Working as a career coach, I’ve heard just about every example of stress and anxiety on the job that you can imagine. From clients having a crippling fear of public speaking (scientifically called glossophobia) to actually asking for a demotion due to self-sabotage and fear of underperforming in the workplace, it’s painfully obvious that when it comes to overcoming obstacles on our own journey toward success, we tend to be our own worst enemies.
In fact, anxiety disorders affect nearly 40 million Americans, but only an alarming one-third of those affected seek any kind of treatment.
Here are some healthy ways you can flip the script on stress and anxiety, and find the strength you need to perform at your best.
- Turn stress into a friend rather than a foe. It’s no secret that stress has long been deemed public enemy #1 in terms of its adverse effects on our health, but what if our views on stress are wrong? In a fascinating TED Talk, psychologist Kelly McGonigal hypothesizes that it might not be stress that harms our health, but our beliefs on stress. I think she’s on to something. A research study shows that 182,000 Americans died prematurely over an eight-year period, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you. Instead of viewing the effects of stress on your body as negative, try to view them as your body rising up to meet the challenge presented to you. Another study at Harvard found that when the mindset surround stress was reframed, participants were less anxious, more confident and actually healthier.
- Attend some courses. There’s no better way to overcome a particular anxiety or stress trigger than tacking the problem head-on. For instance, if you have an overwhelming fear of public speaking, this may cause you to miss out on a plethora of opportunities to advance your career. One well-known course is Toastmasters International, which can arm you with a variety of tools, tips, and feedback. Aside from courses, you can also dive into a selection of self-help books including Talk Like TED, No Sweat Public Speaking!and Steal the Show. Whichever route you choose, taking the first step toward addressing your anxiety is a huge one, so keep using that momentum and push forward!
- Take on some criticism. While nobody actually enjoys criticism, it can be a very helpful tool to lean on if you’re feeling an abundance of stress in the workplace. Instead of harboring your emotions and feeling like your performance isn’t up to snuff, you can accept the criticism you receive, ask how you can do better next time, take some notes and thank the person for their insights. A workplace is all about symbiotic relationships, and if an employer sees that you’re trying to improve your performance by really paying attention to what they’re saying, it can help mitigate, and possibly eliminate, any future negative feedback.
While stress and anxiety are a part of nearly every working person’s daily life, they are only as negative as we choose to let them be. Take ownership of your feelings and emotions, and make these reactions work for you rather than against you. Breathe through any big setbacks, and remember the tools, skills and hard work that got you where you are today! You’ve got this!
This first appeared in Forbes.