Anxiety is often an unpredictable beast. The quick, nervous breathing and the pounding of your heart against your ribcage don't quite cooperate with daily routines and plans. Handling anxiety at home is one thing, but dealing with it at work is a completely different challenge. At work, we often lack privacy and the flexibility to hide in our closets for ten minutes waiting for our breathing to regulate (am I the only one who’s done that?). But not all hope is lost!
Here are several simple tools for managing anxiety at work.
1) Take short breaks throughout the day.
Every few hours, make sure to get up and move around. A change of environment is not only healthy for your body, but it also allows your mind to rest. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks at work can even improve productivity. Use your breaks to take a few deep breaths, soak up some sunshine, and slow your mental pace in between periods of high productivity.
2) Bring a tangible reminder of peace with you to work.
This can be a photo of a peaceful waterfall scene or a post-it note with your favorite mantra on it permanently stuck on the side of your computer. Whatever brings you peace and calms your heart and mind—find a way to integrate it into your workplace. This tangible reminder of peace can be obvious or subtle, but the key is that every time you notice it in your workplace, you will be comforted and reassured. If you are on your feet all day, without an office or cubicle, write a letter to yourself and stick it in your pocket, or create a note on your phone with calming quotes or prayers.
3) Set 1-2 reachable goals for the day.
This is especially helpful if you become anxious about being productive and getting it all done. Oftentimes, the more anxious we are about “being productive,” the less productive we become. Each morning, choose 1-2 top-priority tasks, and make those your core measurement for productivity for the day. Once those priorities are completed, you can continue with other work without the pressure and anxiety of not finishing your work. Many people find, to their surprise, that they actually complete more work when they are relieved of the pressure to perform, are more creative, and of course are less anxious while at work.
4) Acknowledge your anxiety and process through it when you can.
There is possibly nothing worse than feeling anxiety rising up in your stomach and feeling trapped in a place where you cannot express your emotions. One simple way of defusing anxiety building up inside of you is to write out what you are feeling. Scribble it on a notepad for later or write a quick text or email to a friend. This way, you are not squelching anxiety (which tends to only make it grow bigger and get out of control) but are also not allowing it to dictate your day.
Using these tips and creating a customized plan for self-care at work can be key to finding freedom from overwhelming anxiety at work and developing a healthy routine to make your work week run smoothly.