Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
November 19, 2022

Got Job Jitters? How to Deal With Anxiety About a New Job

Most people know what it’s like to feel anxious before starting a new job. You’re entering a whole new work environment, and it’s normal to have some jitters. Of course you want to make a good impression, prove your abilities, and enjoy the work. But many people who experience new job anxiety fall into unhelpful patterns of excessive thinking and worrying. So how long does new job anxiety normally last, and how can you calm new job anxiety? Let’s talk about it. 

how long does new job anxiety last

How Long Does New Job Anxiety Last?

Unfortunately, there’s no timeline on new job anxiety. For some people, anxiety may only show up before they start the job. For others, it may last a week or two. And some people might experience new job anxiety for weeks or months. 

The length of time your anxiety lasts probably depends on how comfortable you feel with your new duties, how well you relate to your new leadership and colleagues, and whether you challenge your anxious thoughts when they arise. 

Additionally, cognitive distortions can increase the intensity and extent of your new job anxiety. Cognitive distortions are ingrained thought patterns that are habitual, negative, unhelpful, and ultimately lead to more anxiety.   

For example, you might catastrophize without even realizing it. Assuming worst-case scenarios will come true is at the core of catastrophizing. Catastrophic thoughts such as, “If I don’t do X task perfectly, I’ll lose my boss’s trust and be fired” are very common in people with anxiety. And these types of thoughts can increase the amount of time you experience job anxiety. 

Similarly, fortune-telling thinking can cause your new job anxiety to stick around for a long time. Fortune telling happens when you assume a negative outcome will occur, even if it’s not particularly likely. For example, you might worry that asking your boss a question about something they’ve already gone over will result in them thinking you’re stupid and a failure forever. Framing your experiences in failure like this only fuels your anxiety. 

Regardless of which cognitive distortions are at play, most at their core involve assuming the worst outcomes, putting pressure on yourself to be perfect, and thinking negatively toward yourself. And the more these types of thought patterns rule your thoughts and behaviors, the longer your anxiety will likely last. 

Notice if your thinking patterns tend to involve thought patterns like these. If so, it’s important to pinpoint what’s going on so you can change these behaviors. It can be easy to not even realize you’re engaging in them. Work to identify and challenge these types of thoughts when they come up. The more grace, compassion, and nuance you allow in your new job environment, the more quickly you can overcome your new job anxiety. 

how to calm new job anxiety

How to Calm New Job Anxiety

There are a lot of reasons for new job anxiety. Cognitive distortions may lead to excessive anxiety, but there are plenty of other things that can give you job jitters – things like unclear expectations, new people and situations, and facing the unknown. So here are some ways to gain awareness, soothe your nervous system, and walk into a new job feeling empowered.  

  1. Ask yourself where the anxiety is coming from. What are the underlying thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs behind your anxiety? Are you afraid you won’t make a good impression? Are you worried you don’t have the skills for the job? Is there some concern about your new schedule or new work environment? Identifying what is truly beneath your new job anxiety can help you come up with a game plan and feel less overwhelmed. 
  1. Work with a therapist to identify and change any thought distortions. Cognitive distortions are sneaky. They are habitual thought patterns that can keep you stuck in anxiety loops. Working with a therapist can help you identify these thoughts and learn to quiet them. 
  1. Get clear about your role. Know what’s expected of you, and if it’s unclear, ask. Practice asking questions and getting guidance when you need it, and be clear and straight-forward in your requests. 
  1. Take notes during the onboarding process. It’s common to be bombarded with new information during the first couple of weeks. When this happens, your nervous system can be overstimulated and you might feel overwhelmed. This can lead to forgetting everything you just learned. Take detailed notes – and review them regularly. 
  1. Procure whatever accommodations you need. If you have ADHD, you might be extra worried about feeling disorganized or distracted while you’re still learning important details about the job. Whether you have ADHD or not, make sure you have what you need to do your job. Want a standing desk? Ask for one. Need a timer to avoid hyperfocus or overwhelm? Get one. Need a cute plant to boost feelings of calm and joy? Go to your local nursery and find one for your desk. 
  1. Take breaks. It can be easy to get caught up in trying to learn everything and do as much as you can in the first few weeks of a new job. This is a mistake. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll eventually burn out. Work at a sustainable pace and take plenty of breaks. This will help soothe your nervous system and decrease the chances of overwhelm. 
  1. Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Lots of people with anxiety also have underlying people-pleasing and perfectionist tendencies. Recognize any urgency you may feel to make an outstanding impression right out of the gate. Wanting to do a good job is understandable, but going too hard to impress your new boss and colleagues can lead to resentment, exhaustion, and burnout. Remember to give yourself time and compassion to learn and make mistakes. You were hired for a reason – you don’t have to jump over hurdles to prove yourself.
  1. Don’t compare yourself to your coworkers. Your learning style may be different or they might have more experience. Whatever the case may be, it’s not helpful to compare yourself to your colleagues. When you catch yourself worrying that you can’t measure up, challenge these thoughts
  1. Remind yourself that there’s nothing inherently wrong with anxiety or difficult emotions. New experiences make most people anxious, so why shouldn’t you expect some anxiety with a new job? Allowing your feelings to exist without pathologizing them can open up space for self-compassion. Go easy on yourself, and remember: not every difficult feeling is a problem to be fixed. 

A Therapist Can Help You Figure Out How to Calm New Job Anxiety

If you can’t imagine a life without anxiety about a new job, consider therapy. I can help you build skills and set goals to challenge cognitive distortions, advocate for yourself, and reduce your new job anxiety. You’ll learn strategies to step into the world feeling confident and capable. 

I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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