The first few weeks at a new job can be pretty nerve-wracking. If you’re feeling anxiety about starting a new job — or even a not-so-new job — it can impact your physical and emotional health and lead to long-term stress and burnout.
So, what’s the solution? We talked to experts who gave us 10 strategies you can use for managing nerves both inside and outside of work. Keep reading as we talk you through how to reduce stress and start your new job off on the right foot.
Understanding job-related anxiety
You may not be surprised to learn that work-related anxiety is fairly common. It can be caused by:
- Starting a new job
- High workload
- Poor work-life balance
- Lack of job security
- Workplace conflict
Job anxiety doesn’t always appear in obvious ways, either. It can manifest as:
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, stomach issues, disturbed sleep, feelings of exhaustion
- Emotional Symptoms: Worry, fear, irritability, restlessness
- Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulties in concentration, poor decision-making, memory issues
- Behavioral Symptoms: Procrastination, avoidance, change in eating habits
The good news is, whatever the symptoms, you can treat the cause of your anxiety with the same strategies. Let’s take a look at some things that may help.
10 practical strategies for overcoming new job anxiety
Whether you’re experiencing new-job jitters or on the verge of burnout, here are some strategies you can use to minimize the effects of anxiety on your job performance and wellbeing.
Schedule “worry time”
It may sound silly, but one of the best things you can do to feel less anxious is … let yourself feel anxious. By setting aside a specific time to let yourself worry, you can prevent those feelings from spiraling and taking over.
Use some trial and error to figure out the time and frequency that works for you — it might be 15 minutes every morning, or an hour in the evening once a week. Us this time to think about what’s making you feel anxious and come up with solutions. If you feel worries arising outside this time, simply jot them down and set them aside until you have time to deal with them.
Develop a morning ritual
Starting each day with a consistent ritual can go a long way toward eliminating anxiety. If you can, aim to get up at the same time each morning and start your day with at least one healthy activity. This could be eating a healthy breakfast, taking a walk, doing yoga, journaling, or even setting aside 10 minutes to read quietly.
Not only will these things help to relax your mind and invigorate your body, sticking to the same routine is a good way to signal to your brain that it’s time to start work.
Setting aside even a few minutes each day for mindfulness has proven health benefits and is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress. Try to start each day with a few minutes of silence or meditation and take a mindfulness break any time you feel overwhelmed.
Even something as simple as looking away from your screen and taking a few deep breaths can help you refocus.
This can be easier said than done — especially in certain fields — but a lot of times, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is about learning how to say “no.” If you’re struggling to frame this in a work-appropriate way, try phrases like “I’m swamped with other tasks” or “I can’t give this my full attention right now.”
If a new task is truly urgent, asking your boss what they’d like you to prioritize and making it clear that you’ll have to let another task go to incorporate it can help communicate the extent of your workload.
Set realistic goals
Remember that everyone takes time to adjust to a new role — that’s true whether this is your first professional job or simply a new role in the same company you’ve worked in for a decade. It’s okay not to hit the ground running — give yourself time to learn the role and set small, achievable goals you can hit from day one.
Celebrate small victories
By the same token, when you have success, acknowledge it! This doesn’t have to be getting a promotion or landing a major client — something as small as getting through a presentation or responding to a difficult email can be worth celebrating.
Setting SMART Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals can help you identify even small victories.
Everyone makes mistakes, which means that your goal shouldn’t be to eliminate mistakes. Instead, try to reframe small mistakes as learning opportunities. Accept responsibility, analyze what went wrong, and think about how you can do better in the future. Not only will this help you manage anxiety in the short term, it can also help you adopt a broader growth mindset.
Master small talk
Do you struggle with social anxiety? Learning how to master small talk can help — and it doesn’t even require good people skills. Begin conversations with light topics like sports, weather, or recent movies — even if you’re not interested in these things themselves, a little small talk can put others at ease and help you gradually build relationships with coworkers.
Learn how to handle criticism
Getting feedback can be a cause for anxiety all by itself. If you don’t handle criticism well, try to:
- Take a moment before responding. Take a deep breath and try to respond calmly, even if you’re feeling emotional.
- Process it on your own time. Thank the person for their feedback in the moment and reflect on it later, when you have more time and space.
- Identify key learning points. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback as a whole, there are likely one or two things you can take away from it.
- Ask for specifics. If the feedback is unclear or you don’t know what you could do differently, ask!
- Focus on the future, not the past. Instead of responding defensively, over-explaining yourself, or apologizing repeatedly, talk about what you’re going to do differently going forward.
- Act on it. Taking concrete steps is the best way to show that you’ve taken the feedback seriously.
- Request regular feedback. Even if you hate it — or especially if you hate it — the best way to get used to feedback is to deal with it regularly. This is also a great way to show that you care about your job and are eager to improve.