And unfortunately, dealing with anxiety isn’t as simple as convincing yourself everything’s going okay. You might know things are going well, but no amount of rational thinking changes the way you feel.
For me, my biggest struggle with anxiety was when I worked in IT. My employers were anything but understanding. While I don’t blame them entirely, there were plenty of things that we both could have done differently that would have resulted in a better outcome.
For those reading this that know my work history, that employer was not Dell! Dell was nothing but a pleasure to work with, and I’d been wanting to relocate for some time.
While you should be able to expect your employer to work with you, I know that’s usually not going to be the case. Here are some of the things I tried to help work through anxiety and panic attacks.
One of my biggest problems is dealing with panic attacks. Sometimes it’s over completely rational things that would give anyone in their right mind a minor panic attack. Other times…not so much.
The most recent example was at a meeting I hosted. From time to time, I host local WordPress meetups. We get a turnout of anywhere from four people to 15 people, but based on the responses, I was expecting a pretty small group.
We only had around 10-12 people, most of who were new to the group. But that was all it took to make me a little nervous and eventually lead to a panic attack. Fingers tingling, chest tightening, sickening sort of panic attack that leaves you feeling a little nauseated for the next few hours.
When I first started having panic attacks, I couldn’t work through them quickly. The therapist I’d seen at the time recommended a grounding exercise, as follows:
…five things you can see.
…four things you can feel.
…three things you can hear.
…two things you can smell.
…one thing you can taste.
At first, you may have to do it verbally for it to be effective. While there’s almost always a lot of things you can see, feel, and hear, smell and taste aren’t always immediately available. If there’s nothing there, list out your favorite things to smell and taste.
The idea is to snap you out of your thoughts and remind yourself of your surroundings. Anxiety issues stem from our own internal thoughts, so we need something external to observe and “get out of our head.”
Another simpler exercise you can go through is to describe just the objects you can see—purple headphones, black cable, blue pen, white mouse. It may sound silly, but it’s important to try different things until you figure out what works for you. Just think of it this way—it’s better than dealing with lengthy panic attacks!
There’s No Better Time than the Present
An anxious mind is full of lots of “maybe’s” and “what if’s.”
This goes hand-in-hand with grounding—part of overcoming your anxiety, specifically things you can pinpoint that are causing you worry and stress, is to think in the present.
I’m not saying to avoid planning for the future or advising against having a “plan B.” A certain amount of concern is healthy. But when you worry about things so much that it keeps you from moving forward, that’s when you need to assess the situation you’re worried about.
If you need feedback on something, ask! Talk to your manager or ask your clients for feedback if you’re really worried about how you’re doing. You’ll either receive feedback that you can take action on, or you’ll be reassured that you’re doing fine. Both are better than wallowing in stress and worry.
Keep a Journal
Dealing with anxiety can seem impossible if you don’t recognize any “triggers.”
Even if you can’t attribute your anxiety to any immediate events, there’s often still a pattern. But when you’re dealing with anxiety, that’s not exactly the best time to try and analyze your situation.
Rather than trying to figure out what’s causing it, write down what you were doing and the things going on around you, no matter how irrelevant they may seem.
The more you journal, the more you’ll be able to pick out patterns and possibly find common triggers. Once you recognize the cause, you can find better ways to deal with it in the long-term.
Talk it Out
The most important part of anxiety is probably disrupting how you think.
That means getting away from your thoughts, looking at your feelings objectively, and eventually changing your mindset.
Easier said than done, right?
If you’ve noticed, every recommendation I’ve made involves recognizing when your anxiety is taking over and disrupting your thought process. That way of thinking is irrational and destructive, and it needs to be interrupted, even if just briefly.
Talking to someone not only gives you a break from your own internal thoughts—but it also helps you get them out. When you say them out loud, you realize how ridiculous they sound. Those thoughts may make perfect sense in your head, but when you try to put them into words, you realize they don’t make anysense.
Take a Walk
Sometimes just going outside and getting a breath of fresh air is enough to calm even the worst of moods. Especially if you spend a lot of time sitting in an office, getting outside can be refreshing.
Many parks have trails and areas that can make it feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Grab a few friends and plan a day to go walking. Locally, we have the Kerrville River Trail, which is an easy walk with the new sidewalks.
Don’t Neglect Your Hobbies
It’s easy to neglect the things you love to do when you’re having a bad bout of anxiety or depression. Even if drawing, painting, or gaming—whatever it is you like to do—is the last thing you want to think about right now, make yourself do it.
Get out of the house, meet someone, have a night out with friends. I recognize when I start worrying about pointless things too much. While the last thing I want to do is get out and socialize, I’m usually glad to get out for a bit after the fact. The hardest part is just getting out the door.
Blog About It!
There are lots of things I talk about online that I normally wouldn’t talk about in person. Blogging and talking openly to people online eventually lead to me being able to talk to people more face-to-face. And while the majority of my communication still goes on online, I’ve spoken at events, done presentations, and talked to people I never would have even tried to talk to if I hadn’t started somewhere.
Blogging has opened a lot of doors from a career perspective. But nothing compares to the kind of connections I’ve been able to make with people, both locally and across the world. And while I still have days and even weeks where I want to stay holed up in my room, I feel like I’ve made vast improvements over the years. It takes time, but things do get better!
3 O'Clock Coffee
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