The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Anxiety at Work

A few months ago I was walking into my company’s building and an unsettling feeling hit my stomach. I didn’t realize that I was feeling this way until right before I walked inside. How long was this feeling in me? Had I been ignoring it since last night or maybe all week?

For most of us, anxiety plays a daily role in our lives. We worry about project deadlines, co-worker relationships and what our boss thinks of us.

It’s natural, but very unsettling.

Most of you are probably thinking that I’m going to give you tips on how to relax and relieve stress.

Nope.

I’m not going to regurgitate some facts about taking breaks and drinking less coffee. All of you know the basics. You probably struggle with these techniques because your feelings have more control than your rational mind, which isn’t a bad thing. But you do need to create a balance between rational thinking and your feelings.

No one can argue with feelings.

Feelings are there to help us make smart decisions. If we’re not careful, these feelings can snowball and take over. We feel like we can’t release them, and all we can do is suffer through them.

Whaaaat? Heck no. We all struggle, but constant struggle over the same thing is torture and also bad for your health.

What to do?

You can harness the energy created by these anxious feelings and use it to focus on the positive possibilities, rather than focusing on fear. You really can use this anxiety to build the career that makes you happy.

I’ll give you a step by step plan that worked for me. I harnessed a lot of my anxiety, making me happier and more productive.

1. Deal with Your Anxiety Bubbles

My anxiety usually comes from my inability to align my own needs with the goals that someone else gave me. It’s a lot easier to match up your own goals with your needs, but not so easy when someone else sets the goals - especially if you don’t agree with them.

Let’s say your boss wants you to start a new project or maybe s/he even wants to promote you. Even if you may not have asked for this “honor,” you may not be in a position to deny your boss. So you are thrust into these new duties without even wanting them.

Every time you think about these changes, anxiety bubbles up. Who should you complain to first? Yourself.

You need to find a way to communicate with your anxiety so it doesn’t take over.

I make a list of ideas that help me open up to my anxiety and why it’s there:

  • Take a break to just sit and breathe.
  • Let yourself feel anxiety then think of the image that is causing you to feel this way and imagine yourself breathing it out like a big balloon. Watch it float away.
  • Hold your anxiety in your arms like a big baby and coddle it until it falls asleep.
  • Draw your anxiety on toilet paper and flush it down the toilet.
  • Pretend your anxiety is an old friend and really listen to his/her needs.

A little self understanding can go a long way to ease those fears. You need to accept your feelings; wanting to change them will only entrench the feelings even more. Talk to yourself. Allow these feelings to be there. Try to see them as a chance to learn more about yourself and your choices.

2. Get Creative

It’s time to stop the cyclical thinking and get a little Crrrrrazy with your ideas. The goal is to find a way to align these changes in your life with your personal needs.

You need to pull yourself away from your roller coaster of an emotional state. Look at the facts and brainstorm creative ideas that will help you find a better perspective.

Try coming up with as many practical ideas on how to deal with your anxiety as you can in fifteen minutes. (Putting a time frame on it can help you focus).

Letting your creative side loose will allow you to find a new solution that can help you release your stress.

3. Test Out some of Your Practical Ideas

Now you have a list of ideas. Start testing them.

My list of “practical perspectives” on a new project assignment went something like this:

  • It’s a chance to improve my skills.
  • I get to work with Brian (cool dude).
  • I can add this to my resume.
  • Drawing out a mindmap will help me get my thoughts in order.
  • This is an opportunity to interact with more co-workers.
  • I can ask for a raise when I’m done.
  • I’ll get a good chance to make people laugh.
  • This will inspire great ideas for Work Happy Now.
  • During this project I will watch my emotional states and how they fluctuate.
  • This will help me improve my patience – every project requires developing new techniques to stay patient.
  • This project will give me the opportunity to laugh more.
  • I’m going to meditate before bed every night while working on this new project. (Just focusing on relieving my stress)

I was trying to align my personal needs with this new project. Of course I resisted at first. After all, I was comfortable doing my regular routine. These new goals gave me emotional anchors.

4. Practice Every Single Day

As I began to self talk myself through my various goals, I noticed three of them that I thought would work well.

  • This will inspire great ideas for Work Happy Now.
  • It’s a chance to improve my skills.
  • I’m going to meditate before bed every night while working on this new project. (Just focusing on relieving my stress)

Every time I got down on the project, myself, or my co-workers, I began to list ways in which the project was helping me.

It was helping me with Work Happy Now by giving me plenty of ideas for articles. I wrote an article about the value of patience and a post about seeing things as they are and not as I want them to be.

As for improving my skills…

I learned to be a little more organized. I was becoming lazy and I had stopped using my calendar to keep track of meetings and deadlines. I didn’t have that option anymore. Ever since that project I’ve been proactively staying on top of my work.

As for meditating before bed…

I practiced Transcendental Meditation before bed. I focused on my breath and staying in the present moment. When my thoughts drifted I just brought them back to my breath. I noticed I was more calm and relaxed before bed. When I awoke my anxiety was significantly reduced and I didn’t feel as nervous walking into my work.

Wrap-Up

When we encourage ourselves to use new skills to adapt to a situation, we can create long-lasting habits. It will become easy to stick with these new habits once we discover how much they help ease our anxiety.

Whenever you sign up for my RSS or email feed you get access to my exclusive book "How to Work Happy the Google Way" a personal and leadership guide to being happy at work.

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Alex the Chief Happiness Officer is one of my inspirations for creating Work Happy Now. He has written a book that I absolutly love. You should check out, Happy hour is from 9 to 5.

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Image courtesy of LensENVEY

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