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5 Ways to beat workplace anxiety

Jonathan Berent, LCSW, and Amy Lemley are coauthors of Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Workplace Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed (Wiley, 2010). Berent is a psychotherapist who has helped 10,000 clients resolve their workplace...

How to reduce workplace stress

Everyone gets stressed at work sometimes. But when daily stressors at work cause you to feel preoccupied, scared or even panicky, it’s time to confront your problem. Feeling anxious about work is not “just the way you are.” It is a learned response to stress -- and luckily, what is learned can be unlearned. Here are five ways to decrease workplace stress and beat workplace anxiety.

Anxious woman at work

Symptoms of workplace stress and anxiety


If you're wondering if you have workplace stress, ask yourself if you have the following workplace anxiety symptoms:

  • Worrying obsessively that you are noticeably nervous because of blushing, sweating, stammering or your mind going blank.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as racing pulse, shortness of breath, cold hands or gastrointestinal upset in response to particular workplace stressors.
  • Habitually avoiding certain tasks such as making presentations, speaking up at meetings, returning phone calls or completing complicated projects.

Workplace avoidance can lead to job loss

Avoiding the things that trigger anxiety is a common — and habit-forming — response that, in the extreme, could indicate a phobia. But avoidance does not work in the long term. And it could keep you from getting a raise or promotion, ruin the job interview process or even cost you your job.

Overcome workplace stress

The key to managing and eventually overcoming workplace anxiety is to achieve balance among the various messages your inner voice conveys. When you experience anxiety, that inner voice reads from a "critical script" that tells you things like: "You have to be perfect." "Everyone is watching, so don't mess up." "You're not good enough." "You don't have anything to say." You truly can turn down those negative messages while still learning from them. Keep reading.

Tips to decrease workplace anxiety

Stress Less Tip #1:

Nurture yourself with the same encouraging, supportive words you'd offer a friend.

"You don't have to be perfect." "You've done this before and succeeded." "People want to hear what you have to say."

Stress Less Tip #2: Provide yourself with constructive — not destructive — criticism

"Rehearse, but don't overdo it." "Spend some time thinking about the questions people may ask you and prepare some answers."

Stress Less Tip #3: Be objective

"This is one of many assignments." "Your job does not depend on this single event." "Asking questions is part of excelling."

Stress Less Tip #4: Be Coachable

    "Just do your best." "Learn to accept your adrenaline."

    Stress Less Tip #5: Be open to new things

    "Think of a different approach." "Build new skills." "Look for the positive payoff from a project you dread."

      Use workplace challenges to your advantage

      When you balance these different inner voices, you will find that your workplace anxiety diminishes or even disappears. Once your mind is balanced, you can learn to accept and even welcome (as strange as this seems) the flow of adrenaline that occurs when a stressor presents itself. Soon you'll experience that adrenaline as energy to propel you forward. Your physical symptoms will ease and your obsessive worry will be replaced by eager anticipation.

      With adrenaline as your friend, you'll experience a new level of confidence and satisfaction that will build on itself — and make a positive impression on your colleagues and supervisors.

      More ways to manage workplace anxiety

      Is work making you fat?

        Stress-busting fat-burning tips for work

        5 Secret weapons to turning around a bad day at work

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