Stressed Out By Starting Something New? Top 5 Ways to Find Your Footing

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Starting a new job, new role, or new stage of life are among the most stressful events one can endure. There is nothing more stressful than feeling over your head – especially when getting to these types of transitional stages probably wasn’t easy in the first place. When life is suddenly full of newness – new people, new places, new roles, new responsibilities, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Here are a few thoughts to help you find your footing in any new situation.

1) Limit superfluous anxiety.

Oftentimes, people think that we should try to get rid of as much anxiety as possible. But that is a myth – anxiety in balance can be extremely useful. It’s all about having not too much anxiety, yet not too little either. In a situation where you feel overwhelmed, you know your anxiety is over the top, and chances are the excess anxiety isn’t helping you. In order to function more effectively, it helps to do what you can to pull your anxiety back a bit. Start by avoiding the things that increase anxiety – caffeine, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and not getting enough sleep. Then add some things into your life that are known to reduce acute anxiety, like belly breathing techniques, aerobic exercise, talking to supportive friends and family, even crying.

2) Embrace anxiety’s quiet messages.

After reducing as anxiety to a more balanced state, you are now free to harness it. Do this by purposefully feeling your anxiety. Sounds unusual? No kidding. Anxiety is one of our most powerful emotions and its primary role is to protect us. While anxiety can be hopelessly uncomfortable to tolerate, anxiety in balance can only do its job if we allow ourselves to feel and understand it.

Getting really clear on what your anxiety is whispering to you often provides a road map for you, and the anxiety itself provides the energy to walk the road ahead. Next time you feel that pit in your stomach, ask yourself two questions, “What are these feelings trying to tell me?” And then, “What do I want?”

Are you worried you can’t learn how to do your job effectively? Are you afraid you won’t like what it takes to succeed? Are you afraid to make mistakes? Afraid to try? Once you have a few answers to these questions, examine them to see if they are rational: Do they make sense, and are they reasonable fears? Or are they irrational, and unreasonable? If you can’t tell the difference, talk it over with a trusted friend or family member. Once you have a hold on your real fears, their solutions will likely be right in front of you. For example, you might see that while you are afraid of how it feels to make mistakes, you know you will learn from them, and you are sure that you can learn if you are willing to apply yourself. The path ahead then is to stay bravely on course. Or, change the course. If for example you know you don’t want to follow a certain path, then the solution is to change it. By adhering to anxiety’s messages, you’ll be able to hone in on your best path.

3) Use anxiety to fuel action.

Avoid wasting time pining for choices you wished you had, rather than the choices you do have. Much energy can be consumed lost in fantasy, wishing things could happen or could have happened differently. The reality is that much of life is outside of our control, yet our choices are inside of our control. Distinguishing between the two is terribly important, and putting energy into where we have choice rather than where we don’t is sometimes harder than it sounds. Gently keep your focus on the choices you actually have and the realistic options ahead. This will help ensure that precious energy isn’t wasted and unnecessary anxiety isn’t reactivated.

4) Enlist guidance.

If no rational anxieties appear that forge a path ahead, and you do not feel capable of going it alone, consider involving outside input. It could be a boss, someone else in your new role, or an outside coach or professional. Enlisting trusted outside help can be particularly valuable in helping us sort through what our anxiety is telling us, and how we can put it into action.

The only caveat to this would be when a chosen outside advisor is in a position of power in relation to you. It can be risky to express vulnerabilities to a supervisor when you don’t know them well, or are able to predict how they will react. For example, at work, involving a new manager’s help in getting you on your feet could raise a red flag, leaving your performance vulnerable to undue scrutiny moving forward.

5) Engage the power of positive thinking.

Finally, do your best to maintain a mindset that is positive, and recognize your need for confidence and bravery. To help promote self-confidence, tap into your bank of successes – access those times in your life when you were proud of your accomplishments. Distill these successes into small phrases or mantras, print them, copy and laminate them, and put them everywhere you might need a confidence boost – your bathroom mirror, your car, your briefcase, your computer. Remember adjusting to a new role is a marathon, not a sprint – all we need is a bit of momentum. Staying focused positively on our strengths will keep us motivated and resilient.


Looking for more help in understanding anxiety? Learn more about my book Hack Your Anxiety and access free tools to help you manage the fear and anxiety going around the world today.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD