Does Work Make You Nervous?
OK, true confession time here: One of my fantasy jobs is to be a back-up singer to Tina Turner. Uh, ain't never going to happen. One, I'm completely tone deaf, two, well you know, I don't have the legs and three, I could never - ever - evah (!) get up on a stage in front of thousands (or even a dozen) people. I'm just not a performer. I can barely get by without breaking out in a cold sweat when I have to make a presentation before a room full of my colleagues.
And I know I'm not alone.
Millions suffer from some sort of anxiety - in fact one out of every eight of us suffers from social anxiety.
AND - the causes of many of those anxiety are most intense in the workplace.
Being on the job means being bombarded with all sorts of so-called anxiety "triggers": Meetings, fear of being laid off, brainstorming, deadlines and most commonly - public speaking.
In the new book, WORK MAKES ME NERVOUS Overcome Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed, authors Jonathan Berent and Amy Lemley offer a psychotherapy-based program for conquering public speaking and other workplace anxieties.
In the book, they offer a personal coaching system that they say will, over the course of 21 days, teach you new exercises to overcome anxieties by using four key steps:
- Clarify your motivation - Why do you want to change? Is it to get a better job or improve your health?
- Diagnose your anxiety symptoms and use them to create change - Do you blush, sweat, stutter or feel sick?
- Develop a high performance mind - High performers are proactive / anxiety suffers are reactive
- Master the five step adrenaline control technique - The authors say their guide will help you "surf the wave of adrenaline that comes with anxiety and control it within seconds."
Want to know more? Check out the Guest Author Blog they've written up for Bullish readers and continue on reading for an excerpt from Work Makes Me Nervous
PERFORMANCE ANXIETY ON THE JOB
Guest Author Blog: High-Level Executives and High Anxiety: Fight-or-Flight Gets Excessive as Workplace Pressures Rise by Jonathan Berent, LCSW, and Amy Lemley Authors of Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed
Never let them see you sweat. Good advice, but it’s getting harder to follow. Fiscal losses, impending layoffs, rapid promotions, mergers and acquisitions, and the possibility (or necessity) of seeking new employment are among the significant challenges causing workplace anxiety.
A variation of performance anxiety, workplace anxiety is an overreaction to stress. In high achievers, it’s often prompted by excessive perfectionism—the same perfectionism that has allowed them to succeed.
Worldwide, the number one fear is public speaking, ranking above death. That fear goes beyond making speeches to include any monologue situation: It’s your turn to talk, in a sales meeting, a conference call, or webcam conversation, and all eyes (and ears) are on you.
Workplace anxiety sufferers have one thing in common: a fear of being noticeably nervous. Some anxiety symptoms are more apparent than others, such as blushing, sweating, a quivering voice, and poor eye contact. The worst fear for many is that their minds will go blank (think Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s 16-second brain freeze during the October debate). Other symptoms are almost imperceptible to onlookers: shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, difficulty swallowing and gastrointestinal upset, for example.
One top-rated investment manager panicked during a Christmas Party raffle for one million AmEx points: “All I could think about was how, if I won, everybody would be looking at me, cheering, maybe even expecting me to say something. My mind was racing. I was short of breath. I just wanted to get out of there.”
The president and CEO of a Fortune 500 company froze during a board of directors meeting when someone asked her a question she hadn’t anticipated. “My mind just went blank,” she says. “I later thought, What if that happens during a TV news interview? The stock of the company would go down.”
Yet most high achievers who suffer anxiety or panic at work are extremely adept at covering it up. “I live behind a curtain,” says a senior vice president of a media company who supervises 2,000 people. “People would never know I have this problem.”
A hedge fund was his company’s go-to guy for public speaking. Only his wife knew that he would obsess for months before an important presentation, giving in to depression that harmed his relationships and compromised his effectiveness at work.
Typically, anxiety leads to avoidance of the stress trigger. If you fear you stammer or stutter, you quickly steer questions toward someone else. You text, IM, or e-mail rather than walk across the hall for a quick chat. You screen your cell phone calls, let your voicemail pick up, and avoid listening to the messages. You depend excessively on your staff to follow up when you are the most appropriate person to do so. And you procrastinate—which can be habit forming.
Technology has made avoidance easy in some ways. But the constant inflow of information and the expectation that everyone is “on” all the time has increased the pressure to think on your feet. Rehearsing remarks and relying on note cards or PowerPoint have gone by the wayside in favor of rapid-fire Q&As, the expectation of an instant reply via e-mail, and so on.
We see avoidance addiction all the time, on all rungs of the corporate ladder. Avoidance becomes the default, despite its long-term consequences.
When pressed, many anxiety sufferers will say, “This is just the way I am.” But anxiety is a learned response—adrenaline flow causes a visceral reaction you have deemed negative and come to fear. It does no good to hope you won’t experience adrenaline; instead, you must accept it as a source of power—surf the wave.