Updated: Sep 4
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Most people get butterflies in their stomach when they know there’s an upcoming interview for a much-wanted (or needed) job. What kind of questions will they ask? What should I wear? How am I going to explain that time I got fired? What if I haven’t worked in 5 years because I’ve been raising children? What if the person interviewing me doesn’t like me? There’s a lot of normal anxiety that we all feel when we go into an interview. Usually, that melts away once we make it through the interview, and get the job.
But for some of us, the interview is the least of our problems. The interview, in fact, is the easy part. In an interview, you present your best self. You don’t really have to prove anything, yet. You can show your resume, speak in a way that makes yourself sound professional, calm, cool, and collected. You can wear an outfit that shows you understand how to dress in the workplace. In a sense, the interview process is an acting job of sorts. If you’re a good actor or actress, you’ll probably do a wonderful job during the interview process.
Sometimes, though, the fear comes when we go into work that first day. And the day after. In fact, every single day that you go into work, the butterflies increase, and you keep feeling worse and worse. You’re scared to ask questions, of appearing stupid. You keep making mistakes because you don’t have the courage to ask for help.You drink after work because you’re so anxious, that you don’t know how to calm down after all the mistakes you’ve made. Then, you feel worse the next day and keep making more mistakes. You feel awful, fearful, and depressed, which only increases your anxiety. Then, you dread work even more. You feel like a failure.
Or maybe you struggle with a different type of work anxiety. You excel at your job and you don’t worry about asking questions or appearing unknowledgeable. But you take on too much work, and you have trouble saying no. You manage every problem that comes along, but you also manage the problems that you shouldn’t have to manage. You take on other people’s responsibilities because you worry that they won’t do it right, and you might be somewhat of a control freak. Every day, you leave, and you feel sick to your stomach. And then you get up, and do the same thing all over again the next day, because you don’t know a better way.
In both situations, work anxiety is the problem, and it’s very common. We all want to do well at our jobs, and we all want others to respect us and admire our performance. But many of us bring in emotional and mental problems that affect our performance, our ability to handle stress, and our ability to enjoy our jobs without losing our minds. So how do we handle work anxiety? Here’s what to remember when you’re dealing with work anxiety.
1. Asking Questions Actually Decreases Anxiety. You might worry about asking questions because you don’t want to look stupid. Many people who suffer from emotional problems struggle with asking for help, and this problem transfers into their line of work. It tends to get them into a lot of trouble, because if you don’t ask questions, then it takes more time to figure out how to do something, and it will only increase your anxiety. Plus, you will probably make mistakes, because there’s no possible way to know how to do everything if you don’t understand what you’re doing in the first place. So, the first thing to remember in any job is that you should ask as many questions as possible that first week or so. Don’t ask questions just to make yourself appear smart; ask questions that you really need to know the answers to. Let people show you how to do what you don’t understand. This is the only way you can learn. Nobody expects you to understand how to do everything the first week of the job. The only way to learn is to ask, and when you learn by asking, your anxiety will decrease, because you will understand what to do and how to do it.
2. Stop Taking on Everyone Else’s Work. Are you getting paid to do your coworker’s work? Of course not, but you keep doing it because they are terrible at their job and you need the work to be done well in order to make your job easier. If your boss keeps asking you to do work that is outside of your job description, or work that can’t possibly be fulfilled within the expected time limit, you have a right to say no. Many times, those who are in a “superior” position ask someone in an “inferior” position to do busy work that they themselves just don’t want to deal with. If this is the case, you have a right to not only say no, but to talk to your boss if it continues to become an issue. Do the best job, and do what is expected of you. But don’t take on work that isn’t expected of you, and don’t do anything that makes you angry, resentful, and stressed out.
3.Take a Break When You Feel the Stress Overwhelming You. If you haven’t eaten yet because you’re too stressed out to even think about food, just stop. Most jobs allow two ten-minute breaks and a lunch. Many jobs are flexible, and nobody is going to care if you go to the bathroom. If you feel like you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown, go take a break. Go outside, get some food in your stomach even if it tastes horrible, and think about something other than work. Do a quick 5-minute meditation. There’re tons of apps that offer wonderful quick meditations that relieve work anxiety. You will feel much better, and will be able to think clearly once you go back to your desk.
4. If You’re Typically a Calm Person, Then Maybe You Just Hate Your Job. If you don’t usually get stressed at work, and you usually don’t let things get to you on a regular basis, but you find yourself getting random panic attacks every time you pull into the office, then there might be a problem. You might just hate your job. Your work anxiety may have nothing to do with any sort of mental issue or emotional concern, and may have everything to do with just hating your job. That’s ok, it’s just a job. There’s a lot of other opportunities out there, and there’s no reason to stay at a job simply because you have one. Sometimes people are afraid to leave because it’s a job that pays well, or their parents expected them to take on a certain type of career path. None of those are good enough reasons to stay in a job that you absolutely despise. It’s your life, after all, and there’s plenty of other positions out there that will make you happy, and won’t leave you feeling nauseous and angry at the end of the day.
Work Anxiety Isn’t Worth It
Work anxiety has many different causes and roots, but there are plenty of ways to overcome your fear of work and start enjoying life again. Work should not be the sole focus of your life, and if you absolutely dread Sunday evening, then you need to start evaluating what you can change, today, to feel calmer and more relaxed about the work week ahead of you. If you struggle with deeper concerns, such as a fear of asking for help, or if you have random panic attacks in the bathroom, then there might be deeper issues at play. Speaking to a counselor can be tremendously helpful in allowing you to figure out why work stresses you out so much, and what can be fixed so you no longer feel so much anxiety about walking in those double doors every day.
Do you struggle with work anxiety? Are you someone who has trouble asking for help, or do you take on too much work that isn’t your responsibility? Or are you someone who suffers from panic attacks at work? If so, please contact Straight Talk Clinic at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkclinic.org. One of our dedicated counselors would be happy to speak with you.