Anxiety Crushes your Potential

March 27, 2013

anxious women

Image Credit: Phoney Nickle

by Steven Hill

According to mental health professionals, anxiety is the feeling of fear about doing something. In the context of work this may be related to a meeting, presentation or new and difficult task you have been assigned. Everyone has a certain level of anxiety at all times, with symptoms ranging from dry throat and sweating to panic attacks, shaking and fainting. The problem with this condition is that many people will simply assume you have shyness or perhaps you don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute. Often those with anxiety are very creative people with astute intelligence that could add more value if they were in a more comfortable environment. If you suffer from anxiety you have probably defaulted to the hide and ignore strategy, whereby you simply avoid any situations that cause your anxiety to flare up and hide when in large groups even if you have the answers or some value to add to the debate. This is unfortunately the worst thing you can do as it will only heighten your anxiety and cause it to worsen into other non-affected areas of your life. It will also harm how you are seen by your employer and often leads to poor feedback and lower chances of workplace bonuses and promotion. Anxiety is like an illness that if not activated can spread to widen the areas you are anxious about and can be so far removed from the original trigger you don’t even recall when you first felt nervous.

How to beat Anxiety

Psychologists recommend the best way to tackle anxiety is to slowly work towards beating it by exposing yourself to situations that challenges you to deal with your symptoms. Do not throw yourself in at the deep end and arrange a presentation to hundreds of colleagues as this will likely end badly and set you back in your recovery. Small meetings and adhoc conversations are a good place to start, build this up to larger and larger situations and set yourself a target each week of contributions in situations that would make you usually uncomfortable. The contributions don’t have to be long speeches and can take form of questions or simple suggestions but it all goes along the lines of cognitive behavioural therapy. You are effectively training your brain to respond differently to these situations. This does take a lot of time and conscious effort, well after all if you added up the time you have spent worrying and panicking, then consider you are unwinding a ball of wool, you can see the scale of the task. Do not give up whilst doing this, but if you do not manage one task then this is not something you should think about again, over analysis of things is a side effect of anxiety that can lead to you being defeatist and giving up too readily.

Clear your Mind

Clearing your mind of thoughts is a good place to start with your training and meditation can be excellent for this. Try sitting in a quiet room and clearing your mind, often this proves difficult for beginners so perhaps going to a beach and watching the ocean to give you something to focus on may help. Once you have meditation techniques you can use these to avoid worry and panic. Distraction techniques often help as well, giving yourself tasks to do that will take your mind away from worry will help to minimise the time your brain has to conjure up any negative scenarios that may occur. As an example if you were sitting in your front room watching TV you may suddenly begin to think of the meeting you have the next day at work and how this is likely to be a disaster, you may consider ways you can make excuses to not attend like phoning in sick or saying you have another meeting to attend. As you are thinking you hear a loud crash outside and you rush to the window, you see a car has crashed and people are injured, you rush outside and help until the authorities arrive. Once the accident is dealt with you return to your lounge and sit down, then suddenly your brain will return to thinking about the meeting. If you first realise that it is unnecessary and secondly that you are actually inflicting this condition on yourself then you will begin to identify when your brain starts to steer to negativity and either block this out using meditation or distract yourself with other activities.

Why worry about the Past?

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that may help. A Monk is walking alone in the woods, looking around at the beauty of the trees and wildlife when suddenly a tiger appears, he begins to run in fear and the tiger swiftly chases after him. He fails to notice a cliff in front and falls straight over the edge just managing to grasp a thorny bush to save him from the fall. He looks down and sees at the bottom there is another tiger waiting for him to fall. As his grip begins to fail and the cut on his hand begins to throb as the thorns dig deeper he notices a solitary berry on the bush. He picks the berry and eats it, to his amazement this is the best tasting fruit he has ever had. The meaning of this is that you cannot worry about the past, the tiger who chased you, or the future, the tiger lying in wait at the bottom, you have to live in the present which may occasionally cause you pain but also can bear the most glorious fruit.