The term performance anxiety is used to describe the fear of performing, and is closely related to stage fright. In work situations, performance anxiety is linked to the very intense stress felt about the possibility of not doing the job adequately or successfully. While at times it might seem difficult to do so, there are ways you can avoid performance anxiety at work. Most importantly, you should try to maintain perspective when it comes to your job; while it might be a very important part of your life, it is not your life. Consider how you can approach work tasks and make them more manageable. Talking to others about your anxieties can also often help.
Maintaining a healthy perspective on your work and life is probably the best way to avoid performance anxiety at work. No matter how important your job is to you, keep in mind all of the other things that play a big role in your life, such as family, friends, and hobbies. Do not allow your job to ruin the satisfaction you get out of the many different aspects of your life. Jotting down successes in a journal can also help you keep perspective, and see that you are more successful than you realize. This may help you build confidence when stress about work performance hits.
Ask for Help
If you aren't sure if you're doing your job correctly, it can cause a lot of workplace stress. In most cases, asking your boss to clarify his or her directions may be helpful, and indicate that you're eager to do a good job. If the amount of work you are expected to complete is overwhelming, you may be able to ask for help. Many employers expect you to handle the job you're given, but others might simply not realize how much work you're trying to juggle. If you cannot shift any of your responsibilities, try breaking each large task into smaller, more manageable parts that feel less daunting.
Lighten the Load
If you are struggling to deal with stress at work, discussing it with a good friend or a family member may help lighten the load. You are likely to experience greater performance anxiety if you isolate yourself and feel you are the only one to ever deal with a difficult work situation. Be cautious when discussing performance anxiety or other work-related stresses with a colleague, however, because it is possible that he or she could spread the information around or try to use it against you. Before you share your fears, make sure your colleague is a close friend you can trust.
Seek Professional Help
If talking with a supportive friend or family member is not enough, or if you feel that you are spending too much free time venting about your job, consider talking with a therapist. You can devote all of your therapy sessions to tackling work anxieties, while you probably should not spend all of your time with family and friends talking about work. Therapists may use cognitive behavioral therapy and/or anti-anxiety medication to help alleviate your performance anxiety.
Your therapist will likely address the issues that might be contributing to your work performance anxiety. These often include perfectionism; feelings of inadequacy on the job; and negative self talk, such as "I'm such a screw-up." Your therapist might ask you to talk over real incidents of past failures in performance in order to help you gain perspective. He or she might teach you deep-breathing or meditation techniques to calm your nerves, and can help you avoid "all or nothing" thinking. Your therapist should also help you determine whether or not you are working in an environment that is unhealthy psychologically.
Pursue Activities Outside of Work
Sometimes, pursuing continued education opportunities related to your job can help you avoid performance anxiety at work. Gaining further expertise through courses, workshops, or retreats could boost your abilities and confidence. It also helps to have diversions outside of work that are rewarding; practicing hobbies, spending down time with family, or participating in volunteer work can all give you the feeling that work is not the central part of your life.
Consider a New Job
People vary considerably in the amount of stress they are able to handle. In some cases, performance anxiety is alleviated by looking into a change of careers or a change in employers. A salesperson might consider a job that emphasizes customer service rather than sales, for example, or an emergency room physician could be better suited to the less frenzied pace of general practice or teaching. Being honest with yourself about just how much stress you can take is important for people with performance anxiety.
It might not be possible to entirely avoid performance anxiety at work. Some people respond to any level of stress with greater anxiety. Stress reduction should be possible, though, by learning tools to help relax, reassess, and realistically view any job requiring "performance."