Do you notice you sometimes feel worried, tense or fearful of circumstances in your life?
Anxiety can be characterised by these feelings and typically develops when you’re struggling with stress. Overwhelming thoughts, tension in the body, and physical changes like increased heart rate are just a few examples of how anxiety can manifest, and it can take many different forms. It can be experienced as mild feelings of worry before an important life event, or more severe worry that develops into panic about simple or everyday situations.
The reality is anxiety affects many individuals and to varying degrees. According to the UK charity Mind, as many as 6 out of 100 will experience anxiety every week in the UK and 8 in 100 people will experience mixed anxiety with depression. Additionally, the ONS (Office for National Statics) has reported higher levels of anxiety during the first national lockdown in 2020, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
These statistics highlight how incredibly common anxiety is and with this in mind, it’s important that we learn how to manage it day to day, and prevent it from developing into something more serious.
Here, I’ll share the different ways you can manage anxiety, reduce overwhelm and focus on your goals, so that you can plan your time with confidence.
Get to know the signs
Anxiety can be experienced as a result of external or internal triggers, whether it’s work-related issues to unexpected circumstances that are out of your control, to current or past challenges in your personal life. Whether you are going through a period of anxiety at the moment or have experienced it in the past, it’s important to recognise the various emotional and physical changes associated with it, in order to help you manage and prevent these feelings from escalating.
From physical, to behavioural and psychological symptoms, common signs of anxiety include:
- Feeling worried, overwhelmed and fearful
- Experiencing a heightened emotional state
- Difficulty sleeping
- Struggling to concentrate
- Tension in muscles or joints in the body
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart pounding
- Experiencing digestion issues, such as tightness in the stomach or nausea
- Abnormal temperature, either hot or cold
- Feeling shaky and sweaty
Experiencing any one of these signs on an ongoing basis can feel debilitating, making it difficult to get on with day-to-day tasks. However, it’s important to recognise that there are many ways you can help yourself to manage anxiety and overcome these feelings.
Take control through heightening your awareness
As human beings, we go through different changes in our state all the time. From when we wake up, to getting ready for the day, to handling a stressful situation, to spending time with loved ones, to name a few. We come in and out of different states in order to appropriately manage and experience various occurrences within the day.
This awareness can help to ground you in the knowledge that anxiety is one of many states of being, and while for some people it can feel like it manifests consistently, like many feelings it can also come and go. It is impermanent, and you absolutely have the ability within you to take control of it.
3 steps to prevent anxiety from escalating and manage your wellbeing:
1. Consider our Calmer philosophy: Stop, Breathe, Trust
At Calmer, this is one of our core mindful exercises. Firstly, this philosophy allows you to give yourself permission to stop whatever it is you are doing, take a step back and address any feelings of worry. Secondly, use the time to connect to the present moment. Breathe slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth, allowing your nervous system to calm down. Thirdly, trust yourself, and bring your awareness to what you truly need in that moment. Nobody knows you better than you, and this simple exercise gives you time to remind yourself to trust your intuition. Instead of listening to the inner critic voice, tune into your inner champion voice, who can help you work through your feelings.
2. Use breathwork to ground yourself
Breathing exercises offer a chance for us to really slow down and embrace focused attention, which can be helpful when we have a build up of anxious thoughts and feelings. Breathing exercises offer an opportunity for us to connect to the present moment, and this is very different to normal breathing that we do every day - this is a form of conscious breathing. Taking a big deep breath in through the nose and slowly exhaling helps to calm any nerves, improve our focus, and release any physical tension in the body.
3. Try a writing exercise
Writing exercises are a brilliant way to manage feelings of anxiety and can help you to plan your week as well. Each week, grab a pen or a range of coloured pens/pencils and physically draw out the goals that you want to achieve professionally that week - get as creative as you’d like. Alongside these goals, write down your wellbeing needs, identifying a range of activities you enjoy. Whether it’s walking, yoga, painting, playing or listening to music, meditation, or reading, to name a few. Choose to bring awareness to the activities that help to reset your energy levels.
We all need optimum energy to feel at our best, for ourselves and others, as well as fulfil our professional commitments. So having these two visuals side by side can help you to prioritise and understand your needs, in order to achieve your work and wellbeing goals. We’re all used to having a practical ‘to-do’ list for work, however this approach can serve as a daily reminder of the importance of looking after your wellbeing too.
With these goals and needs in mind, each week write/draw out your weekly plan from Monday to Sunday. The physical feeling of writing your plan onto paper can help to ease any tension as you clarify your goals, and having the finished visual of your weekly plan can serve to remind you of what is in your control. Anxiety is often linked with experiencing a lack of control in your life, and so embracing a sense of control can help you to feel empowered.
Be kind to yourself
Experiencing anxiety can feel very daunting at times, and tricky to navigate. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health, and so the experience of anxiety will be different for everyone.
It’s important to remember that anxiety may not feel easy to overcome. However, by allowing yourself time to address your feelings, practise kind self-talk, and embed mindful exercises into your daily life, you can experience more happiness, centredness and confidence in your work and in all aspects of your life.
Tania Diggory is an entrepreneur, international Mental Health & Wellbeing speaker and Founder and Director of Calmer. Tania is a leading expert in the field of burnout prevention and is the Author of This Is Calmer: Inspiration, support and encouragement for the entrepreneurial mind, and Working From Home: The Complete Calmer Guide To Remote Working. As a qualified NLP Practitioner, Mindfulness Teacher and Mental Health Trainer & First Aider, Tania has trained and consulted over 300 companies since founding Calmer in 2016.