How Does Anxiety Show-up at Work?

Anxiety in the workplace is rampant.  Competent, productive workers get anxious.  Pile on deadlines, personalities, problems at home and long standing personality traits and it’s amazing we get any work done.  

What is anxiety?   According to the dictionary it is:

a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

These days everything has uncertain outcomes. Therefore, how is a worker, especially one who manages others and is in constant contact with a myriad of personalities and power structures, supposed to cope?  It’s a minefield out there with customers, donors, Board members, suppliers, bosses, committee members…

First things first.  It’s not about long term therapy or counseling.  You do not have to go down the rabbit hole to find the root of your anxiety.  It’s no use trying to figure it out.  You just have to face the fact that you have it.   However, my friends, it is not as easy as it looks since everyone’s anxiety takes a different form.  This blog on annoying-misunderstood-habits may help you.

There is much information about the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as headaches, gastro issues and trouble sleeping.  This links to a basic help guide for understanding anxiety.  

Forget Symptoms, Look at Behaviors.

Even my google prowess cannot return a good result on how anxiety manifests itself in behaviors, not symptoms.  The difference is not what happens physiologically, such as increased heart rate; sweating; feeling weak and tired, but how you react when you have those symptoms.  This link from the Mayo Clinic discusses stress which is what anxiety looks like.  Me, I become louder, faster, more (and you know I am a lot already).  For example, if I am worried about meeting an impending deadline, I may talk faster and be more blunt and direct than when I am not anxious.  Another person in the same circumstance may withdraw, freeze and not be able to produce.  If you are me, then you know that I come out swinging and looking to pick a fight.  

Do you know how you manifest your anxiety and how other’s see it?  Can you understand how some of your colleagues or team behaviors may be based in anxiety, not personality issues?  Why does it matter?  It matters because when I know how my own anxiety shows up – I can see it in others and disarm situations quickly and effectively to keep the work on track.  

My Anxiety Behaviors:

1. Defensiveness

When I am explaining too much, it’s a clear sign I am in anxious state.  When I explain, I complain and that comes off as defensive.  Not the “pulled together smart”  image I am trying to project.  That persona goes right out the window.  Then I become defensive without any defense.

2. Too Much Repetitiveness

Isn’t that already redundant.  For me, constantly repeating myself comes from growing up in a house where no one listened.  When I am anxious, those old behaviors rear their ugly head and I say the same thing over and over.  Playing out all of the maturations of an issue in my head, they go right to my mouth and out into the world.  Annoying without a doubt.

3. Can’t Comprehend Others

Most people think I’m not listening.  Oh I am listening!  I am just not hearing what you are saying.   My comprehension ceases to exist.  I can’t understand your words, it seams you are speaking another language to me.  It starts with my amygdala being triggered.  Then blood rushes to the my frontal lobe. The adrenal glands react and the physical symptoms take over. Blood pressure up, pain threshold increased, temperature rises, faster breathing and heart rate.  The result of all that is I cannot comprehend.  I loose brain functioning.  That shows up as not listening and frustrates others.  All of this because I want to make sure I hit a mark!

What’s Next:

Be less.  Know your own reactions.  Show up ready, willing and able without the baggage.  Use simple words.  Yes.  No.  Maybe.  I’ll check.  I don’t know.  Take 10 deep breaths.  When all else fails, own up to those around you.   I’m anxious, I really don’t mean to annoy you.  But know that you are doing just that.  

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