If you’re anything like me, you have a track record of observing something happening at the office, and then finding a way to turn that into a reason why you’re probably getting fired today. Of course, it sounds ridiculous, and it was especially absurd to me when I wrote that last sentence and read it back to myself.
However, there are some real, anxiety-provoking feelings that are hard to get under control if you aren’t aware of the fact that you have this bad habit. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to stop yourself from always thinking the worst at work, and even better, they’re not as difficult as you might think.
1. Stop Going to Your Friends for Advice
People like me tend to do the same thing when it seems something terrible is going to happen at work: They go to their closest friends, try to explain every single detail, and plead with those people to tell them everything is OK (or, sometimes, that you’re right for freaking out and should start looking for a new job ASAP). However, after doing this myself more than a handful of times over the course of my career, I’ve learned this is the absolute worst thing you can do.
Why? Because no matter how well you think you’ve explained what’s going on, your friends can’t truly understand what’s really happening. So the whole exercise’s pointless. Yes, feel free to complain to them when something goes wrong—but don’t put pressure on them to unpack a tough situation for you, or put pressure on yourself to listen to their advice.
2. Ask Your Boss if Everything’s OK
Contrary to how easy it is to go to your friends when something seems amiss, it doesn’t always seem obvious to ask your boss about a situation that’s making you feel uneasy. However, unless your manager’s told you she’s out to ruin your career (if so, are you starring in a movie?), she should be the most obvious source for information. And for good reason.
Because odds are, she’s the closest person to whatever it is that’s bothering you. And often times, she will either confirm your suspicion (and hopefully also ease any of the absurd concerns you’re having), or, even more likely, she’ll tell you that you’re overthinking things and everything’s actually fine.
Just one pro tip: Pick your concerns wisely. This isn’t the kind of conversation you should have with your boss every day. Unless, of course, you wish to drive this person crazy.
3. Take an Actual Break From Your Work
One thing I learned when I was in a particularly bad streak of thinking the worst was that it was actually a sign that I’d been working too much. And because of that, I knew I needed to do something that seemed counterproductive to solving the potential problem of losing my job: I took a break. And not just a “I’m at home and technically not working, but boy am I worried about my job right now” break.
I mean, I went to a theme park that I won’t name (but, let’s just say I drank a very delicious warm drink while I waited for a roller coaster that took me through a fictional bank) and had fun. While this much of a break might not always be possible, let yourself unplug from work for a little while if you’re really worried about something terrible happening. Unless the CEO of your company has literally said things are not very good and layoffs are imminent, don’t worry—things won’t suddenly go completely awry if you take a little time to breathe.
I’m telling you all this because I get it. And, because I know what it’s like to feel like you should always be on alert, I also know it’s important to recognize when it’s happening so you can stop yourself from going down that rabbit hole. I promise, you got this.
Photo of stressed worker courtesy of Shutterstock.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author