How to Overcome Your Anxiety at Work

The Challenge for my Personal Training Client:


“I experience anxiety in many professional scenarios including interactions with clients, managers and/or colleagues.”

The reactive assumption, without breaking down the problem: “I’m not educated or equipped to handle the professional demands of my position.”

The Personal Trainer Breakdown: The following cyclical process that can steer you through most anxious situations: Awareness->Acceptance->Adaptation

Awareness


I wish I had a simple solution to overcoming any form of anxiety. It often begins as situational but most commonly becomes generalizable. You probably experience a spectrum of anxiety in different areas of your professional AND personal lives and sometimes need a specific plan of action for each.

Before you choose a path, though, step one will always start with a focus on YOU. How do you think, behave, and interact with the world? Your success will depend on this awareness. Your observations will help you understand how you approach challenges and the underlying influences on your decisions and feelings. Eventually, you might be able to understand the “why” to your approach to life.

Study yourself for 2 days by recording every anxious feeling you experience in a pocket notebook (no matter the strength). Attempt to answer these questions: What are your thoughts in the moment? What were you thinking prior to the moment? Did you feel in control? Do you feel in control now? What external factors contribute to this feeling (e.g., last-minute demand, unrealistic demands, a colleague critically assessed your results and/or productivity, etc.)? What internal factors contribute to this feeling (e.g., you don’t feel that you can’t adequately meet the demands of your work, you feel insecure about your role in the company, you fear that your colleagues will unfairly scrutinize everything you do, you fear making a mistake in front of others, you don’t trust your reactive ability to effectively respond to a problem, you perceive your peers’ efforts as superior to yours, etc.). These questions not only steer the reflection process but also help identify the root of your feeling.

Acceptance


Once you become aware of the root of your anxiety or at least the feeling of it, can you accept it? Can you accept the current status of “being”? Can you accept the anxious feeling and what led to it without judging yourself? Before you move forward to the next step, you need to decide whether you can accept your current findings. You’re a human scientist, after all. If not, your emotional connection could steer you down the wrong path or at least blind you from the correct one.

By accepting the moment, your findings, your tendency, and YOU, you are deciding to take an objective path to minimize your anxiety. You’re choosing to adapt your approach in a logistical, strategic way. If you have truly honored the process up to this point, then you are ready to adapt your approach.

Adaptation


Here are specific strategies to overcome your anxiety at work. You’ll notice that many of the solutions involving examining your approach, reframing your mindset, and being assertive. With the use of self-talk consistently over time, you can develop the right mindset to handle any challenge with minimal anxiety. It will require reflection as well as confidence in the professional environment. With the proper examination of yourself and your approach, some solutions will definitely come easier than others. Your diligence and respect for yourself will help overcome the more difficult challenges.

What makes you anxious:
Your manager has unrealistic demands and expectations of you
Solution:
Be assertive and communicate your feelings
What to keep in mind:
Being assertive doesn’t equate to failure. If you sense unrealistic (or unfair) demands and expectations of you, it’s acceptable (and encouraged) to communicate this feeling with your manager. While you may fear looking weak or incapable of meeting demands, you’re only setting yourself up for greater success with this action. In fairness to your manager, she may not be aware of your workload and might be willing to subtract a task or two, or she may see strengths in you that you haven’t quite identified yet. Instead of stressing yourself to produce what could be less than your best effort, seek more understanding of the assignment and why you are chosen to complete it. Use that time to communicate your strengths and current status on projects, too. If needed, seek the manager’s advice on how to more efficiently handles a large task load. If the intention is to do your best, always know that your wisdom and productivity will only grow with the guidance of others.

What makes you anxious:
Your manager has last-minute demands daily
Solution:
Reflect on your processes and stay ahead of your day-to-day responsibilities or build-in a buffer zone
What to keep in mind:
Nothing is more frustrating than being swamped with projects….and then your management adds a last-minute task on your list. To make it worse, your manager probably needed today’s request completed yesterday. While it’s always tough to drop everything that you’re doing to complete a task you didn’t expect, you should ask yourself if it’s really a surprise. Professionals gripe daily about the fire alarm demands from their bosses but rarely realize that (1.) this is consistent and a buffer zone most likely needs to be carved into their daily schedules and (2.) their professional approach is just a set of inefficient systems and time is wasted daily. At what point, will you accept that last minute demands are part of your position and that you need to create a 30 or 60-minute period each day to handle it? Schedule it as a free period. If nothing pops up by the day's end, then use the time to complete another project. At least you’ll approach the day with the healthy mindset that something may randomly appear on your desk and you won’t be stressed by the expectation to complete it in a short frame of time.

If your schedule doesn't allow this free time, then you’ll want to examine your day-to-day approach. Ask yourself these questions: How much time do you waste reading entertainment articles, perusing social media accounts, or indulging in mindless activities? Do you have a specific strategy to handle urgent and non-urgent emails? Do you strategically plan your day and week with looming projects in mind? Do you effectively and efficiently communicate with colleagues and participate in group meetings? Do you inefficiently waste time on tasks that can be automated or left to a colleague with greater expertise? Do you spend more time than necessary on a decision? Looking at your approach with a fine-tooth comb could identify some areas that are essentially stealing time away from you. The time to complete this last-minute demand from your boss could be sitting in front of you.

What makes you anxious:
You’ve built efficient systems and a buffer zone, but your manager’s last-minute demands are still overwhelming
Solution:
Be assertive and communicate a realistic turn-around time or help your manager reassign the task
What to keep in mind:
While the world may demand the most out of you, it doesn’t mean you need to accept the responsibility. Unfortunately, many professionals will continue to ask for more of YOU until you draw the line. If you truly understand what you can effectively and efficiently manage within a timeframe, then you will know when 1 additional task is 1 task too many. Everybody has a cutoff line (a boundary line), and you should absolutely communicate this to your colleagues and managers (and you shouldn’t lose your job as a result). You don’t need to say, no, though (in case you’re worried). Instead, tell them your real timeline (4 days instead of 1 day) and/or help them reassign the task to someone else. Ultimately, if you have a hardworking and productive reputation, they should respect your response. If there’s a negative response, you may want to recognize their frustration and put them at ease that you’ll do your best to accommodate, but it must be within a realistic time frame (your time frame).

What makes you anxious:
You feel that your experience and/or age makes you inferior
Solution:
Recognize the skillsets and experience that make you unique and learn from your colleagues
What to keep in mind:
No matter your age everyone brings a unique set of skills and experience that integrally contribute to the culture and success of a company. What a young colleague lacks in experience might be made up in his or her fresh creative ideas (especially when relating to another generation). What an old colleague lacks in fresh perspective might be made up in her or his experience handling conflict in the workplace. You wouldn’t want 100 people with the same skill set and experience within a company you own, and your employer most likely doesn’t either. Honor the differences between you and your colleagues. You don’t need to be a product of every generation or have decades of experience to productively participate. Feel enlightened when YOU recognize your weaknesses, shortfalls, or failures. You now have the opportunity to gain wisdom from other trained professionals in the same room. Take advantage of this paid education and accept where you stand at a given point. Make a list of 3-5 ways you can contribute to each project while also identifying 3-5 ways you can learn from your counterparts.

What makes you anxious:
A colleague (or manager) critically assessed your results and/or productivity
Solution:
Understand the reasons for your emotional response and seek understanding
What to keep in mind:
Any criticism can be difficult to accept if you have an emotional investment in what you’re doing or believe. Any insecurities about your value and experience will certainly add fuel to this fire. Your reaction may be anxiousness, anger, or disbelief. No matter your response, though, you should always seek understanding. Perhaps, the message wasn’t communicated properly or effectively or you misheard it. Give the person the opportunity to explain him or herself….seek understanding. If there’s an absolute truth in the criticism, think about your insecurities. Do you have unfair expectations of yourself? Is your self-assessment skewed? Do you accept that you’re not perfect? Are you willing to work on improving these areas? Are you willing to ask for help? If you wholeheartedly disagree with the criticism, seek understanding and explain in related terms the reasons why. Communicate the goal: To be your best and to contribute effectively. Even in disagreement both of you might find a way to at least be on the same productive page.

Photo Credit:
The Content Wolf .com–Do you have anxiety at work? You may need to rethink your approach….literally.

Article Credit:
Author: Michael Moody Fitness
How to Overcome Your Anxiety at Work
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