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Ask Amy: Every little criticism at work sends me into a spiral

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Dear Amy: I like my current job a lot, but recently I’ve been struggling.

My work is very stressful, and it is extremely important to work efficiently and to be well-organized. This is not a problem for me; I work very hard for 10 hours a day. I usually leave work feeling as if I’ve gotten everything done.

Recently, however, I’ve been receiving emails from my supervisor pointing out small things I’ve done wrong during my shift. It could be misdating paperwork or leaving papers on my bench when I leave for the day. These things don’t happen often, but absolutely every time, I receive an email.

It really hurts me to be nitpicked like this, especially when others are not.

I know I can’t control what happens to others or how my supervisor chooses to handle my errors, but I would like to handle my reaction better. The smallest criticism sends me into a spiral of self-doubt and overwhelming sadness.

I become paranoid that I’m about to be fired, which sends me into another spiral about my financial stability. I become withdrawn. This downturn in my mood can last a shift, an entire week or longer.

I know my fear of being fired is completely unfounded, but I cant stop myself from believing it will happen. I’ve left several jobs because of my anxiety, only to learn that I was never in any danger of losing my job and that my work was appreciated.

I’ve been holding on for seven years at my current job, but each new criticism pulls me closer to handing in my resignation. How can I overcome this?

— Can’t Handle Critiques

Can’t Handle: You have ample evidence that your anxiety is a bigger problem for you than your occasional minor workplace errors.

In the short term, seek your supervisor’s feedback. You could start with this statement: “I hate making errors, even when they’re small ones. When I get a notification about a mistake, I worry a lot about my job performance.” Your supervisor will probably reassure you that these notifications are strictly for your own information, so you can be aware.

Because your anxiety has caused you substantial discomfort and negative consequences, your longer-term goal should be to seek treatment. You should also find ways to interrupt your cycle of negative rumination. Some strategies to try include breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques.

Because of the way your mind amplifies your errors, you should also take an objective look at these corrections. Collect the data. How many did you receive this week? Let’s say two. Two errors out of 50 hours of labor is proportionally tiny.

You could also give these persistent triggers of your anxiety a name, helping you to acknowledge them — and then send them on their way.

I call mine “Tippy.” (I once had a very needy dog with that name.)

I tell myself: “Here comes Tippy. Okay. There you are. Now — go fetch!”

Dear Amy: I have been married to my husband for several decades. We have children together.

He has been cheating on me with a co-worker who is 20 years younger. I am disappointed that he has not confessed about his cheating and acts as if nothing has happened.

I would work on forgiving him if he showed some sort of remorse, and we could work it out, but he is constantly hiding it. It makes me want to abruptly hand him divorce papers without any discussion and walk away!

I find myself shutting down and growing more and more distant from him. I am no longer looking forward to any sort of future with him. Help!

Betrayed: It’s time for you to bring in the professionals. You could see a therapist to review your personal options and discuss your feelings.

You could review your legal and financial options with a lawyer.

One reason to do this is to take your thinking in a new direction — away from your husband, who refuses to communicate with you, and toward contemplating your own options with some clarity.

Dear Amy: “Upset Mother” expressed her concern that her 41-year-old daughter was not getting mammograms, even though the daughter worked in health care and there is a history of cancer in the family.

You outlined the fear and resistance and focused on the relief people feel when a scan is clear.

What you didn’t say is that the daughter gets to make her own health-care decisions!

Been There: Absolutely. Thank you.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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