Everyone has had to deal with anxiety once or twice (an hour) at work. All of the sudden, your normally rational mind catapults into What If Land, and you’re imagining all of the ways things could go terribly, horribly wrong. What if this person goes straight to my boss about this? Oh, I’m so getting fired. I’m so definitely getting fired.
Stop right there, sister. When anxiety tries to take over, we’ve got your action plan. Not only do our experts know how to minimize anxious thoughts quickly—but their moves are perfectly doable right from your desk:
1. Try progressive muscle relaxation.
Stephen Carbone of Beyond Blue, a resource center for anxiety and depression, explains that anxiety forces you to hold a lot of physical tension in the body. In other words, just saying “relax” to yourself doesn’t always cut it. Sit in a chair (fancy that, you’re probably already in one!), close your eyes, and work through muscle groups from your toes to your temples. Tense each up for 3-5 seconds, and then quickly release. Focusing on the feeling of tensing and relaxing will allow your mind and body to release the physical strain that stress has—and force your mind to focus on something other than those anxious thoughts.
2. Understand why.
When your thoughts start to spiral, take a moment to pause. Next time you’re feeling anxious, The Australian Psychology Society recommends that you to take a second to ask yourself, literally, “Why am I experiencing these things?” Get to the root cause of your anxious feelings and think about why specifically you’re feeling that way. Is it because you were just informed that you have to present in front of the C-suite executives tomorrow, and you hate public speaking, or is it because every time your cubemate seems to speak to you, she’s complaining? Acknowledging why you’re anxious will help you identify triggers, so you can better decide how to prepare for or avoid them in the future. (In the case of your cubemate, we highly suggest soundproof headphones!)
3. Be mindful of your breath.
Nic Lucas, author of Finally Free, recommends that you slow down your breathing. Quick chest breathing can bring on stress as well as exacerbate existing anxiety. His advice: switch to abdominal breathing with deeper, slower breaths. This can help catch the anxiety before it takes over your mind. Try counting your breath like this: “In-2-3, relax-2-3.” This can help slow your heart rate and calm your mind. Still need more guidance? “Close your eyes and focus on the breath coming in and out of the nose—focusing on that physical process takes the brain out of fear mode,” adds Lucas.
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