How to Stop Worrying at Work

If you are in a constant state of worry, it's hard to think straight. Get your mind off of catastrophic thinking with these strategies.

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Hamilton Lindley Worry at Work

I worried all the time. The only thing that I didn’t worry about was worrying too much. Ironically, worrying too much was exactly the thing I should have been concerned about. I thought it was just part of everyone’s nature. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re anxious all the time, talk to your doctor about medication. It can help. But there are also a few strategies you can use to get your life out of that destructive cycle of worry. 

When you face a big challenge at work, with the possibility of being fired, you will likely face a loss of identity. If you aren’t the successful expert you previously were, who are you? The answer is that you are the identical person with a new opportunity. These difficulties do not cancel your past success. You have the chance to grovel in your setback or find a more profound identity. 

You can find motivation from the famous failures that produced improbable victories. For example, Walt Disney was ousted from a newspaper because he “had no original ideas” and “lacked imagination.” Elvis Presley’s high school teacher told him that he could not sing after earning a C in music. Lucille Ball was advised to give up on a career in acting because she had “no talent.” And Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as an anchorwoman and told that she was “not fit for television.” Those superstars did not let others define them. Instead, they defined themselves. 

Don’t let misfortune define you. What matters is what you do with it. Stop catastrophic thinking. Your brain will make you as crazed as you let it. Learn to identify if you slid into “catastrophic thinking mode” and attack it.

For example, if you are unemployed, your thoughts will probably put you in an infinite loop of: “I am going to run out of money because I’m wasting all my savings. I’ll never get a job. I’ll have to go to work at the gas station. Would they even hire me? I can’t support my family on that income. We will lose our home!” Replace your mind’s catastrophic thoughts with more practical logic. Train your brain to say, “Well, this is hard, but I’ll find a way.” Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose. 

The anxiety about being broke and homeless is normal, particularly when we’re compelled to reinvent ourselves. Self-doubt is like a snowball. It piles on more dread and forces you to lose perspective and hope. How are any of your anxious thoughts helping you? 

Your brain will do a number on you if you let it. You can slide into a negative cycle that will tell you that you are a useless, stupid failure. You’ve got to stop that endless loop of self-sabotage. Tell yourself that “What if my greatest achievement is still ahead of me? I’m not finished!” Then say these again. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Stop complaining to others

You could spend a lifetime reading online posts from people who are complaining about their workplace. When you complain to your friends, your friends will validate you. That just builds your feelings of victimhood. When things get rough, you can take steps to keep yourself from sliding into the depths. When you complain, each new circumstance becomes a chance to determine fault. Ultimately, this drains your life of happiness. 

You will not see the light when you’re focused on the dark. When you talk about your situation endlessly, you get momentum towards more darkness by the validation you hear from friends. So do not keep telling “the story.” We can become more attached to our burdens than our burdens are attached to us. If you have a friend who is going through the same difficulty, decide together to focus on getting each other to feel better rather than wallow in the tragedy. No amount of worrying can change the future. Ask for feedback and perspective from your friends. Practice gratitude together. A thankful heart is a happy heart. 

Attack worry 

I know you are anxious right now — that’s because we all are. Worry casts an outsized shadow. When you’re thrown under the adversity bus, it is difficult to find the positive. But if your problem can be solved why worry? If your problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good. So how do you start to put worry back in its place when everything is going wrong? 

Do the next right thing. Do one task that produces momentum towards fixing your situation. There are probably dozens of things you must do. Instead of focusing on a dozen problems, pick one. It is impossible to focus on more than one. You will build emotional momentum by accomplishing something rather than being paralyzed by fear. You can eat an elephant one bite at a time. 

Get some exerciseStudies find that exercise reduces fatigue while raising your concentration, sharpness, and cognitive function. Physical movement helps us sleep and generates endorphins. Your anxiety will decrease while your health improves. 

Volunteer. Go help others. You will feel better about yourself when you get out of your own head. Those negative thoughts get quieter. When you contribute to a purpose-driven activity, you will feel like you matter. 

Never surrender

Greatness is achieved by becoming comfortable with discomfort. Worry doesn’t give you power. Your struggles will develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and refuse to surrender, you are showing tremendous power. Strength doesn’t come from winning. It comes from losing. 

If you can read this, your story isn’t over yet. Do not forget what you have, even if you have severe career challenges. You have got your life. While you sort out what you are going to do next, don’t forget to live it. You don’t grasp how much time you have left, so it’s your choice how you use what time you’ve got left. 

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