In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous at work”, understand what happens when we feel nervous or anxious and what to do to cope with it
How to not be nervous at work
We ask “How not to be nervous at work” very often, but have we really done something different to not be nervous at work?
Or have you tried everything and nothing seems to work?
Well, here are a few tips and tricks on how you can manage your anxiety at work:
- If it is your first day, remind yourself it is normal to feel nervous. You are adjusting to a new environment, new colleagues, a new boss/manager.
- Plan your day in advance. It can be useful to set up a schedule and organize yourself for the day ahead but remember things may change along the way so be flexible
- Remember, it is normal if you don’t know how to do something. You do not have to do it perfectly on the first day. Allow yourself to make mistakes, it is part of the process.
- Be on your best behavior. Stay polite and meet and greet the people you will work with.
- Write things down. This is the best way to remember what you need to do without forgetting.
So let’s go more in-depth on the tips we have just mentioned. Remember your job interview, your heart was racing, your palms sweaty, you were feeling very uncomfortable, but you managed to get the job due to your unique skills and CV.
This anxious reaction is very common when you are in a situation that is new to you or you feel you can’t really control.
Next, we will talk about what happens inside our bodies when we are having this type of reaction.
NOTE: if it is not your first day and you keep feeling nervous at work, it is now getting overwhelming and you are struggling to cope when you have meetings or when you talk to your boss you may have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, then it is recommended to seek guidance from a therapist or a counselor to evaluate, assess and provide options to manage your anxiety.
If you’re still looking for a job or if it’s your first day at it, you should tryout some tips on How to not be nervous for a job.
What happens inside our bodies?
Now we will understand a bit more about what happens inside our bodies when we are feeling nervous since most of the time we are really unaware of what is going on.
Your nervous system is divided into two main networks: the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the Peripheral Nervous System (nerves coming out of the central nervous system).
Basically, the Central Nervous System (CNS) would be the one responsible for processing sensory information retrieved from stimuli on the environment, learning and consolidating memories, balance, and coordination, among others.
On the other hand, we have the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) which contains all the nerves in the body that lie outside the brain and spinal cord, for instance, nerves from your skin, muscles, and organs.
They contain cells that detect sensory information such as smell, vision or temperature, and they carry messages to the Central Nervous System.
The PNS is divided into Somatic Peripheral Nervous System, which controls voluntary functions such as smiling, jumping, walking, talking, basically functions you can actually control.
In contrast, we have the Autonomic Peripheral Nervous System, which controls involuntary (automatic) functions such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion, hormone release, among other functions you can’t control and yes, this is the system responsible for your anxious response.
Autonomic Peripheral Nervous System: Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic
Up to this point, we have seen how the CNS and the PNS have different structures and functions, but they are communicating all the time through the stimuli or signals from the environment that the CNS picks up.
This could be changing your body temperature or sending extra blood to a particular area of your body.
In addition, we can conclude that the effects tend to change according to the situation you are in and also which part of your Autonomic System is in charge at that particular moment either your sympathetic nervous system, which excites your body’s functions or the parasympathetic nervous system that subdue them.
Together, they are the systems that make your body experience such as stress, relaxation, anxiety, fear, and defiance.
However, even if the word “Sympathetic” sounds so comforting and “not so bad at all” you may want to think again.
This is the system that is responsible for alerting your body and preparing you to either “fight or flight” when you are in a threatening or potentially dangerous situation.
Throughout the years (millions of years of evolution) this system is the one that activates our survival instinct releasing neurochemical and a series of hormones that prepare you to react to the threat.
However, this system is also responsible for activating your alarm during public speaking, when meeting someone for the first time or when facing your first day at a new job.
Even though they are not really threatening situations in nature, your brain does process them as such and reacts accordingly.
This is why training your body to cope with stress and anxiety is not easy due to the “automatic responses” you can’t seem to control such as a faster heart rate or breathing rate, sweating, shaking/trembling, etc.
What can I do then?
Here we will discuss some tips and tricks that can help you cope with your work anxiety, but as we have discussed, if it feels too overwhelming, nothing seems to work and symptoms worsen then seek professional advice.
- It is completely normal to feel nervous
As you may know now, it is completely normal to feel nervous at work, especially if it is your first day but remember that feeling anxious most of the time or anxiety symptoms worsening could be considered a sign of having an anxiety disorder that needs to be assessed and treated by a mental health professional.
If anxiety starts to kick in just remind yourself “what I am feeling is real, normal and temporary.”
- Plan your day
Planning your day may relieve yourself from that feeling of uncertainty and “what to expect” for the day following ahead.
It is very useful to avoid checking your phone first thing in the morning, even though we know how important for you might be to stay informed about what’s new on Facebook.
Social media can be a very powerful source of anxiety and it won’t help you on your first day at all.
Instead, try to keep a journal and start planning your day.
Also, you could dedicate a few minutes to some mindful meditation to focus on the present, the “here and now”.
This will help you feel more relaxed and tackle any challenge that may present with a different light.
- It is OK if you don’t know how to do something
If it is your first day at a new job position or you have to face new challenges then it is OK not to know entirely what you are doing, that is part of the process.
What you can do is ask around some colleagues about guidance on how to do something you are not used to and fully concentrate on learning it the best way you can so you avoid having to ask in the future.
However, if you need to ask 10 times it is also OK, you are learning and everyone learns at a different pace.
- Be on your best behavior
When you are starting a new job at a new company, it brings new policies and procedures.
Make sure you get familiar with them to avoid having any serious faults.
In addition, it is important to be polite and to meet and greet the people you will work with.
When you meet new people, it is recommended to smile at them, so they know you are approachable and friendly.
- Write things down
If you have a note pad, your cellphone, a journal or an agenda keep it with you at all times so you can write down any tasks, deadlines, or useful information you may need to develop your job duties.
It will also help you remember things that can be easily forgotten, especially if you have a lot of things to think about at once.
However, if you do not have any of the mentioned items then you can use an app on your phone or sticky notes to help you remember.
Why is this blog about How to not be nervous at work important?
We discussed how not to be nervous at work a few tips and tricks and how normal it really is.
In addition, you may now be fully aware of what happens to your body once you start feeling nervous or anxious.
Even though there are automatic reactions that we can’t really control, you can actually train your brain to shift the threatening perception you may have in situations such as your first day at work, a public presentation or meeting new people.
The way we perceive stimuli and the connotation we give to it is in the end responsible for how our body reacts but don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t manage at first.
It really requires practice and perseverance.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous at work
How can I stop being so nervous at work?
There are some tips and tricks you can use to stop being so nervous at work:
– Plan your morning in advance.
– Take control of what you can.
– Have little breaks in between job duties.
– Exercise regularly.
– Eat healthily.
– Do breathing exercises.
How do I stop being so nervous?
If you want to stop being so nervous most of the time, either at work or school or any other context, here are some tips you can follow:
– Remember that feeling nervous is a normal human reaction when we experience new challenges, meet new people or face unfamiliar situations.
– Reprogram your thoughts. Instead of thinking all the time what could go wrong, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen.
You will realize it is not as bad as you think and even if it is, it can’t get worse. Also, think about the positive things that could happen!
– Learn some breathing techniques. Breathing is fundamental to help you reduce your anxiety levels.
It sounds so simple and it really is! Controlling your breathing rate will help you stay relaxed and reduce muscle tension.
– Avoid substances such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. They only increase and worsen anxiety symptoms.
How can I calm my nerves first day at work?
To calm your nerves during your first day at work remind yourself how this feeling is only temporary, as soon as you get comfortable and familiar with your new work environment, it will fade away.
In addition, avoid overthinking how your colleagues will perceive you, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion over something or someone so do not try to control or change that, just be yourself.
Finally, keep things in perspective and try to detach emotionally from everything that happens, it is not always your fault.
Can you be fired for depression?
You should not get fired for having depression.
Depression can be a very disabling condition and there are laws that protect employees from discrimination or unfair treatment.
Make sure you document yourself about the laws if you are being dismissed due to depression.
How do you relax your mind and anxiety?
To relax your mind and anxiety you can:
– Learn how to breathe deeply and slowly. Try learning breathing exercises for relaxation or even mindfulness meditation.
– Take a warm relaxing bath. This will help you relax and calm your nerves.
– Listen to some soothing music. Classical music is the preferred type of music to relax your body and calm your mind but you can also listen to instrumental or ambient music.
– Write. Keep a journal where you can write everything you are feeling and thinking.
This will help you put things into perspective and stop catastrophizing.
– Do imagery exercise. You could imagine a place where you can be the most relaxed such as a beach, a forest or somewhere you really enjoy being at.
When anxiety kicks in, close your eyes and imagine you are going to that “safe place”, be as detailed as possible with the scenery, what you feel, smell, or see.
- Anxiety Relief: Self Help (with Heart) for Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Stress Management
- Is Your Job Making You Ill?: How to survive and thrive when it happens to you
- No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work and How They Help Us Succeed
- Managing Anxiety at Work: Tips to beat stress, worry and panic (Coaching)
- Wellbeing at Work: How to Design, Implement and Evaluate an Effective Strategy
Rolfe, A. (n.d) How-to: Stop feeling nervous about starting a new job. Retrieved from Reed.co.uk.
Fairygodboss.com: “Lessons on How to Not Be Nervous at Work: 10 Essential Strategies”.
Sandiu, A. (2017, Nov.) Five things to remember when you’re dealing with work anxiety. Retrieved from Medicalnewstoday.com.
Hoos, M. (n.d.) Help, I Can’t Relax! 6 Tips to Beat Work Anxiety. Retrieved from Themuse.com.