How to Deal With Anxiety Better During Work and at Home
Anxiety is one of the most pervasive mental illnesses. Yet, it continues to go undiagnosed and untreated into adulthood in many cases.
The following methods can help you manage your symptoms of anxiety better. These solutions are separated based on what works best for each case. However, the right solution for you is the one that eases your anxiety the most, regardless of what’s making you feel anxious. Here are some of the more common causes of anxiety and what tends to work best for easing each.
How to Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety in Your Chest
Anxiety in your chest can be accompanied by physical symptoms like shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and even chest pain. It’s no wonder that many people experiencing chest anxiety for the first time think they’re having a heart attack or some kind of cardiac problem.
Thankfully, these feelings of anxiety in your chest aren’t life-threatening or immediately dangerous. The only danger to them is the feelings themselves, not anything they cause (other than more anxious thoughts that perpetuate the cycle). Once you’re able to able to soothe the anxiety in your chest, there’s nothing else to worry about. It was the cause and the effect.
In relieving these symptoms, there are two major strategies. The first is to lean into how you’re feeling.
Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
Focusing on your breath might be the single best treatment for physical symptoms of anxiety. Since anxiety in your chest is rooted in strong physical symptoms, redirecting your attention from these symptoms is the best approach for treatment.
Similar to practicing mindfulness, deep breathing exercises work to calm you down by getting you out of your own head. As you “watch” the breath go in and out of your lungs as a patient observer, you can gain some context over what’s causing physical symptoms in your chest.
You’ll probably realize your anxiety has been causing you to breathe shallowly or into your chest instead of your stomach. Both are common sources of chest anxiety. Shallow breathing and chest breathing can cause your chest muscles to tighten, making your anxiety worse. You can repeat this cycle over and over again until your anxiety is unbearable.
Deep breathing exercises are a way to jump out of the cycle. Once you stop feeding your physical symptoms with anxious thoughts, your body will calm back down.
Distract Yourself From the Physical Symptoms
The other strategy for dealing with anxiety in your chest is seemingly the opposite: distracting yourself.
It isn’t really though.
Distracting yourself to help with your anxiety doesn’t mean you’re running away from how you’re feeling. You aren’t telling yourself that it isn’t okay to be anxious, because it’s perfectly okay to be.
For distracting yourself to work, you first have to accept that you are feeling physically anxious. This just means that you’re confident that your physical symptoms are due to anxiety and not anything else.
By engaging in an activity you do when you’re feeling normal and at ease when you’re actually feeling anxious, you are beginning the process of rewiring your brain. You’re telling it:
“Hey, you can’t be in any immediate danger. If you were, you wouldn’t be reading in bed. So everything must be okay.”
Immersing yourself in an activity is a great way to get out of your own head and stop ruminating on your anxious thoughts. Anxiety, and physical anxiety, in particular, can cause you to start thinking in self-sabotaging thought loops. Distracting yourself can help you escape from them.
How to Cope With Anxiety at Night
One of the most common times to experience anxiety is at night in bed. It makes sense. You’ve been preoccupied when one thing or another all day. Now that you slow things down, your mind has a chance to think of every possible future task you could worry about.
A common coping mechanism for people prone to anxiety is to constantly stay busy. Your anxiety can’t find you if you hide from it by being productive, right? Though this strategy can seem to work during the day, the minute your head hits the pillow the facade is gone.
Staying busy isn’t a treatment, it’s a crutch. And it’s a dangerous crutch to lean on because it’s one that tends to give way if you lean on it too much. Using the front of productivity is especially precarious because it doesn’t just make you unavailable to others. It also makes you emotionally unavailable to yourself.
Treating anxiety at night, then, largely comes down to being more in tune with your feelings. The following methods are ways of becoming more aware of your emotions. They will help you to identify what’s making you feel anxious.
Mindfulness is basically a way of consciously choosing to stay with your anxiety rather than fight it or run from it.
Before you lay down to bed, sit upright and focus on your breath for a few minutes. Allow your anxious feelings to arise without letting the feeling control you. If you start feeling anxious, just mentally label the feeling “anxious,” and return your focus to your breath.
Done consistently, you can use this practice to have more say over which thoughts you focus on. If a troubling thought comes up, you will be more mindful of it. Instead of letting it lead you down the rabbit hole, you can say, “Not this time. This time I’ll think of something else.”
Write Down What You Are Feeling
When you’re feeling anxious, the last thing you want to do is stay with that feeling. Just as we found with mindfulness, though, the way out of anxious thought patterns is through them. You have to experience your emotions to get them out of your head. Like a toddler who had too much sugar, your body is trying to tell you something, and it’s not going to shut up until you listen. What you’ll often find when you do listen is that there wasn’t ever anything to be afraid of.
Writing down your thoughts as they come up is a great way to look at them with some perspective. With perspective, you’ll probably find that most of what’s making you anxious falls into one of two categories. Either they’re things that won’t actually happen, or they’re things you have no control over.
Most of the time what your anxiety is trying to tell you is useless (again, like toddlers). Get in the habit of writing down what’s making you anxious and, in your head, labeling these feelings as “anxious.” It will give you the perspective you need to dismiss rather than obey your anxiety.
How to Deal With Anxiety at Work
There’s nothing worse than having a thousand tasks you need to get done in the office only to have anxiety come crashing down on you. Work anxiety is particularly common. With how stressful most jobs are, it’s no wonder why.
It’s also particularly discouraging. Here are some of the most significant facts about anxiety in the workplace:
- It decreases work performance
- It hurts overall job satisfaction
- It negatively affects relationships with co-workers and superiors
- It interferes with personal relationships at home
Basically, workplace anxiety makes your job harder and your work less satisfactory. Worse, and more importantly, it makes you less happy.
With common stressors at work like deadlines, poor management, and workplace disputes, dealing with anxiety at work is easier said than done. It may seem like everything is out of your control and there’s nothing you can do. Thankfully, that’s not true. You can:
Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
If you struggle with anxiety, stimulants, in general, are not your friend. Unfortunately, having a morning cup of copy to start your workday has gone from being the norm to feeling like a necessity. For many, drinking coffee in the morning can be such a routine that they don’t even realize they have a choice over it. Coffee in the morning is a given.
Coffee creates reactions like a quickened heartbeat and racing thoughts. Reactions, in other words, you normally associate with anxiety. It’s a no-brainer that drinking less coffee will help lower your anxiety levels at work.
You can do this by stopping cold turkey, but an easier solution is switching to less caffeinated tea. Green tea has only a third the amount of caffeine of coffee, while black tea has double that of green.
Take an Exercise Break
It’s probably not news to you that exercise is a great stress-reliever because it releases endorphins. Aerobic exercise is especially good for producing endorphins, which are responsible for elevating your mood and relieving pain after exercise.
Any type of exercise will do, though. It doesn’t need to be aerobic. Anything that gets your body moving long enough to forget the stress of the office is great. Think of an exercise break as a form of meditation in motion. Physical activity gets you out of anxious thought loops just like focusing on your breathing does.
Exercise can also act as a pick me up. In fact, it’s a much better option for people with anxiety than caffeine. If you’re feeling tired at work, try going for a brisk walk instead of having (more) coffee.
Taking control over your anxiety is largely an act of giving up your feelings of control over it. If you get in a war with your own anxiety over who’s in control, you’ve already lost. You’re feeding it. By thinking about your anxiety, you’re giving it credibility that it doesn’t deserve. Instead, simply note it as it passes through.
All of the methods listed above should help you to manage your anxiety, whatever form it may take. If you need more help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.