The Montfort Group

3 Strategies to Reduce Workplace Anxiety

Our brains have a tendency to look for evidence to support our thoughts, therefore, if you expect to have a bad day, you will more than likely only notice the things that go wrong, rather than the things that go right. That can also be true for workplace anxiety.

Whether you’re a full-time business owner, a part-time retail associate, a nanny, a teacher, a photographer or a waiter or waitress, stress in the workplace is inevitable. Anxiety at work can impact your functioning on the job and even carry over into your personal life. With upcoming projects, multi-tasking, pressure from the boss, deadlines, and long hours, it’s easy to see why so many of us have workplace anxiety.

As a psychophysiologist, I often teach or train individuals how to relax. Yes! We have to LEARN how to relax, because, honestly, it doesn’t come naturally. Our brains are wired to respond to stress, but we can change this if we practice.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could treat our workplace anxiety, right there on the spot? Good news! There are several ways to treat the anxiety we experience at work and they all can be done right from our own desk or chair. These anxiety management skills can take as little as 1 minute and virtually be done anywhere!

Breathing to Reduce Workplace Anxiety

Taking just a few minutes or even seconds to utilize diaphragmatic/ abdominal breathing, you can significantly reduce your stress level. Scientific studies have suggested that slow, deep breathing has the ability to reduce blood pressure, balance the pH levels of your blood and increase tolerance for stress. Count 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out. Say the phrase “I am relaxed” to yourself. Repeat. Want to add some fun? Keep a small bottle of bubbles in your desk or bag. Blowing bubbles is the perfect way to engage in pursed lips breathing, which is also great for reducing asthma symptoms and hyperventilation. By the way, who says bubbles are only for kids! It also helps those of us who are breath holders! Breath holding is almost as detrimental as over-breathing or hyperventilation. By the way, who says bubbles are only for kids! Breathing for relaxation isn’t as easy as it may seem, so if you feel frustrated by taking it slow, give yourself credit for even trying! Acknowledging that you need a break is already a “win”, find a way to distract yourself and reset your focus.

Muscle Relaxation to Reduce Workplace Anxiety

Find a few minutes to escape the work hustle. Maybe you are on break, or maybe you can just find 1 minute alone. Sit in a chair and do a passive body scan. Identify where you feel the most tension or stress, then visualize that tension being released. You might find it helpful to tense that area even more, then quickly release. Getting bored with this exercise? What color do you associate with relaxation or peace? Which color reminds you of stress/ tension? Using visualization, also called Autogenic Training, to guide you through relaxation exercises has been scientifically proven to yield positive results. Take note of the way you now feel relaxed. Appreciate that feeling, take a deep breath and return to your task.

Be a Detective, Not a Fortune Teller

Many, although not all, of us, associate our jobs with stress, creating a network of unhealthy thinking patterns associated with work resulting in the dreaded workplace anxiety. Unhealthy thoughts equal unhealthy feelings. Learning to change the way you think about work takes practice, but you can do it, therefore creating a healthier work outlook and reducing workplace anxiety. Start by assessing what is in your control and what is not. Focus only on the things you have control over. Identify your stressor triggers. If your email alert is going off every 10 minutes, shut it down and check it only a few times a day. Are you being a fortune teller? In other words, are you predicting that your work day will be awful before you’ve even stepped in the door? Our brains have a tendency to look for evidence to support our thoughts, therefore, if you expect to have a bad day, you will more than likely only notice the things that go wrong, rather than the things that go right. Be a detective and investigate your thoughts. Are they 100% true? Can you prove it? Don’t see things in black and white. Does your co-worker ALWAYS interrupt your lunch? No, but maybe about 80% of the time. So that leaves about 20% of your lunches interruption free! Hey, believe it or not, acknowledging that 20% DOES change the way your brain looks for evidence and can also change the chemical composition of your brain to reduce stress. Research proves it, so try it!

From Negative to Positive

Changing negative thoughts into positive or neutral thoughts can be helpful with combatting workplace anxiety. Let’s say a chatty co-worker keeps asking you questions related to a project and it’s becoming a bit annoying. Instead of thinking, “Why can’t he/she figure this out on their own or ask someone else for a change?”, think, “he/she must really trust my opinion, it makes me happy for others to approach me for help”.

Taking time to breathe, acknowledging your physical self, and changing the way you think about work addresses your physiological, mental and emotional needs. With practice, these skills will become natural habits in your work environment, therefore decreasing workplace anxiety. Are you reading this from work? Start practicing now!

Contact The Montfort Group in Plano today to see how we can help you manage your stress and live a healthier life. 

Lindsay Hollmuller

Lindsay Hollmuller

Lindsay is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Texas. Lindsay holds a unique double board certification in both Neurofeedback/ EEG- Biofeedback (BCN) and General Biofeedback (BCB) by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA). Lindsay, a proud “Sooner”, attended The University of Oklahoma where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology in 2005. Lindsay’s personal experience as a traumatic brain injury survivor at the age of 16 prompted her interest in psychology, neuroscience, and applied physiology.

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