I’m incredibly sorry for not blogging at all the past couple of weeks but I’ve been super busy. I find this time of year incredibly stressful and so other things have taken top priority over my blog!
I haven’t really spoken about my work life on here because what I am doing at the moment is seasonal and so when I’m not working the last thing I want to be doing is talking about it! However, the working season is vast approaching and I feel like I should talk about how I cope with my anxiety in the workplace.
I started my first job in 2014 and I couldn’t have asked for a better job as a 16 year old. I was part of a catering team within a children’s adventure park called ‘BeWILDerwood’ and I loved it. It was so much fun and it never felt like I was going to work. Everyone within the catering department was of a similar age and therefore we all got on so well. It wasn’t easy for me at times as I was shy and didn’t always feel like I fitted in. At the beginning I was continuously feeling like I wasn’t good enough and that everyone was judging me for that. It knocked my confidence and I really struggled to come out of my shell. I wasn’t comfortable with talking about my feelings and therefore never expressed any of my anxieties and fears with my colleagues or supervisors, which made it really difficult when I felt an anxiety attack coming on. This job was seasonal and ended in October, to then be picked up again in February. After my first season I was convinced that I wasn’t good enough to be asked back, but to my surprise I was. The second year I felt more confident in my abilities and I was much more comfortable with my surroundings. I soon became a supervisor which was a total shock but such a confidence boost. It really made me feel appreciated and capable, feelings that I would so often question. Becoming a supervisor inevitably lead to me having more responsibilities, which I really struggled with to begin with. I found it difficult to discipline anyone, I was scared of how people viewed me as a supervisor and I was continuously questioning whether I was the right person for the role. It was hard to talk to anyone about these feelings because I felt pretty pathetic, however when I finally opened up I was given the reassurance that I truly needed to help me excel in my job role. I made so many more friends and I truly became comfortable in my surroundings. I still had my bad days, but I was able to cope with them much better.
At the age of 18 I realised that I couldn’t live in my little, what I liked to call, ‘BeWilderbubble’ anymore and had to start looking for another job. I’d been putting it off for a good few months because the thought of an interview process absolutely terrified me. I couldn’t handle the thought of having to be interviewed, getting the job and then having to settle in to an unfamiliar environment. I would break out in panic every time I thought about it until I realised that I really did not have a choice. I pushed myself to go to an interview at our local hospital for a job in their café as I thought catering would be the best route for me. I knew that nothing would be like my previous job, but at least a café would have some similarities and I wouldn’t be completely starting from scratch. I spent so much time preparing for the interview, yet when the time came my mind went blank. My dad dropped me off at the interview and it took me 20 minutes just to get out of the car. I was a shaking, nervous wreck and I felt like nobody would ever want to hire me. My dad and boyfriend were absolutely starts and calmed me down and encouraged me to go, continuously reminding me that if it didn’t go well then it didn’t matter. It’s hard to hear that because at that time you feel like your world is going to come crashing down if you don’t get this specific job. I was still shaking when I walked in, however I was instantly calmed when offered a warm drink before my interview. Much to my delight the café was a Costa and therefore I picked one of their amazing hot chocolates and felt a little more at ease.
I got the job!! I started working for Costa a month later and it was totally different to what I expected. I started on 3 days a week, but within a month of being with them they decided to up my hours. The shifts that I was put on varied a fair bit, which didn’t really help me mentally. I struggled to cope with how tired I would become and all the emotions I was feeling alongside that. It made things difficult between me and my boyfriend because I wasn’t able to process the change in how much we saw one another. Don’t get me wrong, we spent every moment of our time outside of work together BUT my head kept telling me that it wasn’t good enough. It lead to me being incredibly needy and always calling him on my breaks, before I started my shift, once I’d finished my shift and it just wasn’t healthy. For some reason I just felt like he wouldn’t like me anymore if I wasn’t around, which was so silly of me but I just couldn’t help it. As the months went by I became a lot better at controlling my emotion. We would be in contact at some point during the day, but if we weren’t it wasn’t as much of a big deal to me anymore. This was such a huge step for me because I’m such a dependent person and I want to change that. As much as I love him, I didn’t want my mood at work to be dependent on whether we had spoken or not. ((actually sounding like a psycho girlfriend right now but I promise you I’m not)). I soon became a Team Leader and much like BeWILDerwood I took on more responsibilities. It was really difficult for me at first because I was only 18 and hadn’t been in the job long. Other employees questioned my capability and some who were older and had been there longer felt as though they should have been given the job. This was hard to deal with purely because they just didn’t want to listen to me after that. I understood how they were feeling and I felt terrible, I felt like I had taken a job from underneath their feet and it made the environment very uncomfortable. I would cry for hours before and after work because I just felt like no one wanted me around. Kieran (my partner) would have to witness all these breakdowns and he hated it. He finally convinced me to speak to my manager about how I was feeling and the impact it was having on me at work. I was so scared, I thought she wouldn’t understand and most importantly I thought she would see me as a weak Team Leader. I thought that by going to her and expressing all these feelings she would doubt her decision and my worst fears would be proven right. I was completely wrong and she was incredibly supportive, she never once doubted her decision and for that I am so grateful. I remained a Team Leader there for a year until I had another job opportunity arise that I couldn’t turn down.
My boyfriend (Kieran) and his best friend (Adam) were OPENING A CAFE. Oh my gosh it was the most exciting news and I was so excited for them both. I was even more excited when they asked if I wanted to be part of their team. Of course I wanted to, more than anything! Me and Kieran worked together at ‘BWood’ so I knew that we would be just fine, and me and Adam got on really well so there wasn’t going to be any problems there! I felt so lucky that this opportunity had kind of just landed in my lap and I was so quick to jump on it. I handed in my notice at Costa and then helped the boys get ready for opening. The whole process has been the most stressful thing I have done to date, however it has been totally worth it. I’ve loved training the boys to be Barista’s like me just as much as I’ve loved them teaching me how to cook. It hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops though. When we first started out we never knew if we would be successful or not. We had a couple of really bad days in the café where we just couldn’t get things right. Orders were going wrong and then taking too long to go to customers, customers weren’t happy with the wait and we had all spent so much time together that I think we just started to get on each others nerves. Amongst all of the chaos of starting a new business, I was also receiving my first ever professional health care for my anxiety and depression. I was doing sessions of CBT, counselling and was switching medications so my head was a little fried and overwhelmed. I had days in the café where I couldn’t bring myself to talk to customers because I was so terrified that I was going to make a mistake. To me it felt like any mistake I made would ruin things for the boys and I really didn’t want to do that. I had become more confident in the kitchen and therefore I slowly started to withdraw myself from interactions with customers. I felt like if I kept myself to myself and just done the cooking, nothing could go wrong. The more I done this, the worse it got for me as I was putting too much pressure on myself. I had talked myself out of communicating with customers so much that I felt like I could never go out and serve them again, which meant I had to really excel in the kitchen. This just then spiralled for me because if I made a mistake in the kitchen I felt like I had no place I could go. I felt like I was going to fail out the front and I felt like I was failing in the kitchen so it lead to me feeling like I didn’t belong. It’s really hard to explain that to the people you work with, especially if they are your best friends and owners of the business all in one. However, my CBT and counselling taught me ways to manage these negative feelings and how to channel them into something positive. As the sessions went on, I learnt new coping mechanisms. My medication and dosage was finally right for me and therefore I felt as though I was in a better place. I was able to take criticism rather than feeling like I was being personally attacked and my confidence slowly began to grow again. I still struggle with serving customers and my aim for the next season is to push myself and do more front of house stuff in order to battle my anxieties rather than running from them. It really helps that I am surrounded by such wonderful people at the café and they all understand how I feel. Talking to people and letting them know when you’re feeling anxious really is the key, otherwise you end up making work life really difficult for yourself.
The café has been closed for the winter and we are reopening on March the 16th and I can’t wait to go in to this year with a different mind set and different ways to cope. I feel as though I have come so far since I got my first job and although I am faced with different anxieties daily, I now know ways to help me ease them. Anxiety in the workplace is incredibly challenging and will never truly go away. I still have mornings where I lay in bed and question what I’m doing and whether I’m capable or not, but you have to persevere and not let those anxieties stop you from achieving what you want in life. Do not let anxiety swallow you whole.
I have rambled so much and therefore if you’ve actually reached this part of the post then I applaud you. I haven’t spoken about all the anxieties I have felt and faced whilst being at work as I wouldn’t know how to put that all in to words. However, I am always willing to speak to anyone about it if they feel as though they can relate and maybe need some advice on work anxiety or anxiety in general. I do this blog mainly for myself as I feel as though it’s important for me to write down how I feel but if it helps even just one person then I will be so happy.