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business / self-employment mental health wellness

Why you shouldn’t try to fix your workplace anxiety

Imagine you’re lost in the jungle and a massive tiger is chasing you. What would you do to survive?

Would you take a deep breath, listen to calming music, meditate, count up to 10, sing a mantra?

What would then happen?

So instead of breathing deeply, I bet you’d naturally run!

If a tiger is chasing you, what do you do? YOU RUN. If TIGER = YOUR JOB, what do you do? YOU QUIT

Long article warning 🙂  Get a cup of tea, put some music on, and let’s have a real anxiety chat. Here’s a summary of what’s on:

  1. Anxiety at work causes
  2. Why NOT manage your work anxiety
  3. Burnout – early signs
  4. The choices you have to get rid of your work anxiety
  5. Why you can’t stop anxiety at work
  6. My experience with work anxiety
  7. How it all changed since I became self-employed

Why does work give me anxiety?

I think we should, once for all, open a real discussion about the anxiety that you experience in these modern days. This thing is real and is NOT your fault.

Yes, an employer would probably tell you that you’re not ”capable” enough, that you’re not skilled enough, that you’re too slow, that you’re a poor employee.

But the truth is, your employer doesn’t care about you.

They won’t admit they give you work for 3 people and expect you to finish it no matter in how many hours.

They’ll just turn their heads and pretend to not see your 80-hour workweeks.

What causes my work anxiety?

Here are the most common causes of work anxiety:

  1. too much work
  2. an abusive boss
  3. unrealistic deadlines and expectations
  4. a toxic work culture, gossiping colleagues, unhealthy competition, envy and manipulation
  5. long commuting
  6. etc

You don’t have to manage work anxiety. The whole working system is wrong!

Anxiety itself is a sign that something is going terribly wrong. And no, it’s not you.

Your anxiety is wise.

Flight-Fight-Freeze : that’s anxiety.

You now know the analogy between anxiety and the tiger chasing you when you were a cave-woman, and all you could do was to run.

Some will try to convince you that you’re no longer a wild woman. That your anxiety is nothing. That your anxiety is wrong and you have to learn to get past it!

But what if you STILL ARE A WILD WOMAN of the modern days?

What if the tiger is actually real and takes the shift of your workplace or your boss?

What do you do?

Do you meditate, breathe in deeply, smell a lavender oil and train your brain to continue to take in all that crap?

No.

You leave!

But you have to earn a living. And you’re too scared to leave your job. You push yourself to the limits. You keep going until you b. Like I did.

Believe me, it’s not fun to burnout. It happened to me 3 times until I truly learned my lesson.

When you burnout you have no choice. You just collapse mentally and physically, and no longer can continue. A burnout gives you signs well in advance, but if you don’t know them, you keep going until it’s too late.

Should you get rid of your work anxiety?

Anxiety is good. Anxiety is healthy. Anxiety is proof that your body is smart and is sending you a signal that you have to make a change.

The change isn’t about managing the anxiety in the moment.

Is about the choices you make in your life.

Are you still going to continue to work for that organisation that doesn’t care about you? Doesn’t respect you as a person?

Who sees you as ‘resource‘ ? ( Yes, I am looking at you, HR Department! )

And as any resource it will replace you without hesitation when you’re no longer a good fit for their profit agenda?

How do I stop anxiety at work?

Simple: you don’t!

You can of course apply relaxation and breathing techniques that will help you in the short term. But it’s more like taking paracetamol for headaches instead of treating the cause of your headache.

From what I’ve experienced, if the workplace causes you bad anxiety, that affects your general health, you feel you’re always stressed and overwhelmed, then this means you have to make a change.

What change?

You may try and speak to your boss if is trustworthy, ask for less work and perhaps cut your working hours. I don’t really believe in this as I never trusted my bosses. But it might worth a try if it feels right for you.

Then there’s another option, that’s my favourite one:

Start your own business that responds to your lifestyle needs.

Prepare your exit, find a less demanding job, perhaps a part-time job and work on your own business on the side. I did this for years before running my business full-time.

My experience with anxiety at work

Anxiety wasn’t a lifelong struggle for me.

The first time I experienced anxiety at work I was in my corporate finance job. I was working VERY long hours in the office, at home, at weekends, travelling for meetings, and doing all my best in an always changing organization.

They made staff redundant to save costs and put more and more pressure on those still left. I was young, eager to learn and naive. Didn’t know my rights and didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself anyway.

Sacred resignation, the letter to freedom

I’ll never forget the day I resigned from my finance manager job.

I woke up at 6 am, did my exercises, took a shower, ate my porridge oats, put on my blue dress and an assorted blazer, my bag on my shoulder, and got out of my London flat by 7. I walked the usual 6 minutes to the station and jumped into the bus that took me to the office. I always travelled upstairs in the front seat, to have a wide view of the road, and imagine for those 50 minutes commuting, that I was on a holiday.

I scrolled mindlessly through my social feed, even had an empty conversation with an old times friend, then took my study book to revise for my upcoming exam. The time flew by, and I quickly got to work. I said hello to my boss who’s silly smile and red watering eyes reminded me of the late-night hours she’d normally sent emails.

My office was bright and spacious, and I felt blessed to have a whole room just for myself, so I can fully focus on work, without having to interact with my colleagues. I was never a social person at work and found the interaction with people rather distractive and useless.

I opened my computer and logged into my emails.

89 unread emails were waiting for me since last night.

I felt my mouth dry, a suffocating sensation in my throat, my heart pounding and I burst into tears. For the past year, I kept working until midnight, and still, my morning inbox showed these numbers. I started shaking on my chair, and my empty eyes looking in the void.

2 hours later I was back home, crying, shaking, getting chills, and calling my GP.

6 hours later, I posted my resignation letter in the mail.

What I did to make my anxiety disappear

To be honest with you, I did nothing.

Is there such a thing? Is this even possible? Can I even imagine that anxiety can disappear?

Yes, you can.

My truth is that, after I left my job and fully concentrated on my business, my anxiety disappeared on its own.

It was nothing to manage really.

Yes, I had to learn to deal with it while I was still burned out. I meditated a lot, learned to slow down, started to draw, listen to music, all that relaxing nice thing.

But that was only needed temporarily, for the next couple of months, until my energy was fully restored. Once I felt better, my work anxiety never returned.

Why I choose to run my own business instead of working for others

To be honest with you, I always knew I am not employee material. I am independent, I value my freedom, I like to think with my own head, I like to optimize my work.

I don’t care about growing profits for a random corporation that has no respect for people!

On top of that, I treasure my quietness, I don’t like to interact much with people and I am fully invested in my work. No workplace can really offer me what I need.

That’s why I chose to run my own business.

I LIKE my work. I put my whole heart and soul into it. I like my flexibility and freedom and helping people with what I do.

And if you are like me, know that running your own business is a viable option for you too.

So, is your work anxiety giving you a hard time?

Perhaps it’s time to start your own business.

Many blessings,

Amelia x