My experience of workplace anxiety
Updated: Jan 10
I worked in finance from 2012 until 2019. Although being suitably educated and more than capable of completing the work expected of me, I often found the office experience challenging. Siting in an open plan office is not particularly suited to an introverted, socially anxious person who was prone to panic attacks.
I would find myself acutely conscious of what others thought of me, particularly while on the phone, speaking in meetings or even something as simple as having to introduce myself or ask a question. I would constantly be second guessing myself, never completely sure I knew what I was doing and expecting a disaster to occur at any moment for which I was responsible.
For many years I tried to hide my ability to panic. All the while I was terribly frightened of being exposed for this in a public forum. This resulted in living a life constantly looking ahead to future events where this might be an issue such as social outings and work meetings.
My mind would see simple, every-day events as a panic-attack-in-waiting that must be avoided. Meetings in work, phone calls, interviews, social events, presentations, even just conversations with people I might know well. My life became smaller as I felt I was capable of facing so little.
I explored various avenues to help me retain a sense of calm including brain training, therapy, hypnosis and medication. I didn’t find any of these to be what I was looking for.
A number of years ago, I joined a group of like-minded anxious over-thinkers which proved to be life changing.
Having a trusting group of people who were going through the same thing was the only resource that truly helped me. I was able to honestly talk about how I felt without judgement and was able to work on techniques to help with my social anxiety.
Having an open space to talk about things that you find challenging can be a ground breaking experience. It can be like a different world. Previously, so much of my time was spent attempting to exude calmness and total self-assurance which I found to be exhausting.
The openness of the group allowed me to be honest and accepting of myself. Not the person that wanted to appear in control in work or popular at social events. Instead I could openly admit to having things on my mind and that I can find mundane decisions to be difficult to make. I began to recognise that everyone is navigating similar challenges.
Once I started to embrace more openness, I found that most people do not really judge you for that. In fact, my experience has been that you don’t really get treated any differently. If anything, I have found I have made great friends through this group experience. The main difference is that people perhaps understand me a little more. I can accept the anxiety, my ability to panic, and embrace that the idea that these perceived negative attributes do not need to be fixed. They are minor challenges that I can navigate which do not have to play a major role in my life.