Jobs do more than pay the bills. Meaningful work can fulfill your passions, provide a sense of purpose, and help you connect with new people.
Exploring fields of interest as you narrow down your dream career can be exciting, but it can feel overwhelming, too — especially if you live with an anxiety condition.
Anxiety can complicate the search for a career that meets all of your needs. You might hope to find work that balances your abilities and interests with your anxiety symptoms, and you probably also want to be sure your job won’t add even more stress to your life.
We’ve got good news: There are plenty of great job options if you have anxiety. Our guide below offers 12 suggestions to explore.
Choosing a career involves finding work you enjoy, but it’s also important to consider what type of work realistically fits into your life circumstances.
If you have specific income requirements, you’ll want to make sure any jobs you consider offer a salary range that clears that amount.
Maybe salary matters less than other important benefits, like flexible scheduling, opportunities for growth, good healthcare, or deeply rewarding work.
Keep work-life balance in mind, too. Many people find jobs that offer plenty of time off more appealing than jobs with high salaries.
If you need a solid distinction between work and personal time for optimal well-being, you’ll probably want to avoid jobs with no set schedule, or jobs that require you to bring work home or stay on call when you’re off the clock.
It’s also important to consider any academic requirements or specialized training you need to complete. Are you willing (and able) to go back to school? If further education is a possibility, can you support yourself while you earn a degree?
Is remote work the answer?
Choosing a career where you can work remotely (by choice, not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic) might seem like a great way to avoid unnecessary job stress.
It’s certainly true that working from home can help you avoid some common sources of anxiety, like unexpected co-worker interactions, a distracting environment, or lack of personal space.
If you feel safe and relaxed at home, this sense of comfort and peace can easily boost productivity and job satisfaction.
Still, every job presents different challenges, and working from home won’t automatically erase every anxiety trigger. Some types of remote work may even add new sources of stress. (Two words: Zoom anxiety.)
Chronic anxiety can have a far-reaching impact on daily life. Research from 2020 found that many people living with anxiety report difficulties with:
- waking up in the morning
- getting dressed
- planning and preparing meals
- managing responsibilities
- concentrating on work tasks
- disruptions in work-life balance
- longer workdays, heavier workloads, and fewer breaks
- less support and communication from supervisors and co-workers
- increased isolation and loneliness
- problems with technology
There’s no doubt pandemic stress plays a part in these concerns, but the drawbacks of telecommuting were evident well before the pandemic began.
Some days, you might find it difficult to work anywhere. So working remotely might not improve your ability to stay on task and manage your workload.
You might even find it easier to let work slide at home, since no one’s checking up on you. Falling behind can, in turn, intensify anxiety.
Play to your strengths
Anxiety isn’t all bad. In fact, some 2017 research suggested it’s possible to use anxiety to your advantage by turning it into motivation — as long as you recognize where it comes from.
Beneficial traits sometimes associated with anxiety include:
attention to detail
- strong intuition
- problem-solving skills
- a love for routine
- affective empathy
- a knack for analyzing your thoughts and feelings
Focusing on the things you do well, instead of the challenges anxiety creates, can help you find a job that’s suited to your personality and abilities.
Choosing a job where you can thrive often depends on the type of anxiety you experience.
Some people with social anxiety enjoy working with animals. But if you have a phobia of certain animals or germs, or if loud or constant noise tends to worsen your anxiety, another field might be more ideal.
Similarly, some people do well in fast-paced jobs that leave little time for ruminating on anxious thoughts. But if you find the lack of downtime overwhelming, you might become more anxious about your ability to manage your responsibilities. A calm job in a quiet environment might provide a better atmosphere.
Once you land an interview, you can prepare to wow them with our Anxious Person’s Guide to Interviewing for a Job.
- Requirements: high school diploma or GED and a veterinary technician certification
Do you love animals (all of them, not just the cute and cuddly ones)? Have a gift for earning their trust and keeping them calm?
As a vet tech, you’ll embrace your creature compassion to soothe pets during exams, give injections, and monitor patients receiving treatment.
Stocker or receiving associate
- Requirements: none, entry level
If you don’t mind retail work but prefer to avoid interacting with customers, you might find working behind the scenes more ideal.
As a stocker, you help unload new merchandise (including heavy items), tag and organize stock, and place merchandise on the sales floor. Often, this work takes place outside store hours, so it might work well for night owls (and early birds).
- Requirements: master’s degree
You might find a career as an archivist rewarding if you have a passion for history, old records, and research. Archivists spend their days reviewing and preserving historical documents, including photos, maps, and written manuscripts.
Lack the time or financial resources to pursue a master’s degree? You may be able to find a position as an archives technician with a bachelor’s degree in history or a related field.
- Requirements: none, entry level
If big messes don’t faze you, janitorial work might feel somewhat soothing.
You’ll have a set routine with specific tasks to complete. Plus, cleaning yields visible results, which many people enjoy. Sweeping and mopping keeps you moving, and you can generally tune into an audiobook, music, or podcast as you work.
- Requirements: bachelor’s degree
Love numbers? Have a keen eye for detail? As an accountant, you’ll use these talents to collect financial data, record and interpret financial information, and check important documents for accuracy.
Some accountants also work in tax preparation or advise companies on financial strategies, but you won’t necessarily need to spend much time interacting with the public.
Data entry clerk
- Requirements: high school diploma or GED
A career in data entry involves typing and transcribing written or recorded information, so you’ll need excellent typing and computer skills. This work can get a little tedious, but some people find it calming and even meditative.
Opportunities for freelance data entry positions exist, but you’ll probably encounter a few scam postings in your search.
Completing a certification program can boost your chances of finding a position with a company that offers a set salary and benefits.
- Requirements: varies, from high school diploma or GED to bachelor’s degree
Enjoy the methodological nature of lab work?
As a lab technician, you’ll run tests on various biological, chemical, and even technological samples. You’ll also record findings and maintain equipment. Lab techs work at hospitals, clinics, universities, research institutes, or manufacturing companies.
- Requirements: bachelor’s degree or artistic experience
If you, like many other people living with anxiety, find that art helps you manage emotional distress, why not turn that coping tactic into a career?
Graphic designers combine illustration, photo editing, and layout design skills to create company logos, website graphics, and other promotional visuals.
- Requirements: varies, usually a bachelor’s degree plus some certifications
Love the great outdoors? As a park ranger, you’ll spend your days helping protect nature while ensuring others can enjoy it, too.
Park rangers might patrol parks or campgrounds, enforce safety regulations, and maintain trails. They also offer information and guidance to visitors, so you’ll need to be comfortable with some interpersonal communication.
- Requirements: none, entry level
Looking for part-time work in a quiet environment? As a page, you’ll check books in, repair materials, prepare hold items for pickup, and shelf-read to make sure library items are in their proper place.
This job requires very little interaction with library patrons, and you’ll have a foot in the door if you want to eventually move up through the library system.
Personal trainer or fitness instructor
- Requirements: varies from certification or accreditation to bachelor’s degree
Does physical activity help calm you and ease anxious thoughts? Teaching exercise classes and helping clients pursue their own fitness goals provides the chance to share your energy with others who want to reap the benefits of exercise.
Feel more comfortable around kids? Consider teaching PE or coaching a youth sport instead.
- Requirements: high school diploma or GED
Have a green thumb? Feel calmest when you’re digging in the dirt? As a landscaper, you’ll work outdoors planting trees and flowers, weeding and watering existing plants, and maintaining building grounds and outdoor features.
What happens when you love your job, but anxiety makes it difficult to handle your regular responsibilities?
Switching careers isn’t your only option. You can also ask your employer for a reasonable accommodation.
This can feel a little frightening, since asking for accommodation involves telling them about your mental health. But many employers are more supportive than you’d imagine.
It’s helpful to talk with your therapist or another healthcare professional beforehand to get documentation that will support your request.
Let your supervisor and HR department know you’d like to schedule a meeting to request a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Explain what you’re currently experiencing and offer a specific suggestion or two that might help you with your work.
Accommodations might involve:
- a desk in a different room, or one that allows you to face the door or window
- working from home
- receiving instructions in writing instead of in person
- using noise-cancelling headphones while you work
- an emotional support animal
- removing a specific task that triggers anxiety
Your employer may then offer some suggestions of their own and work with you to find a solution that works for all parties.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing a career that supports your mental health needs. That said, it’s worth considering if you might be settling for a job you don’t really want, simply because you think it won’t make your anxiety worse.
Many factors can trigger anxiety symptoms, so your job might not have as much of an impact as you imagine. No matter what causes your anxiety, professional support from a therapist can help you learn to manage symptoms and build new coping skills — so your dream job might not necessarily be out of reach.
If severe anxiety symptoms, social anxiety, panic disorder, or phobias are holding back from the job you really want, a therapist can offer career guidance and help you explore treatment options.
Your therapist can also provide documentation when you need to request a work accommodation.
Work is an unavoidable fact of life for most people. Yet, even if you have anxiety, there’s a job that’s just right for your unique personality and talents.
Having trouble identifying your options? Connecting with a therapist or career counselor can be a good next step.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.