In the office, many of my colleagues have noticed several strange affectations of mine. I struggle with eye contact, frequently apologise, and perhaps most curiously, often cover my face with my tie in a paradoxically very noticeable effort to avoid being seen.
Many of these qualities are things that I have done for years; at school, boys in my year would tease me about sneaking drugs into my tie to have a sniff of occasionally in order to make class more bearable.
I hasten to state that I was not, in fact, a drug addict, but suffer from anxiety.
I’ve made peace with the fact that this aspect of myself will not go away, and because of this, I feel it may be helpful to those reading for me to offer some different methods for easing anxiety at the workplace, particularly as someone who has only just started office work.
Before I begin, I need to state in the firmest possible terms that any advice I offer is not a substitute for medication or therapy. If medical professionals recommend either of these to you, they must take priority over any form of advice offered here.
With that said, here are some techniques I recommend to alleviate office anxiety.
Use time commuting to prepare yourself mentally
If you’re a commuter like me, using time on the train, bus or even walking can be really useful to get in a work mindset. If you’re worried about getting work done early in the day, then a calm hour of listening to music, while you read through your emails and plan out your work can be invaluable.
Realise when you’re catastrophising
When you’re a perfectionist, even the smallest mistake can heavily knock your confidence. It can be terrifying thinking you’ve made a mistake because you’ll likely catastrophise and assume your job is on the line or your team hates you. This has certainly happened to me over all manner of tiny things. Distance yourself; think about how ridiculous this assumption would be if you were in the other person’s position. Do you hate your team particularly? Would you fire them over a spelling error? Recognising that your fear is most likely irrational can be a powerful step in defeating it.
Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say “what can I do differently next time?”
It’s natural to want to apologise when you feel you’ve messed up. But someone bringing it up with you most likely means they’re trying to help, not to criticise. Take it as a constructive thing and learn from it.
Accept that there are things you’ve done well
A surprisingly difficult and daunting task is to accept that you were hired for a reason. When you’re anxious, it’s easy to accept criticism, but much harder to accept compliments. So, take pride in what you do well, and if you feel nothing has gone well today, think of something from before that you’ve done well, or even look forward to doing something better next time with the knowledge you gained from today.
Neutrality is positive
Not every day is going to be the best day ever. If you’re “glass half empty” like me, this is something you learn to accept. But even a neutral day; an average day where nothing particular went wrong, and you’ve nothing in particular to complain about is a good thing! Learn to enjoy these days and see them as positives, and you’ll quickly find that the vast majority of your time is positive.
With that I leave you, while I attempt to practice what I preach. I’ll let you know how it goes!