Having anxiety is hard. It’s always there, sneaking up on you. When you don’t pay attention, it’s there and it’s taking over your life. It sucks. And it’s everywhere, you can’t turn it off. There’s no escape from it. I hate anxiety. And I especially hate it when it tries to mess with my work life. Because my work and my side projects are my passions, and I don’t want anyone to destroy it. I won’t let anyone take it away from me. But still, anxiety tries to sabotage it, all the fucking time.
“Am I doing a good enough job?” It’s a question everyone should ask themselves from time to time. With anxiety, however, you ask yourself that question all the time. Literally, all the time. Just successfully brought in a new client? Why not ask yourself if you’re good enough for this job? Delivered a big project before the deadline? Say hello to the self-doubt monster.
Two minutes late for work? Missed your bus? Had to answer an important phone call? Feeling sick? Taking a lunch break? Grabbing a coffee? Opening a new document? Typing anything? With anxiety, any occasion is a perfect occasion to start doubting yourself.
How I deal with it
Whenever I’m doubting myself, I think or write about all the times things went right. About all the things I objectively know I’m good at and about all the projects I successfully delivered. The best way to shut down someone is by proving them wrong, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with my anxiety. I show it how awesome I am.
When I’m scared that the work I’m doing isn’t good enough, I show my coworkers and ask them for feedback. Usually, they tell me everything looks fine, which reassures me I’m doing a good job. And if they have feedback, I feel a bit more secure as well because now I have a plan to make the work better.
Like being scared of getting fired. Such a classic. You may be the best employee in your company, and they might have never fired anyone before, anxiety will still try to make you believe you might get fired every moment. It’s an incredibly irrational fear, especially when you’re in a good work environment and everything seems to be going great, but anxiety isn’t known for being rational.
Or you’re scared that people hate you, as with any sort of relationship. Whether they’re friends, family, partners, coworkers or the lady taking your order at Starbucks, anxiety will make you worried that they hate you. Even if they’re the loveliest people on the planet and treat you well, you might still get worried over it.
How I deal with it
Similar as with the self-doubt, I try to show myself that the fears are irrational. I also make a plan, just in case. For example, I know that even IF I would get fired, I would still be employed for 3 months, giving me plenty of time to find a new job. Also, I could live several years of my savings, or get benefits from the state and. So I know that even if that worst-case scenario would happen, I would still be devastated, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The urge to work more and harder
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work a lot. On the contrary, I’d say enjoying your work so much that you could work all day and night on your own initiative is great. But when anxiety tells you to work more and harder, it’s rarely a positive thing. It’s like your mind is so scared of not doing enough work, that it gets angry at you for not working enough, even if you’ve been staying 3 hours later than expected from you each day.
It’s like you have this constant feeling that you have to catch a train in time but are about to miss it. And you want to run faster and faster, but the doors are already closing. And you know you have to run even faster, and you try to run faster, because if you miss the train something terrible will happen. It’s like this constant weird feeling of stress that’s hard to shut down.
How I deal with it
I track the work I’m doing. Usually, when looking back at my day, I realize I’ve done much more work than I thought I did. Which always makes me feel a bit better. And it’s not possible to work longer days than expected because our company tracks over time. And for every hour you work more than 8 hours a day, you have to take an hour off some other day. So that part takes care of itself.
But it doesn’t make work less rewarding
Luckily, at least for me, suffering from anxiety doesn’t make work less fun or rewarding. This might be different for other people because anxiety isn’t the same for everyone, but I really enjoy work regardless of the tricks my mind is trying to pull on me. I love the type of work I’m doing, I love my coworkers, I love our clients, I love the projects I’m working on and I love the great results we’re producing.
I just have to tell that to my anxiety from time to time. I have to let it know that I’m doing fine, that the world is not ending, that I’m happy and that I’m loved. Sometimes, I just have to sit down and tell my anxiety what I already know – that everything is ok, and that everything will be ok in the end. That I’m happy, and that I won’t let the anxiety interfere with that. And then all is better again.
💻 Mental Health × Work 💻
Mental health can have a big influence on one’s life, and especially on their work life and career. And at the same time, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, which can make talking about it at work harder or even impossible. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With my “Mental Health × Work” series, I want to have an open conversation about mental health in relation to the work culture, share tips for employees and employers, reduce stigma and share personal experiences and motivational stories. If there’s anything you want to see here, or if you have any critiques or suggestions, feel free to send me a mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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