Breaking free from anxiety: the modern affliction

Anxiety is one of those unwelcome physical and emotional sensations, yet it’s actually your body's natural reaction to stress. It can occur when starting a new role, if you have a big presentation to give, or you're going through a period of change at work.

Anxiety is the most common emotional disorder and it can affect anyone, at any age. Some people may even experience physical side effects, such as fainting or heart palpitations.

The good thing about anxiety is that there are techniques to minimise some of its effects. If you, or a member of your team, are suffering from an anxiety attack, here are a few tricks to halt it in its tracks.

If your mind is working overtime and with a heightened sense of anxiety:

  • Try and remain objective when evaluating your own performance and that of others.
  • If you’re feeling irritable, try not to react and snap at people. Stay calm and tolerant and if possible avoid becoming overcome with emotion.
  • Control your breathing and listen, evaluate and reply rationally. Being defensive is a natural reaction but can increase anxiety. Taking a few seconds before you speak or a couple of sips of water can help give you some distance between your emotions and your response.
  • If you discover you are wrong, be upfront and admit and own this. The earlier the better. On the other hand, when you know you are right, don’t back down. Present your point of view rationally and calmly.
  • If you are worried about doing something that scares you e.g. presenting to a large crowd, grow your confidence as much as possible by preparing, practicing, getting advice from others and being opening to learning from feedback.
  • Don't revisit the situation that is making you anxious – that includes replaying it inside your head and continuing to bring it up with the people concerned.

If you or someone else is showing signs of physical anxiety, try these techniques:

  • Release some of the physical anxiety in exercise - a 20 minute walk, a jog with your dog or a swim can all help.
  • Use relaxation techniques to keep things in check. An easy one to remember is to take a deep breath, hold for four seconds and then release with a sigh. Repeat once more. This gives you a few moments out of the anxiety zone and can reset your physical reaction.
  • Try not to overdo things that physically tire you out – if you have activities to organise or a lot of events on the calendar, try and rationalise these so they don’t become unmanageable and a stressor in themselves.
  • Eat regularly and well with foods that have nutritional value, in other words don't turn towards sugary and fatty treats.
  • Finally, focus on getting a good night's rest as sleeping is our body's way of resetting itself to give us the energy to take on another day. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, and don’t check emails or work close to going to bed. Try and do something relaxing for 30 minutes before bed e.g. reading or talking with family and friends. If drifting off to sleep is difficult, try the above breathing technique a few times.

Most of us will suffer from anxiety at some point in our lives and our career. Being able to halt its effects through these simple tricks can really make a difference.

Author: Peter Robinson
Team Leadership Services