I have an anxiety disorder.
I have always had one. My mom says when I was a baby I would freak out for no reason and just start wailing.
Not a lot has changed since then, to be honest, except now I am medicated, have a good therapist, and no longer require someone else to see to my peeing and pooping needs.
I still have my moments, but for the most part, I have learned how to manage my anxiety.
Let us pause here and do a little dance of celebration.
There are still times when my anxiety gets the best of me. Usually it involves large groups of people or other high stress situations. And there's nothing more high stress than work, even if you have a job that you love (hi boss!).
I'd like to share with you some tips and tricks I have found helpful for those moments anxiety at work threatens to overtake you.
Let's DO THIS.
1. Get away from your computer.
For most us, our workdays consist of sitting in front of our computers, barely blinking, let along getting up to move.
I have found that it's really helpful to set a timer for myself so that at least once an hour I get up and walk around. Go for a walk around the block, or, if your workspace doesn't allow this, go for a walk around the building.
Even just getting up and walking around your office can be the physical and mental outlet you need to let some of that stress and anxiety burn off without sending you into a spiral.
2. Try gentle stretching.
As awesome and getting up and moving is, sometimes we have days where this is almost impossible. We've got back-to-back conference calls or a deadline we have to meet. This is when doing stretching at your desk can be THE BEST for managing anxiety at work.
My favorite exercise is this: look at the top left corner of your computer, look at the top right corner of your computer, look at the bottom right corner of your computer, look at the bottom left corner of your computer. Let your neck and head move slowly while you do this. It's a gentle, easy stretch that immediately relieves that tension scowl we all get from staring at a screen for too long.
3. Communicate with the people around you.
As a person with an anxiety, sometimes it feels like if I don't express what's going on inside me verbally like I am going to implode.
If you feel this way at work it's important that you have a work friend you can talk to. I'm not talking about someone you sit and bitch about work with (I think that's negative and unhelpful for you both). Instead, what I mean, is don't be afraid to communicate about whatever is giving you anxiety at work.
Sometimes just saying "I'm scared I won't get this done by five," out loud can relief just the amount of pressure needed to help you get through your day.
4. Drink all of the water.
This might sound hokey, but water and hydrating our bodies in general is so often the cure for what ails you. I'm not saying that water is going to magically heal you of your anxiety (because that is bullshit), but I do know that drinking a lot of water will keep you feeling centered, healthy, and make it easier for to concentrate on the task at hand without blowing your stack.
If you're an anxious person, taking care of yourself can so easily go by the wayside. Evaluate what your body needs.
When did you drink water last? When did you eat last? Do you have a headache? Make sure you're at your physical best and the mental best will follow suit.
5. Check in with your breathing.
This one makes sense given number 4. Sometimes at work when I find myself on the verge of a total panic attack and I don't know why, I realize that my mouth is pinched shut tight and that I'm taking rapid short breaths in and out like a furious little bull.
If you are feeling anxious, check in with your breathing. Try circular breathing (in through the nose out through the mouth). Imagine your body as an empty bottle, and that each breath you are taking is like water pouring in from the bottom of your belly all the way up. Man, I got all chilled out just writing that.
6. Make yourself a list.
This here is one of the oldest tricks in the book. If you are feeling overwhelmed and fearful, take the simple step of setting a list for yourself.
When you have the physical list, you'll find managing one task, and crossing it off gives you back the feeling of control that anxiety strips from you. Sure, anxiety is a bitch, but it's also pretty stupid and easy to fool if you have the right tools.
7. Take a five minute meditation break.
There's taking a break to go to the bathroom, and taking a break to eat your lunch, why shouldn't there be taking five minutes to reset yourself with meditation?
You don't need to be a professional guru, you can just do the circular breathing we mentioned above. Taking time out to pro-actively send a message to your brain that it's time to relax and refocus can work absolute wonders.
Of course it won't always do the trick, but setting up the practice is another form of self-care that can be so beneficial in the long term.
8. Remember that it's a cycle.
When I'm in the thick of my worst anxiety, it feels like it's never going to end. Here's a thing to remember: it will, it's going to end.
You aren't going to feel like you are dying forever.
Anxiety isn't all of who you are, it doesn't have you, you have it. You're going to be okay, even when it feels like you won't be. You just have to keep fighting, and keep treating yourself with respect. I believe in you, and so do all of the people who love and admire you.
You got this!