Anxiety at Work; How to Deal

Q & A with my wise sister & best friend, Julia Urbaniak, on anxiety at work and how she deals

Julia works as a Senior Brand Manager at a Fortune 500 IT company in Chicago, IL and has had 9 years of experience working with her company. Julia offers excellent advice on coping with anxiety and gives insight into how she manages her successful career and mental health. No matter what type of job you have, this applies. Enjoy!

1.    When did you first notice signs of anxiety in your workplace?

I started noticing my anxiety as I moved ahead in my career and took on positions that were more visible throughout our company. In one of my previous roles, I was a sales trainer, and I led all day training’s for adults. I felt that I was constantly prepping for my work in order to feel like I was ready enough to deliver 9 hours of content the following day. It started out fine but then a few months into the role I got burnt out. I wasn’t able to have a life outside of my job, and that did not sit well with me. I took action and found a career path that was a better fit.

2.    How does your anxiety affect your life both in and out of work?

In lots of ways, and not all of them are bad (typical me, trying to look at the flip side). In the workplace, I notice my anxiety popping up the most in high stakes meetings with high powered executives – “imposter syndrome” feelings, or anxious feelings about sharing a thought or idea in fear that it is not up to their standards. It is something I consistently work on and try to combat. Since I began seeing a therapist, that is something I worked on with her and I have seen huge improvements on. In reality though, it still happens and it is difficult for me to completely turn off.

The positive side of this for me, has been that it can hold me accountable and makes me think about every little thing. My mind is almost always going – running though certain scenarios and various to do lists, for example. This is frustrating at times, but also makes up some of my greatest qualities.

At home, I notice my anxiety pop up most with my need to plan and my want for people I love to be “okay”. It has been a journey for me to really be able to separate my happiness from how others I care about are doing. Sometimes I struggle with this, but 95% of the time I am able to separate the two.

3.    What helps you cope with your anxiety?

 Going to see a therapist has helped me immensely. I recommend this to literally everyone who is close to me. It is the best “self-care” ritual I have ever taken on and the best money I spend on myself (way better then new shoes or a bottle of wine). There were times at the beginning of my journey that I’d see my therapist every week, and now I’m at the point where I schedule with her as needed, when things pop up that I want to work through. She is the objective person who knows everything about me, and I unleash everything going on inside my head. 
It’s very liberating. She incorporates meditation and certain tools into our sessions that I then take with me into real life settings.

If I’ve had a stressful day at work and need to compress at more of a surface level, watching a trashy reality TV show is my favorite way to get out of my head.

4. Do you still deal with your anxiety? How do you manage it?

I absolutely do. It ebbs and flows, sometimes not popping up for a long while and during other seasons it can come up daily. I am at the point now, that when my anxiety does creep in, I ultimately just accept it and know that it will pass. I intentionally don’t give it much thought, hoping that gives it less power over me. I will admit, this has taken me some time. A way that helps me cope is taking a walk – removing myself from the situation that is making me anxious. I do this whenever possible. I also meditate or read. These things help me get out of my mind when I need to.

5.    In what ways do you believe working in corporate America is difficult mentally?

For the most part, I don’t find it difficult. I think it’s because I work at a wonderful company that promotes mental health awareness and a work life balance. I have heard horror stories though from others, and that continuously makes me thankful I am not in that situation. Find a company that feels like a good fit with your values. They are out there!

6.    What advice would you give to people looking to grow in their career while maintaining their mental health?

Take time for yourself and remember that at the end of the day, work is work. I love my job but when it comes down to it, I am able to put it in perspective. I am not saving lives (if you are, then this advice isn’t great….skip ahead), and remembering something as small as that helps me to realize that certain things are not worth my stress. I am able to go home after a busy day a work, and enjoy my time with my family and friends, uninterrupted by thoughts of work. That is a blessing and that was not always the case for me – so I do not take it for granted.

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