Coping with social anxiety in the workplace
Throughout my entire life I‘ve been an extrovert. Little Miss Talkative, who loved to be the centre of attention and would put on performances for her family and of course, get them to pay ‘ticket fees’ for my mind-blowing dance skills. Yet as the years went on, I slowly started to find myself in more and more situations where I struggled to make conversations, and fit into the same social circles which once felt like home. The mere thought of doing activities or being in situations I used to enjoy, filled me with debilitating fear. As you can probably guess, this was social anxiety rearing its ugly head. The anxiety eventually took over, and sadly I was no longer the social butterfly that I once prided myself on being.
I’m a Candidate Manager here at Madison and yes, I can imagine what you might be thinking; how can she work in such a people-focused role, with social anxiety? How does she spend day in and day out making conversations, building relationships, and overall, just being social? Let me tell you something, it’s easy to experience anxiety in any workplace. Anxiety can be triggered by changing environments and situations, and can affect even the most confident of us. Personally, I found myself struggling to sleep. I was constantly dreaming about work, biting my nails, and stress eating. I kept wondering if I had offended someone, or said the wrong thing. Of course, anxiety is different for everyone; triggers and reactions alike. However after speaking to some people with similar experiences, I uncovered three pieces of advice which help me overcome anxiety in my job (and life in general) —maybe they will help you too:
1. Find a hobby outside of work
When I first started here at Madison, I would arrive home exhausted, wholeheartedly believing that jumping immediately into bed would make me feel better. Oh, how wrong I was! Turns out, by switching your focus to something else meaningful in the hours you aren’t in front of your computer screen, you are actually helping yourself relax from the worries of work. This has a more positive impact than simply going to bed, or as many of us do— jumping online to scroll through your favourite social media channel. Instead, you could try learning to play an instrument, painting or maybe take some dance classes. In my case, I started dancing again (like my 5 year old self). I’ll keep you posted on my next performance.
2. Regular Exercise
The reason why my anxiety didn’t kick into full force until I started working again, was because prior to this, I had been exercising on a regular basis. I was unemployed and travelling, so of course I had all the time in the world to exercise. As I found, it can be very easy to become complacent about your health, and make excuses about being ‘too busy’ and give up something like exercise. However, I now realise this is a mistake. Make a conscious effort to stick to your ‘feel good’ routines, such as yoga or playing sport because they release a funny hormone we have all heard of—endorphins. I’m no expert on how or why they make you feel good, but I can definitely say that once I returned to regular exercise, they helped me focus on the important things at work and block out all that stressful stuff.
3. Magnesium Tablets
When I found my remedies of dance and exercise were not quite cutting it, I turned to magnesium, a proven natural remedy. Anxiety is basically a mental stress, and when you find yourself mentally stressed, you release a hormone called cortisol. Studies have confirmed that chronic, elevated amounts of cortisol can cause anxiety and depression. Cortisol has a powerful effect on your brain. The triggers that increase cortisol production, causing it to spike irregularly, may cause anxiety. Magnesium combats the hormone directly and helps reduce negative effects. When struggling with anxiety, I found that I couldn’t stop my thoughts from running wild and as a result, I found my nervous system was under attack. By taking magnesium tablets, within a short space of 30 minutes, I felt calmer and was able to focus on what was important. Magnesium made a huge difference in reducing the levels of anxiety I experienced.
I should mention, if anxiety in any form is getting the better of you, it’s an important first step to visit your family doctor or health provider to get personalised medical advice. Thankfully, sometimes anxiety will only be a short-term issue, if recognised and treated immediately.
Since I have been doing regular exercise and have picked up a hobby outside of work, I find that I am able to focus better on my job. I no longer need to take magnesium tablets to help me calm my nerves. People don’t always suffer anxiety throughout their entire work lives; sometimes it presents itself when you undergo any kind of change such as starting a new job, moving to a new house or any other kind of stress-inducing or challenging personal circumstance. Whatever the trigger may be, ensure you take care of yourself, because your family, friends and employer will love you for it! I definitely still have my anxious moments, but I know I’m back to the regular, extraverted version of myself now.