If you have anxiety, then you know it's difficult enough to deal with at home. But handling your anxiety at work? Well, that's a whole different animal. Apart from having to venture out into the world for eight hours, you now have to deal with deadlines, ringing phones, and the stress of being around people.
This, of course, can lead to extra worry about your anxiety being on full display. Will your coworkers notice? Will your boss care? What if you panic in a meeting? With these thoughts swirling in your head, it's no wonder being at work can often make anxiety feel worse.
It seems to be related to a lack of control, which is something all us anxiety sufferers truly hate. "When we are at home, we typically have a better idea of how things will flow and have more influence over outcomes," says life coach Melody Pourmoradi. "Regardless of our position in the workplace, when we are at work there will be certain variables that are beyond our control and serve as flareups [for] our anxiety."
That's why it's important to have a few self-care tips ready and waiting, so you can feel better equipped and more in control of your anxiety. Read on for things to keep in mind — as well as a few ways to feel better — the next time you feel anxious at work.
1. Know It's OK To Feel Some Anxiety
First things first, let's recognize that it's OK to be slightly anxious at work. After all, "you take your feelings and your thoughts everywhere you go," says licensed professional counselor Shannon Battle, LPC. "Don't be concerned about leaving [them] at the door." (Especially since trying desperately to suppress anxiety often makes it feel worse.)
2. Monitor Yourself For Signs Of Stress
While you want to feel your feelings, I'm not saying it's OK to be over-the-top anxious all day long. So keep an eye on yourself, and get ready to nip your anxiety in the proverbial bud — before it gets out of hand. "This could mean taking a stretch break when you notice your shoulders are tense," psychotherapist Suzanne Hawkins, LICSW, tells Bustle. Or checking for anxious thoughts, such as "I'm never going to get this done."
3. Take A Few Deep Breaths
If anxiety is indeed bubbling up, start by taking a few deep breaths. "Your breath can be a helpful tool," says psychologist Jo Eckler, Psy.D., RYT. "It's portable, free, and can be used discreetly, even during a conversation or in a meeting." To do it, start by inhaling for a count of five, pausing for a count of five, and exhaling for a count of five. This method will slow down your mind, and help calm your jittery bod.
4. Skip That Second Cup Of Coffee
If you're hankering for another cup of coffee, try to resist. "Caffeine can worsen anxiety, particularly if you are prone to panic attacks," says licensed clinical psychologist Helen Odessky. Go for decaf, herbal tea, or water instead.
5. Give Your Anxiety A Rating
Another sneaky way to lessen your anxiety? Give it a rating. On a scale of one to 10, try to decide where your anxiety truly falls. Are you actually at a 10? Or do you feel more like a 6? As mindfulness expert Joy Rains tells me, the act of rating your anxiety can help reduce it by shifting your awareness. Always a good thing when you're feeling bad.
6. Remind Yourself It's Not So Obvious
When you have anxiety, it often feels like all eyes are on you. So it really can help to remember that no one's likely noticing. As Odessky says, "Remind yourself that your anxiety is prominent in your mind only and that other people are probably too occupied with their own problems and concerns to notice any outward signs, or to think of them for very long." (Seriously, such a relief.)
7. Talk To Your Favorite Coworkers
Since anxiety can make you feel very "in your head," it's often helpful to reach out to understanding coworkers. Do you have a work BFF, or someone who won't think your anxiety is "weird"? Talk to him or her, go out for lunch, or take a trip to the break room. As counselor Fara Tucker says, "Connecting with others is good medicine for anxiety."
8. Engulf Yourself In Essential Oils
The more anti-anxiety tools you have on hand, the better. That's why, as marriage and family therapist Brooke Novick tells me, you might want to consider keeping a few essential oils (like lavender or chamomile) in your desk. Simply rub a couple drops into your hands, or behind your ears. Then kick back and try to relax.
9. Get Wrapped Up In A Mundane Task
If you're starting to tune out, try to bring yourself back to the present moment, lest your anxiety take over. "This can be done by simply doing a mundane task and trying to notice all the aspects of it," says therapist Carolyn Karoll, LCSW-C. Straighten up the cash register, or go organize the break room. Just make sure you truly focus on what you're doing.
10. Recite A Soothing Mantra
The next time you're crammed into a meeting with your mind racing, try reciting a soothing mantra. As Pourmoradi says, "This has been proven to substantially calm the nerves. Examples include, 'peace begins with me' or 'I can gracefully handle anything that comes my way.'" Keep repeating 'til that meeting's over.
11. Take Lots Of Mini Breaks
If you can swing it, Tucker tells me it's a good idea to take as many mini breaks as possible throughout the day. Take five minutes to listen to music, pop outside and call your friend, or watch a few funny videos. It'll keep you grounded, and give you a little respite from anxiety-inducing stress.
12. Don't Fill Up Your Schedule
Whatever you do, don't let yourself get overwhelmed. "Learn to begin to protect your time by not accepting extra tasks that would put you in a pressure situation," says certified hypnotherapist Mark Howell, in an email to Bustle. It's OK to say no, especially if it means protecting your mental health.
13. Get Rid Of Distractions
Do you have texts rolling in, and emails, and phone calls? As registered psychotherapist Victoria Donahue says, "In this day and age, it's very easy to get distracted, which can contribute to anxiety." So do yourself a favor and limit any unnecessary distractions. (Like your texts. Sorry.)
You'll feel way more in control — and hopefully less anxious — as a result.
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