Skills@work

Anxiety – the latest Bully in the room

Anxiety – dealing with the nasty Bully in the room

Are you currently experiencing a difficult moment and feeling under some pressure? Or are you experiencing such high levels of tension that you lash out at people, become erratic, and possibly even approaching a physically or mentally unhealthy condition? Then maybe you are not alone on the precipice; perhaps anxiety is there with you. The precipice can be attractive, undesirable, or both.

Anxiety makes it difficult to get through your day. Symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic, and fear as well as sweating and a rapid heartbeat.

This year started with immense hope and promise, there was going to be a return to what most would describe as normal. However, much of that has dissipated as social, economic, and political woes intermingle to bring a feeling of despair and it is still early in the year! I have spoken to many people who have expressed the thought of just wanting to press the “pause button” on life and to take a break, to press reset.

Common signs of anxiety are the following, however, there can be more:

  • Feeling nervous or tense
  • Having an increased heart rate that isn’t induced by physical activity
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Headaches
  • Short of breath
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Experiencing gastro-intestinal problems (upset gut/stomach)
  • Grinding of teeth whilst sleeping
  • Tension in the jaw
  • Body aches for no apparent reason

Anxiety however isn’t all negative, in fact, it can be good too! Anxiety about a deadline or performing well during an interview, presentation, sports event etc, lets the adrenaline flow and helps to perform at your best.

The classic Clint Eastwood western called “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” reminds me of the traits of anxiety.

The Good:  Anxiety is working for you.

The right amount of anxiety can hone your motivation, senses, and even your intellect. When everything is slightly heightened, you are in the zone and skimming the brink, vibrating at precisely the right pitch for everything you do.  Adrenaline works for you!

The right kind of anxiety involves being aware and prepared, much like a competitive athlete, with all your senses tuned to the situation and your entire physical and mental system prepared to perform at its best. You move with ease. Here, anxiety grants you the upper hand. And you can do so simply by turning it up, down, or off. It is working with and for you.  However, this kind of vitality can also make you take rash or poorly thought-out actions. Finding balance here is important – knowing when enough is enough.

If this is your competitive advantage, you should prepare, channel, and use this energy to achieve great results.

The Bad:  Anxiety is getting in the way.

Anxiety constantly nibbles away at your motivation and confidence. It whispers, “what if?”, “be careful”, “stay with what you know for sure” (even if it’s not actually working so well for you).  This level of anxiety can be very seductive because there is frequently an element of possibility in the “what if” worry as well as “what if I can’t cope?” worry.  But only a possibility and you would survive. Frankly sometimes hopes and goals manifest completely differently than first imagined.  Many people struggle with uncertainty.  So, when you “what if?” yourself into paralysis, you narrow your future or get pushed into a future not aligned with your values and goals. You have heard of the paralysis of analysis; it is real.

At this level, going forward with more clarity and confidence if you are at the edge and find yourself trapped, is required – and don’t hesitate to get a companion on board to help you with this journey. You can tackle this bully – dig deep for your inner strength and resources, and don’t hesitate to ask for help – get your “tribe/s” to help you.  Friendship is worth gold when you are struggling with anxiety as an unwelcome visitor.

The Ugly:  Anxiety is tormenting you.

Your life is constantly impacted by anxiety.  Your ideas and actions get controlled by it.  It is a tormentor, encroaching on your life until it engulfs you in its demands for more and more time and space.

Anxiety can manifest as exploding fury, numbing, withdrawal, or as addictive or compulsive thinking and behaviour since it is a component of the fight-flight-freeze continuum.  Although anxiety can take many different forms, all aspects of your life are greatly hampered by it.

You can tackle this bully – dig deep for your inner strength and resources, and don’t hesitate to ask for help – get your “tribe/s” to help you.  Friendship is worth gold when you are struggling with anxiety as an unwelcome visitor.

If anxiety persists, resist letting the tormentor have the upper hand. Consult a mental health expert to guide you to a path of recovery.

Steps to tackle the Bully

Understanding that anxiety and depression are cousins and that they feed into one another, should be enough for you to be proactive and consider some of the steps listed below:

  • Don’t allow the anxiety to control your life, stop and identify that it is a challenge in your life and be determined to work it out of your life.
  • Get it in writing – in your journal, make a list – do what needs to be done to face the tormentor.
  • Interrupt the overthinking consciously by distracting your attention from doing something else.
  • Ask yourself how likely it is that the worst you obsess about is likely to happen.
  • Translate the anxiety into something beautiful or useful – an artwork, take a daily walk in the outdoors, and appreciate the beauty.
  • Avoid negative people, negative news, and negative social media posts.
  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed – you probably have family, friends and colleagues who are there for you.
  • Say “no” to unreasonable requests – you cannot be a people-pleaser and still have time for yourself and your own priorities.
  • Tackle big tasks or challenges using the “sosatie”-style – one piece at a time.
  • Foods naturally rich in magnesium may help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety. Drink lots of pure water daily for a healthy gut.
  • Instead of tossing and turning in bed at night, get up and do something to counter the Bully. Read, listen to music, have some camomile tea and try to sleep again after a short while.
  • Speak to someone you trust – a shared burden is easier to carry.
  • See your doctor if you feel that the anxiety is taking control of your life.
  • If you are starting to feel that you no longer have a purpose, please seek help!

These mountains you are carrying … you should be climbing them!

As uncertainty about the future build and introduce more and more anxiety into your family life, work and hobbies it is time to say this far and no more. Don’t allow the feeling of hopelessness to overwhelm you, step up and take control of your life. If you are a business owner know that this negative energy can seep into your business, take steps now to protect your company and staff, be proactive and invest in a program to build the right mindset both for yourself and your staff.

If this article has resonated with you in any way please feel free to contact us on 082 883 2425 or marjon@skillswork.co.za to discuss what interventions can be designed to keep this bully at bay. Choose to not give anxiety so much airtime in your head. We are available to talk to you about how you can go forward.

You can also contact https://www.sadag.org – the South African Depression and Anxiety Group helpline on 0800 567 567 for immediate, free help.  Mental health matters!

Written by Sean Woolnough

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