Tips to Manage Anxiety Around Work

By Julia Broglie, Founder & CEO of BroglieBox
8 min read

From someone diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, who has worked for a Fortune 500 company, a small privately owned company, and now is an entrepreneur

I have been worried my entire life – no really, since before I can remember.  A million thoughts seem to invade my mind at any given time, many times leading to a panic attack. Sometimes I have anxiety about my anxiety. When I worked in a corporate setting, I was always worried that my employer would somehow “find me out” and think that I was incapable of doing my job (are you sensing a theme here?).  

There is good news though: I am living proof that it can be that bad and get better. It has taken me a long time and several (hundred) therapy sessions to find strategies to help myself feel better, but I now have a toolbox of strategies, coping mechanisms, and preventative measures at my disposal that I want to share with you.

It turns out that 18% of the US population struggles with anxiety1. The first step for me was identifying what anxiety felt like when it was happening to me. It might look a bit different for everyone, but here are some common symptoms below.

Common symptoms of anxiety2 include:
-heart racing
feeling nervous, fearful, restless
quick, shallow breathing (or that you can’t catch your breath)
-sweating out of nowhere
-stomach butterflies and/or nausea
-ruminating thoughts

Anxiety is our body’s way of protecting us from seemingly life-threatening situations. When this happens, a cascade of stress hormones gets released which kicks off our sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the Fight-or-Flight response. Back in the cavemen days, this was critical – it was our body preparing us to fight a lion or run from a gorilla. Nowadays, we don’t necessarily need to prepare for physical battle at the office, but we do have instances that cause our stress levels to go through the roof. Deadlines, big presentations, budget concerns, etc. To our animalistic body, the response is the same: preparing for survival.

I’m here to share methods that have helped me tremendously with anxiety management. Whether you are working in a corporate setting or you work for yourself, these methods have helped me in both scenarios. 

Method One: Breathing Techniques
Whether we realize it or not, anxiety can cause us to breathe very rapidly and shallowly, also known as thoracic (chest) breathing.3 When you breathe like this versus diaphragmatic breathing, the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood become unbalanced, which often causes those physical symptoms I listed above. Hyperventilating causes too much oxygen-rich blood to be sent to your brain, signaling the flight-or-fight response. 4  

Try these 3 breathing techniques. If you get dizzy, stop immediately.

  1. Square breathing: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds.  Repeat.
  2. Alternate nostril breathing: Place your right hand middle and index fingers on the bridge of your nose. Cover your right nostril with your thumb. Breathe in for 4 seconds. Release your thumb and place your ring finger on your left nostril to cover it. Breathe out for 7 seconds. Breathe in the left nostril for 4 seconds. Release your ring finger, cover your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out for 7 seconds. Repeat.
  3. Pursed lip breathing:  Sit up straight and put your hand on your belly. Take a steady, slow breath in through your nose for 2 seconds and feel your hand rise with the breath. Breathe out of your mouth for 4 seconds while pursing your lips to make a “whooshing” sound. Repeat.

Method Two: Meditation
I resisted meditation for the longest time. The thought of dropping my to-do list to spend 10-15 minutes thinking about absolutely nothing seemed nearly impossible.  Don’t get me wrong, some days it is still really challenging to fit in. But then I started reading about how the most productive people on this planet claim to use meditation to perform better at work, make better decisions, and overall have less anxiety. I thought to myself: if all these people that I admire are benefiting from it, they must be onto something. I gave it a shot and guess what… I saw the results. And it wasn’t a fluke: studies have shown that a consistent meditation practice reduces the intensity and/or frequency of anxiety,reduces stress, improves sleep, and increases focus.

My top recommended apps for guided meditation: Headspace, Ten Percent Happier, and Calm

Method Three: Mindfulness
So you’ve heard the buzzword mindfulness probably a million times but maybe you don’t know why or you don’t know how it relates to anxiety.   Well, let me put it in terms that helped me understand its importance. Practicing mindfulness is a strategy that allows us to become more reflective than reactive. It becomes a beneficial skill in the workplace and also helps manage anxiety.  When you feel the symptoms of anxiety, try implementing a mindfulness approach – reflect on why you might be anxious, observe it without judgement as if it’s something totally outside of you, like you are watching it on TV.  By observing your anxiety rather than reacting to it, you are inherently training yourself to stop any ruminating thoughts by seeing the present situation as its reality.  Personally, it helps me recognize that while I may feel uncomfortable, there is no real threat. One mindfulness exercise to try is called a body scan. 

Body Scan: Close your eyes. Focus your attention on every inch of your body as you scan from your toes to the top of your head, pausing at each body part and pausing at every organ. Notice how each body part and every organ feels. Pay attention to any areas of tightness, discomfort, or tension. Spend a bit more time focusing on areas of tension.  If you want, give yourself a massage in that area or note it for later. Move onto the next body part when you feel ready.

I hope these methods help empower you to get a grip on anxiety you might be experiencing.

I do want to emphasize that the MOST beneficial thing that I did to get to the root of my anxiety was to see a therapist on a regular basis. If you are experiencing anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone and that this is a very treatable condition!

Julia Broglie is the founder and CEO of BroglieBox, an all-inclusive, gender-neutral, care package box that delivers tools and resources for mental wellness in a way that feels warm, lighthearted, and fun. Julia was inspired to create BroglieBox after experiencing her own mental health challenges as a young adult and losing her older brother Justin to suicide when he was just 24. Justin’s passing inspired Julia to imagine a new way to deliver support and connection to those struggling with mental health challenges in today’s hectic, fast-paced and often impersonal world. BroglieBox has been featured in Forbes, goop, Thrive Global, Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, The Mighty, and more.

For more information, check out @thebrogliebox or www.brogliebox.com.

This article was reviewed by:  Dr. Pamela J Maxwell. Sources are listed below:
1 https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
2 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
3 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22076
4 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hyperventilation
5 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.21964

Pursed lip breathing https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9443-pursed-lip-breathing
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response


Stories, tips, and resources from others who have experience with anxiety can be found below:
Mental Health as a Priority in the Workplace
How to Cancel Plans Without Feeling Guilty and Hurting Feelings
5 Ways to Feel Less Anxious When You’re a Sensitive Person
Mental Health is a Team Sport: I Have Anxiety/Depression and my Husband Doesn’t, But We Both Fight It.

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