All of us worry. It’s a part of being human. And while we know what worry feels like emotionally (and even physically), do we really understand how it affects our performance at work? Today we examine the consequences that anxiety can have on our jobs.
The New Hampshire Union Leader published an article by Dr. Paul Baard, an organizational and sports psychologist with Fordham University, in regards to how anxiety affects motivation at work. It’s an interesting piece and we encourage you to read it in full. But to pique your interest, we’re highlighting some of Dr. Baard’s findings in this post.
First and foremost, it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that worrying is a massive distraction. Whether you’re upset about something going on in your personal life, or you’re stressed about a missed deadline at work, the cause of your worry is running through your mind constantly. It’s like a snapshot movie reel that is on instant repeat. And no doubt, with every start to the reel your heart skips a beat and you begin to sweat all over again! Your stomach hurts, your head aches and frankly, you’re tired because you spent the whole night tossing and turning. So, not surprisingly, focusing on the spreadsheet that needs updating or the press release that needs writing is painfully difficult. This is the obvious part to worry.
What is hard to distinguish with this emotion however is just how much of a hindrance it is on our daily work routine. Not only is our concentration shot, but so is our motivation. Suddenly, the five tasks on your “to do” list have turned into fifteen because you spent a better part of your day worrying rather than working. As the projects build up, the realistic expectations for completion go down and next thing you know, you’ve added another layer of worry to your plate. Not to mention, your self-esteem and value begin to diminish as well. It’s a slippery slope that quickly goes awry and morphs into chronic worry. According to Dr. Baard:
This often includes imagining a “What if … ?” scenario. This spiral downward starts with picturing a loss of job, and continues with not believing we’ll find another, bills going unpaid, loss of home, untreated illness…and on it goes.
It may sound excessive to say that one worrisome scenario can create dozens more, but this anxiety can have quite an impact on our brains. Just think how quickly our imaginations can run away from us. Or, better yet, how quickly our emotions can lead us to resolve to the fact that one or two problems are, inevitably, the beginning of the end. Dramatic? Yes. But pretty accurate nonetheless. When you consider the above information, one can conclude that worrying at work has the following (potential) consequences:
1. Loss of productivity
2. Loss of motivation
3. Loss of value
4. Loss of self esteem
5. Built-up stress
8. Impatience caused by exhaustion
9. Lack of sleep
10. Dissatisfaction at work
So what’s the solution? Dr. Baard provides sound advice that may assist in calming worry and boost our motivation for active resolution. Below are his 3 tips:
. . . shout (in your mind, at least) “STOP. STOP. STOP!” repeated until another line of thought comes to you. Some stimulus in your immediate environment might trigger the alternative thought, e.g., the mail to be answered.
Put anxiety-evoking energy to good use
. . . use that emotional charge as the energy to update a resume, start to assess our strengths, and think through some possible next steps. Or maybe hop onto a bike or take a run, which can help release endorphins.
Avoid answering “unanswerable” questions
. . . a better answer to the worrisome question “What if … ?” might be: “I don’t know!” (the future is largely unknowable after all). Remember, you are a capable problem-solver. You can reach out to resources for help, if necessary. And be sure to guard your exposure to sources of worry. Filtering your media intake, and limiting discussions with known doomsayers, will likely help you get your motivation back on track.
If worry is bogging you down at work, consider where it’s coming from. Perhaps learning techniques for reducing stress is a good option for you. But, if you have constant anxiety and dissatisfaction in your job, consider why that is and what can be done to remedy it. You may find that talking with your boss and/or seeking alternative pathways to satisfaction in your career may be the answer to your problem.