When anxiety strikes, especially the flavor that comes from work, the dark places that it takes us to is never pleasant and to make it worse, it feels inescapable. You feel paralyzed and that the only thing capable moving is your terrorizing thought about how incompetent, slow, and forgotten you are.
These thoughts make you feel more alone than ever, and maybe behaviorally even manifests itself in disengagement from people, lack of enthusiasm, or even decreased performance. By the time you're aware of the consequences, it feels like it's too late and as a result, you feel even more hopeless and powerless. And then, a new set of anxieties set in about this situation... and the vicious cycle continues.
It's something I've personally gone through time and time again. The danger is that when I'm trapped in this kind of thinking, I think I'm the only person to ever feel that way. The truth is 72 percent of people who have daily stress and anxiety say it interferes with their lives at least moderately (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). And, unless you have been hiding in your corner on the internet, you've read about Imposter Syndrom (Forbes, 2014) and it's all too real. Truth be told, I can't tell you how to make it go away. I don't really even have any words of wisdom or advice on how to be free of anxieties. What I do have to share is what I do when I catch myself on the downward spiral of anxiety - negative self-talk - more anxiety - more negative self-talk. This is how I walk with myself in times of anxiety and learn to live with them.
1) Disengage from people and things that bring you down.
But before then, you have to know who these people are and what these things are. Do you have a friend that always questions your moves, or doubts your decisions? Watch your physiological changes when you talk to your friends; who raises your blood pressure and brings out the worst of you, and who relaxes you and makes you laugh? Do you have co-workers that have nothing but negative things to say about the world, and is always ranting about something? Along the same lines, does the Instagram comparison game bring you down, and you feel like you drown in the things you covet which you can't afford and shouldn't have anyway?
Be aware of the downers in your life, whether be it friends or social media. When you are feeling anxious and feeling overwhelmed, stay away from these people, even if sometimes your instinct is to turn to them either out of habit or for short term comfort. If something has a record of bringing you down, it will bring you down. And when you're already stressed, don't worry too much about why they're in your life or the need to completely remove them. Just be conscious and try to stay away from them while you're extra stressed.
2) Stop resisting it.
I know this sounds really vague and unclear, but hear me out. I recently started using a meditation app called Headspace (will probably write about it later, too), and as part of the meditation designed for commuters, I learned of this mentality, which is to embrace and accept whatever is in your environment, and just learn to experience them as they are. If you're stuck in traffic, hearing a lot of noise, feeling tired, or worried about unfinished projects... accept them. Focus on being in the present. A lot of times, the act of resisting something adds onto the stress of it all. So instead of thinking that your destination is where you need to be, enjoy the journey, and be in the present.
3) Be aware of the negative self-talks, and just let them be.
I used to try to force myself to "stop" the negative self-talks. It's very hard, and a lot of times I find myself fighting my inner voice and it just adds to my overall stress. It goes like this "I hate myself". "Why do you hate yourself, that's bad too!" You see, it goes nowhere. Recently, I've learned to just let these negative self-talks run their course. Because I realized it's not always the negative self-talk that beat us down, but the shift in attitude that it causes. As long as we pick ourselves back up and go back at what we need to do, let the negative self-talk sometimes. That's part of you, too. So it's okay. You're okay.
4) Know what fuels you and keeps you going.
When you're down, feeling tired and just want to shut the world off, do you ever wonder if you're JUST tired? I think not. I think when we feel this way, it's usually a combination of feeling unproductive, uninspired, unengaged. When you don't feel like you're the best version of yourself, and that you're not part of something that's bigger than yourself, over time this taints your attitude.
Whatever the reason may be, find it out. I've recently come across an interesting app called Good&Co that, through a series of questionnaires, assesses you for what type of work personality you have. Try it out, you might find some insight in there! Whether you're a people person or a productivity fiend, know what it is that fuels you.
It's also entirely possible that you just need to be off-line and be away from work in order to be completely relaxed. In that case, take your vacation seriously, and prioritize off-line time over anything else when you're away from work. The point is, know what fuels you and do that when you feel down!
5) Feeling uncomfortable is part of growing and developing.
You ever wonder how people are given the chance to do something they've never done before? We all know that in order to develop more skills and climb the corporate ladder, new opportunities to do something you haven't done before are critical. Well, these people have to have done well enough to convince others to give them the chance. On the other hand, what does it feel to be doing something completely beyond your league, because someone trusted that you could? That has to feel terrifying! But they stick to their projects despite their internal doubt, and get the job done anyway. And that's the key, is to never stop trying. You're feeling uncomfortable because you're evolving, adapting, and learning new things. Remember how you learned to ride a bike, to swim, or to play the piano? It wasn't all peaches and roses, was it? Learning to do new things at work is the same. Just be patient with yourself.
6) Create an uplifting environment at work.
Uplifting may mean different things for people, but the point is to be mindful of what you visually surround yourself with at a place where you easily spend 50% of your waking hours at. Maybe it's having fresh flowers, maybe it's having a humidifier. For me, this means decorating my desk with things that remind me of how loved I am by my family and friends. The latest addition to my desk decor though, is two sets of motivational printed art pieces from Yellow Heart Art. I picked one that says TAKE ON TODAY LIKE YOU JUST ACED YOUR EYELINER. I know not everyone is acing their eyeliners every morning but for me, it's something that I can count on happening everyday so it made me chuckle when I saw it. The other one says YOU GO & CHANGE THE WORLD, GIRL! Which I believe is an attitude all of us should have.
That was a lot that I just said and I truly hope it would help some of you. And honestly, replace work anxieties with life anxieties, a lot of the situation and thinking style is the same. What do you do to ease work-related anxieties?
Disclaimer: I received the two prints of motivational art from Yellow Heart Art for free to try them out. I loved the quality paper and print job that they put into each product and I strongly recommend them for anyone who's looking for desk decor ideas or even Valentine's Day gifts!