Managing Anxiety as a Knowledge Worker

Does anyone else’s brain go into full worst-case-scenario mode the moment anything remotely bad happens at work? I got super anxious due to a client emergency yesterday. I’ve slept on it- here’s what I think was going on, and how I’m going to deal with it.

Firstly, I need to recognize that my last corporate job did a real number on my mental health. I worked with a couple of weapons-grade narcissists who turned their own self-loathing into an all-out assault on their employees’ self-esteem. Their favorite technique? Gaslighting.

The gaslighter makes you question everything about yourself. Am I working hard enough? Was it my fault that we lost that piece of business? (when the client left for budgetary reasons) Am I too academic and not business-savvy enough? Am I going to lose my job and let my family down?

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Us knowledge workers can be a bit insecure about the value we’re creating. So we turn to the industrial model of the number of hours we’ve worked as a status signal, even though as Naval Ravikant has pointed out, it’s much more effective to rest our brains and go full speed when inspired. Hunt like a lion.

It also helps to create a caricature of the voices in your head which trigger your anxiety. I think of mine as a tabloid journalist. He doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a juicy story “Ali f*cks it up again”.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get rid of the anxiety. But this is helping. And if reading this helps one other anxious person today, at least something good came out of a sh*tty day.

Marketing Agency Survivor

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