In the best of times, most of us experience occasional anxiety on the job; looming deadlines, personal conflicts or general feelings of overwhelm are common complaints among employees.
But right now, you may be facing several additional sources of workplace anxiety – ranging from health concerns to your employer’s financial stability.
“Fight or flight” doesn’t work in the workplace, and wringing your hands won’t help you cope effectively, either. When anxiety hits you on the job, what’s the best way to manage it?
Put your worry to work.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress – and often, those stressors are unavoidable in the workplace. Use these tips to productively channel your anxiety on the job:
Make anxiety your friend.
If you’re feeling nervous or worried, don’t try to “talk yourself out of it” or “take a few deep breaths.” Most of the time, these tactics are counterproductive. Instead of trying to calm your way out of anxiety, use it to your advantage. A moderate amount of anxiety (and the adrenaline you produce) will likely help you perform better by keeping you on your toes.
Name your fear.
Disarm your anxiety by identifying the root cause of your fear. Ask yourself: What is the absolute worst possible outcome, and how likely is that to actually happen? Facing your worries head-on and performing a detailed outcome analysis can “de-catastrophize” a situation and greatly diminish your anxiety about it.
Reframe your anxiety.
If your brain is stuck in a thought loop of “I’m nervous about…” or “I’m anxious about…” try a little verbal reverse psychology. Substitute the word “excited” for “nervous/anxious” when naming your fear aloud. Research from Harvard Business School has shown that this simple change in framing anxiety symptoms as excitement can help you focus on the potential opportunities in a situation, instead of the threats.
Get it out of your head.
Grab a notepad and pen, and write down what worries you. The process of writing is cathartic, and getting your thoughts down on paper can help you get them out of your head. Once you have your thoughts written out, you can look at them more objectively and begin to devise a plan to address them, if needed.
Distinguish productive from unproductive worry.
Fretting over things you can’t control is pointless. If you can’t do anything about a situation, shift your attention. Focus your mind and effort on the things you can control – things like performing your job to the best of your ability and washing your hands correctly. For things beyond your control, give yourself permission to lay those worries down.
Talk to your employer.
If after trying these ideas you still have specific concerns about your safety, job stress or mental health, schedule time to speak with your employer. Find out what resources they provide to promote your well-being, or explore other ways to reduce your stress and anxiety.
Find more information on work anxiety here:
- Successfully Transitioning Back to Work
- Anxiety Is a Beast
- Subscribe to our Innovations newsletter.
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