Why do we worry about work the night before we go in? When we go to work things tend to work out fine. We know this because we still have a job, yet our worry about work can be toxic. In times when we know trouble is going on at work, sure we worry. Yet, very often we can fret over things that haven’t happened yet and things that don’t deserve our energy.
The ironic thing about this is that by worrying about work we are trying to prepare ourselves but we end up just bringing huge dread into our week rather than a relaxed body and mind. “
The week hasn’t even started yet and I am in a sweat”. “Sunday night is supposed to be a time of relaxation and yet I am wound up like a spring”. “The weekend has been great so far and last week I was happy with how I coped, but still something inside is telling me that this week is going to be a disaster!”
Sound familiar? Why do we worry incessantly about things that haven’t even happened yet? The answers can probably be as varied as the people interested in asking the questions! In this article I will outline some of the common reasons I see in practice for this as well as how to get help!
Reasons to worry:
For most people starting a new job or taking on a new promotion or role will induce some anxieties and insecurities as well as excitement and eagerness. For most this will reduce in time as we gain more confidence and familiarity with the area of work.
Though for others they find that the anxiety just does not abate and can leave them stuck in constantly feeling worried and nervous before work. Generally, we can say that this is because something has us out of our comfort zone or that we feel exposed in some way.
Increased responsibility and pressures can bring new anxieties. Yet, we don’t need to be the boss to worry about work or feel the pressure. Something small can change in the work environment that can alter how we view the situation and ourselves in it.
Perhaps a new boss has started, or our role has changed. Changes to the team structure or to the company’s expectation of us are changes outside of our control that can put us out on a limb or make us feel exposed.
On the other hand, there doesn’t have to have been a work change for anxiety to develop. Perhaps for some they have a personal life change that means they feel less able. Coming back after an accident, illness or pregnancy are huge ones I see a lot.
There are also those who have always been anxious before work. Perhaps work has become an extension of anxieties felt at home or in school where our previous experiences shape our current responses and fears.
Worrying about work: What if thinking
The night before work can be a time where many people experience a cascade of “what if” thinking. The remarkable thing I notice in practice is that many 9-5 people have these thoughts especially on a Sunday night and not as much on a Friday or Saturday.
Some can worry all the time, but I see this less often. Shift workers I see can get this any night before a shift but generally again when they are about to go back in. People often explain to me trying to have the night before as a time of rest, but inevitably like all worries, they strike when the mind is unoccupied. The way to help though isn’t by staying busy, it is by looking at the cause of the worries.
The types of worries that people can have are varied. But common ones are the fear of making a mistake or being caught out or looking stupid in front of someone.These kinds of fears can stem from perfectionism and or from a desire to please others.
They create the need to not disappoint others and/or not to disappoint ourselves. This can signify that we have placed too much of our self-esteem and worth into the valuation of others or into our ability to reach standards or be an “accomplisher”.
The danger with this is that our self-regard and right not to be anxious often hinges on factors outside of our control. This can generate massive what ifs before work about what the day will throw at us to derail our ambitions.
Another major source for “what ifs” is an underlying lack of self-belief. In clinic I see this manifesting “what ifs” when a client is unconsciously or consciously doubting themselves or is highly uncomfortable in the position. For example, we could feel we are a bit slow or that we didn’t deserve recent promotion/job.
Holding this belief will make our anxious mind expect us to be found out or overwhelmed! This fear leads to “what if” thinking and making strategies to stay ahead. Added to this, for reasons completely unique to ourselves, unconsciously we can also be triggered by work which makes us anxious.
The thing about this is that any subtle change in the work environment as mentioned above could set off worry about work. Take these two examples:
Tim the security guard always felt comfortable in the job working face to face with people. He started worrying about work when the job moved more towards computers for signing in/out, thereby activating his believe/fear that he is never going to get technology.
Sandra’s job in social care always meant working with adults but then she was transferred to work in a unit with children. This makes her anxious and worry about work as it brings up her own childhood, insecurities about herself as a mother and beliefs she is no good with children.
Both of these cases might worry about work but in very different and complex ways. At the core of both is a trigger unique to them that feels exposed.
Working on worrying about work:
Worrying genuinely about work when faced with evidence of a problem is just going through the normal throws of preparedness. The sign of unhealthy worry about work is when the worry is consistent, and without evidence to indicate that anything bad is going to happen.
In my experience if we suddenly develop worries or anxiety, then there will be a source. Perhaps a tripwire in us that was waiting to be activated. The new job, role change, new manager or promotion just happened to come along and step on the landmine! The reasons a work issue/change can unsettle us are infinitely varied and infinitely unexpected.
If anyone is reading this feeling anxious before work, maybe think: what is the exposure I am afraid of behind these worries? If the worry tends to be about getting caught out think what would someone be catching out? If the worry is about not getting everything done or not pleasing your boss, maybe ask what would that say about me? Would it make me bad or a less worthy person?
Therapy is one way to get to the bottom of these questions and at Anxiety Ireland we have a team of accredited psychotherapists who work helping thousands of people with anxiety every year. We are always happy to answer messages to our page or I am happy to take calls/text to see how I can help: 087 063 0948.
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Team Anxiety Ireland
Anxiety is a merry-go-round, going no where fast, it’s ok to step off.