Having anxiety at work can be a big problem. It can impact your work performance and your overall wellbeing – your sleep, your mood, even your self-esteem. Learn how to recognize and address the problem.
Anxiety at work can happen for a variety of reasons. It’s important to understand what’s causing it. There are a few possibilities. For example, is it performance anxiety that only comes up around presentations? Or, is it pervasive anxiety that preceded your having this job? Or does the anxiety only come up in social settings at work?
For each of these scenarios, different solutions make sense.
Social Anxiety at Work
You may find that anxiety heightens around work deadlines or in specific interpersonal situations. If anxiety tends to come up around conversations with your boss or with specific co-workers, it may be social anxiety. Social anxiety can make even mundane “watercooler” conversations at work feel like nails-on-a-chalkboard because of fear that others (i.e. colleagues, boss) are negatively evaluating you.
Tips for Managing Social Anxiety
- Clarify expectations at work with your boss and colleagues. Often, we do a lot of guesswork about what’s expected of us and often, we’re wrong. Avoid mind-reading, guessing, and speculating. Just ask!
- Shift attention away from your inner thoughts to the outer conversations with your coworkers. Social anxiety tends to get worse when we focus more on our internal states and worries. It gets better when we shift focus to external conversations and our environment.
- Avoid avoidance. Social anxiety can make it tempting to avoid happy hours, optional meetings, and can even impact attendance and performance at mandatory meetings. Challenge yourself to attend all social gatherings, be punctual, be mindful and present-focused, and be actively involved in social interactions.
- Practice mindfulness. When you notice your thoughts drifting away from the conversation at hand, gently bring your attention back to the present conversation.
Performance Anxiety at Work
People with performance anxiety will tend to have more trouble around presentations or meetings/calls they need to lead. If you fear clamming up, losing your voice, or completely botching your responsibilities, it might be performance anxiety. Performance anxiety at work can lead you to fear performance reviews (more than the average person does). It can lead to a feeling of paralysis and make it more difficult to get started on or to focus on tasks.
Tips for Managing Performance Anxiety at Work
- Prepare for that meeting or call. Make a list of topics or an agenda and share it with your fellow team members. This will help you feel ready and will get others focused on the written materials during the call (more than on you).
- If you’re doing a presentation, rehearse! Rehearse your slides, what you’ll say, where you’ll pause, how you’d like to stand or position yourself, when to ask for questions, etc. Make notes for yourself help make the task more manageable and less overwhelming.
- Practice confidence. For many people, confidence doesn’t come easily. Often, people fear having a shaky voice or going blank or losing their train of thought. Confidence can be learned with practice by (for example) standing/sitting straight, making eye contact, and speaking loudly and clearly. These nonverbal behaviors will help you build and convey your confidence during stressful meetings.
- Reward yourself. Making presentations, sitting through performance evaluations, and leading meetings isn’t easy! A reward for yourself is something to look forward to after it’s all over.
Longstanding, Pervasive Anxiety
If your anxiety was there before this job and affects you outside of work, it may not have much to do with your job. Consider doing a consultation with a mental healthcare professional. He or she will be able to tell you which treatment options are available for you.
In general, doing things that make us feel uncomfortable gradually reduces the discomfort. In the case of performance and social anxiety, we hope these tips help you challenge your discomfort and overcome workplace anxiety.
Have a productive day!
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