Facing Your Fears Calms Workplace Anxiety

Stressed business womanWork-related anxiety is something of an epidemic these days and with women being 60% more likely than men to develop some kind of anxiety disorder, according to psychotherapy experts, we are also more vulnerable to this particular spectrum of anxieties. Although it’s perfectly normal to be anxious about particular work situations, letting the anxiety get out of control is when things become problematic. Workplace anxiety can have a devastating effect on your productivity, it can threaten your career and, what’s much worse, it can threaten your mental health, says psychotherapist Jonathan Berent. He has identified five main causes of workplace anxiety. These are fear of speaking in public, fear of interactions with figures of authority, fear of taking on new challenges, fear of being seen to be nervous and perfectionism. Notice the common word? That’s right, it’s all about fear.

Facing your fears is the first and most important step toward overcoming them, and that’s equally true for the fears that plague us at work. To be able to do that, says Berent, you first need to take care of your physical health. Things like getting enough sleep and fresh air, keeping in good shape and eating right are essential for our mental balance. Then, you need to become aware of how your body reacts to stressful situations and accept these reactions as normal because that’s what they are. Sweaty, warm palms, increased heart rate, these are all normal responses of the body, manifestations of the fight-or-flight instinct. Realizing that what’s happening to you physically is normal would help you manage this reaction — breathe deeply to calm down. Another tactic is to dare your fear and see what happens. For instance, if you’re afraid of speaking up during a meeting, force yourself to do it, ask a question or make a remark and see if it really is as scary as you thought. Chances are that your question or remark will not be met with hostility, which should greatly reduce the anxiety such a situation usually causes.

There are many tactics and relaxation techniques you could use in your fight with workplace anxiety. Among them are supporting yourself in the way you would a friend. Simply imagine what words you would use to help someone else beat anxiety: tell yourself you don’t have to be perfect, reassure yourself that the task you’re afraid of is not something completely new for you and that last time you completed it successfully. Criticize yourself but in a constructive way, don’t just self-flagellate. Making sure you’re prepared for the presentation that you dread (fear of speaking in public is the most common form of workplace anxiety), rehearsing but without becoming obsessive should help you feel a bit more confident when the time comes. You can also share your anxiety with your co-workers; they will most probably encourage you and tell you there’s nothing to worry about. Such tactics are what psychotherapists advise their patients to try and they gradually reduce the level of anxiety you feel when faced with a tough situation at work. If you persist in using them, there may even come a time when you will start enjoying speaking in public, who knows?