Over the past few years, the U.S. job market has gone bonkers. Just last year, about 4 million Americans changed jobs each month!1 Maybe you’re one of those people who started a new job recently—or you’re thinking about taking the leap and making a career change. No matter if you found a new role on purpose or embraced the next opportunity after an unexpected layoff, it’s normal to feel anxious about your new job, your new colleagues, your new home—all of it. I call this new job anxiety. If you want to learn effective ways to deal with new job anxiety, keep reading.
What’s New Job Anxiety?
New job anxiety is simply your body trying to get your attention about the uncertainty, vulnerability and plain old fear about a new job, new people and new environments. New job anxiety can feel like worry or dread, or it can feel like a racing heart, racing thoughts or racing speech. It’s important to note that new job anxiety isn’t an official medical diagnosis—but anxiety is. And anxiety can be triggered by starting a new job. That’s why it’s called new job anxiety.
Whenever you’re heading into the unknown—like a new job—the anxiety you feel is simply your body’s way of keeping you safe and on guard. So, when you think about all that comes with getting a new job—meeting and working with people you don’t know, learning the ropes of a new position, and maybe even moving to an entirely different place for work—it’s normal and completely understandable for you to feel anxiety.
Symptoms of New Job Anxiety
Anxiety after getting a new job is to be expected. Any feelings of nervousness and anticipation in a new job—symptoms of anxiety—can show up in physical, psychological and behavioral ways. What are some of the symptoms of new job anxiety? Signs to look out for include:2
- Imposter syndrome
- Racing heart
- Sweaty palms
- Ringing ears
- Feeling hot or clammy
- Tight chest
- Shortness of breath
- Intrusive thinking
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
Maybe you’ve experienced several of these symptoms before or after starting a new job. Again—these symptoms and sensations are normal responses to a new and uncertain situation. And if you’re wondering how long new job anxiety should last, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, there’s no timeline for simply “getting over” the anxiety of working at a new place—it might not last very long. The bad news is, there’s no timeline, so it could also last longer than you expected. For one person, new job anxiety might last just the first day or week on the job. For someone else, it could take a few months for the new job jitters to ease up enough for them to feel comfortable with their responsibilities and new team (especially if they’re leaving a traumatic job situation, like a hostile work environment).
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10 Tips to Help New Job Anxiety
New job anxiety might be a real thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Here are 10 ways to help ease your new job nerves.
1. Practice your new commute ahead of time.
When you have a good idea of how traffic flows and how long it’ll take to get to work, you can leave the house knowing you won’t get lost or have to rush to clock in. Do a test run of your drive before you start your new job so you know exactly what to expect.
2. Look over your new job description, interview notes and company information.
Give your new role description and company website another glance for good measure. You’ll walk into your new job with a clear picture of what to expect around your responsibilities, your team and the company’s culture.
3. Move your body.
Move your body as a natural anxiety remedy—movement will help energize you and work out any nervous energy. Obviously, everyone has different fitness levels, so do what’s right for you. It might be committing to a morning and evening walk, going to a new CrossFit gym, or starting jujitsu again. But commit to doing some sort of movement each day.
4. Eat healthy foods.
Research suggests when we get stressed and/or tired, our ability to make healthy food choices goes out the window. Be aware of this and make good choices in the face of the storm. Some people eat breakfast, while others eat their first meal at lunch. Make sure to eat plenty of real foods, especially lean proteins and fruits and vegetables.
5. Get a good night’s sleep.
This one is super difficult and will take some intentionality. Point blank: Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Yes, this includes you. Sleep is one of the most powerful tools you have to reset, let your emotions settle, and give your body the break it needs when you’ve been working hard (or getting worked up with anxiety). A good night’s sleep begins in the morning, with 15–20 minutes of exercise and sunlight (going outside with no sunglasses). If you need a little help getting to sleep in the evening, here are some things to try: Stretch before bedtime, journal, turn off screens and electronics an hour before bedtime, read fiction, or drink a cup of calming hot tea. (Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but this stuff works.) Lay off the hypnotic sleep meds and create a routine that teaches your body it’s time to wind down.
6. Wear an outfit you feel confident in.
It might sound woo-woo, but wearing an outfit that makes you feel good can ease feelings of awkwardness or anxiety. I’m not saying you need to roll into the office in a brand-new suit, but simply wearing clean clothes that fit your body and the workplace culture will be one less thing to worry about when you’re starting a new job.
7. Go first, be awkward, and start a conversation with your new coworkers.
In fact, a simple “Hey, I’m so-and-so. What’s your name?” can be the beginning of a great new friendship or coworker connection. It can also be weird and uncomfortable. Do it anyway! Take advantage of being the new person and ask anyone and everyone their name. Ask what they do. Where they’re from. What their favorite restaurants are. Go first and fight the urge to be a wallflower.
8. Be mindful about your caffeine intake.
If you need a cup (or in my case, several) of coffee to get your day started, then stick with your normal routine. But if coffee makes you jittery or chaotic, don’t overdo it. You want to think clearly about the important stuff (like learning your coworker’s name or where the lunchroom is) but not overthink the silly stuff (like wondering if you accidentally left the oven on when you left for work even though you checked six times).
9. Talk to friends (or other real people).
Call your best buddy, talk to a therapist, or sit down with your pastor. If you have racing thoughts and you’re worried about screwing up a project or someone finding out you were hired by mistake (which you weren’t), talking to someone you trust can give you perspective and put those fears to rest.
10. Remember that new job anxiety is normal.
Take a deep breath. Just because you feel nervous about your job doesn’t mean it’s a mistake or something’s wrong. It generally means your body is working exactly as it should. What feels like anxiety could be excitement about a great next step in your life and career. Lean into the anxiety and be curious about what it’s trying to tell you. (And if you need help pinpointing where else these feelings of anxiety might be coming from, check out my free anxiety test for more clarity.)
How to Start a New Job Well
Starting a new job well is as much about positive human connection as it is about doing your work effectively. When you’re thinking about starting a new job the right way, there are a few important things you can do to make a good impression and get off on the right foot.
Embrace a fresh start.
You new boss is not your old boss. If you had a rocky relationship with your previous leader or team, don’t drag those bricks into your new role. This is a fresh start. Embrace it.
Ask plenty of questions.
You don’t have to have everything figured out right away when you start a new job—in fact, you’re not supposed to. Ask plenty of questions, and don’t feel silly about it. Hopefully, your team is ready and willing to help.
Understand what success looks like.
Talk with your leader to understand what success looks like for your role. You want to work toward the same vision and goals. If you can get on the same page about what success looks like up front, you’ll save yourself from some confusion, miscommunication and new job anxiety later.
Boost Confidence at Work
I want you to be successful in all areas of life—and work is no exception. After all, it’s where we spend most of our day and find tons of fulfillment. If you’re still grappling with feelings of anxiety and stress after starting a new job, take a look at my new book, Building a Non-Anxious Life. You’ll learn the Six Daily Choices that can help you build a non-anxious life—one that’s more peaceful and joyful (even at work). Check it out and start reading for free today!