Deadlines and critical projects can be highly motivating for a lot of people. However, for those with anxiety, racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate, and feelings of potential failure can cause a serious lack of motivation that interrupts your workflow and may even bring your productivity to a screeching halt.
Many people work and live with high anxiety levels that fall well within range for a diagnosis. While it isn’t an accurate mental health term, the concept of high functioning anxiety refers to those who hide their symptoms and give the appearance of efficiency and success.
Regardless of how you experience work anxiety, there are many different treatment options and workplace protections available to assist those struggling with mental health issues. Alternative tools can also help you learn how to calm down, regain focus, process your thoughts, manage tension, and increase your productivity.
Calming & Centering Techniques
According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness meditation is an effective way to reduce stress. A study conducted by the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests a daily 15-minute practice can improve a person’s sense of well-being. Using a device like Timeqube can help you track the length of your meditation sessions without adding extra stress to the process.
Daily breath meditation sessions are helpful to combat work anxiety, and you can even meditate in your car during your lunch break. Sit comfortably and focus on each inhale and exhale, counting each full breath, while paying no attention to the thoughts and feelings that come to the surface. Whenever your mind wanders, shift your focus back to counting each breath, in and out.
Keeping a physical writing journal at your desk or a private, password-protected document on your laptop can help you rein in racing thoughts and process what you’re thinking and feeling. You can use a journal to cope with anxiety in several useful ways:
- Simply describe how you’re feeling in your daily diary. Tracking your moods can help you see patterns in your thoughts or interactions with others you might not notice otherwise.
- Jot down your worries to help manage work anxiety and stress. Putting all your restless thoughts and concerns on paper can be a relief by itself, but you can also challenge yourself by examining those fears and worries. Explore potential positive or negative outcomes and write about how you might navigate or prepare for them.
- Use your journal as a planner and break work projects down into small, reasonable, achievable tasks to help you focus and push past procrastination or a lack of motivation.
- Write about any work situations that leave you feeling anxious. Include as much detail as you can, and then note down the reasons why you felt stressed out.
- Create a section in your journal solely dedicated to gratitude. Take a few minutes every other day or maybe three times a week and write about a few things, big or small, that you’re thankful for. Be specific, give details, get personal, and be sure to celebrate successes and surprises.
- Record your thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness style. Just jot down whatever’s on your mind when you open your notebook. Let go of any concerns about going off-track or rambling; this journal is for you and you alone.
Other than committing to a regular writing schedule, which can be once a day to once a week, there are no real rules when it comes to journaling. You can follow one approach or combine several methods. It’s up to you to experiment and discover what works best to alleviate your work anxiety. A journal is also a helpful tool to have on hand during sessions with your therapist.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Knowing how to calm down quickly when things get overwhelming is a valuable part of any high functioning anxiety tool kit. Progressive muscle relaxation is exactly what it sounds like, and you can do it without even leaving your desk. Starting at your feet, you work your way up the body, tensing a different muscle group as you take a deep breath in and then relaxing it quickly as you exhale.
It may take a few weeks to hone your stealth calming skills, but you’ll soon have a quick and effective means of releasing stress and tension that you can practice almost anywhere.
Productivity Hacks and Tips
Organize Your Space
Simple as it may sound, cleaning up your home can help you cut down on distractions and improve your sense of well-being. Keeping a neat office offers the same thing in terms of maintaining focus and lowering your stress levels, allowing for a productive workspace. If you’re feeling a lack of motivation during the day, take a few minutes to decompress by tidying up and decluttering your desk, filing your paperwork, and wiping down surfaces and devices to give yourself a clean slate.
Music can have a positive effect on both physical and mental responses to stress. If you can wear headphones at your desk, you have a powerful tool readily available to help you manage your response to stress and alter your mood. Opting for noise-canceling headphones can help you cut out distractions and improve focus, too. If you can’t listen to your favorite tunes during the workday, use your break time to disengage and relax with a few songs.
Smartphones, and the internet in general, have hundreds of sites and applications meant to help people focus and avoid distractions. Take advantage of the technology around you and put it to good use by trying some of the following tech tips:
- Use the timer on your phone to kick start productivity and give yourself breaks between work sessions.
- Look for calendar and to-do list apps to break down and prioritize tasks into achievable goals.
- Set alerts and alarms to help you remember meetings and deadlines and relieve some of your mental burden.
- Download smartphone apps for guided meditation and mood tracking to better understand work anxiety and how it affects you.
- Search for programs that block social media and other distracting sites so you can focus on work tasks without temptation.
Hazel Bennett is a freelance writer and blogger. She has a degree in communications and lives in Northeastern Ohio. Hazel loves writing about numerous topics and showcasing her expertise with words.