Natalie asked about overwhelming work anxiety: “I have a good job that is maybe considered high stress. But I get so anxious I avoid work. I feel overwhelmed but can’t pinpoint why. I have literally cried over this at work.”
I’m glad you reached out. I can’t tell from your question if this is an ongoing problem you have had throughout your career, or if it more recent. I am going to assume that these intense feelings of anxiety are relatively new, or that maybe mild work anxiety has suddenly escalated for no particular reason you can think of.
In this scenario, your overall confidence in your ability to do your job is likely not the issue so much as that some aspect of your work life has triggered an anxiety response. Have there been any major changes in your workplace recently, such as a new manager, reorganization, downsizing, negative morale among your co-workers, new expectations, or additional responsibilities being put on your plate? That is the first question you should ask yourself as you try to root out the source of your anxiety and overwhelm. Even a change that you don’t think of as stressful could be triggering some underlying feeling of anxiety.
In regard to coping with work anxiety in general, here are some things to consider:
Imposter syndrome — Imposter syndrome refers to a persistent pattern of doubting your competence despite evidence to the contrary. It is insidious and agonizing. People who experience it may perform exceptionally at their jobs. They may be highly regarded, may have received promotions, raises, and accolades. But despite all of this, they feel deep down that they do not belong where they are, and fear that it is just a matter of time before they make a terrible mistake and are exposed for what they are — someone who rose to their position due to luck or help from others, but actually have no business occupying the role or position they have achieved.
This state of mind is made up of a collection of “cognitive distortions.” In the field of cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive distortions are defined as habitual ways of thinking that are extremely negative and usually inaccurate. They tend to fall in about ten different categories; here are several…