“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” – Matthew 6:27
This is a question I ask myself in the midst of my deepest worries and anxiety. Research has shown quite the opposite – that even the mildest anxiety can actually reduce life expectancy. How’s that for not worrying anymore?
Having been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at a young age, I couldn’t help but think, “How silly! We’re alive, aren’t we all generally anxious?” In the workplace, anxiety, to some extent, is inevitable. But it’s how we react to and deal with that anxiety that springs us forward or holds us back. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind as you feel that lump in your throat form just thinking about all those upcoming deadlines.
Quiet Time – How are you starting your day? Are you jumping right into those emails, or like me, are you scrolling your social media feeds? It’s a trap I’m often guilty of falling into each day after I hit the snooze button a few times. But I challenge myself, and you too, to not look at your phone first thing. Instead, try to use this time to quiet your mind and disconnect from the world. For you, this may look like a morning workout at the gym, a walk in the park, daily devotions or meditation. This will help you escape getting sucked into other people’s lives and agendas, a dangerous trap of comparison, jealousy, and a sudden urge to respond to everyone else’s requests. It will also help get the blood flowing and increase your energy throughout the day.
Planning – As you begin your day with quiet time, I encourage you to ponder your purpose for the day. Set your intentions first thing. What do you plan to accomplish? Are your goals realistic? One thing that has helped me focus on my goals each day is the “1-Page Productivity Tool” created by personal development trainer Brendon Burchard. This tool has helped me attack my day and not get caught up on what Brendon calls the “email drip” of other people’s agenda’s. I’m guilty of looking at my inbox throughout the day and feel my shoulders move closer and closer to my ears as more requests and to-dos come in.
Communicate – Over-communication with your team is essential. By over-communication, I don’t mean you need to communicate every single little thing, but rather, communicate effectively. This could look like weekly team meetings, copying all parties involved on emails, and checking in with supervisors regularly.
When each team member knows their responsibilities and expectations, there is less room for guessing who’s doing what, who has what information, etc. It prevents replicated efforts, silly mistakes, and unnecessary questions. Over-communication is especially helpful when managing up. It’s a skill that, when mastered, can make a difference in your company’s culture. Let your supervisors know your top priorities, so that they can either be affirmed or changed. When they know what you have on your plate, they have a better understanding of what’s feasible and can adjust deadlines.
Take Breaks – Breaks throughout your workday give your mind the rest it needs to remain focused and retain information. It also gives your body the chance to refuel and reenergize with light snacks and quick walks around the block. At times, I can be so engrained in what I’m doing that I hit roadblocks, become too detail-oriented, wander off task, or forget the bigger picture. Our superstar account director Andie will tell me to step away from my desk, even for just two minutes. I’ve found that this helps me come back to the task at hand with a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective.
I also enjoy using the 2 Minute Breathing Exercise on my Fitbit Charge 2. A couple minutes of slow, controlled breathing brings the heart rate down, relaxes your muscles, decreases blood pressure, and increases productivity. If you don’t have a Fitbit, try on of these breathing exercises.
Keep Work at Work – I have said to myself countless times, “I’ll finish this at home,” but as soon as I walk through the door, my work mode shuts off completely. Not intentionally, of course, but coming home is an experience I want to always think of as entering into a relaxing and safe place. Normal business hours are 9-5 for a reason; we are not productive beyond a certain point. I know that my work at 9pm may suffice, but is it extraordinary? I challenge you to ask yourself that question while also considering your family and personal obligations. I promise that practicing a healthy work-life balance will keep a happy home and reduce your at-work anxiety.
Exercise – The obvious one that I’m sure we’re all guilty of foregoing sometimes. We’re too busy, too tired, have too much work to do. Try easing short workouts into your day. Start with three days a week, then move on to four, then five, and so on. Studies have shown that it takes three weeks to make or break a habit. Go ahead and test it out!
One of my favorite ways to exercise is with workout DVDs. Many fitness instructors create workouts that are 10, 20, 30 minutes long. When you think about it, that’s small fraction of your day that is over before you know it, and when done on a regular basis, will give you surprising results and boosts of energy and confidence. Remember, the only bad workout is the one you don’t do!
These are just a few ways to help you keep your cool at work and manage your stress levels. Remember, your well-being is your #1 priority. Keep this top of mind and you’ll flourish in every aspect of your life.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.”
– Andres J. Bernstein
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
– Charles Spurgeon