In today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s no surprise that many of us experience work-related anxiety. Starting a new job, having an important client meeting and the pressure to meet deadlines are just a few situations where work anxiety can take a toll on our mental well-being. While a certain level of stress is normal and can even be motivating excessive work anxiety can have detrimental effects on one’s mental health and work results. Like regular anxiety work anxiety can manifest in various ways, such as restlessness, irritability, and even physical symptoms like headaches or muscle tension.

In this article, we’ll explore practical tips to help you manage and alleviate work anxiety, even in situations where privacy is scarce, and time is limited. Smartful’s coach Ly Kivikas offered us 3 practical tips to try next time you are feeling anxious at work.

Mindful hand washing

One simple but effective way to reduce anxiety at work is to mindfully wash your hands. The trick may seem unusual at first, but it’s actually a great way to relieve anxiety in situations where space is scarce.

Practising mindful hand washing:

Take a break for a few minutes and head to the toilet.

Concentrate fully on the handwashing: the trick is to divert your attention away from anxious thoughts, try to focus only on this activity during the entire handwashing process.

Feel the water flowing down your hands: feel and see how the water flows from the tap to your hands. Try to understand what temperature the water is and what it feels like on your hands.

Use your sense of smell: if you use soap, try to feel what kind of smell it has, whether it is sweet or sour, whether it reminds you of some other scent.

Rinse away anxiety: As you rinse your hands, imagine the water taking away all excess anxiety.

Mindful practice of activities can be done with all activities, for example, when eating lunch, focus only on eating, feel the taste of the food, how your hand moves with the fork, and the smell of the food. It is important to find a suitable and comfortable activity for yourself, which can be done during the work day without much time and space.

Breathing exercises

The next trick is breathing exercises. Breathing is like an anchor that can bring you back to 

the moment and reduce anxiety.

Practising breathing exercises:

If possible, find a quiet and calm place: it is especially convenient to perform the exercise in a calmer environment, but if necessary, you can also do the exercise at your desk or in a meeting. Breathing exercises are a comfortable way to relieve anxiety without anyone noticing. 

Focus on your breathing: notice what your breathing rhythm is and if the rhythm is faster than usual, notice how deeply you are breathing. Focus on your breath for a few cycles.

Start breathing more deeply: Start by gradually taking deeper breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to rise, as you exhale empty your lungs completely.

Find a rhythm that suits you: there are many different breathing exercises, but it is important to find a rhythm that suits you and is comfortable. Try breathing in and out for the same number of seconds, you can also try holding your breath between the in- and exhale. One breathing exercise option could be: inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds.

Focusing on your senses

The last trick is to focus your senses, which is a good exercise to relieve anxiety if you have a little more time and can use a quieter space.

Practising focusing on your senses:

Find a calm and quiet place.

Close your eyes.

Calm your breath: before starting the exercise, notice your breathing for a moment. Calm down your breathing rhythm if necessary and start breathing more deeply.

Focusing on the senses: with your eyes closed, focus on:

Hearing: Identify five different sounds around you. In the office, they might be something like the sound of the computer or the chatter of coworkers. Sometimes you might hear something that is happening outside the office, for example, cars driving by or birds singing. Focus on these sounds and try to find nuances in them that you don’t hear every day.

Physical Sensation: Identify five different physical sensations you are feeling in your body right now, maybe your shoes pinch your toes or your hands feel cold. Focus on these feelings.

Open your eyes: when you open your eyes, list five things that you see around you. After the exercise, people often see objects that they don’t notice on a daily basis.

We encourage you to try all three exercises and find the one that suits you best. You may find that one works better than the other when you try the tricks. The tricks given in this article are more for quick relief of anxiety. It is important to remember to take care of your mental health daily, e.g. getting enough sleep, physical activity, being in the fresh air, and practising gratitude. It is easier to deal with anxiety if you are psychologically balanced.

Although some anxiety is a natural part of life, it is important to note when anxiety becomes disruptive to daily life. In this case, it is recommended to contact a specialist, you can find various help with mental health questions on the site

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