You’re at work, minding your own business when dread starts to seep in. If you’re worried like I am, this situation will sound familiar.
You might be telling yourself something along the lines of: “You’ve got to get back to work, stop worrying, stop obsessing, get your head back in the game, and just focus!” This could be true whether you’re stressed about a specific issue, such as an approaching deadline, or you simply feel a formless sense of dread.
If you have a tendency to catastrophize, as nervous individuals frequently do, if that fails, the next thing you’ll worry about is getting fired. So you’ll start worrying about worrying. Soon enough, your thoughts will start to seem out of control, and you could even discover that you’re experiencing a full-blown panic attack.
Especially if the things you’re worrying about are work-related, the paradox of feeling nervous over feeling anxious might seem unavoidable. The impulse to suppress your uneasiness and yell “at” your thoughts to shut up may be quite strong in such difficult circumstances.
But by now, you’re undoubtedly aware it doesn’t actually work and may even make matters worse by a factor of ten. Instead, there are kinder, more compassionate methods to communicate with yourself, get comfortable with yourself, and calm your mind.
Below, we look at a few of these approaches. But first, let me just say that as someone who deals with anxiety, going to a therapist is probably the greatest thing you can do to manage the illness.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has two helpful resources: a guide that explains the various therapies that are available and a directory that allows you to look for therapists within a 5-mile radius of your location.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
But regardless of whether you’re receiving therapy or not, I hope this piece will provide you some solace. Try to keep in mind these five things the next time you feel like your mind is your biggest opponent, and let us know if they helped you in the comments section below.
1. Your feelings are genuine.
When I experienced my first anxiety attack at work, I didn’t ask to leave until I felt sick. I think I didn’t get the impression that mental symptoms were as tangible, important, or genuine as physical ones. Only physical signs might provide me with the necessary evidence for my problems and allow me to feel less ashamed and guilty about admitting that I needed assistance.
It’s common to believe that mental health issues are somehow less serious than physical ones. Millions of Internet users have searched “is mental illness real?” this year, and the Internet is flooded with government and non-profit organizations’ public awareness campaigns resounding “Yes!”
“Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions — just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes,” write the ADAA.
Additionally, the most prevalent and frequent mental disorders in the United States are anxiety disorders. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up to 1 in 5 Americans suffer from anxiety disorders.
My primary concern throughout my anxiety attack was that my employer would believe I was attempting to avoid doing my tasks. The good news is that you are not alone if you experience the same. In fact, a recent survey on stress and anxiety at work found that 38% of those who have an anxiety disorder do not disclose it to their employers out of concern that “their boss would interpret it as lack of interest or unwillingness to do the activity.”
It can be challenging to admit to flaws and give yourself a break at work, where you’re expected to perform and be at your best. But try to keep in mind that your anxiety is real, just like the worst migraine or stomach ache, and that you deserve to take care of yourself just as you would if you had those physical conditions.
2. The company won’t let you go
The dread of being fired might play a significant role in experiencing an anxiety episode at work. The good news is that it’s unlikely you will.
The catastrophizing mechanism that is a characteristic of workplace anxiety frequently includes the worry of being fired. The law is on your side, though, should your worst “what if” scenario materialize.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to shield workers like you from workplace discrimination; as a result, if you inform your employer that you have a significant “physical or mental impairment,” they must not only keep you on staff but also make “reasonable accommodations” for you.
According to the ADAA, if you are eligible for the position and your impairment prevents you from performing duties that are “not essential” to the position, your employer cannot terminate you or refuse to hire you.
Visit this helpful page created by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a more thorough explanation of what that means and what qualifies as “reasonable accommodations.”
3. Don’t fight anxiety; work with it
Steven Hayes, a well-known personality in the field of mental health and a person who has experienced panic attacks many times himself, argues for a more self-compassionate and self-accepting approach to coping with anxiety. He is a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Nevada in Reno.
In fact, Prof. Hayes is the creator of acceptance commitment therapy, one of the most cutting-edge and cutting-edge kinds of cognitive behavioral therapy (ACT). This method of therapy works to bring the client into the present and assist them in leading meaningful lives by beginning with the acceptance and objective, nonjudgmental observation of negative thoughts.
He discusses why it is unhelpful to view worry as your enemy in this video. According to him, if you view your anxiety as your enemy, you will also view your past experiences and your physical sensations will make your body your enemy. Thus, if you view your anxiety as your enemy, you will also view your body as your enemy.
According to Prof. Hayes, it is ultimately this self-denial and self-avoidance that results in psychopathologies. Instead, he advises that you make an effort to self-compassionately hold your fear. Bring that scared part of you close and give it some respect.
Perhaps worth mentioning is that several studies have shown ACT to be useful in treating anxiety. It turned shown to be even more successful than the traditional kind of CBT in various mental health areas, according to Trusted Source.
4. Make stress your ally.
In a similar vein, Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, and well-known public speaker argues for a constructive reimagining of stress. She argues in her discussion that how we perceive stress—rather than the stress itself—is what is damaging.
You may use stress to your advantage rather than seeing it as your opponent. Stress and worry are nothing more than indications that you care about something, and this caring may be channeled into something that greatly enhances rather than detracts from your performance.
But isn’t this simply wishy-washy pseudo-science that tells you to “think positively” and to grin at yourself in the mirror to get rid of your depression?
Actually, no. McGonigal bases her opinions on rather reliable scientific data, ranging from observational studies to randomized trials, and her book “The Upside of Stress” is littered with allusions to several researches that produced concrete findings.
One such study examined the effectiveness of a straightforward three-step method for managing stress and anxiety at work, and the findings were encouraging. Here’s how McGonigal puts it: “The first step is to recognize stress when it arises. Just allow yourself to be aware of the stress, including how it makes you feel physical.
“Welcoming the tension by realizing that it’s a reaction to something you care about is the second stage,” says the author. Can you relate to the stress’s constructive motivation? Why does this matter to you and what is at stake?
The third stage is to utilize the energy that stress offers you rather than squandering it on stress management. What actions that support your objectives and values can you take right away?
Personally, if I hadn’t realized as I read this that I’ve already tried out these suggestions, I probably wouldn’t be so convinced. I’ve done it a few times intuitively and was very happy with the results.
For instance, being a part of a news team in a hectic workplace often enables me to channel my worry into producing high-caliber news articles that I must present on time. When I was a teacher, I used to exploit my fear of speaking in front of a group to motivate, enliven, and engage my students.
Don’t believe me? Read the book, give it a go, and let me know what you think.
5. Discover what feels nice.
This final thought is actually a quote from my favorite yoga instructor, who has been shown to successfully reduce anxiety and stress through the practice of yoga.
Although Adriene frequently refers to physical yoga poses when she says “Find what feels good” in her “Yoga with Adriene” sessions, which are accessible online for free, I believe this piece of advice is particularly appropriate for “worriers” who are looking for coping mechanisms for the harshness of their inner voice.
Individuals who struggle with anxiety are frequently overachievers, perfectionists, and people who, in general, have high expectations for themselves. When you have anxiety, this makes matters worse because you don’t feel your best, which makes you mad at yourself. You don’t need to treat yourself harshly when you’re actually at your most vulnerable.
But it’s important to keep in mind that nobody is ever perfect, and we should all take care of and love our flaws.
“Find what feels good” is a great adage because it replaces that critical inner voice with a kinder, gentler one, similar to the tone Adriene uses in her own videos. However, it’s also important to remember that different tactics work for different people and that only you can determine which one is most effective for you.
Having said that, I’ll leave you with something that has helped me: An Adriene self-love video made expressly for anxiety.