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How To Manage Performance Anxiety At Work

Why are you in your job? Is it because you love what you do, or perhaps are really good at it? The fact is, you wouldn’t be in your role unless you were competent. Even with competence and expertise, 56% of people still suffer from performance anxiety at work. If there is an aspect of your role that you do regularly, but makes you lose sleep, worry and catastrophise about it every single time, then you are not alone. Performance anxiety at work is a big deal, but fortunately, there are ways you can control it.

What is performance anxiety at work?

Performance anxiety at work can cause the same symptoms of anxiety disorder. This includes panic, nausea, rapid heart rate, weakness, shaking or trembling, restlessness, lethargy, rapid breathing, dizziness, sweating, trouble concentrating and an impending sense of doom.

However, what sets Workplace Performance Anxiety apart, are triggers that would typically be normal aspects of your job. Performance anxiety at work can have a vast range of triggers. Some of the most common ones are;

  • Presenting or having to speak up in meetings or conference calls

  • Meeting deadlines

  • Teambuilding exercises

  • Eating in front of colleagues

  • Having to use the company toilet

  • Interacting with senior management or colleagues

  • Giving feedback

  • Forgetting tasks

  • A specific responsibility at work

  • Being seen as incompetent (or suffering Imposter’s Syndrome)

  • Worrying about looking the part at work (whether that’s being smart, on-trend, or casual enough).

Ways to manage performance anxiety at work

Recognise it

It may be that you recognise the symptoms of workplace anxiety, but you haven’t worked out exactly what the trigger is. Try to determine exactly what part of work is giving you anxiety, so you can recognise the triggers before it gets too bad.

Stop thoughts in their tracks

The problem with negative thought patterns is they will continue to manifest, making the issue seem bigger, and the anxiety symptoms worse. As soon as that negative thought appears, e.g. ‘I’m going mess up this presentation’, identify that thought and label it. Then, tell yourself to stop that thought in its tracks. Remind yourself that these negative thoughts waste time and energy. If you weren’t good at what you do, you wouldn’t be in the role.

Reframe your anxiety

While this tactic doesn’t work for everyone, it can be super effective. Instead of trying to calm down when anxiety hits, you channel the energy of the anxiety and the adrenaline that comes with it into positivity. This is known as ‘arousal congruency’ and works well for people who cannot calm down or when feeling calm doesn’t feel right. So, accept your anxiety and use this energy to feel productive, focused and with goal-getting in mind.

Remember, they’re just like you

Performance anxiety at work often comes through interaction with other people. It is easy to feel nervous when talking to clients or senior management. However, it is essential to remember that these people are just like you. The people you meet will do the same things as you and will get nervous, just like you. Would you understand if someone slipped up in a meeting due to nerves? Keeping this perspective can help to keep you motivated and feel in control.

Calm down or pumped up?

Some people work best by relaxing or meditating before a stressful event; others will want to go out running. Whatever way works for you, focus on your breathing and either use your breath to focus and relax (these five breathing techniques can help). You may find that sitting quietly helps rid yourself of nerves. Alternatively, jumping up and down on the spot may keep anxiety at bay. Go with what feels right for you.

Stop punishing yourself

You may never be able to banish workplace anxiety entirely. However, by accepting your nerves and managing your triggers, you can help to maintain your focus and keep going. It is important to celebrate the small wins and the progress you make with your workplace anxiety. Remember, it may be a waste of energy trying to get rid of the butterflies in your stomach when your energy is better spent focusing on the task. So try and use this power for positive thoughts and don’t forget to enjoy the sense of accomplishment after the task is done.


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