Anxious thoughts can shred hours away from your day, eating into your productivity or sometimes keeping you awake at 2 am with your brain in overdrive. (We’ve all been there.)
If you experience anxious thoughts or feelings, know that you’re not alone. Women are almost twice as likely as men to deal with anxiety. In tech, studies confirm that women and minorities experience stress and poor mental health, often related to discrimination.
Anxious thoughts can be a major barrier to your career growth, impacting your confidence, performance and enjoyment of work. But you can learn to overcome these thoughts and get on with smashing your goals.
What causes anxiety?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness lists genetics and environment as two key contributors to anxiety. It may ‘run in the family’ for you, or you may have picked it up due to a stressful or traumatic life experience. The exact causes of anxiety and worry are still a mystery, and can differ from person to person.
We know that uncertainty can ignite anxious thoughts, which is why the global pandemic has led many women to burnout and poor mental health. Increased household tasks, less support and working from home challenges haven’t made it easy.
But there’s also got to be a link to the way we’re living. Women these days are leading fast-paced lives, often juggling careers with childcare and household admin. All the while, we receive a constant stream of messages via social media platforms that force us to compare ourselves to others.
There’s a lot going on. We’d hazard a guess that anxiety is at an all-time high for working women.
How can anxiety and worry affect you?
Persistent ‘mental chatter’ and negative self-talk can affect all areas of your personal life, including:
- Physical health
- Weight control
- Stress management
- Earning potential and income
- Mental and physical performance.
By contrast, positive thinking can prevent many health conditions and improve overall wellbeing.
Anxiety can seem to suck the joy out of everyday life. Left unchecked, it can also lead to more significant mental health issues.
It’s not unusual for people to ruminate over mistakes they made at work, things they said, things that were said by others, or perceived failures. Anxious thoughts can become relentless and start to impact your career. This may present itself as:
- Lack of confidence
- Time wasted worrying
- Inability to speak out about injustice
- Lowered productivity or performance
- Feelings of guilt or blaming yourself.
Overcoming anxious thoughts about your work can be difficult. It may be useful to get an accountability partner or mentor to help you reframe workplace situations and stay on track with your goals and aspirations.
How can you stop feeling anxious?
Use mindfulness to identify anxious thought patterns
You’ve probably heard about the practice of ‘mindfulness’ (although some people confuse it with meditation, which is an entirely different thing but can also be useful in managing anxiety).
Mindfulness is the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment. You can practise mindfulness wherever you are – it doesn’t need to be in a quiet room on a fancy yoga mat. The idea is to notice negative self-talk, and recognise that it’s just ‘thoughts’, not reality. Once you’ve got a hold on this, you can start to reframe these thoughts and catch them before they take over.
Headspace encourages viewing your mind like the sky. Thoughts, like clouds, come and go. You can learn to observe them without dwelling on them or giving them power, remembering that the sky is still blue behind the clouds.
Other ways to reduce feelings of anxiety
- Relinquish control It can sometimes feel like your emotions are out of your control, like you don’t possess power over them. Letting go of control and accepting that you’re allowed to feel sad, frustrated or disappointed can help you manage anxious feelings. When you release your expectations and stop striving for ‘perfection’, you can open up to all that’s possible.
- Identify and embrace your desires Don’t ignore what your mind and heart are telling you. Whether you have goals or dreams in your personal life or your professional life, stuffing them down will eventually spiral into anger, resentment and ultimately, regret. Act on your desires instead. Exploring jobs in tech could be the first step for you.
- Reset your emotions Identify, name and release the negative emotions inside you, and you’ll be able to let go of your stress.
- Schedule “worry time” It may seem counterintuitive to actively worry, but studies show that setting aside scheduled time to focus on worries decreases anxiety over time. Try developing a habit of spending 20-30 minutes a day focusing on your worries – journaling about them can help.
Take care of yourself
Practising self-care is another important way to curb anxiety.
- Eat well – occasional treats are fine of course (you’ve gotta live!), but try to aim for a balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly – 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day is recommended.
- Get regular medical checkups – don’t ignore symptoms, even if you think they’re no big deal.
- Get enough sleep – try for eight hours a night.
- Stay connected to friends and family – even if you’re introverted, talking to others can help you discuss worries and fill your emotional cup.
- Seek professional help if you need it – chat to your GP if your worries are persistent and interrupting your life.
There’s enough going on in life without having to worry about getting sick or run down, so self-care is essential.
Connecting with other, like-minded women can help you stay focused on what matters, letting anxious thoughts fall away when they come. Become a Girls in Tech member to experience the benefits of our inspiring global community.
Remember, tech needs you just as you are – anxiety and all.