You got the job of your dreams, but lately, you've been having nightmarish levels of anxiety. After all, you think, there's always the chance that you won't fit in at the office or that you'll get fired the first week. That queasy feeling in your stomach and your inability to get a good night's sleep has a name -- anticipatory anxiety. This "what's going to happen next" brand of anxiety can cause considerable distress -- until you put it in check.
Challenge your thoughts. "Stinkin' thinkin'" can be your worst enemy. It can cause you to imagine eating lunch alone, making a mistake that costs the company thousands of dollars and forgetting your supervisor's name. Thinking about a series of disasters is enough to make you want to resign before you've walked in the door. When you catch yourself conjuring up a scary scenario, ask yourself how realistic your fears are and remind yourself of other challenges you have successfully overcome.
Stay in the moment. Just as there is no use dwelling on negative events of the past, there is no point in worrying about the future. Whenever you catch yourself imagining getting lost in your enormous new office building, pull yourself back to the present. Dr. Srini Pillay of Harvard Medical School recommends interrupting the anticipatory fear with a "random positive thought." One way to do this is to make a list of the things you see, hear, feel and smell at this very moment. List at least 10 things, and you'll find that you're suddenly thinking about the joy of a cup of hot coffee on a chilly morning and the soft snoring of the puppy lying at your feet.
Visualize a positive outcome. In your mind's eye, imagine yourself chatting and laughing with your new colleagues, finding just the right place in your new office for your plants and your supervisor smiling at your because you've provided her with some much-needed expertise. So often, "what-if" scenarios are negative, but with intentionality, you can create positive imaginations that work to ease anxiety.
Use humor to take your mind off the anxiety. In the days before you start your new job, go to a comedy show, watch a Jim Carrey movie with a friend or spend some time looking at funny cat videos on the Internet. Laughter soothes tension and makes it easier to cope with difficult circumstances, according to the Mayo Clinic. Certainly, it is impossible to belly-laugh and feel anxious at the same time.
- Remember that anxiety cannot hurt you, as it is only a feeling.
- Keep in mind that anticipatory anxiety often creates thoughts that are feel as though negative events can actually occur, but they hardly ever do, says clinical psychologist Martin Seif. At its heart, the thinking behind anxiety is a lie.
- Avoid adding to your anxiety by focusing on it. What you feed grows, and you'll be much better off if you simply observe unpleasant anxiety symptoms rather than obsessing over them.
- Whatever you do, don't avoid the source of your anxiety. Show up for work knowing that anticipatory anxiety always eases when there is no longer a new situation to anticipate. Look forward to your anxiety rapidly disappearing.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.