Being stressed or anxious in the workplace can happen to everyone, and this is completely normal. However, being stressed and anxious on a daily basis, where it is overwhelming and starting to impact your daily routine could be a sign that additional support may be needed. Telling yourself to simply stop feeling anxious, is similar to telling yourself to fall asleep when you’re having a restless night– it isn’t effective. So, what is?
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan has worked as a professional physiologist and sleep therapist for 25 years. She worked for a decade conducting sleep and wellness programmes at Nightingale Hospital in London, coaches on burnout prevention at Ashridge Business School and is the original founder of BUPA’s Corporate Wellbeing Solutions. Nerina works with individuals as well as numerous corporate clients from various industries including sport (Chelsea Football Club) and hosts a regular sleep programme at Vale De Moses yoga retreat, Portugal. Here are five tips below, that may help to tackle feelings of anxiety in the workplace by Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.
Know the signs
This may sound obvious, but it’s important to acknowledge when and why you’re feeling anxious, particularly in the workplace. Anxiety might feel like one or more of the following:
- Like a tightness in your chest
- Mind racing and unable to think straight
- A sick feeling in the stomach
- Jaw tight
- Unable to slow down, talking fast, impatience
- Feeling tetchier and more irritable especially with the people you love
- Eating mindlessly, not noticing what you’ve eaten
- Needing to comfort eat or drink alcohol to calm down
- Feeling numb, dissociated, not even knowing how you’re feeling
Take a break and self soothe
The important thing to remember is to take your lunchbreak and break the usual work cycle by doing something different – ideally something physical – to change channels. Leave the office by getting out for a brisk walk in nature, take your shoes off and feel your feet on the grass or do something that makes you laugh, even if you have to start forcing yourself to laugh or smile. If you’re able to go somewhere quiet and private, lie on the floor and breathe deeply into your belly and out through your feet.
Notice your immediate surroundings
In the midst of intense anxiety, look around and notice your immediate surroundings, practice the Havening technique, notice the feeling of your feet on the ground, notice the feeling of your bottom on the chair if you’re sitting down, notice what you notice immediately around you – sights, sounds smells. This is called self-regulation.
One Breath Meditation
If you wake up first thing feeling anxious before the working day has even started, this one breath meditation technique can be another great way for managing anxiety. When you first wake up don’t open your eyes, take a deep breath in and breathe out. Ask yourself, how am I feeling right now? Put one hand on your chest and one on your tummy, take another deep breath in and breath back out. From that place move backwards, check-in with how you feel first and if you notice that you feel happy, soak in that feeling, allow it and sit with it a bit longer. But if you feel afraid and anxious decide what it is the most nourishing and supporting thing that you can do next. This may be getting out in nature or closing your eyes and imaging nature, this has been proven to be effective.
Don’t overload on caffeine
It can be tempting to keep reaching for that second or third cup of coffee when stressed or anxious, but caffeine mimics the effect of adrenaline. It keeps you wired and stuck in survival mode, which switches off the Parasympathetic Nervous System and sleep system heightening anxiety. Aim to consume less than 300mg of caffeine per day or avoiding caffeine until you’ve eaten.
If you find that your anxiety is persistent in the workplace, speak your employer, they may have scheme’s or a designated mental health representative you can talk to. Alternatively, if you have colleagues or friends that are genuinely supportive spend more time with them. There is also lots of other support available such as CALM or your local GP.