How To Reduce Work Anxiety
Wednesday, February 7 2018 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
It's important to reduce work anxiety because it is interfering with the job success and satisfaction of over half of all working Americans.1 Numbers are likely as high in many other countries, too. Performance anxiety, a sense of perfectionism, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety can all hinder our ability to do well at work. Problems at work because of anxiety lead to more anxiety. As anxiety grows bigger, its sheer size blocks us from moving forward and creating a positive work experience for ourselves. It seems like a never-ending cycle, and when work-related anxiety blocks our way forward, it can feel like we’re doomed to be stuck. Fortunately, this isn’t the case at all. You can reduce work anxiety when it gets in your way.
A characteristic of anxiety, no matter the type, is that it takes control of our thoughts and runs wild with our imagination. Anxiety makes problems where there aren’t any, and it creates fears and worries about the future. We overthink the past and the future. Anxiety makes us bypass the present.
Work anxiety is no different. Our anxious thoughts are stuck in the past or projected into the future. To counterbalance that, we need to get our thoughts into the here-and-now so we can attend to what is really happening. Then, we can deal with work as it is rather than work as anxiety says it is.
Your Job Description Can Reduce Work Anxiety
Anxiety runs wild with your imagination. Worries, what-ifs, and imagined consequences interfere in our ability to engage in what we need to do. Finding “evidence” that we’re failing, not performing well, are being judged negatively, and other such negative thoughts keep our energy and attention on what we assume is wrong.
While anxiety is running around doing its thing that holds you back, just let it be. Give the rest of your brain something concrete to focus on. Write your own job description.
Writing your own job description will serve as a rational checklist for you to compare your actual, real actions and interactions. Anxiety puts worries into your mind. This tool lets you check reality against anxiety.
How to Write Your Job Description and Use it as a Tool
- Use your computer, a journal, a dedicated notebook—whichever method you prefer
- Describe your job in a few sentences
- Describe your purpose in this job. Why are you doing these tasks? Even if you don’t love your job, finding a purpose in it will help you improve your own experience until you can find something else.
- List your important tasks. Use this list as a daily check-in so you can objectively compare what you are really doing to what your anxiety is telling you is going wrong. Chances are, things aren’t as bad as what anxiety thinks.
- Describe your role with your coworkers. What basic steps do you need to take on a daily basis to be able to fulfill your role? Stick to these steps, interacting just enough to get things done, and as your anxiety eases up, you can begin to expand the time you spend with them as well as the things you talk about.
Completing this job description will allow you to focus on reality. You can turn your thoughts to what you do and what needs to be done. Anxiety will say one thing, but your concrete evidence will show you another thing altogether: that you can reduce work anxiety, and it will no longer get in your way.