It’s mid-morning and you have been at work for about an hour. You thought that this day was going to be straightforward and simple. But life had other plans.
Suddenly swamped with a project that has been dumped in your lap, your schedule has just gone out the window.
What happens next? Do racing thoughts, rapid breathing, and poor concentration kick in? When you get home in the evening, can you sleep, knowing that there will be a ton of work to deal with tomorrow?
First, take a deep breath. Then consider these tips for dealing with anxiety symptoms.
1. Overwhelm and a Rising Panic? Take a Moment to Step Back
When you start experiencing those racing thoughts or a panic response, take them as your signals to take a step back from the situation. Otherwise, continuing any further could just suck you down the rabbit hole of anxiety.
Getting up and leaving the room, if possible, can be very helpful as you are completely removing yourself from the situation. If you can’t leave, pause for a few minutes and separate yourself mentally from the cause of the anxiety if you can identify it. ground yourself by focusing on a pattern in the wallpaper or the feeling of your back in your chair and your feet on the floor. Either option can be helpful for regaining your composure.
2. Negative, unhelpful thoughts? Shift Your Attention
When you are struggling with negative thoughts and illogical worry, try to shift your attention. For example, let’s say you are experiencing defeatist thoughts and begin to worry a lot about the aforementioned hypothetical project. It may help to break the thought cycle by taking a few minutes to think of something else entirely. Ideally, something that you will find calming, soothing, and reassuring.
Now, you may ask, “Isn’t this just a distraction.” The answer is yes, absolutely! You’d be surprised how effective a distraction can be to calm your thoughts and regain perspective. Other ideas include:
- Reading from a favorite book
- Drawing or doodling
- Writing or journaling
- Making music
- Playing a game
Prepare several strategies to use when you feel anxious. For example, working out may not be practical at work. However, having something to fidget with in your hands during conference calls could be useful.
3. Rapid Breathing? Try Breath Exercises & Practicing Mindfulness
Rapid breathing and an elevated heart rate are classic symptoms of anxiety. Your body does this because your mind is telling you that you are in a stressful situation. This happens, even when, in reality, there is nothing actually wrong. Using relaxation techniques can help calm your breathing and slow the fight or flight reaction. Concentrating on the breath prevents mental and physical overreaction so you stay in control. Mindfulness, or the practice of noticing your emotions and reactions in an effort to stay present, is a good compliment to the breath work. Both can help you in the moment, helping to quickly halt a downward spiral of anxiety before it even starts.
4. Avoiding or Procrastinating? Face Your Thoughts Head-on
When you have persistent worry and feel hemmed in by anxiety, it can seem as if you are constantly on edge and ill-prepared. Everything feels threatening and uncertain as you are bombarded with thoughts that only reinforce your anxiety. While distraction can help you get your bearings, eventually thorough examination of your fears is best.
Facing your thoughts with logic and a willingness to challenge your fear-based assumptions is crucial for long-term relief. Saying to yourself phrases such as “This is just anxiety, not reality,” can really help. The idea is to break the unproductive thoughts before they become snowballs rolling downhill, getting bigger and less controllable.
5. Can’t Concentrate? Practice Healthy Sleep Habits
Anxiety can really do a number on your ability to sleep. Thus, when you get up in the morning you feel groggy or irritable, making it hard to concentrate and focus. Also, you have a short fuse and it becomes harder to deal with stress. This is where practicing healthy sleep habits can help. For example:
• Going to bed at a consistent and early hour instead of staying up late.
• Powering down electronics well before bedtime.
• Creating an evening ritual that allows you to get into sleep mode. For instance, drinking a warm cup of non-caffeinated tea.
These common anxiety symptoms don’t have to take over your life. By practicing these tips you can regain some control and better manage your anxiety.
Think you might need some support getting anxiety reined in? I’m here to help. Please contact me for on-going support and tools to help bring you more peace of mind.