How to Manage Your Anxiety at Work
Updated: Aug 12
Anxiety at work can have a dramatic impact on your performance. It can mean you miss promotions, make “silly” errors and see work as a battlefield to survive each day.
The Mental Health Report says that 1 in 6.8 employees experience mental health problems at work and women in employment are twice as likely to have problems than men.
We are currently living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, VUCA, world. Where there is uncertainty anxiety manifests. Anxiety loves to know what is happening and when. However, in business plans change, decisions are made fast and expectations are in constant need of management. So if you are feeling like you might have some work anxiety know you are not alone and it is very common in the economic environment we live in today.
To flourish at work we need to feel in control, able to manage ourselves and our work. We need healthy self-esteem and a sense of progression. When we are anxious this can all take a toll.
If you think you may be experiencing some anxiety at work here are some tips to help you manage it and start thriving:
Set a time limit on your perfectionism - If you are a perfectionist you may actually be experiencing anxiety about being rejecting or “getting it wrong” this can manifest as checking your work excessively. To overcome this, set a time limit on how much time you will allow yourself to check your work. If it’s a relatively casual email to colleague perhaps a quick once over will do. If it’s a presentation to win work then perhaps a couple of hours may be more appropriate. Give yourself a time limit and when time is up let it go and move on. No one is ever perfect and it can be exhausting trying to be! You will feel much better knowing it is done rather than late or looming over you.
Learn to say NO - Anxious individuals often are people pleasers, they can be everyone’s favourite because they take over responsibility as they don’t want to let people down. The next time someone asks for a favour on a project that’s not your responsibility face your fear of being rejected and say the magic word - no. You will begin to feel more empowered as you take back control of your time and ultimately your work life.
Believe in yourself - When people are anxious they can think of themselves as fraud’s, imposters, cowboys or whatever you call it. Have some faith that your manager saw your potential and that is why they asked you to lead on that project. That you actually got the job because you really are the best person for the role and your colleague really does appreciate your advice. If you spend as much time believing you are capable as you do doubting yourself just think how different your career might be!
Be flexible - Anxiety can make some of us a little uncompromising. It can feel as if things don’t go a certain way it will be a disaster as we believe we can only cope with a certain outcome. Next time someone in the office asks you to do something that initially gets your back up pause and think about why you want to say no or hold back. Are your fears rational or are they just anxiety of doing something unknown? Say they ask you to change the way you present and the way you have always done it has been sufficient in the past. You may experience adversity to change but try it and see. It might go well and you will learn that change (often) isn’t always a bad thing.
Become a container for yourself - If in a meeting you find your end up over talking and sharing all your agenda items and ideas you might find this great but frustrate your colleagues. It could be, despite your first thoughts, a way of alleviating your anxiety as you dominate the space. Next time you find yourself in a meeting with your colleagues and want to launch into your next great idea. Stop and ask yourself where your need to share is coming from? Is it that you truly believe your team will benefit from these ideas or is it to ease your own anxiety of not being good enough and to prove you really are capable?
Focus on “the one thing” - When we are anxious our attention can get split, we focus on many different tasks and jump from one to the other perhaps as the one we actually need to work on brings us anxiety. By identifying what we need to focus on and pouring all our focus on that not only do we improve our performance we are tackling the very thing causing us issues head-on. There is a great audiobook by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan called the one thing which encourages you to focus on you guessed it one thing!
Be Selfish - Anxious individuals often like to help others. They relate to the pain of anxiety in another and want to alleviate it. The reality is that often they are avoiding their own pain by becoming overly involved in someone’s else problems. Bring your attention back to yourself and what you need to prioritise at work that day. This doesn’t mean you don’t help anyone but fight your own battles first. You won’t then experience guilt for not completing your own projects and will actually be in a better place to support others as you are calmer.
Get organised - When we are anxious we can become forgetful, this isn’t despite what you may tell yourself, because you are incapable or stupid. It is the effect anxiety has on your brain. You are in a hyper-alert state as so your functioning is slightly impaired. Making it easy to forget things. To compensate for the fact that your brain at times may not be working at its finest, news flash no ones ever is! Create some organisation and quick plans. This might look like writing down the day before what you need to focus on the next day or coming up with strategies to streamline your processes.
If you are ready to start thriving in the office and want some extra support get in touch for some help with your anxiety today at firstname.lastname@example.org.