Dealing With Anxiety in Work - A Brief and Stupid Look at Life

23/05/2016 12:01 | Updated 23 May 2016

The dictionary definition of the word anxiety is as follows:

"a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome"

The dictionary, probably anxious itself of getting the answer right for the reader and world, seems to have defined anxiety in too small, too fine a form for me to be able to agree. The dictionary definition of anxiety in my life could really be as follows:

"literally everything. Anxiety is life, from driving in a city to ringing someone at work. All things, SO GOOD LUCK WITH THAT"

I don't get anxious at everything, but I *can* get anxious at anything, which is basically my point.

Last week, I met with some really excellent people about a project, a magazine, I'm working on separate of my usual writing commitments. This project has meant that, as well as my day job, aforementioned writing commitments and having a life (sidebar: the last one is a pipe dream), I've been getting really, really wound up and quite tetchy at the smallest of things. The hard work I'm doing out of work has really reflected poorly in my actual, proper job and I've noticed that too. So anxiety out of work has bred anxiety in work. My crippling self-awareness of said anxiety in work and out of work has made me anxious to not be visibly anxious therefore ruining my entire life and giving me horrible, tough stomach butterflies in the process.

During the day of the meeting, I actually met with my line-manager in work and we spoke about how I felt. We didn't identify reasons, but we glossed over my feelings. After work, I got in my car and entered into a contract with the road, myself and my project that I would drive to Manchester to meet some potential contributors to the magazine. From leaving work to introducing myself at the Mexican restaurant the meeting was taking place in, I got anxious about 3 things. Here are the 3 things:

1) Driving in a city. I get anxious for this at the best of times. I could crash. I could go the wrong way. I could go the wrong way down a one-way street and crash. The list is endless.

2) Finding the place of meeting once I've parked, and walking into said meeting place alone without knowing anyone. I always imagine myself making an exceptionally poor first entry to a building when I've never met someone, like falling up the stairs or spending 5 minutes trying to pull open a door that clearly has a sign saying 'push'. All the while, my contacts inside have seen me through the window located to the left of me and decided I'm clearly a moron and it would be easier for them to scale the stairs up to the bathroom, climb out of the bathroom window, impromptu abseil down a weak, plastic drain pipe and run home 18 miles in the rain than actually spend an hour with me.

Or something like that.

3) Actually introducing myself to the people I'm meeting with but have never met. What do you say? What do they sound like? What do I sound like? Oh God this is awful.
Needless to say, all of the above went well. They had already heard about the project through an email I sent, and had already expressed an interesting in taking part. My anxiety was mainly amplified by the inability to back myself in a pre-planned and organised environment, with the only pressure coming from within my stupid, uncooperative brain.

The uncertainly I face on a daily basis, in work or otherwise, is usually fairly small. It's actually the uncertainty that I create for myself that ruins my own mood and feelings. "Luke, can I have a word?" can be anything, but my brain automatically panics itself and goes into over-drive writing and rewriting my imaginary P45 time and again. Here's a few things I've genuinely tried to do to calm myself down during any work uncertainty.

1) Try to care less. I understand this is really tough. Detaching yourself from things that have happened in the past just enough to garner some time in the present to be rational is really helpful. If there's nothing you've done that screams out at you "OH SHIT" all day, every day, then nothing truly bad will come around. Bad situations occur, but your ability to get through the day, wash, bathe and feed yourself and keep your house from burning down to the ground are reasons enough to assume that you are capable in a working or public environment.

2) Be honest. When I was younger, I used to fuck up in work and try and either hide it, or blag it. Being honest right after a situation normally allows you to get the help you may need to right a wrong. Working, and life, isn't a competition, and if you explain your reasons for help and are a good person, you will end up succeeding in the long-term despite some short-term mistakes.

3) Try and become comfortable expressing your anxieties. "This is making me real anxious" has almost become a buzz-phrase in my working and civilian life. The good thing about it is you actually let people know you're feeling uncomfortable and you're acknowledging it to yourself, which usually helps you begin to feel comfortable in your own skin and mind.

4) Tackle your to-do list head on. This is the perfect anxiety-buster. I always imagine my anxiety as a balloon (no, I know, I'm weird) and facing your fears in employment head on and ticking them off your to-do list is a pin-prick in the side of that balloon. If there's something you don't want to do, I implore you to, instead of avoid it, do it first. It will be hard but your day/month/year/life will seem so much better once that certain race is run.

I'm no oracle and the above things only helped me. I'm not saying they're either easy or right for you, but they have become a great way to level out on some grim feelings on my part.

Feel free to listen to me, or feel free to tell me to jog on, but even writing this piece helped me front up to some of the good things I do to define why, and how I am anxious. I still get really nervous and really het up, but managing the beast has become a much easier job since learning the above about myself.

Yet still, until this piece goes live, I'll be sitting here, anxiously waiting to see if anyone likes it.

Oh life.