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How To Manage Anxiety (With No Suggestions Of Medication And Meditation!)

How To Manage Anxiety (With No Suggestions Of Medication And Meditation!)

It’s a shocking statistic that one in four of us will at some point this year suffer a mental health issue, and amongst those, depression and anxiety are the most common disorders.

In a GB survey, 1 in 6 adults had experiences some form of “neurotic health problem” … in the previous week In fact, 1 in 10 of us will develop a specific form of anxiety that will be considered disabling.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common illness in the USA, affecting 18% of the population – that is 40 million adults! What is shocking about these statistics is the fact that this is such a high percentage of the general population. What’s even more shocking is the number of people that do not speak about it or seek the right help to make it better. Sticking a plaster on it will cover the wound from public view, sure. But it doesn’t heal. And unfortunately these social plasters that we are using to mask our anxiety often come in the form of alcohol, smoking, comfort eating and the like. Unfortunately whilst this creates a good façade, putting on a wonderful show to others that everything is fine, it doesn’t stop the worry and the helpless feeling of anxiety.

What is anxiety???

According to Anxiety UK,

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“anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger and is often called the ‘flight or fight’ response. This process involves adrenalin being quickly pumped through the body enabling it to cope with whatever catastrophe may come its way. The problems arise when this response is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or indeed is generated when there is no danger present”.

The feeling of anxiety is a distressing one. There is nothing worse that the feeling of helplessness, panic, worry, confusion and uncertainty. The symptoms of anxiety are physical as well as mental, and include a tight chest, nausea, sweating and insomnia. Whilst everyone is different, and what works for one might not work for another, here are my top ten tips for managing anxiety, so that you can come through the other side stronger than ever.

Management tip 1: Know your triggers

This comes with time but once you learn to recognize your triggers, then you will find managing any anxiety or worries a lot easier. What do I mean by a trigger though? Any kind of behavior that might be erratic or out of character that indicates to you that something is not quite right. This might be eating excessively, over exercising or a particular worrying, reoccurring dream. This will be your subconscious, letting you know to take a step back, analyze what is wrong and prepare yourself to deal with it head on.

Management tip 2: Exercise

For me exercise is the key to a stress free mind and a can-do attitude. I am sure I don’t need to bore you about the endless mental and physical benefits of exercise (if you do want to know, read Health24’s article). Even if you are not the sporty type, you’ll find benefit in engaging in light exercise, such as a gentle bike ride or a walk in the park.

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In a study reported in the book, “The Happiness Advantage” it was confirmed that exercise is a key to successfully overcoming depression. The study looked into three groups of depressed patients who were treated with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two and their relapse rate. They found that “those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!”

Management tip 3: There is nothing to fear but fear itself

If you haven’t already, read Susan Jeffer’s amazing book “Feel the Fear…and do it anyway”After reading this it suddenly became extremely clear to me that there was in fact nothing to be afraid of in life. After all, if fear was a “real thing” then we would all have the same fear. Be it a fear of failure, loneliess or public speaking, this fear really boils down to the fact that all we really fear is… the unknown. Reminding myself that there is nothing to fear, reminds me to be brave and grab life by both hands.

Management tip 4: Spend time around those that are positive

If you are feeling anxious or unhappy then make sure you surround yourself with positive people. Actually even if you are not feeling symptoms of anxiety but know that you are susceptible to it, then I also recommend this as a tactic (prevention is better than cure after all). When I say positive as well, I don’t mean that you have to be around people that are happy clappy 24/7. This is unrealistic. Surround yourself with people that are positive in the sense that they are confident, have a can-do attitude and will ultimately be an encouraging influence in your life. Those that are pessimistic and play the victim are not welcome in your inner circle, I call these kind of people “toxic people” and you don’t want to feed off that kind of energy.

 Management tip 5: Take time out

If you do find yourself in a situation where it is all getting on top of you, then don’t be afraid to stop, take a breath and take some time out. Whether this is a day off to clear some mind clutter, or a week off to fully get away from it all. This is where tip one comes in handy – spotting and listening to your triggers will mean that you can take a break before it gets all too much for you.

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Management tip 6: Have things to look forward to

I have many passions and hobbies and one thing I have learnt over the years is that the key to my motivation is to have regular activities booked in to my diary! I like to schedule regular weekends away to see friends, evenings out to try new restaurants and personal milestones such as kick boxing gradings.  It is extremely important to have things to look forward to in order to remember what is important to you in life and to see the bigger picture.

Management tip 7: See small tasks as achievements

I am not sure where it stems from, but I find a lot of people (and myself included sometimes) don’t stop to congratulate themselves on the small tasks in life and feel that only the larger achievements (work promotion, new baby, new house etc) deserves a pat on the back.

But why?!

We should take pride in the small things in life – when you do, you’ll find that your confidence will grow and in turn help manage your anxiety as you start to take pleasure and pride in yourself. You will start to see, that when you overcome your worries and fears, amazing things can happen! If your cooking is as good as a blind panda in the kitchen with oven gloves sello-tapped on, then take pride in yourself when you manage to bake your kid’s birthday cake from scratch. This may seem like a small achievement but it is little steps of self improvement that eventually add up to the big ones!

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Management tip 8: Eat healthy

As with top tip two, this is one that I cannot advocate enough. I truly believe that what you put in, you get out. Pump it full of chemicals, processed foods and sugar then you can’t expect your mind or body to function how it should be. Studies too show there is a strong correlation to depression. It is worth noting here too that whilst a large glass of vino after a stressfully anxiety filled day seems like the right antidote, alcohol is actually a depressant.

Management tip 9: Music

I am not a hard core music fanatic (I go to music festivals but have no idea half the time who is on the stage) but I have always found music to be good therapy. Just ten minutes listening to your favourite songs might be enough to perk you up on your drab and dreary commute to the office. If you are feeling down, worried or any other signs of anxiety, pop in your ear phones and take a moment out.

Management tip 10: Set goals and make baby steps

One of methods I found useful for me in containing my worries and stress was to set myself achievable goals, and start making slow baby steps towards them. Following on from tip 7, these don’t have to be massive goals either, they could be something to push you out of your comfort zone to take your mind off things and to help gain confidence. For example, it could be to start a new sport or take up a class at night school. Break down the bigger goal in to bite sized chunk and use these as stepping stones, and remember to reward yourself at each milestone.

If you are feeling any symptoms of anxiety, seek medical help from you GP immediately. Don’t suffer in silence.

For more information visit the Mental Health Foundation and Anxiety UK and Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Featured photo credit: unknown via freeimages.com

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Alice Dartnell

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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