If you live with an anxiety disorder, you know how far-reaching its effects can be: It can rob you of your sense of control, erode your confidence, undermine your physical well-being, and even interfere with your performance at work.
When routine stressors at work push you outside of your comfort zone, it can be hard to get your job done. Simply telling yourself to stop worrying at work won’t help, so what will?
As a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in helping people of all ages cope more effectively with anxiety, Michelle Ilyayev, LMHC, wants you to know that a positive shift in your mindset is often all it takes to gain the upper hand over disruptive workplace worries. Here are four simple strategies to help you do just that.
1. Identify your anxiety triggers
Many people who deal with anxiety in the workplace say they feel a sort of “low-grade angst” most of the time, and this background worry is heightened by periodic flare-ups of excessive stress in certain circumstances.
Identifying the specific situations that make your anxiety symptoms flare at work is the first step in finding effective ways to manage them going forward. Common anxiety triggers at work include:
- Having to deal with unexpected problems
- Setting and meeting important deadlines
- Having to handle recurrent tight deadlines
- Managing staff; maintaining relationships
- Running or participating in weekly meetings
- Making presentations; speaking to a group
Given that the triggers of workplace stress and anxiety aren’t always obvious, it can be helpful to keep a running list of moments when feelings of nervousness or worry intensify.
You might zero in on specific anxiety triggers that throw you off-center, such as interactions with co-workers that undermine your confidence. Or, you may discover a pattern of anxiety triggers, such as anticipatory feelings of inadequacy or fear — those nagging “what ifs?” — that crop up before important meetings, reviews, or projects.
2. Put your stress to work for you
It can be frustrating to feel as though you’re ruled by stress and anxiety at work, but instead of responding with defeating self-criticism, try labeling your emotions, leaning into your feelings, and making your stress work for you.
Be as patient with yourself as you’d be with a loved one as you acknowledge your stress and notice how it affects you. Then, welcome your stress reaction by recognizing that it’s a response to something you care about. Try to connect to the positive motivation behind your stress as you think about what’s at stake and why it matters.
Then, make use of the extra energy stress gives you. What can you do right now that gets you closer to your goals or reflects your personal values? For example, if you’re anxious under tight deadlines, try to channel the energy it brings into the creation of high-quality work. Easier said than done, right? That’s where the next strategy comes in.
3. Get organized and set boundaries
Tight deadlines, big projects, and important presentations can trigger anxiety because you want to deliver your best effort, but time constraints or performance worries can make it difficult to “harness the energy” of your stress reaction and use it to your advantage.
In such situations, getting organized and setting boundaries can help create the space you need to cope more effectively. It’s helpful to:
- Be realistic about how much work you can take on
- Schedule enough time to complete each project
- Break down large projects into smaller, quicker tasks
- Set mini deadlines for each smaller step or task
- Ask a co-worker for help when you feel overwhelmed
- Set specific start and end times to your workday
- Establish and honor work-life balance boundaries
Don’t underestimate the anxiety-easing effects of open and honest communication, either — let your manager know when you have too much on your plate; they may not realize you’re feeling overwhelmed, and they may be able to adjust your workload accordingly.
4. Make micro-breaks a priority
Spaced throughout your workday, micro-breaks offer a great way to get out of your head, get back into your body, and recalibrate your emotions. A short break might be as simple as:
- Momentarily walking away from a task to recenter
- Taking a deliberate bathroom or coffee break
- Taking a walk around your office or home
- Practicing four-count box breathing (inhale, hold, exhale, hold)
When anxiety feels overwhelming, you can also try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to pull yourself back into the present moment: Simply name five things you see, four things you hear, three things you feel, two things you smell, and one thing you taste.
Gain the upper hand over your anxiety
If you’re ready to gain the upper hand over anxiety, we can help. To learn more or schedule a telehealth appointment at Michelle Silver Lining Mental Health Counseling in Flushing, New York, call or click online today.