Note: I initially wrote this question anonymously, so that I simultaneously be honest while avoiding any potentially uncomfortable conversations if anyone I know were to stumble across it. At some point this morning the two accounts seem to have got tangled together (I reset my password, which might have done it). Is there a way of scrubbing my name off this question, or disconnecting the accounts, or something else?
I work as a software developer in a small company. I graduated from university a year ago, and have been in this role for about that time. Periodically (about once a month), I become very stressed or anxious about something at work, and I can't decide what to do about it.
The exact nature of my job changes sufficiently often that I think I can't blame the stress on any particular task. My boss is very reasonable, and has offered repeatedly to help in any way he can. I work hard, but I don't work crazy hours (not often more than 45 hours per week, and never more than 50). So I can't see anything specific about my job that causes this stress.
But I can't shake the fact that this behaviour often manifests as a reaction to something happening at work. And intuitively, I often imagine that "all my problems would go away if only this responsibility did not exist". But when I think carefully about it, I know that if I did not have a stable routine then I would probably degenerate quite rapidly, and I cannot imagine why having any different job would make me feel differently. So quitting is not obviously the right thing to do either.
How do I determine whether the stress is caused by my job, or something else particular to me?
Updates to answer questions: The stress (as in, my reaction to it) is quite severe. I eat healthily. I've tried exercise and had good experience with it. All my out-of-hours hobbies tend to be quite 'cognitive', I was a maths student and still dabble in that, and I have programming projects that I try to work on too (although I don't tend to get very far with them). Exercise is good advice, I try to run at least once a week and it definitely gives me a dopamine hit but it doesn't seem to prevent these outbreaks. I took a week off in the summer, and took some time at Christmas.
Work hours: I'm based in the UK, my standard work day is 8:30-5:30, with a 1 hour lunch break and unscheduled coffee breaks whenever we feel like it (usually a long one in the morning and a short one in the afternoon).
Holidays: There are quite a lot of bank holidays in the UK, so I have been able to enjoy some long weekends. My holidays at uni were very long, so adjusting to that certainly might be a contributing factor.
"Maybe you find the work uninspiring": This is actually a particularly sore spot; the job actually has a surprisingly close link to my academic interests, and it's a sufficiently experimental environment that I have an opportunity to try out my ideas in a real life setting. But I have made very little progress in this direction because of my anxiety relating to the work.
ADHD/Introvert: I don't know about ADHD, I definitely display introvert-type behaviours from time to time, but that was a much more accurate description of me when I was a teenager than it is now. I don't identify with as many of the descriptors of "Introvert" as I used to.
Caffeine: I really doubt it, I have been on a steady drop of two cups of coffee a day for about 9 months now. If you had said this during my degree I would probably have believed it but I don't drink an abnormal/irregular amount of coffee these days.
Regularity: I think that if I measured this it would probably turn out to be more like 3-6 weeks for really bad episodes (ones which are followed by a depressive few days rather than going away after sleep).
Stress vs. Anxiety vs. Depression: The feeling I am describing is definitely most closely described as "Anxiety brought on by frustration". I experience this relatively frequently (one of the answers describes "fidgeting, sweating, heart rate increase, breathing faster" as symptoms of a panic attack, this happens to me a few times every week at this point; I don't remember when it started). The "particularly bad" instances I'm referring to are characterised by a very depressive mood that comes on afterwards, makes me cynical and unpleasant to be around, and hangs around for a few days usually.
Update after a day: I have spoken with my boss about this issue in the past, but found it difficult to deal with the conversation because he would always ask me whether there was anything he could do to help, and I would honestly have no idea what to tell him. Similarly speaking with close friends or family makes them worry, and it's hard to articulate exactly how you feel under those circumstances.
I had a pretty bad day yesterday, which was what prompted me to post this question, but today was better. I'm quite surprised at how much traction this question has got - I certainly hope it isn't because there are many people feeling the same way (but if it is, then I guess it's good that it has been seen). I am very grateful to the people who ahve provided their comments and answers. I'll try to select the one I identify with best before the weekend.
I'm going to book an appointment to see my GP tomorrow morning, and hopefully I'll be able to see someone quickly. I think I knew really that I should have done that a while ago, but seeing all this written down and reflected on has certainly made the urgency more obvious.