Posted in Small Business Secrets | by: Elizabeth Robinson

How One Founder Conquered Anxiety at Work

Work anxiety—it can make your heart do jumping jacks, your eyes twitch, and turn sleep into a thing of the past. It’s also something most of us experience at one point or another. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that over half of workers believe that stress impacts their performance, and 51 percent say it also affects their relationships with peers.

Knowing how to manage on-the-job anxiety is key if you want to worry less and enjoy work more. Plus, it can help your team do the same thing. We talked to Kenny Tjay, owner of Las Vegas-based digital media company, Indiemarch Film, to uncover his top workplace worries, along with tips for tackling them before they get out of control.

5 Stressful situations and Kenny’s advice for overcoming them

#1: The fear of failure

Kenny says that his main source of stress is around scaling his business. “I’ve grown from zero to seven employees. For me, the biggest anxiety comes from trying to figure out how to delegate responsibilities.” Whether it’s delegating or handling an HR crisis, there’s only one way to become a pro at what ails you: dig in and do it. Here are some of his tactics:

  • Use journals to stay ultra-organized. Kenny says he keeps two journals—a personal and a business one. This helps him track tasks and support his growing team more easily, while also allowing him to use the second one to manage the rest of his life.
  • Be real with yourself about whether you can accomplish what you’re setting out to do. Do you know how to do the task at hand? If not, don’t reinvent the wheel. Email your network and ask how they’ve done the same thing, along with the specific tools they used to do it.
  • Break your project into bite-sized, achievable tasks and cross it off when you meet each milestone. You can do this by chunking out action items into the smallest steps possible. Or try separating out to-dos by days, weeks, or months.

#2: A difficult boss or coworker

No matter your industry, you’re bound to run into a few difficult personalities. Whether it’s a stubborn customer or a moody teammate, it’s always important to stay calm for your team. Making these relationships positive is also good for business. As Kenny says, “We work together, but we’re all first and foremost friends.” Get back to common ground with these steps:

  • Ask yourself what could be causing the strain. Is this person difficult all the time, or are there temporary pressures causing the tension?
  • Talk to the person and try to dig into what’s going on and how you can help them alleviate the tension. Let them know you’d like for your relationship to be positive and productive, and brainstorm ways you can work better together.
  • Diffuse a tense conversation by giving the other person a chance to restate a comment that bothered you. If you slipped up, a simple “Let me rephrase that” can do wonders.
  • Steer away from personal topics and focus on more objective things, like the process someone followed. Here are more tips to help you navigate an uncomfortable talk.  

#3: Feeling bogged down

Kenny may put in 15 hours a day, but he also works hard to stay fit, healthy, and connected with friends. “The most important thing to me is to have hobbies,” he says. A few ways you can rebalance a work/life imbalance:

  • Devote some after-work time to things that recharge or relax you. Put it on your calendar and add others to the invite so they can help you stick to it. If you’re engaged in something else, it’s harder to jump back on email when you’re supposed to be decompressing.
  • Set up “no work zones” at your house where your laptop and phone are strictly forbidden. For many people, the bedroom is a good place to start.
  • Wake up a few minutes earlier and structure “you time” into your mornings. This can include 20 minutes of yoga or meditation, savoring a coffee at breakfast, or reading the news before you leave for the office.

#4: Crazy deadlines

Nothing can raise your blood pressure like a deliverable that isn’t ready on time. Here’s how you can beat the crunch and worry less when it happens:

  • Ask yourself if a deadline makes sense. If it doesn’t, change it—easy as that.
  • Get the support you need on projects up front. Bake in extra planning time to help you figure out what resources you need to do the project in a realistic way.
  • Use a spreadsheet to list out all the tasks along with mini deadlines for each one. Then, attach owners to each of those tasks and have them manage their specific due dates.
  • Stay on top of communications with the people involved. Kenny says he and his team over communicate with clients to stave off issues down the line. “If we’re running a little behind, we catch up with the client and say, hey, I just wanted to let you know this is happening.”

#5: Dealing with day-to-day anxiety

Do you get nervous about company mixers or meetings? Maybe your new hire seems stressed about an upcoming project and is struggling to get started. If stress is rattling your team, try these tips:

  • Daily exercise and eating healthfully can really help keep anxiety at bay. Sometimes this requires a little extra preparation, like packing your lunch or slipping in a quick workout before or after work. Make it doable by adding those tasks directly to your calendar so you’re sure you can knock them out. You can help your team do this by offering gym discounts or stipends.
  • Calming breathing techniques are easy to do at your desk, on your commute, or before bed—basically anytime you want to de-stress.
  • Use positive self-talk techniques to keep negative what-ifs at bay. To do this, take a negative thought like, “I kind of suck at this,” and then argue against it, like “Actually, I’m off to a pretty good start.” When you do make mistakes, replace “Man, I screwed that up” with “Hey, I tripped up, but I’m still learning.”
  • Talk to friends or trusted teammates. If stress is creeping up on you, nip it in the bud with a quick walk or coffee with someone you know and trust.
  • Hang out with your team. To build these stress-busting relationships, Kenny assigned someone to plan team-building outings like yoga and ugly Christmas sweater parties. “Realizing how much we’re in the office, I really wanted to focus on that kind of internal growth.”

If you’re still struggling with worry after trying these methods, it may be time to consider some extra support, like a therapist or an anxiety support group in your area.

Take a sip of chamomile tea and a deep breath. When work anxiety does creep up, Kenny’s tips will help you prepare. Just remember that a little stress is part of every job, but learning to curb it can make you a better and more focused boss—and it can help your team feel the same exact way.

About Elizabeth Robinson

Elizabeth is a copywriter with a long history writing for tech and finance. She has an MFA in poetry, a keen eye for misplaced modifiers, and a soft spot for shar-pei mixes like her sidekick, June.