical psychology practices, a highly regarded executive coaching practice and is the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute, Australia’s largest organisation devoted solely to enhancing happiness.