Starting a new job is a little like going to school the first day when you’re a kid. Many of the same concerns arise, such as whether people will like you, with you’re up to the task, and what will it be like at your new job? All of this can give you anxiety about your new job. In addition, if you have negative experiences with difficult coworkers or bosses, you might feel worried that it will happen again. I’ve worked with people who have new job anxiety because they were harassed, bullied, or even assaulted while they were at work at previous jobs. It can make them extra sensitive and hypervigilant for any kind of perceived mistreatment. Here are some ways to deal with new job anxiety.
Recognize when new job anxiety is coming up
The first step is to recognize that anxiety about your new job is occurring. This takes them paying attention to your body and mind. For instance, what kind of body sensations are you experiencing that tell you you’re not doing too well? Some people get a knot in the pit of their stomach, while others might experience new job anxiety as tightness in their shoulders or a headache.
You also can track down what you’re thinking about the new job that makes you anxious. Before you started feeling tense or uneasy, what was going through your mind? Some common thoughts that make people anxious are, “what if the new boss doesn’t like me? How much work will I have to do? Will I be bored at my new job, or will I be overwhelmed? How will my coworkers treat me? Do I even know how to do what they want me to do? Am I good enough for this job?” All of these thoughts could make anyone anxious. Maybe your new job anxiety is not in the form of thoughts per se, but rather images that disturb you such as people excluding you or memories of being mistreated before.
Once you recognize the body sensations and thoughts that are making you anxious, you need to do something to quell your anxiety so you can think more clearly and realistically.
Take a mindful moment to be with your new job anxiety
Before you can challenge your thoughts about your new job, you need to be calm enough to think realistically. Mindfulness can help you come into the present and be more at ease. This, in turn, can help you cope more effectively with your new job anxiety.
First, you can find a quiet place and take some slow, deep breaths from your belly, letting it expand on the in breath and contract on the out breath. As you breathe, notice the areas in your body that are tight or tense, and imagine that your breath can smooth out the tight places in your body.
With each breath, you can become aware of how each breath sends oxygen and vitality to the different parts of your body. You may find that you become calmer and that your muscles can loosen with each breath. Thoughts will come and go, and for now you are just focusing on the body and getting it ready to encounter reality as it is. As the body becomes more flexible and less rigid, it prepares the mind to be more open to new ways of thinking as well.
Challenge the thoughts that feed your new job anxiety
With your mind more flexible and your body calmer, you can start to ask yourself where you got the idea that your negative thinking is true. This is a technique of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that is useful for reality-testing the assumptions that you make about new situations.
Everyone feels little nervous when doing something for the first time – that’s natural. The problem arises when you remain stuck in the negative, unrealistic thinking that perpetuates your anxiety. Write down what you are thinking about your new job that gives you anxiety. What are the assumptions and fantasies that you have? Once you have made a list, I want you to ask yourself some questions about the statements that you are having. These questions are:
What evidence do I have that supports this statement?
What evidence goes against this statement?
Is this negative scenario happening now? Or is it something that happened in the past, and I am projecting the past onto the future?
What is at stake in this scenario? In other words, what is the worst that can happen if this statement is true?
Is this something over which I have control, or is it out of my control?
What is a more realistic way to acknowledge the risk, but also the opportunity in this situation?
Reassess your anxiety after attending to your body and mind
After you have worked with these statements and question their validity, check in with your body again and see how you feel. Do you still feel tension in your body? How does your mind feel? Is the anxiety still there, or is it replaced with another emotion?
I’ll bet that you feel was anxious about your new job, and more prepared to move forward, even if you’re a little anxious. Ultimately, you can always quit if the job is too awful. But you probably won’t have to do that once you’ve dealt effectively with your new job anxiety. If you feel like you need more support and direction in combating your new job anxiety, please call me at 661-233-6771.