Holly Ashby is a member of the Will Williams Meditation team, a group that helps people tackle stress and anxiety. Every month, Ashby lends MyDomaine readers advice on how to balance mental health with everyday stress. Here, Ashby gives us tips on achieving your career goals when you feel like anxiety is holding you back.
If you suffer from anxiety, one of the most important things you can do is practice self-care. By not placing yourself under too much pressure, and by giving yourself the chance to recover when you’re burned out, you can manage your symptoms. This can mean that you may have to put your career on pause at times—but what if you feel like anxiety is getting in the way of your ambitions?
If getting ahead in your career is one of your priorities, having to account for anxiety can be very frustrating. It may feel like you are at a disadvantage—that your dreams are out of reach—but that doesn’t have to be the case. Read six ways you can get ahead without compromising your well-being.
It may seem that recording your worries might lead you to ruminate on them, which would be the last thing you need if you are prone to overanalyzing. However, keeping a worry diary is not only a great way to express yourself, it’s also a way to take a step back from your own thoughts. Seeing your concerns written down, especially if you read over them a few days later, can offer clarity.
Anxiety can make irrational fears seem entirely reasonable, and disaster a likely outcome. Putting some distance between yourself and your feelings can help you recognize which concerns are legitimate concerns and which ones you can ascribe to anxiety. You may be making decisions that are influenced by anxious, panicky feelings without even realizing it, missing out on opportunities you are perfectly capable of pursuing.
By objectively observing your thoughts and fears, you can see if they stand up to scrutiny. You may be majorly anxious about an upcoming job interview, but by viewing this anxiety objectively, you can explore what it is you are worried about. First, ask yourself, What’s the worst thing that can happen? If it’s that you won’t perform well and therefore won’t get the job, remember that this will be a temporary setback, not a life-changing disaster, and that the learning process will make you better prepared for the next opportunity.
Secondly, go through all the things that make you qualified for the job, revisiting the work and moments in life that you are proud of. Demonstrating to yourself that you have every chance of getting this job will remind you that your fears are manageable. While it can be difficult to think this way when you are in the grip of panic, getting into this habit in your calmer moments can make you feel more secure and confident.
Meditation is well-known for its stress-relieving qualities, and it can be hugely helpful to those living with anxiety. People can be put off the idea of taking up meditation because (much like maintaining a healthy diet-and-exercise regimen) it feels like yet another “healthy” chore to add to your day.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. Meditating before bedtime can become as much as part of your routine as brushing your teeth. It’s a chance to truly relax—something you’ll relish rather than feel guilty about avoiding. It can also lead to plenty of unexpected results, from increased productivity to heightened creativity, perfect for wowing bosses and co-workers at work.
In modern life, being busy is seen as an unavoidable part of being an adult. Having a packed schedule may even be seen as a badge of honor. This kind of hectic lifestyle can be exhilarating at times, but if you often find yourself overwhelmed and are prone to burnout, managing your time is very important.
Being busy doesn’t necessarily translate to being productive. You shouldn’t feel guilty about clocking out when the workday is over. When choosing how to fill your days, make sure you are making decisions based on what you want, not what you feel obliged to do. Saying no to unnecessary burdens on your time will give you the space you need to unwind. Allowing for plenty of rest time isn’t lazy, it’s ensuring that you are at your absolute best at work.
If you suffer from anxiety, simply getting into work on a bad day is an achievement in itself. Achieving your dreams doesn’t mean being 100% perfect at all times, and setting extremely high standards for yourself is likely to make your anxiety worse. Thinking that a piece of work has to be the best thing you’ve ever done can paralyze you with worry, making it difficult to even start—let alone finish—something worthwhile.
Letting yourself off the hook and acknowledging that your best is good enough will make your progression up the career ladder much more enjoyable. If you are enjoying yourself, you’re likely to work harder, and if work is no longer a source of anxiety, your enthusiasm will shine through.
Those with anxiety are more likely to imagine possible failures than think optimistically. Imagining yourself in successful scenarios—from acing a job interview to pulling off a difficult project—will slowly build your confidence and get you used to the idea that you can achieve what you want.
Having a negative internal narrative can be exhausting and erode your self-worth. While it’s perfectly normal to have low moods and nervous feelings, learning to counteract this narrative in happier moments will give you the tools needed to lessen your anxiety.
What actions do you take to lessen anxiety?