If you have noticed you have been more anxious recently, you are not alone. The last three years have seen a global rise in anxiety and anxiety disorders, which is hardly surprising.
Our daily life has been infused with uncertainty, with the fallout of the pandemic, the war in Europe, a cost of living crisis and ongoing environmental issues all placing an endless strain on our resilience and resources.
Anxiety has begun to play a larger role in their lives for many. The emotional side of anxiety – feelings of stress, sadness, frustration, fear and isolation – increasingly shape our decisions, thought processes and emotional responses.
And the impact is not only personal, as it spills over into our professional lives, affecting our ability to focus and work effectively. The added pressure of struggling to meet our professional responsibilities exacerbates the anxiety.
Our mental well-being and ability to effectively engage professionals to reduce anxiety are imperative. But this can be both daunting and challenging. When we are anxious, we often struggle with it, which includes various understandable but unsatisfactory responses such as distraction, suppression and denial. This struggle can leave us feeling exhausted and even make the anxiety worse.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, to manage anxiety, we must get to know it better to understand what it is trying to tell us. Psychologist professor Mark Williams argues: “We must “befriend our anxiety”, seeing it not as the enemy to defeat but as something that wants attention to be cared for.”
This approach gives us back a sense of agency and control in the face of the overwhelm that anxiety brings.
Managing anxiety can be challenging, so getting support is essential. Counselling, cognitive and behavioural techniques and mindfulness are all clinically proven ways of managing and reducing anxiety. Such support teaches us to relate differently to the emotions, sensations and thoughts that shape and sustain our anxiety.
They help us ride out the waves rather than be pulled under by them, and over time, we develop the resilience to manage life’s challenges on our own.
Three tips can help you begin your journey of facing anxiety and flourishing
You are not alone
Anxiety can make us feel isolated, creating a social and behavioural retreat that deepens the experience of anxiety. Knowing you do not alone normalise anxiety can help us engage in the support we need.
Thoughts are not facts
Anxiety is fuelled by negative thoughts called “cognitive distortions” that keep us locked into mental scenarios that only make us feel worse. Taking a mental step back and seeing our thoughts as opinions rather than facts can help us be less caught up in the thought processes that sustain our anxiety.
The breath is your ally
When anxiety strikes, we can feel overwhelmed. A simple tip to slow our stress response is to focus on the breath consciously. Concentrate on the breath where you feel the sensations mostly strongly, and for a few moments, purposely slow and deepen both the in-breath and the out-breath.
Doing so stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, sending a “stand-down” signal to the alert centre of the brain.
Well-being partners are workplace mental health specialists. Our team of professionals has extensive experience in addressing and treating mental health issues in the workplace.
Anxiety management is one of our specialities, and we utilise therapists, counsellors and mindfulness teachers to help offer varied and empirically proven approaches for reducing anxiety.