Having new job jitters is common. If you’re concerned that anxiety may affect your performance, a few strategies may help you cope on your start date and beyond.
You finally got that job, but now you’re feeling a bit shaky about your first day and what awaits you at work.
New job anxiety can feel different for everyone. You may wonder how you’ll fit in, what your boss will be like, or whether you’ll be able to handle your workload. All of this is valid and common.
Sometimes, the “why” of anxiety may not be clear to you, and that’s also OK. What you feel is still real.
How long anxiety lasts when starting a new job depends on many factors, including if you already live with an anxiety disorder or other conditions, your support network, and the specific worries you have about your work.
But managing anxiety, in all cases, is possible. And doing so may also help you reduce the chance of dealing with stress at work later on.
These exercises may be useful to manage anxiety before, during, and after your first day at work.
1. Try deep breathing
Anxiety and overthinking are generally your brain’s way of trying to protect you and prepare for what’s to come. That’s the purpose of the stress response, says Balsells.
But, deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state), which is the opposite of fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Whenever you feel anxious thoughts coming up, try to switch to deep breathing for a few minutes.
“Place one hand on your heart, and your other hand on your belly. Breathe in for four counts and breathe out for six,” Balsells advises. “Making the exhale longer than the inhale activates the relaxation response in your nervous system.”
2. Try to practice grounding exercises
When you start to notice your thoughts spinning, you may find it helpful to use grounding exercises like the 5-4-3-2-1 method, says Victoria Smith, a licensed clinical social worker in El Segundo, California.
Using your five senses to decrease anxiety is a method that’s backed up by science. Here’s how it works:
- focus on five things you can see right where you are
- touch four things you can feel the texture of
- pay attention to three things you can hear
- find two things you can smell
- try one thing you can taste
“Try to go through this exercise until you notice a shift to feeling more calm,” Smith says.
Washing your face with cold water or holding an ice cube on one hand may also help to switch your attention from anxious thoughts.
3. Consider doing a brain dump
Journaling may help you process your feelings, says Smith.
Journaling is free writing about your thoughts and feelings.
“You can journal about the things you are worried about and decipher whether or not there’s anything within your control,” she explains. “If there are actionable tasks to complete, that’s great. If not, your focus will be to learn to tolerate this feeling of anxiety while being patient and kind to yourself.”
Try to give yourself credit where credit is due, she adds. If possible, consider journaling about both your worries or fears and your accomplishments.
“This often helps people get a bird’s eye view of what they’re feeling, so that they can see this experience as part of a larger timeline,” says Smith.
For example, you can write about all the skills and achievements that got you the job. Then, try to identify those things you’re anxious about, and what, if anything, you can do about those things.
4. Consider positive self-talk
Consider asking yourself if your worries and fears come from evidence or if you may be using cognitive distortions that make you see things more negatively than they are.
Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we’re supposed to know how to do everything right from the beginning and that there’s no margin for error, says Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles.
“It might be helpful to remind yourself that you were hired for a reason and that you aren’t meant to know everything at once,” she says. “Most employers expect a bit of a learning curve as you get accustomed to how things operate and will gladly welcome any questions as you familiarize yourself with the role.”
Some examples of positive self-talk include:
- “It’s natural to be nervous. I will get through this.”
- “I am a human being. It’s OK to make mistakes.”
- “They hired me for a reason. I am qualified for this role.”
Using positive affirmations for anxiety may also help you focus on positive self-talk.
5. Try to prepare the night before
If getting ready for work in the morning is a source of your work anxiety, try to make an effort to prepare everything you need for your workday the night before, says Lurie.
“Place your packed bag by the door, organize your outfit, and make your lunch in advance,” she says. “Taking small steps to prepare yourself in advance can seriously reduce your overall stress and help you feel more confident about your new job.”
Being proactive may give you the sense of being in control of the situation, and reduce the chance of extra stress on the morning of your first day at work.