Work can sometimes be stressful. This work stress, piled on top of other daily stressors, can sometimes become overwhelming. Even when we think our whole lives are under control, the stress can get too big to handle. That is when panic starts to set in. Panic is the brain’s fight-or-flight response to overwhelming stimuli.

It’s a primal part of the brain, used to help us know when something life-threatening is happening. Unfortunately, panic doesn’t discriminate between real and imagined danger. Work can be one of the worst places to experience a panic response. Often, when you’re in the office, there is an understanding that you’re to leave your outside life at the door. This can’t always happen, which is rarely true for many people.

Panic can happen to both employees and leaders. It can be a physical response to stimuli or an emotional response to a problem that arises. Panic manifests itself in different ways, and it’s essential to understand where it stems from so that it can be best combated. Why do people panic, and what can someone do to prevent it?


“There is no panic you can’t allay, no problem you can’t solve.” – Lauren Weisberger

 5 REASONS WHY PEOPLE PANIC AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

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1. FEAR OF FAILURE

Nobody likes failure, especially in a work environment. Doing well at work means you get to keep your job. Doing poorly can mean losing it. Losing your job can mean losing your livelihood and your lifestyle. It’s an incredibly valid fear that, once ignited, can cause workers to panic. Instead of focusing on how something can fail or go wrong, focus on the positive outcomes. Be confident in your abilities. You didn’t get to your position by happenstance! Remind yourself of all the things you’re capable of.

2. OVERWHELMING WORK

Sometimes, the workplace hands us more than we can handle. When you have three deadlines to meet, and you’ve just been handed three more, the workload can be more than you can handle. This doesn’t reflect poorly on you. People work at different paces, and sometimes the people delegating the work don’t understand how much things take to get done. When stress becomes overwhelming, it can cause a panic response. An easy way to alleviate the panic of overwhelming work is to communicate with your leadership team, and see if deadlines can be extended or work can be delegated.

3. OUTSIDE STRESS

Bringing your problems with you to the office can’t always be avoided. When stress at home hits hard, leaving that at the door when you go to work can be challenging. If there is overwhelming stress at home, it will carry over into the stressors at work, which can result in panic. Finding someone to talk to can help ensure your outside or internal stress isn’t brought into the workplace to make your job harder. A friend, family member, or therapist can help manage your personal and professional stress.

4. FINANCIAL DECLINE

Leadership can experience panic, too. An unexpected financial decline can cause immediate panic mode. When leadership panics, it can manifest much differently than when someone is not in a leadership position. After all, there’s much more at stake for someone in a leadership role. When a company experiences a financial decline, it can put more stress and expectation on leaders and managers. To prevent panic responses, finding the cause of the issue can make the next steps that should be taken crystal clear.

5. ASSOCIATING CERTAIN ACTIONS WITH BAD OUTCOMES

This can happen in our day-to-day lives, and it can also happen in our work environments as well. If a new process was implemented and caused an unfavorable outcome, it can be easy to associate that process with the bad outcome rather than the actions that led to the wrong outcome in the first place. Perhaps the process wasn’t properly implemented, or there weren’t enough steps taken to make it a success. Figure out the issue, and work to fix it rather than assume what the problem is.

take care of yourself

4 WAYS TO PREVENT AND DEAL WITH PANIC RESPONSES

Now that you know what causes panic on the job, let’s review some strategies to manage the response.

1. LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE

Whether in a leadership role or an employee overwhelmed with work, taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture can help minimize a panic response. Whether the reason is a fear of failure or a decline in numbers, taking a moment to pause and consider the whole situation can help make your next course of action logical rather than made in a panicked state.

2. EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY

If you are experiencing the physical symptoms of a panic attack – tight chest, dizziness, trouble breathing, racing heart – there are things you can do to alleviate the feeling. First, know that it will pass and that you won’t die. Even though it may feel life-threatening, panic attacks last only a few minutes before they end. Find a quiet place where you can focus on breathing and getting yourself to calm down.

3. BE A GOOD LEADER

If you are a leader and one of your employees is experiencing the beginnings of panic symptoms, or you suspect they may be on the verge of a panic response, allow them to go somewhere to calm themselves down. Panic attacks can often be alleviated by simply removing the person from the situation causing the panic. Be understanding and sympathetic. Panic responses are involuntary.

4. FIND THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE ISSUE

When panic rears its ugly head, it can be tempting to deal with the symptoms and move on. The best way to prevent panic is to find and deal with the cause directly. This is true for internal stress and work situations that can cause a company to panic, such as dropping numbers or losing clients. Once you can identify the reason, it will be easier to rectify, so your brain will no longer panic when an unforeseeable circumstance happens.

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FINAL THOUGHTS ON AVOIDING A PANIC ATTACK AT WORK

Panic in the workplace can be prevented for both leaders and employees. Recognizing the signs and reasons why panic happens in the first place is a significant step in the right direction to minimizing the panic that all employees feel. Minimizing a panic response helps both the company and the employees by helping the company run more logically and efficiently without rash decisions made in panic and giving workers a more stress-free environment.