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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Tips for Dealing With Anxiety While On the Job

7 Tips for Dealing With Anxiety While On the Job

Many people develop Anxiety Disorders as result of stressful work conditions. Toxic work environments or stressful tasks can create chronic stress and cause long-term physical and mental health issues for people. Anxiety on the job is a reality that we all face.

These seven tips will help you to be more empowered and proactive about managing the stress and anxiety you face on the job and in your life.

Check out these stress-free strategies to stay in control of anxiety while at work.

How to Conquer Anxiety on the Job

1. Get A “Life Wellness Plan”

Without a “life wellness plan” your chances of dealing with anxiety on the job are pretty much zero.

Your personal life wellness plan is the foundation from which you build and maintain both your physical and mental strength. A wellness plan strengthens your resilience, which is key to you successfully managing the disruptive and stressful situations in work and personal life.

How you manage your physical and mental wellbeing is entirely up to you. Work out what physical activities you enjoy, then commit to doing them on a regular basis.

Social interaction is also important to your mental wellbeing and it takes effort and commitment to sustain positive healthy relationships in your life. Put in the time to be involved and engaged in the positive aspects of your life. These relationships will be key to helping you get through the tough times in your work and personal life.

2. Take Action Early

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

The more resilient you are, the more in tune you will be to things that are not right in your life. Anxiety and stress builds up over time. Your body and your intuition will let your know at the start of a “toxic” situation that it is not right. The key thing for you to do is to recognize the warning signs early and take action.

Taking action right at the start is the best way to ensure that anxiety and stress will not take over your life.

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Taking no action results in you dealing with anxiety that will flow into your personal life and eventually paralyse you.

I know from my own experiences that taking action straight away is not always that easy to do. After one of many bad experiences with a toxic manager, I suffered an anxiety attack while driving home. It really frightened me, and I decided that I had enough. I needed to get control back into my life; but first, I had to figure out exactly how I was going to do that – which leads into the next tip.

3. Find Simple Action Strategies

Knowing what action to take (and when to take action) to avoid stress is part of your journey of learning about yourself.

As humans our natural desire is to avoid pain, and that includes painful emotions. Pushing away our painful emotions by using alcohol or drugs may work for short period of time however “what we resist will persist”.

The more self aware you are, the more conscious you are of your emotions and feelings. I would love to give you the perfect solution on how to handle anxiety and stress in your own life. However, this is something that you have to figure out for yourself. The great thing is that there are so many resources available; all you have to do is find the resources that resonate with you and will help you find your courage to take action with confidence and power.

For me, Bryon Katie’s The Work was by far the best starting point as to helping me change my mindset and thoughts around my anxiety and stress.

The Work provides you with four questions that you apply to each stressful/anxious feeling or thought. It took a lot of practice, but over time the four questions have become ingrained into my thinking. Now when facing challenging situations in my life I find that by applying the four questions, I am able to deal with my emotions and feelings far more effectively.

Once I have the right mindset in place, I am able to progress forward and successfully manage the stressful situation facing me. If you’re interested in whether these four questions might help you, do check out this method.

I also liked Bruce Di Marsico’s The Option Method. This model has five questions that also help you interpret the feelings of anxiety, stress and unhappiness in your life in a more positive and energized way.

Both offer strategies that empower you to change the way you think about your stress and anxiety.

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Your thoughts control your actions.

With a more positive mindset you are more empowered to manage the stress and anxiety in your work and in your life.

4. Recognize Causes of Anxiety

There is no way you can escape the challenges and fast pace of change in the 21st century work place.

The term “disruptive technology” is now used to explain the influence and impact that new technology has in the work environment. To successfully manage this change, organizations need to be agile, flexible and adaptive.

The work environment is increasingly more competitive and the rules keep changing. Job losses are now expected in one’s career and loyalty to a company no longer exists, nor is it expected.

Along with this disruption the feelings of uncertainty and fear start to dominate peoples lives. You will know when these negative feelings are in your workplace because people’s behavior towards each other will not be pleasant or respectful.

These negative behaviours and feelings create what is known as a “toxic workplace”. The stress and anxiety that comes from working in a “toxic workplace” can be debilitating. If you do not address these difficult and painful situations early you will find that you will be sucked into a “vortex” of unhappiness and despair.

This is why it is so important that know what your anxiety triggers are. What events, thoughts and feelings can set you off? Are you afraid of change? Do you find it difficult to leave work at work? Do you feel that you have to put in 150% more than anyone else? Do you find it difficult to speak your mind or ask questions? Are you afraid you will lose your job?

It is also important to recognize the “physical signs” of stress and anxiety. Your body will let you know – if your heart starts pumping, sweaty palms, shortness of breath or you feel like you are crazy for no reason. These are definite signs that you are under stress and anxiety is setting in. It is time to take action.

Knowing what your anxiety triggers are is one huge step toward you proactively dealing with the anxiety and stressful situations you face at work.

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5. Stay Connected

Keep your support networks close to you. Let them know what is going on in your life and ask them for help.

The feelings associated with anxiety and stress can sabotage your life if you do not deal with them. You will find that by not addressing these stressful situations can result in you becoming more withdrawn from the people who support and love you.

Focus on building positive relationships where you feel engaged energized and motivated. At times of high stress anxiety will creep in and it is at these times that you need to be surrounded by positive and supportive people. It is these people that you share your feelings and your fears about challenging situations you are facing.

6. Regularly Disconnect

There is a time and a place for work, and there is a time and a place for relaxation and rest. Take time out to reflect and rest. Make it a rule not to bring work home or discuss with friends and family how much work you have to do.

Thinking about work and how much you have to do means that you are not being “Present”. You are not engaging in the relationships that are important to you. You are not giving yourself time to rest and relax. The anxiety will start to build up when you can’t stop thinking about work.

Here’s the other side of the coin, which for some people can be really hard to do: disconnecting from technology!

Allocate a weekend every once in a while where you disconnect from any form of technology: o internet, no phone (unless emergencies) no Facebook, no Twitter, no digital newspapers, etc. Instead, read a book, watch the sunrise or the sunset. Go for walks or go the beach.

Be disconnected for a few days to reconnect with yourself.

7. Focus On The Positive

When facing stressful work situations, it can be really hard to get up every day and go to work feeling happy. When you are tired, anxious and fearful it’s difficult to bring yourself out of a place of despair to one of positivity and joy.

For example, you may have followed all of the previous six tips, are generally a positive and upbeat person, but this one situation/or person at work is just too much. You feel anxiety creeping in.

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Take some time out, sit down, and write a list of all the positive things in your life.

What are your successes? What are your strengths?

Go back to when you were a child and list all the wonderful things you did and loved about your life – your dreams, your hopes, your best childhood friends and all the fun adventures you use to have.

There are negative situations in our lives where we find that we have no influence on changing the outcome. The one person you do have control over however is you.

You have the “Power to Choose” how your respond. You can choose to change your mindset.

You can choose how you deal with your feelings of anxiety and stress. Dealing with anxiety on the job is really down to you choosing how you want to respond to these feelings.

Face Anxiety Head On

Dealing with feelings of anxiety on the job isn’t just something you have to deal with while at work. These feelings will slowly creep into your personal life as well. Practicing these tips above on a regular basis will help you to rediscover your power of choice, your resilience and your courage to successfully deal with feelings of anxiety not only at work, but also in your personal life.

Overcoming anxiety at work and in your life is difficult, but not impossible, to do. Your mindset and how you choose to deal with your feelings of anxiety is very much up to you. Hopefully these seven tips will help you to make the changes to become the empowered and courageous person you were born to be.

Featured photo credit: Twenty20 via twenty20.com

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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