Battling Nervous Energy in the Workplace

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Remember back in grade school, when you anxiously sat at your desk awaiting the next spelling quiz? Or perhaps, the idea of getting up in front of class to complete a math problem on the chalkboard made you want to crawl under your desk and hide? Some things don’t change as we age and that same nervous energy that made you want to run away from the upcoming deadline of a huge science project in school still exists in the workplace with new kinds of challenges.

Spelling quizzes evolve to understanding how to answer questions about your company to clients. Doing math problems at the chalkboard become performing annual presentations to potential buyers or showcasing your company’s gains during the last fiscal year. And even big science projects are now projects in your office that need to be approved and completed by the end of the week.

If you never learned how to combat that horrible sinking feeling in grade school, chances are you still become a ball of nervous energy in the workplace. How can you possibly cope when the deadline is tomorrow?

An article posted to SmartBlog on Leadership titled, “How to counter fight or flight” offers a few tips on dealing with anxiety in the workplace. The blog suggests trying a few of these tips:

· Physical activities. Develop a set of activities such as curling your toes in your shoes. Moves like this will not only release high amounts of nervous energy, but also take conscious thought to engage, and it will re-center you. You can hide anxiety while you collect your thoughts.

· Preamble phrases. Experienced speakers, including many executives, use this one either inadvertently or by intent. Keep some phrases handy that lead into any kind of material. Phrases such as “There is so much to consider” or “To the best of my understanding” can help. They are rehearsed spacers, allowing you a moment to craft a substantive answer.

· Learned response. Rehearse expected outcomes. Think about every possible negative result. What can go off track a little? What can go horribly wrong? Focus on everything from the worst case and to the undesirable. If you take this approach, you will have conditioned yourself, in advance, to deal with an emotionally disruptive issue. Then when an issue actually arises, you will be prepared to some extent and energized for action, rather than afraid of the next few seconds and minutes.

· Face the tiger. Facing a “surrogate tiger” can teach you how to be prepared for a threat in your meeting or presentation. Ask someone you trust to give you a hard time about the issue you will have to face. If you are afraid that September’s board meeting will be brutal, find someone with the knowledge and personality to play the role of a challenger. Another approach is to find a situation, such as a Toastmasters meeting, to prepare so that you won’t go into fight-or-flight at the real business event.

So some of it might sound a bit strange (wiggle your toes?), but if it works, then what’s the difference? No one will even know, unless you’re wearing flip-flops to an interview or meeting which most wouldn’t advise, and if it keeps your anxiety at bay, then consider this article your new way to take on the world. You remember constantly shifting your weight at your desk in class, right? Same thing, but for adults. Go ahead and give it a try before your next presentation. Let us know if it works for you.

Do you have a secret way to swallow that horrible lump in your throat? What tricks do you use?


About Kate Gamble

Known to have her hands in a ton of things at one time - Kate is a confessed news junkie and proud Dean’s List grad. Whether she’s working the PR or HR side of her brain, her computer’s mouse or her Dremel (she makes handcrafted jewelry too!), Kate delivers the energy, commitment, and detail-orientation that are a perfect mix for Alstin.