If stress has been difficult to handle lately, especially on top of work responsibilities, just know that this is common during a pandemic. Read below on the 5 ways to help reduce anxiety at work.
Statistics regarding anxiety and stress in the workplace are alarming. It should come to no one’s surprise that stress is a natural part of any workspace, but nearly three-fourths of Americans feel that they are experiencing stress at work that interferes with their lives at least moderately, with 40 percent experiencing what they define as “persistent and excessive anxiety.” Even more alarming, nearly a third (30 percent) have started taking prescription medication to combat stress, anxiety, nervousness, and lack of sleep.
Despite these numbers, only 9 percent of the responding surveyed adults have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
This hints at a problem with severe stress in the American work culture, as well as low awareness for the issue of anxiety and its undiagnosed, widespread nature in our workforce. Chances are you know someone who feels anxious at work, or you find yourself often nervous and distracted.
Nothing can replace professional treatment and the opinion and care of an experienced psychiatrist. However, on top of seeking help, there are ways you can begin to tackle some of your anxieties at work and be at peace with yourself a little more often.
1. Remind Yourself to Be Present
Mindfulness can be described as a form of self-reflection, and a form of meditation. Rather than drowning in the worries of what could be, or what has been, mindfulness aims to teach people to take in what is, right now and right here.
Patients who are guided through mindfulness are generally taught to begin by taking note of their breathing, controlling its pace and intensity, and trying to pay attention to whatever helps them remain purely in the moment. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about the past or the present, try to stop and recognize the pattern
As a form of reflection rather than reaction, mindfulness teaches you to dissociate from your worries by recognizing that they either haven’t happened yet or aren’t immediately relevant. By focusing on the now, you learn to compartmentalize your stressors and figure things out a step at a time.
2. Take a Quick Break (and Look Up)
It might seem like a relatively strange fix, but if you catch yourself stuck in a mental rut and worried about one thing or another, you might need a quick break from the screen. While we are expected to bring our best to the table and work a set number of hours per working day, the brain can only concentrate on a single task for so long. After a while, you’ll start to force yourself to regain focus on the task at hand and fail.
Whenever you feel that cycle of distraction coming on, a quick and modest change of scenery can often do a lot to help you reset and get ready to concentrate again. Just get up, stretch your legs, stretch your back, and pick a far point to gaze at – preferably something outside, something natural far out near the horizon, like a mountain or a tree.
Think of a long gaze at something far away as a little bit of a mental palate cleanser. Psychologically, this is called a “restorative action.” It’s something we can all do, as long as we have a window or a balcony at the office, and it costs virtually nothing.
3. Avoid Your Tics
If you’re diagnosed with a neurological condition like Tourette’s, then a physical or verbal tic is an unavoidable behavior commonly associated with stress, although it also often comes out of nowhere. But for most people, nervous tics might indicate discomfort and a yearning for escape.
Whether it’s nail biting, Instagram scrolling, or compulsively checking your emails, learn to catch your tics and identify how you’re trying to escape your own feelings of anxiety or stress with repetitive, compulsive actions that serve no purpose.
Learn to put your phone down, stop checking your mails, and leave your manicure alone – and instead recognize that when the urge for these actions rears its ugly head, it’s time for a break and a quick restorative action for proper stress management.
Go for a short walk (even if it’s just to the watercooler and back), take a moment to think on what’s bothering you, or take a deep breath and figure out what’s next on your list. Instead of just suppressing your tics for the sake of it, consider using them as a cue that you need a quick reset or shift in gear.
4. Write Up a To-Do List
Sometimes, when anxiety hits, that means worrying about ten things at once. And when our thoughts are disorganized and jumbled, it’s nearly impossible to find a single thing to focus on.
It’s especially bad when we feel overwhelmed by our tasks and goals and can’t find a good starting spot. If you have a project to finish and deliver, but all you see before you is an insurmountable pile of work, you may feel a little paralyzed.
By breaking that pile up into individual simple tasks, you can take what might seem impossible and tackle it one step at a time, starting with the smallest and simplest steps, and slowly working your way down the entire list until you’re done. By creating a to-do list, you’re bringing order to your thoughts, and make your tasks much less intimidating.
5. Accept Yourself
An estimated 6.8 million Americans are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and many others struggle with symptoms of anxiety without a formal diagnosis. If you struggle with anxiety and depression like many other fellow Americans, understand that it’s something many others fight, and something you can get help for. You are not less valuable or less useful to society because of this. And it doesn’t make you a bad worker.
There are ways to treat and cope with symptoms of anxiety while still getting work done. But you must learn to accept your symptoms, if you do have an anxiety issue, so you can begin to find ways to seek help for them and see improvements at work, at home, and in your personal space.
Your mental wellness is important to care for. Following these 5 tips will surely relieve some stress and help you gain more focus with work. But just know that you’re not alone in this. This pandemic has affected everyone, and we’re all in this together.