Most marketers dream of delivering a winning presentation, fluent with clever jargon, flashy PowerPoint slides and a conference room full of deal makers signaling, “Yes, I’m in.”
That was not the case for Morra Aarons-Mele. Although she did all of the hard work to create her presentations, she hadn’t always stood in the spotlight she had earned.
“I was too anxious,” says the author of “Hiding in the Bathroom” (out Sept. 26, HarperCollins). “I let a guy who was my subordinate present with me side by side and take half of the credit, even though I did all of the work.”
And that’s not the only time in Aarons-Mele’s life that workplace stress has shown its face.
She quit nine jobs by the time she was 30 and sometimes cycled between bingeing and starving because she was so anxious.
Bob (real name withheld), a former Wall Street executive who lives in Flatbush, empathizes. After being laid off from a job at a big investment firm a decade ago, a wave of depression and anxiety washed over him that made it difficult to leave his apartment, much less look for a job.
“It took six years before I was up and out, able to interact with other people, and had the coping strategies I needed to step back into the world,” he says.
He’s doing just fine now, albeit in a different profession.
Workers like Bob and Aarons-Mele are hardly alone. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show that nearly one in five suffer from some anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
“The issue is far more common than one may think,” says Matt Kudish, executive director of the National Association of Mental Illness-New York City Metro (NAMI-NYC Metro).
And while that may seem like bad news, the good news is that anxiety is highly treatable. It can come and go, or it can happen once and then never again, says Jonathan Alpert, a Midtown psychotherapist and Wall Street performance coach.
Not only that, but the help you need to work through it can often come from a book, a peer, a psychiatrist or therapist; be funded by your health insurance plan; or even be free from organizations such as NAMI-NYC Metro.
Better yet, when you emerge, you often come out with an understanding of what triggers you and what helps you thrive, a trusted support system and a set of tools to help you build your career in the direction of your dreams.
We asked professionals who help anxious workers, and individuals who have learned to navigate through their anxiety, for their advice.
Don’t compare yourself to everyone else’s social-media personas
This can cause such feelings of inadequacy that some people can’t function, according to the experts. It’s important to recognize that people present only their best selves on sites like Facebook.
“Think about it. When was the last time you read about someone having a fight with a colleague or boss, not getting the promotion, or just plain feeling sick on social media?” says Kim Hershenson, a Midtown-based therapist who specializes in anxiety and depression in the workplace.
Wear your battle gear
When Aarons-Mele is nervous about a big meeting or social situation, she pulls out her best suit, gets her hair blown out and carefully applies her makeup.
She says her therapist once told her, “The world doesn’t have to know you feel like s - - t.” She adds, “If I can look like the best version of myself, often, I can actually be her.”
Turn work off
When you leave the office, leave your job there. It might actually serve your career better than staying plugged in and at your employer’s beck and call.
“A well-rested, rejuvenated employee is one who performs well,” says Alpert.
Schedule your free time
If your head doesn’t leave the office when your body does, “create a routine outside of work,” says Alpert. The psychiatrist such meaningful diversions as taking classes, scheduling date nights and regularly going to the gym.
Know the signals
Working nonstop can actually become debilitating, experts say. Early physical signs include headaches, backaches, stomachaches, heart palpitations, insomnia and more.
Other, less obvious indicators include an inability to focus, and thoughts circling in your head that you can’t stop. If this happens, therapists say, get help.
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