Anxiety is an ugly monster.
It paralyzes its victims. Makes bad situations worse. And produces other negative emotional states of fear, regret, or depression.
Since I’m a perfectionist and over-thinker at my core, dealing with anxiety at work is something I often have to face. While these two traits are helpful for focus, quality of work, and noticing details, they unfortunately also bring worry.
For example, before a book launch, unknown answers can easily stress me out. What if the formatter messes up and I don’t catch it? Is my book going to sell well? And what are the book reviews going to say?
Since you’re probably not an author, you don’t face these worries at work but you have other ones. Yours look more like: What if I screw this project up? How do I respond to this email from my boss the right way? What if I freeze when presenting in front of the client?
However, after two books under my belt and preparing to launch a third one soon, I’ve learned how to successfully handle anxiety. And even better, now I use worry in my favor to feel and perform better.
Keep reading to uncover how you can use anxiety as a positive for greater focus and productivity, and escape its chains. Let’s get to it.
Dealing With Anxiety At Work
Anxiety can strike at any moment. Sometimes the biggest or smallest things make you worry.
You can be having a great day, and then you get a client email that puts your attitude in a tailspin. Or you’re feeling positive, until your boss comes walking down the aisle looking at you with an upset facial expression.
This action plan gives you a clear path to follow when the anxiety monster visits you. Here’s how to use anxiety for your benefit or to show it out the door.
Step 1: Ask Yourself Can I Influence My Worry?
Before I discuss the step, the underlying idea in Step 1 is that you address the fact you’re feeling anxious. Suppressing this feeling doesn’t do any good, and only gives the anxiety more weight until you blow up later.
With that said, the process to progress starts by honestly asking yourself, “Is my worry something I can influence?” By influence, I mean can your attitude or actions affect the situation for the better.
Now that that’s clear, there are two separate roads.
If you know you play a part in the outcome, move on to Step 2A. I’d say the majority of the time, you do play a part in the situation.
If you can’t influence the situation because it’s totally out of your control, move on to Step 2B.
Step 2A: Take Small Actions To Improve The Situation
Say you’re a sales rep and you can’t stop worrying about your job security. So you ask yourself the question from Step 1, “Can I influence my job security?”
Of course you can. Although that’s not 100% in your control, you play a large part in it. And since you have power over it, it’s best to take small steps to improve the situation.
You can improve your job security by showing up early every day with a positive attitude to your coworkers, managers, and clients. You can read sales books during lunch. Send personal thank-you notes to customers. Become more familiar with the product or service you’re selling. Ask more senior reps for advice. Ultimately, landing large accounts to bring the company business will give you the most promising job security.
As you see, there are plenty of ways to influence your job security. But it doesn’t happen by worrying about it, only by taking consistent actions to improve it. Ignoring the anxiety by taking small steps will indirectly ease your anxiety because you’ll feel in charge.
A young sales rep who uses his anxiety to work smarter and harder will find achievement and defeat any pestering anxiety. The anxiety, when handled the right way, will actually be the spark plug for his increased productivity.
Step 2B: Let The Anxiety Go
In the scenarios where you can’t influence the situation, the healthiest decision is to let the anxiety go and move on. This is definitely easier said than done.
Let’s put you back at the sales rep example and show a scenario outside of your control.
Although you can influence your job security, you can’t control if you lose your job because your company gets bought, cuts your sales department, or goes bankrupt. The big wig CEO and the board decide your fate.
If you get fired and you’re unable to let go of this unfortunate situation, you give anxiety the power to paralyze you.
Choosing to only complain about something you can’t control will blind you from coming back to find a new job.
But if you recognize you didn’t lose the job because of anything you did or didn’t do, it frees your mind to focus on other things you can control. Now you can interview for other jobs and look at the bright side that this gives you an opportunity to find a better sales position.
Letting anxiety go is an important habit in situations where you have zero influence and situations where you take small action steps but it still doesn’t go your way.
Getting a handle of your anxiety is crucial to succeeding in your work because worry presents itself to everyone at some time or the other.
But those who are successful know how to address it and what to do with it. They actually flip anxiety to work for them. And now you know how to do this, too.
So when anxiety comes knocking and you follow these action steps, the worrier in you becomes your secret to success. How about that?
How does anxiety affect you? Are you a natural worrier? Please comment below with any thoughts or questions.