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In this article I break down some very complex anxiety management strategies into some easy to digest nutshells. If these concepts are completely new to you, I recommend looking for some books or journals by actual professionals with cognitive therapy strategies. Here is a list of some that you may find helpful. If you are feeling distressed right now please reach out to your health care provider, find a therapist, or talk to a trusted friend. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, please call the suicide prevention hotline right now at: 1-800-273-8255
I have had anxiety all my life, it is as much a part of who I am as my red hair is. I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder in my twenties and although I have learned to manage my mental health disorder, I have never cured it. I’m not sure curing a mental health disorder is possible for every person, let alone many people. It’s my personal belief that a mental health disorder must be treated in a similar way that diabetes or autoimmune disorders are treated, by managing the symptoms. If you don’t have a mental health disorder, but you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress lately, these tips are sill helpful for you and they’re also just some really good habits to pick up.
Working in Tech presents a different set of challenges when you have an anxiety disorder, or even just for managing stress in general. It is far too easy to become overwhelmed, or to push ourselves past a breaking point, or simply pick up unhealthy habits that we will have to deal with down the road. Here are some basic things I do moment to moment to maintain a sense of stasis and wellness for myself and my family.
Recognize The Signs
Body awareness can really help you manage your stress levels, but it can be a challenge for people who are triggered by irregular body behavior. What I’m talking about are the physical symptoms we often associate with stress like elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, tight muscles etc. However, if you can start recognizing the smaller signs your body is sending you, you can start to prevent yourself from getting to that more distressing place physically.
The best way to recognize your own body responses, is to stop whatever you’re doing and essentially run a diagnostic check on yourself. Do this regularly. I tend to do this after I finish a long and grueling task at work. I check if my muscles are too tight, do they feel better when I relax them? Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Are my eyes focussing normally or are they a little blurry? Do I need to go to the bathroom?
These questions might seem kind of silly because we rely on our body to tell us these things normally. But when we are hyper focussed, and/or stressing our bodies and minds, we may forget to check on all of these things and in a short time find our system overwhelmed by the kind of physical responses I talked about in the first paragraph of this section.
The most important thing to remember here is, don’t ignore your discomfort! Recognize what your body is trying to tell you and immediately deal with it so that the issue doesn’t begin to build.
Develop a Strategy
Before you have those physical body responses, develop a regular strategy to deal with them and adjust it in the moment as needed. If you need to rest your eyes, get up and go for a walk, or just sit and look out the window. If you feel hungry or thirsty, get yourself some food and water. If you need to go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom. If you just feel tight then stretch, breath nice and slow, lay on the ground for a minute, do some yoga, whatever works for you.
You also need to develop a strategy for when or if your stress becomes unmanageable. It’s good to remind ourselves once we have gotten overwhelmed that there is a plan for ourselves in place and that we can change it to whatever we need it to be in that moment.
For some people, the plan involves having to go home sick and work out shift coverage. For others, it just involves adjusting that weeks work schedule to make up for time off. My strategy is more similar to the latter of these two.
The most important thing to remember here though, is not what you should be doing, could be doing, would be doing. Face it, if you could do your job you would. No matter who you work for or where you go, you need to give yourself permission to take mental health breaks. A panic attack, or even high anxiety are not excuses, they are serious health concerns and they require urgent care. Just because the treatment or care happens to be rest, doesn’t make it less of a valid concern.
The power of affirmation
When you are doing a kick ass job at work, you need to tell yourself how good of a job you’re doing. If you feel proud of what you’re doing, let yourself feel proud. Be nice to yourself. It might sound stupid or self gratifying, but if you are struggling with a mental health disorder, you probably say some pretty mean things to yourself in your own monologue. You are probably the person who has been the meanest to you out of anyone in your life (or damn near close to it). You need to balance, or better yet overtake that negative inner monologue with some positive affirmations. Regularly taking moments throughout the day to compliment yourself will begin to build neurological roadmaps in your brain towards healthier thinking habits.
If you fail, you need to make the concerted effort to be kind to yourself about it. If you fall down you get back up, maybe you rest a while first and then get back up later, but leave room in your mind for all of that to be okay. If you have to go home and you leave your teammates under extra stress because you are overloaded, yes it sucks, but you don’t suck. You have to say it’s okay for yourself. It’s necessary, and you are still worthy. You are still good. You just need to take care of yourself right now, and that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Do you find other things to be helpful for managing stress or anxiety at work? If so, comment below!