Your mind’s hefty responsibility to keep you safe means it hates inevitable career curve balls. That’s why some of us meltdown before or after a big job interview, finalizing a huge business deal or presentation to colleagues—especially if it doesn’t go as planned. Everybody has anxiety once in a while, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, some anxiety keeps us on our toes, motivates us and protects us from potential threats. Anxiety doesn’t equal career success, though. Too much can be debilitating and interfere with concentration, job engagement, collegial relationships and overall career success. Sometimes we can get so used to having anxiety, we don’t realize we have it, and that can take a toll. The good news is there are tools that can help you see the water you’re swimming in so you can take action to mitigate anxiety right away.

  1. Focus on past successes. Anxiety can cause you to rehash what you did wrong in the past and keep you from making sound decisions in new situations. But you can turn that habit around by reminding yourself of previous successes or by using past errors as guidance to make better choices. A recent study found that contemplating how you overcame past personal or professional hardships can be a resource that strengthens your belief in yourself.
  2. Refrain from overthinking. Anxiety and frustration reside in our heads. When we live in that place for too long, it can keep us stuck in anxiety. Trying too hard and ruminating about a career challenge can backfire, raising your anxiety level. Sometimes casting fate to the wind and trusting your gut to lead, instead of your head, helps you accomplish more than rehashing your performance before or after the big challenge.
  3. Take a 5-minute Microchiller. Short breaks of five minutes or less clear your mind, give your brain a chance to reset, reducing tension and fatigue and preventing cumulative anxiety from building up. These effective energy management strategies can be as simple as stretching, walking up and down stairs, deep breathing, gazing out a window at nature, snacking or having a five minute mindful meditation.
  4. Develop uncertainty tolerance. When uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it can amplify your anxiety and leave you at war with yourself—resisting and arguing with life instead of living it. If you can accept uncertainty and relax into it, you can reduce your anxiety level. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but accepting uncertainty enables you to use the unpredictability to cultivate a growth mindset and thrive fully in the present moment.
  5. Shy away from jumping to conclusions. Sometimes you might predict the worst case scenario before a challenging event, causing you to panic. But if you refer to past similar situations, you learn that most times the outcome didn’t match the story your mind made up—that despite everything coming up roses, you continue to suffer the anxiety of your negative predictions. You can save yourself a lot of hand wringing by reminding yourself to wait to connect the dots after instead of before the hard evidence is in.
  6. Talk to your anxiety. Your anxiety isn’t you. It’s an aspect of you. Once you’re aware of it, acknowledge it and talk to it in the third person as if it’s your best friend. When you notice it like a blemish on your hand, you start to feel space from it, and the anxiety subsides. Befriending your anxiety—instead of fighting, ignoring, steamrolling or debating—is the ticket to curbing it.
  7. Flip it. An anxious mind constricts your career potential. When we’re anxious, our perspective narrows, and we focus on the downside of an inevitable situation which causes anxiety to expand. You can mitigate anxiety when you flip your perspective and build on the positive aspects of a negative situation. Avoid blowing career setbacks out of proportion; find the opportunity in the difficulty, pinpoint the upside of a downside situation and focus on the solution nested in the problem.
  8. Look at your situation in a different way. Some anxiety-provoking situations have embedded lessons. When faced with career stressors, it’s only natural to feel anxious, but re-framing an inevitable situation reduces anxiety and helps you make the best of it. If you ask how stressors are happening for instead of to you, it elevates you to feel more empowered instead of victimized. Potential career snafus can work in your favor when you ask what they can teach you to build a stronger career.
  9. Focus on what you can control. When you’re faced with inevitable career challenges, focus on things around you that you can control and make a difference. Identify your personal resources: staying healthy, getting ample sleep, exercising, meditating, eating well and establishing strong social supports. Remind yourself how they provide an opportunity for you to stay grounded. When was the last time you soaked in a hot bath, meditated or got a massage? Make an appointment with yourself and schedule personal time to reset your footing.
  10. Remember H-A-L-T. When signs of anxiety take hold, stop and ask yourself if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. When anxiety overtakes you blocking job performance, this alert signal can bring you back into balance. If one or a combination of the four states is present, slow down, take a few breaths and chill. If you’re hungry, take the time to eat. If you’re angry, address it in a healthy manner. If you’re lonely, reach out to someone you trust. And if you’re tired, rest.
  11. Have a place to vent. According to nearly 47% of respondents in a Joblist survey, venting is very or extremely effective at alleviating stress. One in 10 people said their team meetings at work often or always turn into vent sessions. Don’t hesitate to talk about your job stress with a stress buddy or with someone you feel comfortable. It helps to have a helping shoulder to lean on who understands the situation. Sometimes that could be a co-worker who is under similar pressures. If that’s not possible, reach out to HR or seek help from a counselor.
  12. Cultivate self-compassion. Few people understand the link between self-compassion and career success. Think of self-compassion as a shock absorber between you and the anxiety. Coming down hard on yourself when you’re already anxious is like fighting the fire department when your house is on fire. It exacerbates the anxiety. But being kind to yourself when you’re under stress ignites self-support that helps you bounce back quicker—enabling you to scale career obstacles.

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