Coping with Anxiety: 5 Strategies to Get You Through the Work Day
For anyone struggling with anxiety, every day can feel like an uphill battle. An 8-hour work day may feel like 12, and when you look at your personal to-do list, you may become overwhelmed with dread. While anxiety can show up during predictable moments, there are other times when it comes out of the blue, stopping you in your tracks and leaving you with the thought, "How will I ever get through the day?" Here are a few strategies to turn even the most stressful days around - not just Mondays!
1.) Focus on one task at a time
It can be temping to look at an entire to-do list and think, "This is way too much. There's no way I will get everything done. What if I have to leave some items for tomorrow? Will tomorrow then be even more chaotic than today?" And the downward spiral of anxiety takes off.
By focusing on one item at a time, you set yourself up for a more focused, calm, and efficient day of work. While multitasking may seem like a treasured skill, it actually leaves most individuals feeling even more overwhelmed, as their attention is divided, their mind begins to race, and the items on their to-do list are usually not completed as well as they had hoped. To reduce multitasking and the accompanying anxiety, it may be helpful to write one task on a post-it note and put it on your computer, the front of your planner, or the back of your cell phone - some place that is easily visible. Focus only on that one activity, while putting that extra-long to-do list aside. When you accomplish that one task, remove the post-it and replace it with a new one.
2.) Take breaks
Whether you are at home, work, or on the run, take a time-out. Even a ten or fifteen minute break to sit back, put your feet up, have a snack, or text/call a friend, can go a long way. It allows you to regroup, recharge your mental batteries, and decrease potential irritability/frustration. Play a game on your phone, watch a few funny clips on Youtube, or get some fresh air with a 15 minute walk.
When feeling anxious, many individuals tend to take short, shallow breaths. Some may even hold their breath for brief periods without even realizing it. I recommend setting several alarms throughout the day, when you can become mindful of your breathing and take a few deep breaths. Deep breaths involve breathing from your diaphragm, not from your chest. To practice deep breathing, place one hand on your belly, and one hand on your chest. Practice breathing until you notice your belly moving up and down, more so than your chest. A few deep breaths throughout the day can reduce tension and promote a sense of calmness.
4.) Be Mindful of Perfectionism
Remember that tasks can be done well without being done perfectly. Be mindful of the pressure you put on yourself each day, and acknowledge that it is okay to make mistakes, be unsure of something, and to ask for help. When feeling anxious and overwhelmed, ask yourself, "Am I doing anything to add more weight to my shoulders right now?"
5.) Be Aware of Your Thoughts
We believe what we think! During a tough moment, ask yourself, "What am I thinking right now?" Do you notice thoughts such as, "How will I ever get through this, this is too much for me, I wish I could just go home, how come everyone else can handle their day with ease?" If these or similar thoughts show up, it makes sense that anxiety is the resulting emotion. The solution is not necessarily to think more positively, but to think more realistically. Instead of forcing yourself to think, "Today is going to be a great day, I can accomplish all that I have planned, I will be happy," which may feel fake and unnatural, perhaps remind yourself, "I've gotten through many tough days, I've already accomplished XYZ today, even though I've been feeling anxious, and I am generally a good worker who finishes assignments on time."
What do you do to get through a tough work day?
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