Your palms start sweating, you begin hyperventilating and the only relief you can think of is to run to the ladies' room and hide. Workplace anxiety can be embarrassing and -- even worse -- it can lead you to make serious mistakes and suffer missed opportunities. Stop obsessing about doing everything perfectly or fearing that next presentation before your co-workers. Stop anxiety from keeping you from doing your job well.
The causes of anxiety are wide and varied. Some people carry childhood neuroses, such as fear of failure or low self esteem, into adulthood and their professional lives. Others have social anxieties that manifest when they get around other people, need to collaborate on a project or have to interact in any kind of meaningful way. You may even have a medical condition that causes anxiety or a mental condition called anxiety disorder that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Sometimes, uncovering the cause through therapy or a physical exam can help you limit its consequences.
Anxiety can take many forms. One of the most common forms of anxiety in the workplace is the fear of talking in front of people. Just the thought of standing up in front of your peers, answering questions or making a presentation to the board may leave you in a sweat, shaking while your pulse races. Fear of being wrong, trying new things and facing authority are other common workplace anxiety themes. Anxiety can take the form of phobias, such as when you're overly concerned about germs if someone uses your phone or touches your keyboard. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a form of anxiety that may be triggered by a co-worker raising her voice.
Anxiety can leave you so overwhelmed about making a mistake that you become immobilized. But miss too many deadlines or turn in more than a few incomplete projects, and you can kiss your job goodbye. You may miss out on opportunities for advancement if you’re too afraid to speak up or tackle new challenges. Co-workers may label you as a nervous Nellie and exclude you from exciting projects. Anxiety can cause you to make mistakes, too. And in some professions, like nursing, those mistakes could be a matter of life and death.
Once you realize that the anxiety you’re experiencing is not going away, seek outside help. A psychiatrist trained in treating anxiety disorders can prescribe medication to relieve your symptoms. Support groups or private therapy with a counselor can give you a place to talk about your anxiety and learn coping mechanisms. Take approaches like talking yourself through your fears, facing them head on, or calming yourself with deep breathing and other alternative treatments. Sometimes just talking about your fears and phobias and finding out that you’re not alone can be the impetus you need to feel better.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."