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Silent Anxiety Attacks At Work

Silent Anxiety Attacks At Work

Haley Ostrow, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and she provides therapy to individuals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Haley specializes in working with women who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. You can visit her website: and follow her on Instagram @your.anxious.therapist and TikTok @youranxioustherapist for more!


When you think of a panic attack or an anxiety attack, you might immediately think of noticeable signs like shaking or trembling, pacing back and forth, or hyperventilating. But what about the signs that aren’t so noticeable? The ones where you feel a deep pit in your stomach, your heart races, your breathing becomes shallow, you feel a tightness in your chest, or you excessively
worry. Silent anxiety attacks can look just like this. They can come about in certain environments like school, work, grocery stores, or social gatherings. You could be sitting right next to someone that’s having a panic attack without ever knowing. When someone struggles with anxiety, they might try to keep it hidden from others. They do this because they feel deep shame and embarrassment or the fear of being judged by others.

Have you ever wondered what a silent anxiety attack looks like when you’re at work? I’ll be sharing some examples of what this could look like along with a few tips on how to manage this in the work setting!

  • Your breathing can become more shallow and you can start fidgeting with your hands or your pen (if you’re holding one). This can be brought on by going to a meeting, attempting to make deadlines at work, or talking with your boss.
  • Your leg can start shaking underneath your desk. You might not even be aware that you’re doing this.
  • You start experiencing catastrophic thoughts. These thoughts usually start with “what if”. What if I don’t meet this deadline? What if I do terribly during the presentation today? What if my coworkers secretly don’t like me? What if my boss doesn’t think I’m doing a good job and fires me?

These thoughts can create so much anxiety at work. So here are a few tips on how to manage your anxiety attacks at work:

  • Have something to fidget with at your desk. Fidget objects can be incredibly calming and when they’re easily accessible at your desk, it’s super easy to pick it up and use it whenever you start to feel anxiety coming on. Notice the texture of the object, the color, etc to help bring you back to the present moment.
  • Allow yourself to take breaks if needed- even if it’s just a quick bathroom break. You can splash some cold water on your face or use a damp cloth to pat on your face which can help regulate your body temperature.
  • Take a few deep breaths that start from your belly. These can be done easily at your desk or any moment you notice you’re starting to feel anxious. What helps with this is placing one hand on your belly and notice that when you inhale your belly expands and when you exhale your belly goes inward.
  • Notice your thoughts without engaging with them. Work on identifying and catching the catastrophic thinking patterns before you become too absorbed in them. What evidence do you have that your boss is going to fire you? Or that your co-workers dislike you? Try not to automatically believe every thought that comes your way.

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