Community//

Four Ways To Tame Your Anxiety

Interview with Loretta Breuning

iStock:tadamichi
iStock:tadamichi

Are you struggling to manage your levels of anxiety at work? As our workplaces become increasingly dynamic, demanding, and complex, it’s hard not to feel anxious. So what can you do to tame your anxiety if it’s undermining your wellbeing and performance at work?

“Anxiety is a pathway in your brain connecting past experiences to your cortisol’s on switch that equips you to recognize danger and anticipate threats in the future,” explained Professor Loretta Breuning from California State University when I interviewed her recently. “Taming anxiety means blazing a new trail in your brain, one that leads to happy chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins – instead of threat chemicals.”

To help tame your anxiety at work, Loretta suggested trying:

  • Focusing on your own steps – when you’re in a moment of anxiety, chances are, you’ll just get annoyed when others tell you to relax and perhaps picture yourself on a tropical beach. However, we haven’t evolved to relieve a threatening feeling in this way. Mammals have learned to save their lives by focusing on their steps. While you may not necessarily feel confident in your steps when you’re in a moment of anxiety, you can build the habit of breaking your goals down into small chunks, where you can define a step that is within your power and ability to take. This activates the good feeling of dopamine and can help you get out of your tailspin.
  • Practicing self-soothing – set aside twenty-two minutes of your time to practice self-soothing. Start by setting a timer for one minute to orientate yourself and focus on what you really want, which is to stimulate the happy brain chemicals that your brain is looking for. Then spend twenty minutes doing something fun that will enhance your mood – such as watching a comedy or listening to some of your favorite music that you’ve put together previously when you’ve been in a good mood. This way you’ll have an anxiety tamer that’s ready for you on a bad day. Spend the last minute initiating or committing to a small step that you’ll take by the end of the day to meet your own needs.
  • Being a mirror of calm – rather than feeling obligated to immerse yourself in other’s discomfort, displeasure, or distress, try to present as a model of calm. This doesn’t necessarily come risk-free. In the short term, if you’re not bonding around common enemies through sharing distress and agitation, others may resent you or critique you as no longer being one of the herd. However, by presenting a calmer mode of interaction, over time and through repetition, others may learn this more positive form of bonding. And as they perceive what you’re doing, they can mirror your neurons and discover that ultimately, it’s a better way to provide support.
  • Avoiding social comparisons – along with every other group of mammals, we have inherited a brain that creates social hierarchies to ensure our survival. And as you compare yourself to others in the hierarchy, your brain releases serotonin – a happy brain chemical – when you see yourself in a position of strength, and cortisol – a stress chemical – when you see yourself in a position of weakness. You can ease the pain of social comparisons by reminding yourself that although you’re believing that others are putting you down, it can actually be you putting yourself down and releasing cortisol. Find ways to construct social standing in your own mind in a healthy way and consider how you can put yourself up without putting others down.

What are the steps you can take to improve your levels of anxiety at work?

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Courtesy of By Sasin Paraksa / Shutterstock
Wisdom//

3 Steps to Help You Tame Your Anxiety

by Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D.
Community//

5 Natural Ways to Tame Anxiety

by Loretta Breuning, PhD
MirageC/ Getty Images
Wisdom//

3 Ways to Channel Work Frustration Into Motivation

by Rebecca Muller

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.