Most of us have those days at work when we suddenly have a feeling of nervousness or anxiety. At Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Dr. Leedy comes across this a lot in the people she works with. Maybe something didn’t go right, you have an unpleasant conversation with a colleague or boss, life is so hectic that being at work feels like it’s getting in the way, or maybe you work on commission and are having a down month. You may have moments when you feel suddenly anxiety at work and struggle to concentrate. Having those types of moments every once in a while is pretty normal. If you feel nervous and anxious almost all day, every day at work for weeks or months at a time, this is a bigger problem. You might consider talking to a mental health provider about generalized anxiety disorder anxiety attacks (also known as panic attacks), or depression.
Here are 4 tips that you can do today, that will take you about 10 minutes, to get your worry and anxiety under control so you can focus, and produce, more at work. Trust me, taking 10 minutes to get your mind in order is a good return on investment!
1. Pull Back and Take Some Deep Breaths To Reduce Anxiety (4 minutes):
When we have anxiety our bodies get stressed and tense, and that makes our mind stressed and tense. When we have stress and tension it’s hard to focus and think which makes anxiety worse. And the cycle goes on and on and on. So….pull back from your desk (literally), close your eyes, take some slow, deep breaths into your belly for 1-4 minutes (trust me…you CAN choose to spend 1-4 minutes to do this….this anxiety reduction technique will save you time in the long run). If you need the help of an audio guide, check out my blog post on some cool apps that you might like for this (Breath2Relax, Mindfulness Coach).
2. Notice and Challenge Your Thoughts (3 minutes):
What is your mind telling you? What type of cognitive distortions are you doing? All or nothing thinking? Over Generalizing? Catastrophizing? Grab a piece of paper and spend a few minutes or so writing down your thoughts so you can organize them and see what’s really going on in your mind. Are you feeling anxiety about work, anxiety about the anxiety, anxiety about the future? Read more about the benefits of writing for mental health.
Challenge Your Thoughts: Just because you have a thought does not mean it’s true. Take that piece of paper and have a Q&A session. Ask yourself: Are my thoughts about this realistic? What other factors may be contributing to the problem/situation? What’s one or two things I can do today to improve my situation?
Think about what is, and what is not, within your control. Let go of what’s not in your control today. What would you say to someone else in your position? Answer that question and then follow your own advice! Learning how to challenge your thoughts and talk back to your anxiety is a great skill to have! Read more about that here.
3. Make a Short To-Do List (2 minutes):
When we have work-related anxiety we tend to think of all the bazillion things we have to get done to be successful. The thing we don’t think about is “what MUST be done today?” In reality, there are probably only a few things that actually MUST be done today. Granted, there are many things you would probably prefer to get done, but they don’t HAVE to be done today. Some of the things on your plate are projects, some are goals, and others are tasks. Learn the difference between a project, a goal, and a task in this short video.
For now, while you are working on overcoming this brief bout of anxiety or nerves, just focus on writing a few tasks on your to-do list. Write down the things that are actually priorities for TODAY and complete those tasks. Then, move on to the things you prefer to also get done. This will help you lower your expectations of what you MUST accomplish today and remind you that you did get done those things that were essential.
4. Stop Multitasking (1 minute)
Multi-tasking DOES NOT HELP work-related anxiety! Also, trying to get more things done at the same time, will not, in fact, help you be more productive or help you reduce your work anxiety today. As much as it goes against the culture of business these days, we are not very productive when we multitask. Trust me…you actually CAN close all the browsers except the one or two that you REALLY need, turn your “to do” list over so that you can’t see it, turn off your ringer (and definitely turn off your social media apps), close your door, and focus on doing one task for the next 20-30 minutes…set your alarm if you need to. When you are done with that task, tell yourself “good job” and pick another task to work on for 20-30 minutes, even if you are not completely done with the first task.
Having anxiety is a normal feeling that we all have from time to time. When we have anxiety at work, it can really interfere with our productivity and feelings of confidence. Start using this 10-minute strategy to decrease occasional feelings of work-related anxiety and you’ll be able to recover faster, get back to work, and be even more productive! Remember, if feelings of anxiety stick around for hours at a time, almost every day, for several weeks or months, you’ll probably need more tools to help you overcome that anxiety. Talk to a mental health professional to learn even more strategies for reducing long-term anxiety.
Dr. Leedy is a psychologist at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; conveniently located near Tulsa. At her private practice she helps people overcome anxiety that’s new and anxiety that’s been around for a while. Whether you are in Broken Arrow, Tulsa, or any other city in Oklahoma, Dr. Leedy can help you through face-to-face counseling or online video counseling. Give her a call today at 539-777-1129 for a free 15-minute consultation, or visit her website at www.legacycounselingservice.com.