Heart-felt advice for overcoming your anxieties at work

Do you always feel anxious at work?  

If yes, then this learning note is for you!  It will provide you with some great tips for helping you understand yourself more, you will hear my own personal struggle with anxiety, perfectionism and competitiveness and it will also provide ideas on how to shift your own beliefs to take the temperature down so you can enjoy your job more!

Key Learning Prompts

  • Do you have to be on top of everything ALL the time to be ‘good’ at your job?
  • What core beliefs are driving your anxiety?
  • What would happen if you didn’t answer that email first?

Heart-felt advice for overcoming your anxieties at work

The Story – my clients and my own

One of the biggest career blockers for my coaching clients and it comes up time and time again, is anxiety and confidence. Stress levels can make work feel ‘too much’ and a lack of confidence can feed the feeling of overwhelm.  Clients say things like:

“Its important to ALWAYS be accepted”
“I want (need) to be across EVERYTHING
EVERYTHING I do must be of a high quality”

Words such as always, must, important, everything keep coming up.  These beliefs create pressure.  Pressure to be the perfect, most in integrity, honest, liked super boss ever!  Pressure leads to anxiety and all the implications that has (headaches, migraines, getting colds a lot, frantic thoughts, fight or flight mode engaged, making decisions in a panic). It can also contribute to that feeling of not being in the right job, not feeling good ever (physically or emotionally) or no longer enjoying the job.

I’ve experienced the crushing need to be the best, to be on top of everything all the time, to be ahead the game, to always have the solution before the problem is identified by others.  But it came at a cost – lots of headaches and not enjoying my job.  Over time and with more senior roles I’ve embraced new habits.  Some of the new habits came from understanding myself better (i.e.: writing a book helped me understand my creativity comes in short intense intervals and so I use that super power at work but know that I need to switch to other people focussed tasks once creativity hour is over otherwise I will burn out.)

Minimising anxiety

Anxieties that I have learnt to manage but used to really impact me and my health include:

  • needing to answer all emails in a certain time frame
  • being across everything, not having surprises
  • not offending anyone ever
  • worries about standing out because of negative impact on relationships with peers
  • being late for anything
  • dealing with all problems in the immediate
  • feeling solely responsible for a project ‘making it over the line’

 

Its not possible to be on top of everything ALL the time, nor is it essential to do a good job. 

Stressful jobs exacerbated these anxieties – fire fighting roles, high profile projects, or managing troubled teams. I really had to ask myself:

“Why do I have to be on top of everything ALL the time to think of myself as ‘good’ at my job”?

The answer came back via a jumbled series of random beliefs and memories:

  • My first management role where I was told ‘no surprises’ was a sign of a good manager
  • A senior manager role where was I told to ‘keep your team silent running’ so my boss could focus on other disaster areas in his department  (I was looking after testing for production support, infrastructure and integrations teams – keeping that silent running was NOT easy!!)
  • Me – not liking looking like I didn’t know something
  • Me – simple competitiveness and a love of ‘winning’

The great unravelling of these anxieties really began when I changed my beliefs and my expectations.

Because doing well at work does mean that:

  • some times people will be offended by your teams achievements, your successes, your ideas
  • being across everything leaves no room for creativity and can come across as controlling to your direct reports
  • if you’re great you’ll stand out (and that is something I’ve had to accept and get used too)
  • being late happens
  • dealing with problems in the immediate means not having time to get perspective, (such as organisation or  potliical context)… relationships aren’t just built in the immmediate, they are built over time… taking time out to consider can mean you make better decisions and get more support for that decision.  Some problems do need an immediate resolution (especially when in an operational role), its just understanding when this is this needed and when a sense of urgency isn’t really necessary and may even be destructive.

 

Techniques and lessons learnt

Techniques and lessons learnt that help me to shift out of anxiety mode and shift some of my beliefs:

  • Meditation
  • Cardio (lots of)
  • Testing different strategies for responsiveness and urgency to create more balance (ie: no longer having to be the first to respond to an email, not always having to be the one that offers to help,  letting email arguments run and then coming in at the end to recommend action vs contributing to the email chain blow-out).
  • Delegation
  • Letting go of detail (appropriately – some roles do need detail even in technical management roles so  this needs to be balanced with job requirements and the culture of the organisation)
  • Trusting your team
  • Perfect isn’t best
  • Valuing creativity
  • Trusting a great job isn’t dependent on always being ‘busy’, booked up with meetings or stressed out
  • Finding ways to deliver without having tight deadlines or other boundaries that are within my control
  • Leave at 5pm some days / take that lunch break / come in later one day a week

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

What makes you anxious at work?

What is one belief you have that needs to change?  

What bad habit have you broken successfully, and how has it changed how you feel about your job & career?

Let me know right here by commenting on this article (I read all the comments and love to hear your ideas 🙂 )

 

Want to work with me?

Are you questioning how you define success? Reflect on your career and ambition and consider how Career Coaching can help you.  Read through some great examples and testimonials of how women have used career coaching to actively change their status quo by clicking on this link now:  Career Coaching

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How to stay positive when your boss is crazy AF

Ok, I know that ‘crazy’ is the most misused word against women but sometimes we do just have a CRAZY boss to deal with.  One of the biggest challenges in my career has been dealing with bosses that are unpredictable, irrational, angry and explosive.  This has crossed genders.  Almost all people who have come to me for coaching have been experiencing a ‘crazy’ boss. The impact is loss of confidence, feeling confused, dissatisfaction in job role and industry – leading to questioning everything career wise. Questions that came up for me at this point are:

–          Am I any good at my job anymore? I used to be but now I’m not so sure.
–          Do I want to stay in IT?
–          Is this company the right place for me?
–          How long can I put up with this stress for?

Other feelings are:  not wanting to go to work, closing down and becoming perpetually exhausted.  Negative thinking often took over as well further brining me down. I have seen this with friends, colleagues and coaching clients.   Having a boss that regularly puts you down is a confidence crusher.

So I thought I’d put together my top strategies that I use for managing my mindset during such a stressful period and keeping my energy levels up.  This has made it easier for me to move on, find a new role and get out of there.

  1. Tell someone about it
  2. Get Support
  3. Exercise
  4. Work out an exit plan
  5. Focus on what’s next

These tips could easily fall under an umbrella of stay positive but really having been through this, this is not always possible.  Taking positive action will create space to take a breath and maintain your perspective.  At least aim to buffer the negativity at work, so you can boost your energy enough to move on.

1. Tell Someone about it (who will believe you)

  • Reaching out and validating that you’re not the crazy one is important. Find a friend, partner, family member or mentor to talk through what you are experiencing.  Just being heard will make you feel better

2. Get Support

  • One of my big lessons is that no woman is an island and sometimes I am not my best guru (sadly).  Find a counsellor or some level of professional support to help you through it.  From my experience doing this, is that the recovery period afterwards is always quicker if I’ve had this support during the traumatic event.  Don’t downplay your experience.  Dreading getting out of bed every day is not normal.  There’s a reason you don’t want to go to work, don’t let it impact you years down the track.  Dealing with it as much as possible in the now will mean less of a stress hangover  once you’re in your new role.

3. Exercise

  • Now is the time to maintain or create rituals that keep you balanced. Cardio and resistance exercise is the best.   Commit to doing 30 minutes everyday (yoga, weights, gym, cycling, running, ballet.)
  • Add in or up your meditation practice if you can or something that helps your mental discipline (one of my friends loves running to clear her head). Work out an exit plan

4. Create an exit plan

  • Write down a plan of how you are going to get yourself out of this situation.  Create 2 or 3 options and start pursuing them.  Get out quickly.  Look for internal and external roles, network more, keep engaged in industry events.
  • In the exit plan, write down what you want to be happening in your career  and life in 12 months time. Frame your next step by this vision.
  • Accept that you may need to move laterally and find  a life raft out.  This can be hard if like me, you’re super ambition. Focus on safety first and then get back to climbing that career ladder.

5. Focus on what’s next

  • Focus on that 12 month goal.  If you’re looking at study, start investigating options.  If you want to travel, start subscribing to ticket price alerts and turn your desktop screen saver into a shrine for your dream destination.  Start listening to podcasts, music, tedtalks that will keep you focussed on NEXT.
  • Make NEXT your NOW.

Most of all remember, you don’t deserve crazy. It is not normal to be yelled at every day, to have your boss call you 15 times in 2 minutes at 11pm, to have your boss turn up at your front door on the weekend, to rate you down because they’re jealous of your looks, to publicly humiliate you in front of your team or threaten you in any way.  It is NOT NORMAL.  You deserve normal, to be liked, to look forward to work, to enjoy friendship at work, to be praised, to be rewarded and to feel appreciated.

You are WORTH it.
 
You are enough. 
 
Good luck!

 

Extra resources and  links
Previous Blog Posts
Getting support
Information on Employee Entitlements
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Leading your team to feel super safe to super fail a lot

Is your team leading the way?

Is your team disrupting or being disrupted?

If yes, then this learning note is for you!  It will provide you with some great tips for inspiring your team to take more risks, disrupt more, be open to failure and learning?

Key Learning Points

  • nurture talent
  • nurture ideas and change
  • create safety nets
  • encourage
  • focus on learning and achievement
  • create a sense of purpose
  • let go of old stories of punishment
  • create new stories of how failure will be responded to

Fail, fail, fail and then learn!

Failure is the only option when first trying to create something truly awesome!

Learning Prompts

Ask yourself (and your team):

  • What would you like to brainstorm?
  • What other ideas do you have?
  • What does experience teach your about this change / new idea?
  • What does your inner wisdom say about it?
  • How you can unlock that learning?
  • What story are you telling that is holding your team back?
  • What could a new story look like?
  • What needs to change to make this story a reality?
  • What words would you like to use less of to describe your team? (i.e.: ‘dead wood’, ‘cut the fat’, ‘idiots’, ‘lazy’, etc)
  • What words could use more of? (i.e.: ‘untapped talent’, ‘hidden gems’, ‘stars in the making’, ‘genius’, ‘inspired’, ‘open’, ‘fun’, ‘energised’)
  • What would you like to be known for as a team?
  • What behaviours do you want to be known for?

What will you do today to make failure an option?
I’d love to hear from you, how do you encourage your team to take risks and deal with failure positively?

Let me know by commenting here. I love hearing your ideas and read every comment.

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Leading your team to be so much more creative

Is your team closed to new ideas?

Is your team resistant to change?

If yes, then this learning note is for you!  It will provide you with some great tips for inspiring your team to be more open, creative and welcoming of change.

Key Learning Points

  • create openness
  • encourage positive behaviours
  • lead with a clear purpose

Lead, inspire, lead some more.

Give it everything you have.

Learning Prompts

Ask yourself:

  • Can you listen more and speak less? 
  • If your team could choose anything, what would it be?
  • Can you see any gaps in your own thinking?
  • What is possible for your team now? 
  • What would give your team the most joy?
  • What is your vision?
  • What is the greater purpose behind your team’s journey?
  • How can you adopt a beginner’s mindset?
  • How can you support my team to do the same?

What will you do today to create openness? 


I’d love to hear from you, how do you encourage your team to be open?  What is your biggest takeaway?  What advice do you wish you had when you first became a leader to help your team be more open?

Let me know by commenting right here. I love to hear all of your comments, they inspire and motivate, so please share any thoughts you have 🙂

For extra reading, I recommend reading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.

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Tap into your super powers #4 – Introducing innovation into a creative desert

Is your organisation culture great at saying no to EVERYTHING?

Is your creativity and innovation being blocked, stifled or left to stagnate?

If yes, then this learning note is for you!  It will provide you with some great tips for tapping into that innovative spirit to inspire those around you and give you an outlet for those awesome ideas you keep having.

The key learning point here is to : Be the role model innovation leader.  Be what you want most at work.
Lead, inspire, lead some more. Give it everything you have. 

Learning Prompts

Innovation and getting new ideas accepted and introduced into any organisation is always tough.  Often people will perceive that you are asking them to take a risk, make a courageous decision or even put their own job on the line.   Some cultures are more stifling than others. Even innovative organisations can have a ‘their way’ of doing innovation.   At some point in an organisation’s maturing face certain ways of behaving, acting and agreeing new ways of work become expected ways of work OR even acceptable vs non-acceptable ways of working.

Ask yourself:

  • What idea can be tested without sponsorship, resources or funding?
  • Do you say yes to new ideas?
  • Are you setting the example for change or fitting in and supporting the status quo?
  • Can you start yes whenever you can? (start by having a YES day)
  • Can you prove out your ideas and make them real in anyway you can?
  • How can you help you boss feel safe to say Yes?
  • Is YES really a safe thing for your team to say? If not, why not?
  • What behaviours need to shift to get a Yes?
  • What past war stories exist that you need to respond to?
  • Start leading saying YES to the new today!

What you do next is up to you…..
I’d love to hear from you, what you did do next? What did you say YES?  What did you ask for a YES to? What happened? How did you make someone feel safe to say YES?

Did you say YES to everything today?

Let me know here.

For extra reading, I recommend  Influence – They Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. 

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Tap into you super powers #3: How to be creative when the box just doesn’t fit

Are you super creative and stuck in a super not-creative job?

Do you remember being creative when you were younger – writing scripts, painting, singing, playing the saxophone, making home movies, creating music but can’t remember the last time you got to do it?

Does your job feel like it is crushing your soul and your ‘creative’ outlet involves expletive ridden attempts to get visio arrows and lines to connect!!?

If yes, then this learning note is for you! It won’t help you with visio but it will provide you with some great tips for tapping into that creative energy again whether at work or in your non-work life. It’s time to start embracing creativity again.  Being an artist does not mean having to give up your day job.  This note includes learning prompts and a fun call to act.

The key learning point is to define what creative is for you.

Learning Prompts

Creativity is part of who we are. Don’t keep your creative self hidden, forgotten or pressed down.  Its an important part of  us.  The more I embrace my creativity, the more happy, fulfilled and fun I am.

Ask yourself:

  • Define what creative is for you
  • Write down all the assumptions you had about why it wasn’t a suitable job, outlet or pursuit for you
  • Put a line through them, burn the piece of paper (safely) – those assumptions are gone now
  • Write down all the feelings you can remember having when you expressed your creativity
  • Pick your favourite creative outlet
  • Start doing it today, as in right now!

Some more prompts and suggestions

If you like writing, open up evernote and write down 1 sentence that just comes to mind….. need a prompt:
– describe your first overseas travel tour
– describe the first day in your current job
– describe that time your saw your fave band for the first time ever!! LIVE!!
If you like art:
– book a time to go to the gallery (such as: Heide or NGV, if you’re in Melbourne)
– book a trip to visit MONA in Tasmania
– open up pintrest and create an art based vision board
– find your old paints and draw a circle.

If you like music:
– find your old instrument
– create a top 10 list of music you’d like to learn to play or sing
– book tickets to a local band, festival
– go down to your local to see up and coming bands
– write down 5 ideas for a song
– book into a musical
– sing in the shower – LOUDLY!!!

What you do next is up to you…..
I’d love to hear from you, what you did do next? Did you book something?  Write something? Play something?

Did you sing loudly in the shower?

Let me know by commenting on this post.

For extra reading, I recommend BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert – it’s a game changer!

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