Anxiety: How to cope with email anxiety at work

The sheer volume of emails in your inbox can be overwhelming, leading to anxiety, low productivity and burnout.

A joke that became quite popular when people moved their offices online is how most things discussed in a work meeting could have been sent via email.

Instead of pasting a smile on your face and pretending to care about what Steve from accounting has to say, the idea of having this information disseminated electronically sounds appealing. Until you have to do actually open it, read it and act on it.

Work emails can be overwhelming, but there are some ways to overcome the anxiety that they often come with.

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Hope this email finds you anxious

Most people have their day-to-day tasks set out for them which usually does not include replying to emails. It makes it feel like a chore you would rather push to later, like you do the dishes in the sink. But as chores go, they just pile on, and the more there are, the more difficult and overwhelming it is to get through them. Psychologist Kia-Rai M. Prewitt, PhD explains why email anxiety is a thing.

It could be related to feeling overwhelmed because your emails are piling up. It could be related to procrastination — for instance, if there’s something negative that you’re anticipating, or you’re afraid or worried about how to respond or address an issue in an email.

Anxiety can also stem from waiting to hear back on an email you sent out.

How to cope

Whatever the cause of your anxiety might be, these suggestions, according to Cleveland Clinic could help you ease into the task of responding to or sending emails.

  • Set realistic timelines for responding to emails
  • Keep your emails short and straight to the point
  • Set boundaries on how often you check and answer emails
  • Let your contacts know of your unavailability
  • Don’t be in a rush to respond to emails that frustrate you
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Finally, ask for clarification if you are not sure what someone is trying to communicate. According to Dr. Prewitt:

It’s perfectly okay to respond and say, ‘I want to make sure that I understand what you’re asking me,’ or ‘I want to make sure that I’m replying appropriately. Is this what you’re asking?’

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