It doesn’t matter what you do in your daily job. Whether you love it or not, at some point your job can cause you stress. Anxiety at work can make the 9-5 (or whatever your hours are) even harder than it already is.
Here are some of the things I do in order to lower my work-related anxiety issues.
1. Get some sleep.
I know, it’s easier said than done sometimes. Insomnia can be difficult and is a topic in its own right. (I created a meditation for insomnia over here if you’re struggling with that!) However, by “get some sleep” I mean don’t stay up until Dumb O’Clock when you know you have to get up early the next day for work. This is something I fight with all the time. I often want to stay up way too late watching Netflix, reading a book, or poking around on social media.
However, when I make a mindful effort to get myself into bed at a time that allows me to get anywhere from 7 to 8 hours of sleep, I do much better the next day. Not only am I less groggy and cranky that way, being reasonably rested makes it much easier for me to stave off anxiety. If you’re perpetually exhausted, your brain and body have more trouble keeping that anxiety at bay. So get some sleep!
Not move as in move to a new home or city (although that can be fun too!). Movement has been proven to help alleviate stress and anxiety over and over again. You don’t have to necessarily go to a gym for a long, hard workout if that’s not your thing. Any exercise that makes you happy is beneficial. For me I like to go for a run or do yoga. I find both of those have the double effect of helping to prevent anxiety to a certain extent while also relieving any stress that I’m currently feeling. Sometimes the best part of my day is coming home all wound up and then putting on my running shoes and pounding all that stress out on the trail, the road, or my treadmill.
Running and yoga may sound horrendous to you. That’s okay! If you like to dance, then try some Zumba or even just a one-person dance party in your living room. The point is just to get your body moving so that you aren’t bogged down by anxiety.
3. Listen to meditation tracks or fun music.
I commute to work by bus so I can’t blast whatever I want and rock out like you can do if you’re driving (or, well, I suppose I could but I don’t want to be that weirdo on public transit). However, a pair of ear buds and my phone can keep my zen going all the way downtown. If I’m feeling the need to calm myself down I will listen to a guided meditation track or two. I personally find that it’s difficult to meditate solo on the bus because of all the distractions, so a guided track will help me to focus and visualize.
If I don’t feel like meditating in that moment but want to keep stress from creeping up on me, I will listen to music. Personally, I find that sitting on the bus and staring out the window is a great way to overthink. Music has long been known to be a beautiful distraction and can help steer your mood in the right direction.
4. Practice mantras!
Sometimes a little mantra is all you need to turn anxiety around. There are two keys to using mantras to their full potential. The first is to make sure they’re positive (instead of “I’m not stressed out” say “I am calm and peaceful” to focus on what you DO want and not what you don’t want). The second is to use them in the present tense. It might feel strange at first to say “I am calm” if you aren’t, but saying it in the future tense keeps it forever in the distance. Say your mantra as if that is the way it is RIGHT NOW. It will bring that to you.
5. Maintain a morning Gratitude Practice.
The best way to kick off my morning is to start the day acknowledging at least a few things to be grateful for. It can be something huge – “I am grateful for this new job.” It can also be something small – “I am grateful for this delicious cup of coffee.” As long as you can find list a few gratitudes, it sets your day off on the right foot immediately. Recently I bought myself a Five Minute Journal and I have already found that spending a couple of minutes writing down three gratitudes before I even get out of bed is a great catalyst for seeing the positive throughout the morning and afternoon. You can ALWAYS find something to be grateful for. Just look.
6. Do a breathing exercise that brings calm.
Alternate nostril breathing is a fantastic and highly effective way to regulate your breathing when it gets out of whack due to anxiety. I find it usually works within a few minutes and although it’s usually done while sitting quietly in a distraction-free location, you can really do it anywhere if you need to. Alternate nostril breathing can also be done discretely if you try so you don’t have to draw a ton of attention to yourself if you do it at your desk – of course you can always find a private spot if you’re feeling self-conscious. Even a bathroom stall will do. I have a detailed explanation of how to do it over here.
7. Use Rescue Remedy.
If I find that I can’t quite get on top of my anxiety, I will lean on a natural remedy. A friend of mine sent me a bottle of Rescue Remedy once many years ago. I was willing to give it a try but was fairly skeptical that it could possibly help me. I was wrong. It really does help calm me down if my heart rate won’t slow up. I will warn you that it smells a bit like booze so don’t spray a bunch in your mouth right before a conversation with your boss. But it works.
8. Remove yourself temporarily.
I’m generally not one to suggest avoidance as it can eventually lead to being unable to be in a place or situation at all. However, if you find you’re really struggling in the moment it can be beneficial to get up and leave your desk for a minute, even if all you do is go hide out in a bathroom stall to get your bearings. Other options might be leaving the office altogether on your break to take a walk out in the fresh air or simply finding a quiet place to read a book while you’re on lunch.
Those are all things that have helped me a great deal when I’ve found my stress and anxiety levels creeping up on me at work. I hope they’re helpful for you, let me know what works in the comments below!