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Advice Column: Anxiety In The Workplace

Advice Column: Anxiety In The Workplace


Submission:

I’m a 31 year old male living in Waltham, Ma and working nearby. My field is biotech and my work consists mostly of benchwork in a science lab. In 2014 i finished a science Master’s and after that i have had 3 contract jobs and before i found my current full time job. Most of my work woes come not from the work itself but from the fact that i struggle with anxiety of the social or general variety. This tends to make interactions with people more difficult than they need be, especially in times of stress. I can still carry out my job but sometimes i think that i wouldn’t want the anxiety i deal with to affect and alter my career path to a safer and more restricted path. For example i have considered switching to project management from benchwork, or maybe switching to a product scientist which would be more customer-facing and my self doubts tell me that anxiety would interfere. Any advice?

PS. I don’t want to rely too much on anxiety medication since most meds have side effects or lead to dependence.

Response:

“This is a tough problem, and one that many people find to be very debilitating in their careers. However, there are numerous steps you can take to ensure that your anxiety does not interfere with you accomplishing your career goals and dreams.

Anxiety often manifests itself as fear of possible future situations. “What if I become a project manager and fail?” “What if I have a bad interaction with a customer?”. The good thing about these thoughts is that, even though you can probably find evidence to back up your fear, it’s still a fear of something that has not actually happened.

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I recommend that you try embarking on the career path of your dreams. If it turns out that, even though you’re a good project manager, your anxiety about the role becomes too intense to function, then perhaps it’s best for your mental health that you stay on your current career path. However, you may just find that after a week or two of discomfort, you settle into your new role and your anxiety moves on to other things.

That said, anxiety is a mental health issue that generally affects every facet of one’s life. While it’s not something you can control per se, it is something that you can harness. I definitely recommend that you talk with a mental health professional about what strategies you can employ to keep your anxiety under control during inopportune moments (like when you’re working). One of the most accessible resources out there is TalkSpace, an online chat space and mobile app, where you can speak with a licensed therapist about your anxiety and ask for help figuring out how to deal with it sans medication.

Although mental health is often stigmatized in the workplace, it is incredibly prevalent, affecting millions of workers. You are not alone, and I am confident that you will have a fruitful career in spite of your anxiety.”

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