Five top tips for dealing with anxiety at work
Anyone with an anxiety disorder knows that it is a very different feeling from normal work stress. It’s perfectly natural to get stressed over work, whether it’s nerves about a big presentation, or a meeting with a superior. These are both things that you would expect to make you nervous. Anxiety disorders come in many shapes and sizes but are broadly characterised by sudden attacks of panic and fear, and excessive worrying, often without a visible cause. These sudden and unexpected bouts of anxiety can make work extremely difficult at times. But there are always tricks and techniques that you can use to help make life and work a little easier.
1.Get Away From Your Desk
Even if you are taking a short break at your desk, looking at your phone or at a different web page is not the same as getting up and physically moving away from the work. Simply getting up and walking away from your computer, even if it is just to get some fresh air or walk around the building, can help relieve some of the tension and nervous energy. Physically removing yourself from your work station puts a physical distance between you and the stress, even if it is only five minutes to clear your head.
2.Check in with your breathing
It might sound clichéd to say ‘breathe deeply’ when you’re feeling anxious but there is a reason that people say this. Regulating your breathing does two things. The first thing it does is increase your oxygen intake. When anxiety kicks in it triggers the fight or flight mechanism and all the blood rushes to the centre of the brain. This focuses on engaging the most primal instincts, increasing your heart rate and making one’s breathing faster to prepare the body to either run or fight. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into your blood which then circulates to your brain, enabling you to think more clearly. The second thing it does is lower your heart rate, which helps slow pretty much everything down. Using a breathing technique such as circular breathing (in through your nose and out through your mouth) or counting it (ie. in for 4 and out for 6) helps to shift your focus and lower the heart rate, regaining that sense of control.
3.Make a list
Another old trick is making lists, but again, it really does work. When it starts getting busy and things start piling up it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You loose track of everything that’s coming in and going out, what you’ve done, what is still left to do. It can start to feel like things are running away from you. Making lists and ticking items off one by one helps to give you back a sense of control that anxiety takes away. When you can physically see in front of you what has been done and what still needs doing it can help to make it feel less overwhelming.
Sometimes when you work in a busy office it can be difficult to get away from your desk. Whether that is due to back to back calls or a string of emails or meetings, sometimes it simply isn’t possible. Doing a few stretches, even gentle ones to stretch your neck and shoulders helps to let out some of the tension in your muscles. For many people sensory processing differences can occur as part of an anxiety disorder, usually during or leading up to a panic attack. One might feel hypersensitive to the world around them, with things feeling too loud or too fast etc. Tension in your muscles only makes that feeling worse. Doing some gentle stretches helps to alleviate the tension and prevent soreness and aches which would otherwise serve to frustrate one further.
It is hard to talk about one’s mental health to anyone let alone to colleagues at work. But talking about it with a trusted friend or colleague is one of the most effective ways to help you deal with it when you’re in the office and struggling. More often than not suppressing things and trying to push them down and hide them only makes you feel worse, as it gives you one more thing to worry about. Simply talking to someone or saying what is bothering you out loud can help relieve the pressure and help you get through the day. But more importantly it means that you will have someone who can support you when you need it.