If you’ve ever experienced an unpleasant state of panic and restlessness before a job interview, or presentation, if performance reviews make you feel uncomfortable, if you tend to come up with excuses to avoid being in the spotlight, chances are you’re dealing with workplace performance anxiety. If this condition, affecting millions of people, goes out of hand, it could turn into generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks.
Apparently, performance anxiety in today’s society is quite common. Healthcare professionals and psychologists have to frequently deal with people (teens, students, young adults) struggling to cope with the pressure of ‘being the best. Nonetheless, the good news is that performance anxiety is treatable through anxiety counseling.
What is Performance Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are categorized as being amongst the most common mental health issues, whereas, The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 260 million people are living with anxiety globally. Indeed, staying on top of the game can be stressful, considering how, in our constantly evolving society, people become fixated on being competitive while delivering spectacular results. In addition to WHO’s statistics, Darcy E. Gruttadaro, JD, the director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, says anxiety disorders are the most frequent mental health condition in the U.S.
“It’s not uncommon for people to feel nervous about a big presentation, meeting with clients, or working directly with senior leaders,” Gruttadaro explains. “Anxiety disorders involve more extreme, often crippling, and persistent levels of fear, apprehension, and worry.”
Gruttadaro points out that red flags suggesting someone might be affected by an anxiety disorder include:
- A drop in performance;
- Excessive missed days of work;
- Not appearing engaged in work;
- Physical complaints, like sweating, upset stomach, and not sleeping well (without another rational explanation);
- Poor job productivity.
The root cause of anxiety at work depends on the person. For some people, extra-long work hours, high stress, a lack of support from managers and co-workers, and affiliated factors can lead to someone developing anxiety at work, Gruttadaro explains.
Unfortunately, performance anxiety can frequently potentially ruin our career at once, also preventing us from doing what we enjoy, while also impacting self-esteem and self-confidence.
Ironically, people with performance anxiety are commonly perceived by others are being ambitious perfectionists who deliver impeccable outcomes, bringing a contribution to the overall ‘wellbeing’ of the company.
However, many people ignore the fact that people with performance anxiety generally struggle with self-doubt. The motive behind their state is the conflict between self-imposed standards and self-doubt.
Overcoming workplace anxiety can start by adjusting your mindset.
You could follow these next tips to rise above it:
- Plan ahead, by preparing yourself for potentially unpleasant surprises. Planning will save you a lot of headaches, whenever you have to deliver a striking product presentation, cut loose a brilliant idea, etc. You can do this by brainstorming or actually putting it all down on paper.
- Challenge your thinking, by reinterpreting how your audience (authority figures, management), perceives you, preventing your anxiety-filled thoughts to bring your worst fears to life. By adopting a set of rational beliefs, you’re challenging your mindset, avoiding counterproductive irrational thoughts that fuel your workplace performance anxiety. Moreover, a rational perspective will nurture in you positive emotions, such as encouragement and enthusiasm.
- Reframe failure, by turning it into a valuable learning opportunity. People struggling with workplace performance anxiety are terrified of criticism (constructive/destructive), perceiving it as a sign of failure. However, failure is part of life, whereas you should think of the fact that successful people have failed countless times, with each challenge they surpassed making them stronger and wiser.
- Try not to get anxious, get excited! In 2013, a professor at Harvard University published a study emphasizing how performance anxiety can be reassessed as excitement, by encouraging subjects to exclaim: “I’m excited” prior to participating in several activities. Therefore, by telling yourself this, instead of “I’m concerned/anxious”, anxiety can be used to your advantage, transforming it into a driving force.
- Adopt healthy habits, by getting enough sleep, regularly exercising, eating healthfully.
- Celebrate your success, by marking your work and thanking the people who helped you, before moving on to your next task.
- Take breaks when you need to. Taking a walk to clear your head, going on a vacation would do the trick, in terms of feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work once your return.
- Use your time management skills. Via time management, your anxiety could be, to some extent, alleviated. You can use to-do lists to prioritize your assignments, whereas these can also help you reserve enough time to accomplish each task.