How to Shrink Your Anxiety at Work Are you a young adult professional who wants to reduce your anxiety at work? You’ve been in your job for six months now, but you still feel inadequate. Your heart begins to beat faster and your palms sweat on your gripped steering wheel as you enter the company […]
How to Shrink Your Anxiety at Work
Are you a young adult professional who wants to reduce your anxiety at work? You’ve been in your job for six months now, but you still feel inadequate. Your heart begins to beat faster and your palms sweat on your gripped steering wheel as you enter the company parking spot. Ugh, you hate this feeling.
Your mind races even faster than your pulse. Your thoughts include:
- I am a fraud. It’s only a matter of time before I’m exposed to everyone at work.
- Everyone is better at their job than I am
- Sue dresses so professionally and I look shabby every stinkin’ day.
- I’m not going to meet my project deadline yet again.
- My boss gives lip service that he likes my work, but I know better. He’s really thinking how he can move me to another department and still save face.
Do any of these anxious thoughts or feelings sound familiar? You are not alone.
Lots of us struggle with anxiety and yet we try to fake it so that no one suspects. Your job is on the line for goodness sake. So what are some of the signs that you are experiencing anxiety at work?
10 Signs You Are Experiencing Anxiety and Stress at Work
- Rapid thoughts that focus on the content of your problem
- Quicker Pulse
- Focused on insecurities
- You think that everyone is watching or thinking negative things about you
- Pervasive nervousness
- An unsettling feeling in your gut
- The urge to do something but being overwhelmed with what that “thing to do” is suppose to be
- Inability to concentrate and focus
- Feeling like what you do is never enough
- Feeling out of control
Why is Your Anxiety Not Shrinking at Work?
Each person’s story and situation is different, but here are some of the common reasons why anxiety can strike at work when we least expect it.
1. High Expectations Create Anxiety
There is a standard out there at work that you think you should meet and you feel far from it. You think these expectations are unattainable. You try and try to reach them. The more you think you have missed the mark, the more anxious you become. Even if and when you do meet the expectations, you question whether you really have met it, or the expectation seems to have escalated higher and you are back at square one.
2. Feeling Out of Control Fosters Anxiety
Being in control of situations gives us a sense of accomplishment. Control can be a good thing at work as you want to show your boss and your co-workers that you are a competent employee. But what happens is that instead of being self-controlled, we try to control things at work that are beyond our control. For example, the copier jams through no fault of your own. You promised these copies to your boss in less than 5 minutes. No one is around to help you. Ahhhh! Controlling the copier is not working. It’s controlling you and spiking your anxiety.
3. Maintaining Our Image Fuels Our Anxiety
We all want to make a good impression at work. You are certainly not alone in that. Many times we try to manage what others think about us, including our supervisors and co-workers. What if we let our boss down by not meeting a deadline? She won’t just be disappointed. She’ll be pissed at me! Will I look needy and desperate if I ask my co-workers if I can tag along to happy hour this week? Shame enters quicker than we can say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”
There are lots of reasons anxiety rises in our souls at work, but these are just a few. What else causes you or your co-workers on-the-job anxiety?
Solutions to Shrink Your Anxiety at Work
1. Doubt your high expectations
We can never get rid of expectations of others, or expectations others have of us. You would be fired if you completely disregarded the expectations your supervisor has of you. But how about examining the unrealistic expectations that we may deem as realistic. For instance:
- I can never screw up on front of my boss.
- If I do screw up, it’s the end of my career.
- I must be viewed as competent all of the time.
- I have to be funny and witty with my co-workers so they invite me to happy hour.
- If my co-workers are not asking me questions at lunch, then they probably think I’m an idiot.
How could you be kinder to yourself and create expectations that are more realistic with being human and not superwoman? Let me take a stab at doubting the high expectations above and lowering the bar, which can lower our anxiety.
- Is it realistic that I’ll NEVER screw up in front of my boss? That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself to be perfect. He’s certainly not perfect with me. I need to give myself some grace!
- How many of my co-workers have been fired because they screwed up for a minor mess-up? None. If I get fired from my job for one minor mess-up, is that the kind of company that I really want to work for anyway? If I do screw up, I have the power to think about how I can make it right. Yep, let’s focus on that!
- I’m exhausted thinking about how I have to always be viewed as competent 100% of the time. That leaves me zero room for error. What if I strived for 80% competency and gave myself a 20% screw-up buffer? Would I like to be around a co-worker who was 100% competent? No way! It would put pressure on me to be the same way.
- I would like to be seen as funny with my co-workers, but there are other sides of me that I’d like them to see too. If I’m always funny, will they see me as someone who won’t take their struggles seriously when they share them with me? I don’t expect my co-workers to be always cracking jokes.
- Sure I’d love to be asked more questions at work, but is it true that my co-workers think I’m an idiot because they are not pursuing me with questions? Maybe I’m so quiet at lunch that they think I don’t want to share anything. I probably would not feel as anxious if I initiated a story about this past week or what I’m doing this weekend.
2. Focus on when you have been less anxious and how you accomplished it
Your anxiety at work might be overwhelming and you think you cannot remember a time over the last six months when you have not been anxious. I’ve heard it said by a therapist Elliott Connie, that we cannot be imperfect 100% of the time. It’s impossible to be a complete screw up at every moment.
If one of your co-workers were observing you:
- When would they notice that your anxiety was less?
- What would they see, hear, observe?
- What else?
- List those things and think about how you can do them next week at work.
You’ve done those things once, you can do them again. I’m a firm believer that things don’t “just happen.” There are actions that you did that gave you success. You just have to figure them out and hit “repeat.”
3. Brainstorm how your skills at work can shrink your anxiety
If you are by yourself on your next lunch break, take out your phone or tablet and brainstorm 10-20 skills you use on a regular basis at work. I.e. Determination, Problem-Solving, Competence, Asking for Feedback, etc. What if those skills played a bigger part in reducing your anxiety? Now take that list of 10-20 skills and think about how those skills could be applied to your struggle with being anxious at work.
- What would happen if you applied determination to shrinking your anxiety? What would you notice? What would your boss notice?
- If you woke up the next day and felt competent as you walked into work, what would you be doing that is different? What would your cubicle mate see that’s new?
- How can you use your skill of asking for feedback to reduce your anxiety? Maybe when you have a negative thought that your co-worker doesn’t like you because of something I just said, how about if I ask that co-worker, “I might be my imagination, but did I come across as too pushy just now?” You’re not dealing with the truth instead of your perceived negative imagination.
You have lots of skills used in other areas of your life that you can re-purpose to help shrink your anxiety.
If you’d like more help with reducing your anxiety at work and you live in Michigan, please give me a call at 248.218.1868. I have confidence that you are completely capable to shrinking your anxiety. We can work together to make it happen.