Anxiety In the Workplace Part 3: Pop-up Triggers

Good afternoon! I am shakin’ things up today by posting way early and writing on a topic I hadn’t thought of till now. One thing I look forward to on a weekly basis is reading the Dear Prudence column on Slate.com. I’ve enjoyed reading advice columns for as long as I remember, and Dear Prudence is my favorite.

Today, a reader wrote in and asked advice about what to do about a situation at work (I linked his letter above. Click the link and scroll down the page till you see a video). He was recently hired by a place he enjoys, but just discovered there is a bit of travel involved in the job. This was apparently not mentioned during the job interview or his subsequent acceptance of the job. Here is the issue: he has a profound phobia of travel. Flying, driving…ect…, and wanted to know how to address this with his boss. Prudie’s advice was to tell his boss of his phobia, ask for a medical accommodation and say he’d be more than willing to stay behind and keep the office running. 

This letter brought up an issue I believe is not talked about as much as it should be. What do you do if you are in a job interview, but there is some aspect of the job that gives you anxiety?  Obviously, if you have a fear of heights, applying to be a window washer would probably be a bad career choice, but what if on the outside, the job appears ‘safe’?

The last job I had working with kids, on the outside seemed pretty safe, a place I could avoid my biggest anxiety triggers. Until the day the head teacher decided to teach a lesson using balloons that were to be popped.  So, what was I supposed to do? I am forever grateful to the kid that was having confidence issues that day, and was embarrassed that a younger child was able to blow up more balloons than him. He ran out of the room in tears and I followed to ‘talk him down’-translation: Lets really talk this one out because I secretly have no desire to go back into that room. I’ll even give you a long-winded pep talk to increase the chance to not go back in there. Effective? Yes. Shameless? Absolutely. But hey, I didn’t have to go back in there till after the balloons had popped AND the kid had his confidence boosted. That’s a win-win in my book.

So, how do you handle pop up anxiety? I think it’s best to be honest.  In the case of the letter writer, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask to stay behind.  An understanding boss would have no qualms about honoring that request. 

Well kids, that’s all for today. Tomorrow’s LAFF features one adventure in my brief career stint as a journalist.
Remember you are not alone. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Cheers! 🙂

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Bringin’ in Da Noise, and Turnin’ Down Da Volume

Let’s talk about noise. I’m not talking about noises that are so ubiquitous we don’t think about them, like birds chirping or the sound of the coffee maker. No, I’m talking about those noises that can drive you NUTS!

For example, today I walked into our bathroom and turned on the light and exhaust fan. Now our exhaust fan occaisonally will sound like a speeding freight train running over a group of shreeking violins. It also sounds as though it could break off and fall to the floor at any moment. Today was no exception. Fortunately I can handle that noise and eventually I know that it goes away on it’s own (Sidenote: If anyone reading this is an expert in exhaust fans and knows why this is happening, please comment below. Thanks!). 

Now, there are some noises that I absolutely can’t stand and actually have anxiety over. One of these is balloons popping. Seriously, I. CAN’T. STAND. BALLOONS. Nowadays if someone wants me to work with balloons, I can truthfully tell them, “I can’t, I’m allergic”. Thank you latex allergy! 🙂 I can still be around balloons, but I can’t touch them or my skin will begin to itch. It should be noted that I used to not be allergic, but with many allergies, it showed up later in life.

Balloons have freaked me out for as long as I can remember. I’m always on edge around them and anxious they’ll prematurely burst. This was such a problem when I was a kid that I remember one time my mom took me outside with my siblings–who each had a couple blown up balloons. They stood at the edge of our yard, while I was at the other. They popped one balloon each. Then they moved forward a bit and popped two more. This continued until they were right in front of me. I was able to handle it with little anxiety–as far as I remember. When I grew older I learned it didn’t bother me probably because we were outside, so there wasn’t a place for the sound to bounce off from (ah, science….).

Nowadays I am still anxious around balloons and other loud noises, but my anxiety level has gone down over time. This is one thing that I’ve learned about my anxiety over the years, in some instances, I seem to sort of grow out of it, in terms of being able to tolerate some things better than I had as a kid. Hopefully that gives you a bit of encouragement if you are struggling with the same things.

Remember, you are not alone.

Cheers!