We are spending the month of October focusing on mental and emotional well being at work on the blog! If you missed it, make sure you check out our post from last week about increasing your productivity at work. This week we are going to dive into the nitty-gritty, don't-talk-about-it kind of stuff.
I don't think there's a single person out there who has never experienced symptoms of anxiety (if you haven't, please email me and tell me what that's like…). Stress and anxiety run rampant among American adults, and that's not really a surprise- a lot of the time, we are spread pretty thin. Between balancing work and life, kids, side hustles, and being constantly bombarded by notifications, emails, calls, and texts, it's a lot. It can often feel overwhelming.
I've been an anxious person my entire life- I think I was born worried. I pretty much run on a base level of uneasiness, and I can quite quickly be triggered and spiral into a full-blown anxiety attack. It's great.
I realized at a pretty young age that this is just the way my brain works and that I was going to have to learn how to cope, or else I'd end up spending most of my days under my bed, hiding from everyone and everything. Eventually, I worked up the courage to start talking about my anxiety with my friends and family and realized that anxiety and stress come in a million different forms, and everyone I knew was dealing with it in their own way. I must say- merely saying out loud that I was feeling generally uneasy helped to… well… ease it.
Vocalizing my thoughts and feelings was a significant first step and helped me come to terms with the fact that I was struggling. Once I was able to admit it to myself and others, I was ready to start to find ways to cope with it so that I could begin to thrive and to feel GREAT. I often experience the most amount of stress over my work. I'm a perfectionist who's prone to mistakes. My biggest fear is that I end up being a burden or a slacker. I fear being viewed as lazy, and whenever I make a mistake, I quickly convince myself that the person who caught the mistake thinks I made the mistake because I'm sloppy and lazy and not just… a human who makes mistakes…
Over the last number of years, I've developed some techniques and things that consistently work to help me see straight and relax at work. When I'm relaxed and feeling confident, my work is better, more focused, and concise. When my worries and anxieties are eased, I make fewer mistakes and therefore keep the ugly inner monologues at bay.
I'm excited to get to share my top 5 tips for controlling stress and anxiety at work- let's do this!
Get In The Drivers Seat.
I mentioned above; once I started saying out loud that I was feeling anxious, I felt better, but I want to get more specific about this. It's more than just simply saying, "I'm anxious." The key is to get specific with what is bothering you. And no, saying "my job sucks" is not the answer.
An excellent first step is to get specific about three things that aren't working for you currently. Be transparent and honest with yourself- I bet when you get down to it, your unhappiness can't be exclusively brought back to whatever the administration or your boss is doing and saying- and thank goodness for that. If we can bring up what's making us unhappy with ourselves and our actions, then suddenly we will have control over our situation. It's easy to blame others for our unhappiness- it can be a lot more uncomfortable to point the blame on ourselves. BUT the good news is that once you get past the discomfort of seeing your own mistakes, it's incredibly empowering to take action and change whatever behaviors you are currently doing that's making things difficult for you.
I'm not saying to blame yourself for things you're not doing- don't do that! It's just beautiful to know that once we have a good grasp of what it is that's causing us to lose sleep, we can take the problem and find a solution. If it means changing habits, change ‘em! If it means asking for what you need and deserve from someone, then let's muster up the confidence to do so!
Complaining feels good in the moment, but it doesn't solve anything. By sitting idly by, you lose all control, and that's not helping anyone. When we are in control, we feel focused and purposeful. When we give up power is when we start to worry- and worrying is like a rocking chair, keeps you busy but gets you nowhere.
Fill That Glass Up With Grateful Vibez.
It's almost impossible to feel put out or stressed if you're feeling grateful. Gratitude is possibly the most empowering emotion, and the more we can channel gratefulness for where we are, where we're headed, and all we've learned along the way, the better off we'll be.
Don't get me wrong; I fully understand the bleakness one can feel during a difficult time, and I know that dark times can linger. I think we have good years and bad years, but I am such a believer in always trying to find gratitude no matter what life has thrown at me.
Just this past weekend, I was going through old files on my computer, and I found the video application I had made two years ago when I was applying for a job (I didn't get that job, but I DID get this one!). At the time, I was in the midst of some tough stuff. I was a few months out of a breakup, I was apartment hunting in a city where that's nearly impossible, I was working two terrible service industry jobs, I was dealing with a family emergency, and it was the dead of winter. All of these circumstances added up to a young woman who was emotionally distressed and headed towards a pretty brilliant case of burn out.
As I sat and watched this historic relic/ video resume of my past self, I was amazed at what I was seeing. When I made it, nothing was going right for me, but throughout the video, I kept repeating just how grateful I was. I was genuinely preaching that I was better off for all of it- I know myself, I can tell when I'm lying, and I can assure you I wasn't lying. Looking back, I find it amazing that I made it through that time with very little help from anyone else, and I used to be at a loss for how I did it. I realize now that the gratefulness that I was putting out into the world was how I manifested the great things that I ended up getting. It helped me hold my head high. It helped me continue to see a path at a time when it would have been easy to feel lost.
In the way that it can often be more comfortable to blame others for the stress and anxiety in our lives, it can also be easier to give in to the darkness that we might be feeling, but I promise you, the minute you find things to feel grateful for, you'll feel better. You'll begin to regain control of your fate, and the heaviness will start to be lifted from your shoulders.
Identify Your Weaknesses.
So, even though we'd rather not admit it, we all have weaknesses. BUT I'm here with good news. Weaknesses are not a part of your chromosomal make-up. Every weakness can be transformed into a strength if you put in the work. Is there an area you feel you lack? Is there a skill you wish you had? Figure out how to acquire it, and hon it.
We need to be comfortable with our weaknesses and so-called flaws. The minute we can identify what needs to be done, we can get to work. The keyword here is work. No one is going to give you the life you want or crown you an expert on things. It takes work to feel good about yourself. It takes work to be happy and self-sufficient.
Embrace your weaknesses! They are nothing to be ashamed of!
Identify Your Strengths.
Modesty is overrated. Let's talk about all the things you're great at. Make it a big list too. No less than ten things (but I bet you could do more). Then you need to take this list and find the stuff on it that makes you unique in your workplace. What are the skills that set you apart from everyone, and how can you use it to give you an edge?
I'll use myself example- I have a theatre degree (yikes, I know). This has nothing to do with my current job at Sleekform, and for a long time, I couldn't get over the fact that I was "unqualified" for my position. When I first started I dealt with big case of imposter syndrome. I felt like I was a fraud in my job, and that a hundred other people could be doing it better than I was- and then one day, there was a shift, and my differences became my superpower. I was suddenly so aware that the reason I was hired was that my brain works differently than the rest of the team, that my skills complimented my boss's. The minute I started owning my strengths was the day that things really started working.
When I tried to be the type of person I thought was supposed to do my job, I was stressed and worried all the time. "Am I doing it right?" "Are they going to find out I'm not supposed to be here and fire me?". Thinking like this took up a lot of my brain space and didn't leave enough bandwidth for optimal performance.
So do yourself a favor and own your strengths- you're are precisely where you need to be.
Prioritize and Chill.
Take a deep breath…. What really needs to get done today? Is your to-do list too long? Are you freaking out because you're not sure you're going to get it all done?
Real talk? You won't get it all done.
And if you do… well… it may not be your best work because you've probably rushed through it to get everything done. This is where prioritizing comes into play.
Now, I'll be candid with you- this is not one of my strengths, but it is something I've gotten a lot of help with (once I admitted that I needed help with it). My boss (shout out to you, Liz) is the queen of organization and prioritization, and she's helped me out with this a lot, and it's made all the difference with my day to day stress.
I take a look at the week as a whole, and I see what I need to get done, and then I put an estimated length of time I think it will take me to complete the task and then I prioritize what needs to be done first. I'm always reasonably generous with how long I think it will take me to complete the job, so I don't feel rushed, but still feel the pressure to sit down and complete it at a decent pace.
This makes it so I can keep track of what I have to do and not miss anything as well as feel relaxed in my tasks. Doesn't that sound nice? It is. Try it. You'll like it. Let me know if you need any advice.
All of these tips above are not cure-alls for anxiety because of course anxiety comes in different shapes, sizes, and severity for every individual, but I find these tips help me cope with the day to day stressors that I inflict on myself while I'm at work. I tend to tell myself made up negative stories about myself, especially when I feel like things are unraveling out of my control. By implementing a few simple strategies into my day and week, I can keep those stories at bay and not only be more productive but enjoy the work…. Imagine that!
I hope these tips come in handy for you! If you have other de-stressing strategies, I'd love to hear them! Comment below or send me an email at email@example.com