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.
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.
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.
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.
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.