You’re probably thinking that I’m going to talk about the fear of public speaking, which is often identified as our #1 fear. But I’m thinking of more subtle fears that people don’t always discuss that make the workplace extremely difficult for some workers.
As a therapist, I’ve treated people with diagnosed anxiety disorders, but also milder anxiety symptoms and signs. Worry over finances, health issues, parenting, school and relationships fall into that category. These fears fall somewhere between the two. What kinds of fears do people struggle with at work?
* Interviewing – some folks are natural salespeople and comfortable selling themselves as the ideal candidate to a potential employer. Most of the rest of us aren’t.
* Talking to the boss about “touchy” topics like asking for a raise or time off.
* Long meetings. Any social gathering can be excruciating for some people.
* Business travel – while some people find this just an increasingly annoying part of the job (who enjoys flying any more?), for others it’s very intimidating.
Based on your personality type, family history, social skill-set, etc. you may not ever fully conquer these fears, but how could they be made more manageable?
Let’s take the first two, which involve difficult conversations. Practicing the content should reduce your anxiety. When we are focused on the cognitive/thinking aspect of a task, we’re less likely to let the emotional/physiological part take over. Ask a partner or trusted friend to “role play” the boss part with you. If there are particular questions that you tend to stumble on, over-rehearse those.
What about surviving those interminable meetings? If you are fearful of having to participate in combination with being in a social setting, try to anticipate what you might be asked to discuss. But also allow yourself an escape hatch if you become very distressed. No on will question a bathroom break or previous appointment with a client/co-worker.
For business travel, over-planning might lessen your fears. Be sure you know all the info like flight times, location of hotel and meetings. Make a point of calling family or friends when you are feeling anxious.
There are many simple stress-reducing techniques that will lessen your anxiety if practiced regularly. Simple deep breathing – counting to 10 while inhaling and exhaling will relax you. Meditation and progressive relaxation (relaxing each part of your body at a time) are both great strategies. A book that I’ve recommended to patients for years has these techniques and more: “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning.
Please note: If your fears/anxiety are to the point of being debilitating and impede your functioning, counseling and medications can help.
This is a post by Nancy LaFever. You can read more from her at the Centre for Emotional Wellbeing blog.