How to overcome anxiety and panic attacks at the office

How to overcome anxiety and panic attacks at the office

If you have anxiety, you’re not alone. In fact, anxiety affects 40 million people in the United States. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to fight off anxiety so that you may be a more active participant at work and at home. Below is a list of remedies for everyday anxiety as well as helpful actions to take after an attack.

Managing anxiety at work

  • Recognize. The first step to overcoming anxiety is simply recognizing it. Once you do that, then you can start looking for ways to alleviate symptoms.
  • Anxiety toys. Adults are just big kids. Get yourself some desk toys to fidget with when you feel your anxiety taking over.
  • Clean workspace, clear mind. If your workspace is cluttered, your mind might be, too. A simple way to ease a bit of your anxiety is to reorganize your desk. Put everything back where it belongs and you’ll be more at peace.
  • Give yourself credit. We spend an obscene amount of time thinking about all the things we haven’t done or aren’t doing, but what about everything you are doing? You got out of bed, you got a shower, you went to work, you have friends, you ate dinner, etc. You’re doing the best you can!
  • Eat a (healthy) lunch. Take your vitamins and eat right.  When I know I’m taking care of my body, my mind is happier and I can do great work. Check out a healthy eating cookbook.
  • Don’t bully yourself. Anxious people are exceptionally hard on themselves, and at your desk, you have all day to badger yourself with mean thoughts. You might think, “You’re not doing enough,” or, “You should be making more money.”  Would you say that your best friend? Absolutely not. Don’t say it to yourself.
  • Be reasonable. Anxiety is motivated by emotion and emotions don’t care about logic. Be reasonable with yourself. I constantly sit at my desk worrying about something unrealistic. We can have a headache and convince ourselves we have a brain tumor. Use logic and reason – you probably have a headache because you’re tired and you’re staring at a computer. Remember – feelings aren’t always facts.
  • No social media. We all do it, we stray from work and see what’s up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – all of it. Perhaps your internal monologue sounds something like – “Oh Monica got promoted. Looks like Jeremy is holding a tiger cub in Thailand. Sarah went back to school. Alex started his own business and works for himself. I haven’t done anything. I must be a huge failure.” When you have a break, take a walk instead of scrolling through your phone.
  • Stay grounded. This works well in meetings when your anxiety starts to bubble up. Focus your attention on your feet, tap them lightly on the floor, one after the other. In your mind, point out a couple of things in the room and notice smells or tastes in your mouth. Touch the fabric of your clothes. When you engage your senses, your mind has a difficult time occupying anxious thoughts.
  • Don’t play the “what-if” game. What if my relationship doesn’t work out? What if I’m going crazy? What if I get hit by a car? What if I’ll never be happy? What if I never make enough money?  Don’t fall down the “what-if” rabbit hole. This is a major source of anxiety and worrying is a waste of time.
  • Keep work at work. Whenever you leave the office – try to keep work at work. If possible, don’t check your work email or answer any work related phone calls. You deserve to step away from the office for the sake of your mental health. If you must bring work home, do NOT work in bed. The space you relax should not be poisoned by stress.
  • Cut caffeine. It feels good to get up from your desk and refill your coffee mug, but too much coffee fuels anxiety. Try hot water and lemon instead.

After an attack

Panic attacks can happen anywhere, anytime, including the office. During an attack, it’s important that you don’t attempt to fight it off. Let the soul-shaking doom come and work through it. Try some techniques that will help with the aftermath.

  • Call someone you love or make plans. If you’re at work and have a few free moments, text or call someone that calms you down. This helps people ground themselves and return to reality. See if a friend, partner or parent/sibling wants to grab food, see a movie, or come over just to hang out.
  • Get some fresh air. If you can, step outside. Fresh air is one of the best things the world has to offer after a panic attack. Five to ten minutes outside always helps me settle back into my skin.
  • Get to bed early. An anxiety attack drains your energy and you’ll need to recoup. Hop in bed early and fall asleep knowing that tomorrow will be better.
  • Take a cold bath. When you get home from work draw yourself a cold bath. This isn’t for everyone, but it can certainly help. For me, a cold bath is so stimulating that it’s tough to even think about the attack I had or worry about when the next one will be.
  • Seek help. If you’re struggling to find ways to battle anxiety, it might be time to seek professional help. It’s important to remember that this is a brave act – you are strong and no one will view you differently. Therapy can be pricey, but there are online options.

Anxiety does not have to rule your life. Take care of yourself and you will do just fine.


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