Work Anxiety? – Practical Ways To Beat It
Anxiety affects most people at one time or another in the workplace. Feeling anxious is perfectly normal and isn’t usually a serious problem, unless the feeling is persistent or extreme. Many work situations can be stressful. Important decisions and tight deadlines, performance assessments and increasingly ambitious targets all contribute to raising our body’s levels of stress hormones. These stress hormones can lead to feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety is a broad spectrum. At one end, sufferers can feel uncomfortable or worried for a short period of time – usually until a stressful event is over. However, at the other end of the spectrum, severe anxiety can be debilitating and make work life feel overwhelming and unpleasant.
If work anxiety is causing problems, there are techniques you can use to relieve the unpleasant feelings and sensations it causes. At the end of this post, you’ll find some tried and tested methods to try.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is nature’s way of protecting us from threats. This stems from our evolution as hunters and also prey animals. When a threat occurs, your body releases adrenaline into your bloodstream. This boost of potent hormones creates a hyper-alert state, increases the heart rate and boosts circulation of oxygen to the limbs. This is to enable you to fight or flee from the threat and is known as the ‘fight or flight response’. When this ancient process is activated, it sometimes feels like butterflies in your stomach.
In this way, we are best equipped to escape danger. But in modern times in our daily work, we aren’t likely to be under any real physical danger. However, situations around us can activate the fight or flight response, which has a physiological affect on our bodies and the way that we think. If this response is activated continually over an extended period of time, the unpleasant feelings can persist and begin to interfere with life and our ability to work at our optimum level.
Common physiological symptoms of anxiety incude:
- Increased heart rate
- Unpleasant muscle tension
- Shaky legs
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Difficulty in breathing or shallow breathing
- Increased need to use the toilet and stomach upsets
- Feeling sick or actually being sick
- Tightness or pain in the chest area
- Hot flushes
- Increased perspiration
- Dry mouth
- Shaking or shivering
Common psychological symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling like you are overwhelmed or that you may lose control
- Worrying about dying
- Worrying that you may have a heart attack/be sick/have a brain tumour
- Paranoia or worrying that people are looking at you or talking about you
- Feeling detached from your surroundings and other people
- Wanting to run away or disappear
- Feeling uncomfortable and hyper alert to everything around you
Some of these symptoms can also be indicative of serious health conditions, so it’s always wise to consult your GP if you are worried.
Are you suffering from Work Anxiety?
If you suffer from one or more of the listed symptoms on a regular basis, you may be suffering from work anxiety. Anxiety can be acute and last for the duration of a stressful time in your work life or it can be chronic and last much longer.
You may be able to put your finger on the cause, such as extra pressure from a manager or a challenging work relationship, or it’s possible you don’t know why you are feeling this way.
The good news is, there are often steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms. Feeling happy and relaxed is something that doesn’t have to be out of your reach forever. Look on your anxiety as a challenge – and one that you can beat.
How to Beat Work Anxiety
- Slow and deepen your breathing. Take five minutes to consciously control your breathing.
- Drop your shoulders, massage your neck and do some stretches at your desk.
- Write a list of the worries you have. Then consider writing some solutions you could implement.
- Massage your hands, this causes oxytocin to be released into your bloodstream.
- Organise your desk or in-tray. Just feeling that you are ‘getting on top of things’ can help.
- Take time out for a walk, visit a local park.
- Take a bath or shower. Don’t think about work during this time, simply allow your mind to wander.
- Take a break from watching the news or using social media.
- Make a phone call or send an email you’ve been putting off.
- Try a guided meditation.
- Cuddle a baby, pet or someone you love before you leave for work and when you return. Hugging releases oxytocin.
- Forgive yourself for not handling a situation in an ideal way or getting the result you wanted. We all make mistakes. Self-forgiveness is a powerful tool.
- If someone else’s behaviour has affected you negatively, try accepting that their behaviour is out of your control.
- Write a list of everything you’re good at in your job. Write a list of the things you’re not so good at and what you can do to improve. If you can’t see a way to improve, acknowledge to yourself that improvement isn’t essential in every area. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
- Write a to-do list. Make sure you complete one task each day. Acknowledge that you are moving forward and succeeding.
- Look into yoga poses that you can do at your desk or during a quiet time at work.
- Get a second opinion from someone you really trust. Explain to them that you need their real opinion rather than just reassurance.
- Make it part of your daily routine to exercise. Even walking for twenty minutes during your lunch break will help you with anxiety.
- Find images or quotes that make you laugh, print them out and put them on your office walls. We all take ourselves too seriously!
- Imagine how you’d cope if your “worst nightmare” happened at work. How would you handle the situation and what would you do? Mentally confronting your fears is useful, things are rarely as catastrophic as we build them to be in our minds.
- Call or email a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
- Give yourself time. Sometimes, when we don’t know what to do, the best thing to do is nothing at all! The only thing constant in life is change. Change will occur whether you try to instigate it or not.
Remember, feeling anxious from time to time is normal and keeps us ‘on our toes’. But, if you are suffering from work anxiety on a regular basis, you should take steps to alleviate your symptoms. Sometimes, you can’t control what happens but you CAN control how you react to events. Try these techniques, you may find they change your working life.
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