It’s the anxiety, stupid

There is a principle in design, back when I was interested in that, which is KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Very valuable for improving photography. I need to KISS my problems with work.

I was just replying to Susan’s comment on my last post to the effect that I’m defining the problem, which is anxiety, pure and simple, and not whether I am competent or good looking or smart or any other thing really. My anxious ways of interacting may make people question my competence, but from my point of view, it’s the anxiety I need to tackle.

That’s something I really want to remember, because my ‘anxiety mind’ will keep suggesting that it’s other things that are the problem – lack of brains, lack of experience, blah blah blah. Nope. The problem is I beat myself up constantly, especially when I have to interact with other people. It’s like being attacked by the fifth column – the enemy is myself attacking myself.

It’s pretty difficult to relate naturally to people when you’re beating yourself up during the conversation. Sheesh! What a nightmare.

Today did not go as well for me as yesterday. Perhaps my description was a downer, but yesterday was quite a good day for me.

Today I ended up again irritating my two team members. Who are a little on the irritable side, if you ask me, but still, I wish to not be irritating. I would like them to like me.

I had a bunch of tasks to do on behalf of the team, involving fixing a template and emailing the larger project team about fixing some inconsistencies in the documentation. I thought I was supposed to check with them about the wording, but in the end, I guess I checked about too many things and became a bit of a pest.

Emails or people asking me questions don’t irritate me, so I don’t realize that they are annoying to other people. And I sometimes take things kind of literally, where someone else would just drop an issue, I keep pursuing it.

Anyway, in my eagerness to do the right thing, I probably checked too much. But as I am unfamiliar with this group, on the other hand, I really don’t want to send out an email that does not have the right tone, and that the writers don’t all agree on.

Ah well. This is small stuff. But one of my team-mates seemed to be unthawing towards me in the morning, and then was back to being dismissive by the afteroon.

And there was no one to have lunch with.

But I’m going to dismiss this from my mind. It’s very small potatoes. I did the best I could, and got a lot done in fact. The co-worker opinons are not the end of the world. (OK, this is from the therapy tapes. But I agree with it.)

I need to find a way to calm down and relax at work, so I’m not flooded with stress hormones all the time.  It’s good to know that this is what I want to tackle.

  1. Ellen:Just for you to think about:I wonder how many times your checking up on something has led to any important change to what you were doing from a business perspective and whether most of it resulted in rubber-stamping.People think they are paying you to do a job and if you ask lots of questions it stops them doing their jobs and can make them think you might not be able to do your job.So as a thought experiment how would you feel about not getting a second opinion on anything for a day? Just trust your own judgement and run with it.I suspect it will be very rare that anyone comments on anything you did in a negative way or says "You should have asked me".If they do say that you can say "I could see you were very busy and I didn't want to disturb you. It's not problem I'll sort it out now".

  2. Anxiety results into various kind of ill effects.Hence one must surely find an appropriate cure for it…Herbal medicines tends to give a great relief in curing anxiety in people in the age group of 30's. remedies anxiety

  3. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,I know what you mea. How can you have a run of the mill conversation with all that internal shouting drowning everything out? Its not easy. The anxious mind jumps up and down waving its hands craving attention and when you inevitably give it there is only doubts to feed on. Its very hard to ignore that.I do feel for you in your current job. It doesn't matter how good and/or experienced you are in your line of work. As a contractor you need help from in-house staff in the begining because every workplace is different and has its own way of doing things that you cannot know until you learn.When I contracted I had a lot of problems with staff. I don't know how it is with you but there was a lot of resentment. Full time staff expected contractors to hit the ground running and because they were making a hell of a lot less money for doing the same job some would go out of their way not to help. When I contracted I did adopt the attitude of not caring what anyone thought. It was easy then but I couldn't do that now. For me this is a case of bad management. The fact that your manager is not approachable means he is not getting the best out of you. He is the one who should be getting the team working together and once you have learned the ropes you will ask less. If you do not know how something specific to that workplace works then how else are you going to know unless you ask? I hope as the days pass into weeks the staff there become more helpful. I know they all have their own work to be getting on with but at some time they must have had to ask too.All the bestNechtan

  4. Ellen said:

    @Mike – It has led to changes, but maybe they were not that important, it's true. My co-worker yesterday was just being pissy – we are all in a lull, and I thought we should do something a different way, but she didn't. She went off for a gossip with someone else pretty soon after I left her cubicle.But I take your point – I will try it explicitly. No questions unless it's something obvious when I get work, like when is the deadline. Thanks for the suggestion.@Nechtan – Thanks Nechtan. It's interesting to hear that other contractors run into the same issues. Yes, it is not good management. Having to go through this co-worker for instructions isn't really fair I think. She also is a contractor who has only been there 3 months herself. I find her extremely difficult. But she is full of self-confidence and very social, so she looks great.I am going to work on not asking about anything for a while and see how that goes. I'll just do what I think best. And 'not caring' – I like it. Something to work on. These stories are really helpful to me. I didn't work all through my thirties, and have missed out on a lot of 'street-smarts' kind of knowledge because of lack of this experience I think. Cheers

  5. gniz said:

    One thought I have for you as well–I actually don't work very hard at all and yet I always keep getting good reviews, etc. Much of this is because I tend to be good at "fooling people" that I'm a good worker. So we may have opposite problems :)But from my perspective, what keeps my boss so happy is that I ALWAYS try and appear calm. When everyone else is acting rattled and stressed and is talking a mile a minute, I act cool as a cucumber. Remember, I said ACT. Sometimes I'm very upset and stressed but I try never to let it show towards my boss or coworkers.I won't stand my ground over things that don't matter or where I can't win. I won't engage in arguing, and I try to always be the voice of reason.I am also very uncomfortable making light social conversation, so it's not that I'm just amazing with people. But if you show a lot of tension in regards to work related issues, such as meeting deadlines or little details, you give an impression of incompetence (whether or not you are incompetent).I think Mike H makes a great point and I would suggest just pretending to stay calm and centered, modulate your voice and speak slowly, in a relaxed fashion about work related issues when you do in fact need to discuss.Also, you might just be working in a shitty environment with stressed out people in which case it's always difficult.

  6. Susan said:

    Reducing the cortisol levels; I've found green tea is helpful. I can't recall where I found that but I think it is helpful. A bit of honey with it or lemon is nice:)I've struggled with these issues too Ellen. I've gotten to a place where I can at least try to remember that I can't make someone be, feel, think or do anything and I am completely separate from others. When I can just say "well, that person seems to be having a bit of a bad day" feels quite different than "Oh shoot, what did I do now? Oh oh, I made them irritable again". I agree – the apparent issue is not always the issue is it? It comes down to how I view my own place and power in the world…if I can keep coming back to this I can usually come off much better (or at least I'm thinking I do anyway!):)

  7. Ellen said:

    @gniz – Interesting. I love all these 'stories from the trenches'. Everyone has a slightly different take. OK, I'll try it. Modulate the voice…It's a little tricky sometimes, as I don't realize I'm feeling anxious, but now I'm on the alert, hopefully I'll manage this. And I'll bet you do a fair amount of work gniz to earn those good reviews. 🙂 But I agree, the role perception plays is huge. @Susan – thanks Susan, I'll try green tea perhaps. Black tea as well has soothing properties they say. Good point that it's not all about me.

  8. Susan said:

    Sorry…I saw my typo.Yes; it's black tea not green tea:)

  9. gniz said:

    Hey Ellen, people always think I'm exaggerating, but the truth is I really do very little. But I know when I need to work and I can focus intensely during those times.Sometimes, less really is more. Everyone has their own style with this stuff and you will find what works for you.Play to your strengths and try to stay away from your weaknesses (work on those slowly, when you feel up to it).Best of luck.

  10. diver said:

    'My anxious ways of interacting may make people question my competence.'Hi Ellen, bit late on the commenting here, sorry. I wanted to comment though because I sooo know what you meant by the above statement. Back when I was trying to network my way as an 'anxious sport psychologist', gawd, it was horrible. It was like my very self-presentation undermined my best intentions. No wonder I failed at it :(I think you're right about 'beating yourself up a lot'. This comes across in your blog. As for being competent or good looking or smart, well, two of those things come across in your blog too, especially your 'communication' competence. I mean IMO your writing style is superb Ellen … slick, crystal clear, always reader-focused. I often use you as my model for clear communication – e.g sometimes I think to myself, 'Ellen wouldn't include that vague sentence' … before editing it out. True tale.Anyway, I'd like to say 'don't question your comptence' ma'am, you're a classy writer. As for those colleagues and how they're handling you … well, I always thought these sorts of situations were about 'non competitive efficiency' : if we do our job and focus on our efficiency and try not to be competitive with our co-workers then any problem that arises is just coming from their bitchy competitiveness, isn't it?

  11. Ellen said:

    @Susan – I didn't see any typo Susan, just being conversational….I do think green t is healthier…@gniz -It's the zen of work then? good advice, thx@diver – Wow, what a compliment! Thanks diver – i had no idea i was having such a beneficial effect… 🙂 As long as I'm a kind editor in your head, not the critical sort! Well, that does boost my ego. It could use some boosting lately. A friend of mine used to say that everyone re-creates their original families at work. It does seem to be a maze of strange behaviour sometimes – I think I'll just keep my head down. I know that I easily set up rivalries where a female co-worker is best friends with the boss, and I get jealous. Shades of my younger sister. And it's happening again here. Though I'm not exactly jealous – more like stressed out. Gotta keep the paycheque in mind!

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