How to cope with Anxiety at your Desk
Everyone gets a little anxious sometimes, it’s natural. In the course of human history anxiety was the reaction to life-threating stressors, like the presence of a predator. Nowadays, anxiety is mostly a reaction to the stressors we create for ourselves. You may feel anxious about the amount of work piling up on your desk or the presentation next Tuesday, but that is no reason for your body to react like there is a lion in the office.
We all fall victim to letting little worries build up in our minds to feel catastrophic. For me, it is my book, on occasion I feel anxious that I have wasted almost a year’s worth of work on what could end up as a poorly received picture book that my friends and family feel obligated to hold onto.
However, like most anxieties, I recognize that my fear is blown way out of proportion. It’s helpful to think of the worst-case scenario and realize that it’s usually not that big of a deal. If a few hundred people get some good advice from a pocket-size guide to living healthier at a desk, it’s still a win. If the amount of work doesn’t get done today, it will probably get done tomorrow. And if you bomb the big presentation next Tuesday, you’ll probably find it funny a year from now. Our anxieties are products of how we interact with the world and the health of our minds if you need a little help calming your nerves try these five tactics:
It should come as no surprise that a personal trainer turned corporate wellness consultant would suggest exercise to calm your nerves. But here is a little curve-ball, I usually suggest strength training, however, if the goal is mental health you’ll have better results with thirty minutes of steady-state cardiovascular exercise. Moderate to low intensity is ideal, meaning a pace that you could do for hours but that will still make you sweat. Steady-state cardio will improve your sleep, digestion, lovemaking, and most importantly decrease your anxiety. So during your lunch break, get moving.
Meditation is the best way to reduce anxiety short of medication unfortunately; meditation doesn’t work as well for beginners as it does for regular meditators. Don’t let that stop you, everyone can benefit from taking a few minutes to focus on their breath, but if the big presentation is in an hour, you may find more helpful to review your flashcards than to do your first meditation session. Although meditation is the best tool to have in your arsenal, practice a few minutes every day and you’ll reap the rewards in no time.
Stay off Social Media
This one is more anecdotal than the rest of the advice, but it’s no less important. Have you ever looked at social media and then felt more relaxed? Does seeing pictures of your friends on vacation or breaking news truly bring you joy? I’d guess not but to each their own. Staring at a screen instead of literally anything else you could be doing to calm your nerves is not a great idea. Avoiding social media certainly won’t hurt an attempt to quiet an anxious mind.
Eat a healthy snack (if you are hungry)
Hunger can be unsettling. If you are actually hungry and not simply bored, you may experience headaches, nausea, and irritability. None of which will decrease your anxiety. During work, you want to keep your snacks small, being overly full is just as bad as being hungry. You are just trading headaches and irritability for grogginess and lack of concentration. Carrots are your friends; they are a nutrient-dense snack with a little bit of natural sugar, a great pick-me-up if you need one.
We all have felt the stress-relieving quality of going for a walk in nature. The sun, the quality of the air, and the dirt below our feet have been proven to help lower cortisol levels in the body. However, it can be hard to get from an office in the city to somewhere that feels nature-y on your lunch hour. See if there is a local park nearby you can walk over to or buy a bunch of plants for your office’s terrace, but no matter what, just get outside and take a break from the recycled air.
Anxiety is something that can rule your life if you let it. The best way to prevent it is to work on yourself when you aren’t stressed. There is no reason to wait until you are anxious to start eating healthy snacks, going outside, exercising, and meditating. Do these things when you are feeling good and they will help you stay sane when the big stressors come. As with most things in life, preparation is the key to success.
Want to help me with my anxiety? You can grab a copy of The Desk Job Survival Guide here, and if you enjoy it please leave a review.