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Published on March 10, 2020

How to Effectively Cope with Work Anxiety

How to Effectively Cope with Work Anxiety

According to the American Institute of Stress, approximately 83% of American workers suffer from work-related stress.[1] Some of this stress can be moderate to mild, while at other times, the stress can lead to more complex problems, such as depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.

The average American is juggling more responsibilities now than in prior generations, so it’s not a surprise that work anxiety creeps in. If left untreated, it can morph into physical and mental ailments that can prevent you from living your best life.

How Does Anxiety Affect Your Work?

Before we can dive into how anxiety affects your work environment, we have to first break down what anxiety is in the physical body.

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress.[2] When you’re faced with situations that are new and unfamiliar, normal feelings of fear or apprehension may arise. On a physical level, your palms may start to sweat more and your pulse and breath will quicken.

You also may notice changes on a mental level, particularly in how difficult it becomes to keep your thoughts on task. This is often evident in moments when you have to give a presentation: have you ever lost your train of thought hen everyone’s eyes turned toward you? It’s fairly normal. This is because anxiety steps in full force, and physical reactions take over. Essentially, the mind shuts down, as if your internal circuit breakers blew.

Because symptoms of work anxiety are very physically-based, it becomes difficult to stay on task when working. Your body begins redirecting the mind away from what it’s supposed to be working on and into the worries vying for your attention.

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This is a typical, primal fight or flight response mechanism. We rely on this survival coding to help us in situations where our actual survival may be threatened. However, at work, this mechanism doesn’t serve us. In fact, it creates more problems by gearing the body up to respond to stresses and perceived threats in an overactive way.

Think of a time when you were overloaded with deadlines and projects at work. You likely experienced a heavy dose of work anxiety. You may have also experienced symptoms and stresses of fear at not having enough time to finish everything, or failing to meet your boss’ expectations.

When experiencing work anxiety, you may have trouble concentrating on your work, even when you’re motivated to do so. You may also jump from one task to another and have a hard time settling down to see one project through to completion.

Your restless behavior may impact other people on your team or in your department. This is more evidence to show that one person’s anxiety isn’t localized to their experience only: your energy affects the energies of others around you.

When these anxiety and fear-based emotions reach their peak, they can act as a time bomb. We usually see this as employees overwhelmed with work “flying off the handle” or succumbing to aggression in order to release their anxiety. As a result, not only does your work suffer, but so do your professional relationships.

How to Cope with Work Anxiety

Now that we know what work anxiety is and how it presents itself, we can dig into how to stop it from making us miserable at work. Fortunately, for many of us, the idea of a work-life balance is no longer a taboo subject. More and more employers are jumping on board to ensure that the work environment is fair, balanced, and conducive to health.

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With all of that in mind, however, it is still imperative that you find what works for you. Anxiety may present itself when you least expect it, and it may still come around, even if you’ve worked hard to keep it at bay. Remember that your mental health is an ongoing journey.

Below are some tips to help you gain clarity into how you can effectively cope with work anxiety.

1. Take Breaks Throughout the Day

It’s easy to get sucked into the daily grind. We often dive into emails and work calls immediately upon waking, or we’ll work through our lunch break. However, taking breaks throughout your day is essential. They allow you to disconnect from your task for a brief moment, to give your brain some much-needed rest and resetting.

Consider setting a timer on your phone or computer to go off every hour. When it does, take a quick walk around your office, or go outside if you have more time. Do something other than work: text a friend, listen to your favorite song, or simply close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes.[3] The reset will help you curtail the anxiety before it sneaks up on you.

2. Switch Your Coffee for Something Lighter

While your favorite cup of Joe may be your magical elixir to boost your productivity, it will also cause you to crash throughout your work day. While you may not want to cut coffee altogether, you can supplement your hydration. Reach for some water. Fill your favorite reusable bottle, and maybe add some lemon for zest. Lemon is also great for detoxing the body and regulating your metabolism and gut pH levels.

You can also switch to low-sugar smoothies or juices that give you more energy throughout the day.

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3. Ensure You’re Getting Quality Sleep at Night

This is really the gem of coping with work anxiety. Sleep is often an underrated activity, but it is so important, and it is directly correlated to your productivity and energy levels in the morning.

Lack of good, quality sleep has been linked to anxiety as it causes hyperactivity and restlessness, both of which keep you from focusing on your work effectively.[4] When getting ready for sleep, ensure that you are undisturbed from any screen time and that you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of rest.

4. Ask for Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and buried with work, reach out to your managers or co-workers. Often, just speaking out about how you’re feeling can be a gateway to resolving the issue. Many employees may feel hesitant about approaching their bosses and instead accept their workload or environment as normal.

It is vital that you help challenge the stereotype and speak up when your health is being compromised for your job. In such a way, you can also open the door for others to feel comfortable in sharing. This not only de-stigmatizes mental health and dealing with anxiety, but it also puts more importance on having a solid work-life balance.

5. Set Honest Deadlines

Become more practical in the work deadlines that you either set for yourself or agree to. Ideally, everyone would love to be able to get everything done as quickly as possible. However, there are only so many hours in the day.

You should draw boundaries around what we can and cannot take on. Work anxiety really peaks when we say yes to everything and then realize we cannot complete it all. In order to stop this from manifesting, begin to draw your boundaries around work that you’re willing to do. It’s okay to say no, and it doesn’t make you a lazy or unproductive employee. Rather, it makes you one who is working smarter, not harder.

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Final Thoughts

Anxiety is our body’s way of reacting to stress. One of the most common places we experience stress is at work. Between juggling deadlines, projects, and people, it can be overwhelming to complete and excel at everything we pile onto our plate. This is where anxiety takes the front seat, but you can take it back.

By drawing boundaries around what you’re willing and able to accomplish, you keep yourself from spiraling down into the rabbit hole of stressful work. At the same time, tapping into resources of better sleep and richer nutrition will allow you to handle any anxiety that comes your way with a clearer perspective.

While anxiety may feel crippling, there are tools at your disposal that will bring you back into alignment with yourself and your work.

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on August 13, 2020

12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

As a mediation teacher, I am constantly confronted with these two questions regarding the benefits of meditation:

1. Why can’t I enjoy the benefits of meditation continuously?

I ask back: Is it maybe because you see mediation as a technique, performance, or some exclusive activity? The answer is: yes!

Or, because your mind is constantly evolving on the past negative attachments and traditional habits? After careful thinking they answer: yes, probably!

Although meditation is very simple and challenging at the same time, in the above mentioned case, it’s not easy to benefit from meditation, especially when approached with the idea that it has to be learned, studied, or applied. Meditation is to be seen as a natural, mental cleansing process that happens on a basis of awareness on a moment-to-moment experience. When that takes place, the benefits of meditation are continuous.

2. What is the purpose of meditation?

The purpose of meditation is to accomplish a level of consciousness for mastering the mind and uniting with the finest, deepest, and subtlest part of yourself as a being.

It is a conscious process of observation of the mind—helping the meditator to understand the structure of its mind and the quality of its content. During this process, countless benefits of a physical, mental, and spiritual/philosophical nature arise for the meditator.

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Meditation as a Fixer and Benefactor

In this article we’ll have a look at the primary and the ultimate benefits of mediation, which improve your body and mind at the same time. For the sake of clarity, readability, and tangible experience, I have separated the benefits into three groups.

You can change just about anything you don’t like about yourself (psychologically, as well as physically) through meditation. However, this is only possible with a specific approach, when your brain allows the benefits of meditation to do their work.

This means not to interrupt the benefit with other thoughts, but to let their effect implement itself in your body and mind. This approach is crucial.

The following exercises will make you feel the benefits of meditation instantly, but the continuity of the benefits of meditation on your body and mind depend on the discipline of your brain, how you manage external stimuli and your thoughts.

Less Physical, More Psychological

Even though the practice of meditation is more psychological and less physical, the first benefit we’re going to experience is both physical as well as mental.

This benefit happens literally immediately, right at the moment of meditation. It is the essence of mediation basically.

The First Benefit of Meditation

The first benefit of meditation is twofold:

  1. Improving inward attention (sharpening the mind)
  2. Relaxation of the body

Let’s do it right now. This benefit consists of only one step, and it is very simple to perform. It goes like this:

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Sit still and pay attention to your exhalation.

That’s it! Technically, the whole journey into the world of mediation begins here and nowhere else. And right here, you benefit from this step in the following way:

When you pay attention to the flow of your exhalation (gentle, deep, effortless exhalation), your body begins with the process of relaxation instantly (your heart rate slows down, your nervous system calms, and tension in your muscles is relieved).

When the nervous system calms, your mind calms down, and, more specifically, less thoughts are produced by your mind. How, exactly? By applying one of the most valuable mental skills—attention—the mind follows the breathing and has no space and time to generate any other thoughts. Only when the attention goes off the breath, other thoughts are constructed, and the mind is accelerating with thought production again.

Keeping the First Benefit Effective and Ongoing

Here you apply the approach of not letting the relaxation and attention process get interrupted; rather let the effects of these benefits implant in your body and mind as deeply as possible.

This is to say, the instant relaxation and inward attention happen at the same time when you follow the flow of your breath. Repeating this process—creating a constant rhythm out of the breathing and the attention—you create a process of meditation.

Keep your attention on the flow of your breath and see how the calmness of body and mind begin to rule your present moment. The longer you stay connected to your breathing, the stronger you’ll feel the benefit. Start with 3-5 minutes at a time without doing anything else, and increase to 10-20 minutes and onwards.

Can you think of a better, simpler and quicker exercise that can relax the body and improve attention in this way, at this speed?

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This benefit takes you to the second one.

The Second Benefit of Meditation

While still working with the first benefit of mediation, you slowly start to see the second benefit of mediation, which is fourfold. I call it the major value of mediation:

  1. Energy (physical and mental strength)
  2. Observance
  3. Peacefulness (stillness, and space of mind for deeper observation)
  4. Patience

Peacefulness is the source of a blissful life. The energy is the fuel to express that blissfulness. Whatever we want to accomplish in life we need: 1) Physical and mental strength, 2) Observance of that energy, 3) Peacefulness—the calmness and stillness that creates space for freedom of being and creative thinking, and 4) Patience for the process of accomplishment.

You can only get creative in thinking and boosted with physical and mental energy when you get in touch with the deepest levels of yourself—when you harmonize your mental and physiological activities. How do you do that? Let’s try it right now:

This step involves the observation of the two separate movements of your breath. After paying attention on your exhalation, you have prepared your body and mind to really see and feel what true peacefulness and true energy means.

1. Energy

Keep your attention on your inhalation (inhaling gently, deeply and lightly) and feel the new energy (new oxygen) flowing in your body. The inhalation is the symbol for aliveness and vitality. It is the the primary act that connects the baby’s body with the outside world after coming out of the womb[1]. Each inhalation is a new opportunity for your body to revive, regenerate, and renew itself.

2. Observance

The observance comes during the process of meditation, enabling you to see the physiological benefits of introducing new energy to your body. Use that benefit by utilizing its effects, and create deeper observation into yourself. With every single inhalation, this observation will enable you to generate even more energy, mentally and physically.

3. Peacefulness

Keep your attention on your exhalation, and feel how, out of the relaxation, peacefulness is spreading throughout your whole body. The exhalation is the symbol for relaxation and peacefulness. Only through meditation can you realize what absolute peacefulness means.

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4. Patience

The meditation delivers the previous benefits to you immediately and opens up the possibility for many other benefits and great virtues. A specific one to mention, which is essential for reaching the ultimate benefits of meditation, is patience. If you have experienced the aforementioned benefits, it means that you have invested a certain amount of patience into mastering yourself and your mind.

The Ultimate Benefits of Meditation

Patience is a key quality when it comes to the ultimate benefits of meditation.

Since the mind is the tool that reveals everything, mediation is the method for the proper utility of the tool.

The above mentioned benefits of mediation lead to the ultimate benefits of mediation—qualities that depict what makes a human being human. As you dwell in a meditative state of being, the following benefits begin to emanate:

  • Diligence: the persistence for righteous effort to reach an intrinsic value; inner strength.
  • Temperance: to express self-control and show excellence in managing the physio-biological and mental necessities
  • Courage: using righteous effort and braveness to look into the weaknesses of yourself and at the hardship of your life, endure it and patiently overcome the obstacles
  • Loving kindness and Compassion – a capacity to care, understand, and tolerate other people’s state of being, wishing them freedom from suffering.
  • Wisdom: the moment when you feel that mediation gives you the feeling and the knowledge that what you do relating to life and practical affairs is just.
  • Equanimity: that puts you in a state of composure, and you experience an ongoing blissful state of being.

These are the 6 ultimate benefits of meditation that put your body and mind in a state of health and balance.

Final Thoughts

Mediation exists to put order in your mind and awaken the best of you, to reconnect you to your goodness and your inborn intelligent capabilities.

Meditation is the window to your true Self. It gives you a panoramic view of your heart’s greatness. It shows you the true meaning of love, freeing you from the dungeons of ignorance and despair. The power of meditation dismantles the evil that’s trying to cloud the beauty of your heart.

Your heart, body, and soul are the bridge over which the challenges of life frequently carry their heavy load. Meditation is the support of that bridge. Make use of that support.

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Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medline Plus: Changes in the newborn at birth

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