Anxiety and Working: Cultivate this asset ASAP.

I have anxiety, worse I get intrusive thoughts that at times can really set me back and for lack of a better term plant me flat on my !@#. I have also maintained a full time job since 1988 (yes I am ancient). I’ve worked in many places and have had many different roles. How have I done it? I have worked on one important asset throughout my career.

The asset? A robust professional network. Now we hear this term, “a network” many times but what does it really mean? It means that you accumulate a list of people that you have worked with that are allies and references. Yes, it’s that simple but it’s critical because this asset can be the difference between getting a job and being unemployed. In the stress cesspool we all currently fight so hard to survive in, we have to have assets to help us survive.  A good network is one of the best assets you can have.

Quick story – I lost a job in 2012 the company was sold, and headquarters were moved to Denver. I knew it was coming but like everyone else at the company I didn’t know when. I looked for another job, to no avail and then the meeting happened we got our last checks and I was driving home. There I was out of work, stressed and pretty bummed out. I was angry, I was scared, and I was desperate. I had to pull over. I called my wife and told her I was on the side of the road that I was okay but would be late. She got very scared, a police cruiser pulled up and he tells me my wife called them because she was afraid.

I explained the situation and told the cop I was just clearing my head. He understood, but told me I needed to go home. He followed me, I was humiliated. It was a very low point for me, my anxiety was in full bloom, intrusive thoughts were sweeping through me, and I was losing control. I got through it but the next week was horrible, my kids were scared, my wife was scared, I was scared.

You will meet many people in your career, identify like minded individuals and cultivate a relationship.

I had bills, a family to support I was panicking. It took me weeks to recover from the stress, I recall sitting at my PC at home looking at jobs, and they all sucked. It was then that I reached out to my “network” which at the time consisted of 6 people. These were all professional contacts, none of them were great friends but we had worked together, and I had identified them as allies. Every one of them replied to me, 2 of them had jobs for me. One was at a much lower level then my last job, but it was benefitted, the other was a lateral move from where I was.

I was back to work within the month, because of my network. It’s critical for professionals to network with other like-minded people. This “network” is an asset that you need to maintain like your other valued items. I know this language may not sound normal for the maintenance of relationships but it’s critical to do this. How do you do it? Here are 5 tips to keep your professional network cultivated.

  1. A holiday email: Send your network a happy holidays email.
  2. Birthdays: if you know them, send your contacts a happy birthday email
  3. Do lunch if you can: From time to time reach out and see if they want to meet for lunch.
  4. Follow their social media: don’t stalk them of course but from time to time drop them a “hey” on their Instagram.
  5. Ask how things are going at work: They may be looking for a job too.

Keep it professional don’t go to personal (how are the kids, etc.) unless they do. Remember, as a person living with anxiety we need to look for help sometimes. It’s okay to need other people and its okay to use a professional network when things in your work life aren’t so rosy. I am so glad I had a network, who knows where I would have ended up. Ya we had a little money, we aren’t wealthy though. I recovered fast because I had cultivated this asset. I hope you never need one for the same reason I did but please, build one.

“You Can Talk to Us”: Social Anxiety at Work

Social anxiety presents itself in a variety of forms for different people and can be perceived by others in a lot of negative ways. Last week I got called out by a coworker for rarely speaking to the employees on the first floor.

My desk is in the basement along with 3 other workspaces that occupy two part-time employees and one is there twice a week. Most days I am downstairs by myself.

The fridge and microwave are on the first floor so when I arrive in the morning I put my lunch away and come back up a few hours later to get it. In those few moments I am upstairs I try not to make eye contact or speak with anyone else.

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What I look like walking down the hallway at work.

Last week I was walking back to the basement after heating up my lunch when my coworker said, “you know you can talk to us.”

I was dumbfounded. I felt exposed as if she pulled back the curtain to see socially anxious little me hugging my favorite teddy bear.

My anxiety has always told me that nobody wants to talk to me or cares what I have to say. It has made me believe that it is best for me to keep to myself so I don’t bother others.

My response was, “Oh, I can? I thought you were all really busy most of the time.”

She said they aren’t then we proceeded to casually chat for a few minutes.

Over the years, I have shut myself off socially at work.

At my last job I kept to myself except for talking to my supervisor. Most of my other coworkers weren’t friendly so I didn’t speak to them unless necessary.

Nobody has called me out on my social anxiety (except my therapist) so it has become a normal way of living for me. It has definitely given me some perspective on how others view me at work. Something to certainly think about.

Do you have social anxiety? If so, how do you cope with it at work/school?

Also what is your current coping method when you’re struggling with your mental illness?

As you can see from the featured image, my current coping mechanism is BTS. Whether it’s watching their incredible dancing in their music videos or reading along with the translated lyrics, BTS makes me happy in all ways. It also helps that they are all super cute. (If you’re a fellow Army, I love Jin, V and RM most.)

What warms my heart is their lyrics in “Love Yourself” that say, “even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations.” These words are powerful for me because of my history with self-harm.