New Job Anxiety? Here’s How to Cope
Starting a new job can trigger a complex mix of emotions.
You might feel proud of yourself and satisfied that your hard work has paid off, but you might also notice some uneasiness creeping up amid your excitement. What if you can’t handle the workload, or the job is nothing like you imagined? What if your new teammates think you aren’t up to scratch? These worries, and plenty of others, might chase through your thoughts endlessly, leaving you doubtful and overwhelmed before you even start work.
However, some anxiety about your new job will keep you focused and improve your performance. It will help you to be on time. It will help you to notice and act on important details about the office, your coworkers, your boss, and the tasks to which you are assigned. It will keep you safe and healthy.
Too little anxiety can hurt your performance. You might miss important details. You might be less diligent. You might lack focus. Think again about those papers and exams. Too much anxiety can do similar damage. The more time you spend worrying, the less time you’ll spend doing a good job. Think back again on those projects and exams.
How to get over new job anxiety
A few approaches to consider:
Trace your anxiety to the source
Digging into your fears can often yield some useful insight.
Once you identify specific triggers, you can begin exploring helpful solutions:
- Not sure what to wear to fit in? Cast your mind back to the time you spent in the office during the interview. What were the other employees wearing?
- Worried about being put on the spot when it comes time to meet your coworkers? Brainstorm an introduction ahead of time.
- Transitioning to an in-office job after working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic? Protect yourself and others by getting vaccinated. Then, check the precautions your company has taken to protect their employees.
Maybe you can’t stop thinking about everything that could go wrong. This anticipatory anxiety can quickly get overwhelming, especially when it relates to things you feel unable to control — and new jobs often involve plenty of unknowns.
Fortunately, physical and emotional preparation can help quell these worries, too.
Practice your new routine ahead of time
Uncertainty only fans the flames of anxiety, and new job anxiety often relates to the upcoming changes involved:
- commuting to a new place
- starting work at a different time of day
- working more hours each week
- handling new responsibilities
Prepping yourself for change ahead of time can help:
- Worried about traffic and travel times? Research different routes, or look into walking or taking public transportation to work.
- Nervous about how your pets will cope with your sudden absence? Gradually increase the time you spend away from home each day to help them adjust. (However, it never hurts to ask if your new office is dog-friendly.)
- Wondering where you’ll take breaks and eat lunch? Explore the area around your work so you feel more comfortable in your new surroundings.
- Not a natural early riser? Begin shifting your sleep schedule a week or so ahead of time so you won’t feel groggy and tired on your first day.
Find your go-to coping techniques
Anxiety can come knocking in any number of guises.
An endless playback of looping thoughts can leave you irritable and uneasy. Maybe you struggle to focus on anything because your nervousness keeps popping up and jarring your concentration.
Anxiety might show up physically, too:
Having coping strategies in place can help you manage these symptoms as they come up. You might, for example, try some breathing exercises or create a relaxing playlist to restore some inner calm.
Grounding techniques can help you keep calm when your new boss emails you on your second day, asking you to step into their office without a word of explanation. They can help you move past confusion and into problem-solving when you receive your first assignment and don’t know where to start.
Here are a few grounding techniques you may try:
- Good self-care practices can also make a difference.
- Eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, and avoiding caffeine late in the day might not seem to have much to do with your anxiety, and these steps won’t always lead to relief.
- All the same, too much caffeine, lack of sleep, and even certain foods can worsen anxiety symptoms.
- Struggling to get the sleep you need? It might be worth considering some changes to your night time routine.
- Try yoga, journaling, or a hot bath to wind down in body and mind.
Try some mindfulness
At your most anxious, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of negative thoughts clamoring to be heard. Unpacking these doubts and fears can sometimes lead to productive solutions.
Yet, it’s not always possible to “solve” your anxiety, and endlessly analyzing your worries can eventually lead not to clarity, but to increased distress.
Becoming more mindful can be as simple as acknowledging your worries instead of trying to overanalyze them or push them away. Then, practice acceptance by recognizing your apprehension and letting it go without engaging with it.
Move through it
Ever got the impression that a short walk or jog helped chase away some of your worries? You weren’t imagining it. A 2015 research review highlighted exercise as one potentially helpful intervention for anxiety.
Regular physical activity can:
So, next time you feel nervous stress settling in your limbs, try shaking it off with a brisk walk.
Building regular movement breaks into your day can make a difference, too. Even a short walk or stretching session can help ease anxiety.
Talk about it
New job anxiety is common, so there’s a good chance your loved ones have experienced it, too.
Sharing your worries with friends and family can normalize those jitters and help you feel less alone. Spending time with loved ones can also serve as a positive distraction that helps you set your anxiety aside.
The people you trust most can do more than offer emotional support. They can also help you keep things in perspective by reminding you of the qualifications that got you the job in the first place, or all those benefits your anxiety may have overshadowed — a more rewarding career, improved salary and benefits, or a more flexible schedule.
Revisit your qualifications
As your start date approaches and your anxiety intensifies, challenge and reframe your trepidation with some positive self-talk.
After all, you got the job. Your new employers chose you from a large pool of applications because you have the skills and abilities they need.
Entering an environment with all-new faces can absolutely inspire some nervousness and unease. But look at it as an opportunity to shine instead. You’re about to have the chance to impress a completely new set of teammates with your talents and ideas.
Still feeling doubtful? Try creating a list of your personal values, professional experience, and achievements to remind yourself why you’re most suited for the job.
Do some shopping for your new workspace
Anxiety and excitement can sometimes blur together, making it difficult to recognize what you’re feeling. Use this to your advantage by choosing to view your nervousness as excitement. After all, those butterflies could very well stem, at least partially, from eager anticipation.
One aspect of a new job that many people find exciting? The chance to decorate a new office or workspace.
If your work has agreed to furnish your workspace and purchase any needed supplies, list some things you’ll need: a calendar, planner, that office chair you’ve had your eye on, your favorite brand of writing utensil.
Choosing mementos or photos to infuse your unique personality into the new environment can help ease anxiety by adding a sense of familiarity to your new space.
Even finding a new outfit (or two) for your first days or selecting other important items like a water bottle or travel mug can fuel some excitement and put a positive spin on your feelings.
Use anxiety as a tool
Unpleasant as it sometimes feels, anxiety is a completely natural response to perceived threats. New job anxiety, then, can develop as a manifestation of the threat of possible failure in your new role.
Giving voice to your worries, however, can help motivate you to find ways to prevent them from coming true. When you want to do well, you’ll probably dive into your new responsibilities with enthusiasm and focus — an attitude that can lead to success.
According to a 2017 study, allowing anxiety to motivate you can help reduce some of its unwanted effects — with one important catch. Before you can use your anxiety to improve your performance, you generally need to be clear on where it comes from. It’s tough to overcome fears you aren’t aware of, so uncertainty around what’s triggering new job anxiety can make it challenging to harness those feelings as a motivational tool.
Make a friend or two
It’s pretty normal to wonder what your new teammates will think of you and feel a little nervous about your reception, especially if you tend toward introversion.
Fixating on what they’ll think of you and worrying you won’t get along can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. You might feel so afraid they’ll reject you that you avoid making the first move. They might, in turn, believe you aren’t interested in socializing and leave you alone entirely.
You don’t have to become best friends with everyone in your office. Still, cultivating workplace friendships can help prevent loneliness on the job — somewhere you’ll spend a significant portion of your waking hours.
Friendly coworkers don’t just help smooth your transition. Knowing you have friends at work can help prevent Sunday scaries and make it easier to face the upcoming work week.
A few helpful strategies:
- Make time for occasional small talk, even if you hate it. You can always redirect the conversation once you get to know someone better.
- Ask questions, but make sure to offer information about yourself, too.
- Show your sense of humor, but be sure to keep it professional.
- Offer to pitch in with projects or tasks, as long as you aren’t overextending yourself.
Talk with a therapist
Starting a new job is one possible cause of anxiety, but anxiety often has other triggers, too. If anxiety still hovers over you weeks into your new job, it may be worth reaching out for some professional support.
Left unaddressed, anxiety can disrupt your focus, prompt self-doubt and frustration, and contribute to sleep problems and health concerns — all of which can affect your work performance. It can even factor into other mental health concerns, like depression.
Support from a therapist can make it easier to explore specific workplace issues, along with any other factors that might be driving your anxiety. Therapists can also teach strategies to minimize anxiety and navigate it in the moment.
By far, the best thing to do is to get help as soon as you ask yourself whether you need it. Only a psychologist or other mental health professional can tell you whether your anxiety is something that requires treatment. That new job likely comes with medical insurance; here’s a chance to use it.