Dealing with performance anxiety at work

As a society that places a high value on one’s productivity, the incessant need to deliver outstanding outputs can take a heavy toll on us. To add to that, for many of us, our work achievements form an integral part of our identity. But this constant pressure to be successful in terms of a career can become potentially anxiety-inducing instead of motivating.

So what is performance anxiety at work?

Workplace performance anxiety can be defined as nervousness, uncertainty, and fear that we may feel in workplace scenarios where we are required to perform. It can manifest itself in both physical and emotional responses.

To start off, it is completely normal to worry about your tasks and responsibilities at work sometimes. It is something almost all working professionals can relate to. But having so much anxiety that it completely consumes you, can derail your performance and keep you from functioning at your fullest potential and thereby coming in the way of advancing your career as well.

It can drastically affect your quality of life and can eventually lead to exhaustion and burnout if not attended to. In addition, if you happen to suffer from an anxiety disorder, then these challenges may prove even more difficult.

What can you do to deal with workplace performance anxiety?

  1. Validate what you feel and go easy on yourself: Acknowledge and accept what you feel. Denying the existence of a problem keeps us from working towards a solution. When necessary, forgive yourself.
  2. Recognize your triggers: Identify what tasks and activities trigger anxious responses. Look into why the specific situations make you anxious. It shall help you anticipate your response and thereby allow you to exert more control over it.
  3. Give yourself credit: Take the time to appreciate your own work. Celebrate your milestones and savor your sense of accomplishment when you finish tasks.
  4. Pay attention to your body: It is normal to have physical reactions to anxiety-inducing situations. Notice if you’re sweating profusely or if your heart rate has jumped. Release the physical tension by shaking your arms and legs and then move on to your breathing.
  5. Prepare ahead: Break down your goals into micro-tasks and organize which tasks take priority. Write down an action plan to achieve your targets. Use checklists and cross out the tasks off the list as you complete them. If you have presentations/ meetings lined up then rehearse what you have to say/do. Practice good time management and work ahead of your deadlines
  6. Reframe: View your mistakes as a learning opportunity and adopt a less self-critical attitude towards feedback, evaluation, and failure. Remind yourself that it is a common part of life to make mistakes. If there’s one thing all successful people have in common is that they failed more times than we know.
  7. Use your anxiety: A study showed that telling yourself “I’m excited” instead of “I’m worried/anxious/concerned” right before an important activity at work can reappraise performance anxiety as excitement – making anxiety the driving force.
  8. Work-life balance: Keep your work aside beyond the work hours. Set aside time to unwind. 
  9. Ask for help: Reach out to your co-workers for help or express your concerns to your supervisor. Open up to your loved ones for support. If your anxiety is still unmanageable, do not hesitate to contact a mental health professional 

So, while it is undeniably a difficult experience to suffer from performance anxiety at work, following the pointers listed above can help lessen the burden of the experience such that you are able to deliver your best performance without the added pressure of anxiety.