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Don’t Let Anxiety Derail Your Career

Stress is a part of life, and anxiety is a normal, healthy reaction to stress.
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Image Credit: topgold/Flickr

For example, let’s say that you are driving down the road, and out of nowhere something or someone runs out in front of you. Your adrenaline spikes. You catch your breath, and slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. When you see that you are safe, you let out a long breath and your limbs feel like jelly for a minute. You may have a wave of nausea, and then it’s over. You are safe.

The anxiety you felt helped you respond quickly to a dangerous situation. It felt unpleasant, but it did its job: it made you react quickly enough to protect yourself and anyone else. However, you can’t drive from one destination to another constantly slamming your brakes every time you see movement. When anxiety becomes a constant, it stops protecting you and starts preventing you from functioning.

This is true at work. The anxiety you feel before giving a big presentation may help spur you on to do an excellent job. Healthy anxiety can give you a heightened sense of awareness and the energy to go over your presentation multiple times to ensure it is as good as it can be. Too much anxiety and it becomes too painful to deal with the problem, so you call in sick instead. Learn to manage your anxiety so that it does not impede your functioning and derail your career.

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Utilize Easy Stress-Management Techniques

I know it sounds simple, but don’t forget to breathe. Anxiety often causes people to catch their breath, and they may not even realize it. In order to help yourself, become aware of your breathing. Take a few deep breaths. Stand up and stretch. Keep breathing. Get a glass of water and stay hydrated.

Break Down Overwhelming Duties Into Smaller Tasks

When you feel anxious and overwhelmed by everything you need to do at work, write a list of tasks or goals. Break down large projects into smaller ones. Focus on one item or goal on your list at a time, and cross it off when you have completed it. Crossing off the item on your list will give you a sense of accomplishment. Be proud of yourself for your accomplishments.

Connect With Positive Coworkers

Hanging around other anxious, negative people can make it easy to slip into a “woe-is-me” mindset. That can set you up to give up. Take a lighter tone and connect with coworkers away from the office, at lunch or on a break. Share a joke. Look for things to smile about and share with each other. This helps to give you perspective when dealing with anxiety-producing work.

Finally, Get Excited

Become your own cheerleader. Excitement and anxiety are both states of hyper-arousal. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology concluded that becoming excited helped people overcome performance anxiety in more than one situation, including public speaking.

You can use this to your advantage. Let’s say you have three tasks to complete before your big presentation tomorrow. Remind yourself you can do a good job, and think about the benefits you will enjoy after achieving your goals. Break down chores into smaller chunks and cross each one off of your list as you pat yourself on the back for completing a task. Find something to look forward to regarding your presentation, and use your excited energy to both prepare and do a good job.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your tips for beating anxiety at work? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.


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