Reduce Stress and Anxiety: 5 Effective Ways to Deal with Stress and Anxiety at Work

By David

June 2, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Is fear leading you down a one-way street to joblessness?

This question might sound extreme but I lost a number of jobs due to excessive anxiety which paralysed my productivity and creativity.

Nearly everyone suffers from some form of stress at work but when it becomes so acute that your whole career belly flops into oblivion, then it’s time to address some of the underlying causes.

I want to share 5 little philosophies I adapted into my working life which allowed me to not only keep a job but to flourish in my new career, as well as reduce my overall anxiety levels.

Prepare for the Pressure

Some people excel under pressure and produce their best work when the flames of hellfire are licking at their ankles. However, for most people this simply isn’t the case and especially not when you’re prone to anxiety.

When stressed we can learn fast but we don’t learn well. An over-motivation fuelled by fear to get a particular job done can also lead to interference in our reasoning capabilities. All of this together can lead to clear thinking being lost and a descent into a narrow fixated response, leading to further anxiety, frustration, and tension.

In order to reduce and alleviate the inevitable pressure moments at work we need to ‘prepare’ and ‘practice’ away from the hot zone.

This can be achieved by making sure you plan and research potentially problematic tasks well ahead of schedule, in your own time if need be, in order for you to feel you have an increased understanding and awareness of what will be involved.

Think of this like a fire drill. Practice and prepare without pressure and regardless of the situation, you’ll have an increased awareness of the task at hand and a more relaxed mind-set open to better judgement, interpretation and improvisation.


Know when to say “No!”

The British Statesman John Lubbock once said: “We often hear of people breaking down from overwork, but in nine out of ten they are really suffering from worry or anxiety.”

Taking on too much work and too many responsibilities above and beyond that which is required of you can lead to anxiety skyrocketing. Sleepless nights spent worrying about projects, tasks, and meetings can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health.

The simple fact is you cannot do everything. No matter how hard you try you are not going to do your best when stressed, anxious and unhappy. It is therefore important to learn when to just say “no” to extra work.

A mixture of forethought and confidence comes in handy here and links in directly with being prepared and knowing your limits. With an understanding of what you can and cannot do, through better preparation and planning, you can better accept or refuse extra demands on your time and energy.

There will be no need to feel guilty if you refuse a request either. You’ll know the task for which you were presented with will be better handled elsewhere and above all, your ability to focus on the job at hand will be improved due to less pressure.

Refuse to Climb the Molehill

People prone to anxiety are exceptionally good at letting their imaginations work against them. They begin to climb mental molehills and in their attempts, they become as emotionally wiped out as if they’d been climbing Mount Everest.

When in a high-pressure situation at work many of us find ourselves interpreting business meetings, conferences, and presentations as do-or-die scenarios in which our whole careers, even lives, depend on one successful conclusion. In fact this is rarely ever the case.

It’s not difficult to see why our brains are wired for this type of thinking if we look back to our ‘caveman’ days, when we frequently did face life and death situations on a daily basis.

However, for the modern office environment, it just creates extra pressure, stress and anxiety, which as we have learned already impact on our reasoning capabilities, learning, creativity, and most importantly of all, our health.

To flatten these molehills, you need to rationally analyse the situation and briefly close the door on the emotional side of your mind. Calmly ask yourself: what is the worst that can possibly happen?

In most cases, when you look at the situation with a rational mind, the worst that can happen will suddenly seem to be ludicrous possibility. The more likely negative result, if there is to be one, will merely be a temporary stagnation until you can improve the situation at a later date.

When you see things in this way then a large amount of pressure and stress is removed. What’s more, the chances of failure due to inappropriate anxiety recede.


Relax your Muscles

Did you know it is nearly impossible to feel anxious, stressed or fearful when the muscles of your body are relaxed? In nature, our muscles are tensed when we are required to respond to an emergency or to a source of danger. When at ease and in a safe environment, our muscles should be relaxed.

Physical relaxation in this way acts as a natural tranquilizer which we can carry around with us at all times, if we learn how to use it effectively.

Unless you work in the military or the emergency services, then there’s really no need for you to be anxious and fearful during your working hours. There’s no mortal danger lurking behind the presentation screen or in the office of your boss.

The tension comes from our learned responses to our surroundings and accepted long-term behavioural patterns. When we modify these responses and patterns, we can change the way we react to situations which normally cause us great anxiety.

Learning to relax your muscles is a great technique to reduce everyday stress. There are a variety of methods in which to do this and these can be found across the internet. By practicing deep muscle relaxation for a few minutes every day at home, you’ll be able to transfer these skills into any situation during work. This can be of great benefit before an important meeting, conference or deadline.

Cultivate Positive Thinking

Anxious people frequently tend to be negative thinkers. Anxiety and negativity are bedfellows. The way we see ourselves and the habits we form in life are congruous. If we are used to being a bag of nerves before a conference call then our mind dictates that becoming jittery and apprehensive is the appropriate response.

Our habits are like items of clothing we have fitted ourselves into over the years. They are the fashion we see ourselves as being, or identifying with. An anxiety sufferer will see themselves as anxious, fearful, and often helpless, and this migrates into their working day. Meetings with people, new projects, emerging deadlines, all become things to fear because of prior negative associations and self-created inappropriate mental images.

However, these mental and emotional habits can be modified and reversed. Positive thinking is one of the best ways to do this. In fact, it is important to include positive ‘feeling’, for the mind consumes and accepts emotion, whether based on real or imagined events, even better than it does mere mental images.

Practice thinking of the best possible scenario in an upcoming meeting instead of the worst. Attempt to be more cheerful throughout the day even if you have to force it at first. Try to imagine success being inevitable when it comes to a future business agreement. Conjure up the emotions of triumph and happiness. Close your mind as often as possible to negative thoughts and predictions, replacing them instead with more positive ones. Smile more, even if it’s the last thing you want to do.

Over time you’ll replace the negative anxious clothing you felt was appropriate to your self-image with more positive fashion styles which will help to inject much needed relaxation, balance and confidence into your working life.

Incorporate these 5 little philosophies into your life for the next 30 days and see how much of an improvement you notice in your relaxation levels and general emotional balance.

Written on 6/2/2013 by Stephen Joseph. Stephen Joseph is the relaxed mind behind Outsmart Anxiety, a website devoted to helping anxiety sufferers find ways to reduce and even eradicate inappropriate fear and panic from their lives.

Photo Credit:
Marsmett Tallahassee


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