An estimated 1 million people are absent from work each day because of stress related problems according to John B. Arden, author of Surviving Job Stress: How to Overcome Workday Pressures. So if you’re stressed and anxious at work, you’re not alone.
Stress and anxiety can hinder your work performance, affect your personal life and cause health problems. Most people are aware of this, but did you know that stress and anxiety, while related, are actually different? You need to understand the difference. The way to overcome anxiety is actually the opposite of the way to overcome stress, according to Larina Kase, author of Anxious 9 to 5: How to Beat Worry, Stop Second Guessing Yourself and Work with Confidence.
Are you stressed or anxious?
In general, according to Kase, anxiety is associated with being nervous or afraid, while stress is linked with feeling overwhelmed or taxed. “Of course there’s a good deal of overlap here,” writes Kase. “Stress can sometimes trigger anxious thinking. Similarly, anxiety can tax your ability to cope with stress.” Essentially stress is a response to external pressures, while anxiety is internal.
Face your fears
Both Kase and Arden agree that the way to combat anxiety is to desensitize and recondition yourself to situations that trigger fearful thoughts and reactions. If, for example, you have a fear of public speaking, like many professionals, instead of making your remarks brief when called on to make a presentation, speak for a longer period of time.
“All living creatures naturally habituate to anxiety if they stay in a situation long enough,” writes Kase. And to fully overcome your anxiety, you must face the situation again and again. “It’s not enough to confront a situation once and expect to never feel anxious in the situation again,” says Kase. “As a general rule, the more intense your anxiety, the more times you’ll need to confront the anxiety-provoking situation,” he adds.
Arden recommends defusing work anxiety by utilizing a relaxation technique. “After experiencing job stress due to work overload, you may experience free-floating anxiety just by being at work, even if your workload has subsided,” writes Arden. If you feel a surge of anxiety when you walk into the building, Arden says the solution is to “recondition” yourself. You can do this by carrying a “relaxation cue” with you.
“Try using a ring you wear on your right hand,” suggests Arden. “Perhaps you can tap lightly on the ring and practice relaxation. Later when at work, you can tap on the ring to remind yourself of the feeling of relaxation. The ring therefore, can serve as a relaxation “anchor” that brings back those feelings.
To beat anxiety, you must face down those situations that strike terror in your heart. The key to managing stress is to get away from it all. There are a number of proven techniques to do this.
Hit the “off” switch
After completing any challenge or stressful act, don’t stay in stress mode. “Always, always, always switch off,” advises Elisabeth Wilson, author of Stress-Proof Your Life: Smart Ways to Relax and Re-Energize.
And how do we ‘switch off’? The Mayo Clinic reports that meditation “can wipe away the day’s stress, giving you a clean slate.” And what’s really beneficial about meditation, according to the clinic, is that “you can practice meditation anywhere — at home, on the bus, at work or wherever you are.”
Get a hobby
If you’re not the type of person who would enjoy meditating, there’s another solution: a hobby. Miguel Figueroa, M.D. writing in the foreword to Get a Hobby! by Tina Barseghian says that “regularly practicing a hobby can help induce a state of relaxation.”
When you incorporate regular periods of relaxation into your life, you can return to work relaxed, recharged and ready to face any challenges that come your way.