Anxiety: 5 Quick tips to reduce stress and anxiety at work

I know, I’ve done these before but these never get old and are critical for all of us who have anxiety issues. Let’s face it, work plays a huge part in our lives, we need income to survive and from plumbers to CFO’s we all get stress inputs via expectations from work. Maybe you thrive on it, or maybe you cringe from it. If you are having a bad day at work and need quick relief here are 5 things to try.

1. Have plants: When you’re stressed at work, water your plant, prune it a bit, touch it. Often when we care for another entity, plants, people, pets we create positive feelings within ourselves. This can translate into a temporary emotional boost and get you through a tough moment.

2. Go home: I know, this is probably not on the top of peoples list but hear me out. Companies give people sick time and vacation time as a benefit of their employment. If things are horrible at work one day, bag out early. I mean this isn’t going to stop you from thinking about it, but you’ll be thinking about it in a comfort setting (your car, your home) rather than wallowing in thought at work, the source of the pain.

3. Call your parents: If your parents are no longer with us, call a family member. You don’t have to dump the stress on them but just call and say hi. If you call mom or dad they are going to figure out quickly something is wrong and comfort you, that’s what parents do, the great ones anyway LOL.

4. Indulge your sweet tooth: Look I’m not telling you to go on an eating binge here but have something to eat that you enjoy. Chocolate? Doritos? An apple… Doesn’t matter, sometimes eating provides comfort and while unhealthy eating and overeating can prolong and enhance negative emotions associated with anxiety there is nothing wrong with indulging once in a while.

5. Address the issue head on: this is the most challenging depending on your workplace but if the source of the stress is an individual, a project or the work in general talk to your supervisor or HR. Companies want productive employees and if you don’t tell people there is a problem, you can’t assume they know one exists. If you tell them at least you know they are informed.

Look none of these are wonderful catch all solutions to work stress, but you need something. I work in a high stress environment; I know I have anxiety issues but I am dealing with it. How do you deal with it? I have one woman at work that every hour on the hour she dips out for a smoke break. Really nice lady but her skin looks horrible, but I never criticize, that’s what she needs to do to get through the day power to her.

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Surviving 2020 & covid

Anxiety or a Panic Attack ?

If you have anxiety you might be exposed to, or have had a panic attack. This is the physical manifestation of your anxiety. Often it doesn’t play out as the person think’s it will, meaning the “panic” doesn’t nearly equate to the situation more often than not. However, that doesn’t minimize or negate what is actually happening to you. Panic often delves into physical conditions that impact you negatively. Examples:

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking feeling
  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy

The real problem is these attacks can happen at any time. Literally ANYTHING can be a trigger and this is, for a lot of people where anxiety ends up. They live in fear not of, I don’t know, let’s say spiders, but the PANIC that seeing the spider will invoke. I’ve never had a serious panic attack, I have heard in my life when the subject comes up in my social circle there is an immediate dismissal. “It’s not that bad” or “They made a mountain out of a mole hill”.

Sometimes the smallest thing can become a huge explosion.

What that narrative does is it creates the conditions by which someone who might have panic attacks has even more anxiety about it. Our culture celebrates strength and fortitude in essentially all ethnic backgrounds for each gender. Having anxiety that leads to a panic attack doesn’t make you weak, it’s not something you should be ashamed of and if you have people in your life telling you it’s not a big deal you should consider strongly limiting your time with them.

In extreme cases a panic attack can lead to death, either by suicide, heart attack or loss of control of your faculties. BREATHE!

I am not patronizing you, it sometimes is that simple. Even if you are in the middle of a grocery store and you think people are staring at you and you are in full panic, take slow deep breaths. 10 slow deep breaths is a minute of your life, you can do this and any social anxiety you may derive from that 1 minute where you think people are staring at you will dissipate quickly as your panic starts to decrease with every breath.

You aren’t alone, you are not abnormal. You have anxiety and you need to be honest with yourself about it. When in doubt, take a deep breath.

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Anxiety: The benefits of having Anxiety

In my travels I have come across all sorts of articles on anxiety. To be blunt most of them are “change how you think” rehashes. I found an article here that is a little odd, as it talks about the “unexpected benefits” of stress and anxiety. Of course I had to read it and its honesty not a bad read.

From the Article: “You have probably noticed that when you’re anxious about something, you can’t sit still. That reflects that short-term stress and anxiety are energizing emotions. They are your body’s way of preparing you for action.

Although most work problems don’t require physical strength, they do require mental energy in order to put in the hours required to address the issue. The motivational lift that a little anxiety can provide can be harnessed as you get to work. Your energy may also engage your teammates to help dig in.”

Now that is actually a valid point. Anxiety can often make you focus on the issue you are anxious about. This can lead to positive outcomes and a resolution to that issue. This article is short but it is absolutely worth a read because it does something that very few articles about anxiety do.

Anxiety can make your whole life a mess.

It tries to focus on potential positive outcomes of HAVNG anxiety. It’s not telling you to think differently, its telling you that while anxiety can be crippling and horrible for your health there are from time to time positive outcomes.

I’ve read many, many articles about anxiety and this is one of the few that I read a few times because I was astounded at its tone. This article is really applicable to people like myself (and maybe you) who are not on the extreme of the spectrum. It’s meant for those of us who function at a high level with anxiety and it gives specific examples of positives outcomes from anxiety.

It’s worth a read but remember, anxiety can be volatile. This isn’t a catch all solution to anxiety you should take it for what it is. A good illustration of how positive outcomes, occasionally can be had when you have anxiety.

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Wisdom from the past: “Be like water”

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee

The above is a famous quote from an interview from the 60’s. He was asked to encapsulate his philosophy etc. and of course that’s nearly impossible for anyone to do in a 40s sound bite. Its important to understand the context here as well, Bruce Lee was a martial artist (perhaps the most famous one) and an actor.

What can we glean from this bit of wisdom from the past?

Water has the ability to adapt to nearly any situation. As Lee says, “put it in a cup, it becomes the cup”. For those of us with anxiety this might not make a whole lot of sense. It requires a mind set and personal mental flexibility to allow yourself to “fit” into any situation. For us, again, those with anxiety I think the key take away here is we are both the water and the cup.

Many of us are struggling to be comfortable in our own skin, in multiple situations. Its far more important to be comfortable with yourself then with everything else around you, that comes later. You are the water and the cup, you have anxiety, you have to acknowledge and accept it. You have to forgive yourself for feeling the way you do, you have to accept yourself as you are and understand you are not deficient.

Once you accept yourself, you will more easily be able to employ this wisdom from the past and be like water. You will be able to navigate social situation, you will be able to function out there in the world with other people with all the mental exercises that go with it.

You are doing great, one day at a time.

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Anxiety: Self Care?

So as my journey with anxiety continues I often stumble across articles that leave me somewhat baffled. You see Anxiety is now big business. Cynical? Yes, but with good reason. It’s not just the drugs or treatment facilities all of which have value it’s the media surrounding anxiety. Anxiety is often used as a cudgel to support other narratives. “Gas prices rise again, fueling anxiety fears” (that’s an actual headline from a main stream media outlet).

Sure I write about anxiety to, so I do understand that I am engaging in a bit of hypocrisy here but there are degrees. People like me who are not engaging in anxiety as a commercial enterprise (I make no money from this blog) are doing so because they are affected by the issue. Many in the media engage in the anxiety space to drive view, create more anxiety and ultimately obtain more clicks.

“That’s very cynical Karac, can you back that up?”

Maybe. I found an article here that discusses 4 types of “self-care” you can engage in when you are “feeling anxious”. To summarize they are:

  1. Say to yourself “There is no emergency right now”
  2. “Perspective talking”, as explained “What would someone who is just as smart or conscientious as you, but who thinks differently than you, think about the topic of your anxiety?”
  3. “Engage with one of your core values, unrelated to the topic of your anxiety”
  4. “Take a break from trying to avoid or escape feeling anxious”

Now the article elaborates on each point but the short version is, think differently. I mean, really? This is clearly someone who doesn’t understand what anxiety is. The entire fight for those of us who have it is preventative. We want to stop anxiety attacks and giving us more reactive advice that basically boils down to “think about something else” is ridiculous. Like we hadn’t tried that before…

Oscar Wilde
Any more spectacular advice?

I realize I am entering into the ranting phase here but if you have had an anxiety attack at any point in your life, even mild anxiety attacks you know that you Can’t simply change what you are thinking about. I mean you could in theory… Next time you are anxious about getting on an elevator because you have a phobia, try head butting a wall 5 times, you’ll forget about the elevator soon enough.

These articles aren’t helpful anymore no matter how well intentioned. What do I do PRIOR to an anxiety attack so I don’t ever have to be there? Give me tools to combat anxiety before and after an attack occurs. I get it, I need to think of something else when I am in the throes of an anxiety attack. I’ve seen the article a THOUSAND TIMES. What can you do to combat anxiety BEFORE an attack?

Here are 3 things, I covered these before on this blog:

  1. Get more sleep
  2. Create structure “At 11:30 AM I will begin to prepare my lunch”
  3. See a Dr, get medicine and stick to it if prescribed
  4. Exercise more

These are things that PREVENT anxiety attacks. Look it, many of us in this space are writing pieces that are redundant, we’ve said a lot of these things before I get it. If you can “change what you’re thinking about” then you’ve already defeated anxiety, essentially. These articles aren’t without value, there are often some pearls of wisdom within but the overall message of “change how you think” is bordering on absurd at this point.

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Content on this blog – Anxiety pieces                      

So I wanted to do a quick update on some of the content I do on this blog. If you have been here for a while you know that when this blog started I focused a lot on Anxiety issues. I have anxiety and invasive thoughts and I was compelled to put those issues to prose. Over the last few years my personal situation/relationship with anxiety has improved. To the point where It no longer pervades every aspect of my life, every day.

I am blessed, and while I have worked hard on it, including the cathartic process of writing this blog I am still haunted with anxiety from time to time. So this is the reason why there are less anxiety posts in 2022 than in prior years. There will always be a portion of this blog dedicated to anxiety and anxiety issues and as winter begins to approach it’s likely that portion will increase because that is when I feel it most.

Surviving 2020 & covid
Anxiety Sucks

My journey with anxiety is currently on a positive track. I understand many of my readers that is not the case. I have not, and will not forget about you. Anxiety is real and it is devastating to millions of people all over the world. I hope on this blog you find a little bit of solace for it. You will always have a safe place here, I will always be an advocate for anxiety and the resulting issues.

I hope your anxiety journey has more calm waters then stormy seas. I am currently in a calm period and it’s been a great string of a few months’ despite having some serious challenges. I will continue to serve the community I have created here, you will see anxiety pieces on the blog and I sincerely hope they help you on your journey.

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VITAMIN D AND YOU

Day in and day out, if you are a consumer of news on the internet you are barraged with health news. Of course it’s not as sexy as politics or the latest celebrity scandal but health care remains one of the most talked about and concerning issues for Americans. Now my citation is older, it’s a study from 2011 which states that 42% of American adults are deficient in Vitamin D Source

There really isn’t any data that I could find that suggests this number has moved much but first let’s iron out what vitamin D does for you.

  1. Vitamin D helps you absorb Calcium which supports bone health.
  2. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular system.
  3. Improved neurological function
  4. Boosted immune health
  5. Enhanced cell growth and rejuvenation
  6. Fighting against inflammation in the body

Most importantly the biggest organ in your body, your skin naturally produces Vitamin D when in sunlight. So what are some of the benefits of taking vitamin D as a supplement? There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, there are also studies ongoing. The 2011 study I cited above states: “Mounting evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency could be linked to several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. “Now this is somewhat misleading IMHO because when you have a study that determines that 42% of Americans are deficient in something you can indirectly link issues those 42% have to said deficiency.

Go outside!

However this study Is looking at the correlation between seasonal disorder to vitamin D deficiency. Simply put, they want to determine if in the winter and cold months, are people depressed because they are unable to absorb Vitamin D processed by the skin, while you are in the sun? It’s a good logical extrapolation really. Often in my life I have heard the old saying, “everyone’s mood improves when they get out in the sunlight”.

I’ve heard this from older people when I was young, they were insinuating that sun = better mood, which we now know means increased vitamin D. Obviously they were not scientist but many times “old wives’ tales” are derived from years of observation. In the end I think it’s wise to start supplementing with Vitamin D, and as its Spring time to head out side and get some sunlight.

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Concepts of Grace

If we look at the Christian interpretation of what grace is we get a better glimpse into its overall meaning and understanding to many.

Grace /ɡrās/

noun

verb

  • 1.do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence:”she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades”synonymsdignifydistinguish, add distinction to, add dignity to, honor, … more

So grace in biblical parlance is the forgiveness and rebirth given to believers by god. How this has evolved in our culture is to extend grace to those who might otherwise be in a lesser position then you. This can be giving alms to the poor, this can be helping the elderly, this can be teaching the young.

How to move mountains
Faith can inspire peace.

It is important not to confuse Grace with Mercy. Mercy is the act of extending forgiveness to those who, for the most part is within your power to harm. A classic example Is not delivering a finishing blow to a defeated opponent.

For many pagans our allowance for grace falls under our concepts of fate. Meaning, fate places me in a position the grant enact grace. Fate is a series of choices set before you with outcomes derived from the choices made.

Regardless of where you fall on the spiritual spectrum, we are at a point in western society where we have reached, I hope, the peak of our discord. We have been unkind to one another for decades now, if not centuries. Now is the time to enact some grace, if you can. Yes that means your interactions online as well.

Take the time to really examine how you are interacting with people, what you say, even online can have a profound effect on others you don’t know and will never meet.

Are you choosing grace over negativity?  

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Gandalf

The Wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So, do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Time is the most precious commodity on the planet. It does not care about your race, gender, political affiliation, religion, sexual orientation. It moves forward regardless of your personal situation, it is all encompassing. You and I are simply passengers on the journey of time, like a train rolling down the track. No one knows when they will get to their stop.

Do you wait in anticipation for the stop to come or do you take advantage of the journey on the way to the stop?

Gandalf was right, we must decide what to do with the time given us.  

I have made horrible decisions regarding time, I have wasted a lot of it. I have also had moments of absolute joy and reveled in the moment. Despite everything that is thrown at us, every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, our greatest challenge is to enact Gandalf’s wisdom.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a brilliant writer. In his works you can find so many gems, it boggles the mind.

I decided to spend some of my time sharing this with you, have you decided what it is you are going to do with the time given to you?

Going to a Museum = Anxiety relief?

As we navigate through anxiety there are places along the journey that we find respite. Maybe you have a favorite beach location, a park you like to walk in, a game you like to play, a food you like to eat. How about a museum? It never occurred to me that it might be a way to relieve anxiety but according to an article I found here ,it might.

From the article: “Art museums have great potential to positively impact people, including reducing their stress, enhancing positive emotional experiences, and helping people to feel less lonely and more connected,” researcher Katherine Cotter told Hyper allergic. The study, titled “Art Museums As Institutions for Human Flourishing,” was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology by Cotter and James O. Pawelski of the University of Pennsylvania.”

Further: “They discovered that visiting a museum reduced stress levels, frequent visits decreased anxiety, and viewing figurative art lowered blood pressure. They also found that museum visits lowered the intensity of chronic pain, increased a person’s life span, and lessened the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia. And people living with dementia saw mental and physical benefits as well: Spending time in a museum induced more dynamic stress responses, higher cognitive function, and improvements in the symptoms of depression.”

Maybe someday Anxiety will be a thing of the past only found in museums

Those are some serious claims. Honestly it’s hard to make the connection myself but I am not a researcher in the field. That said it is logical to assume the findings are accurate as a museum gives you an opportunity to be in public with others, admiring the same thing. You have a shared experience and want, meaning you are all here to appreciate whatever the museum holds and that in of its self is reassuring.

Anytime you can be in a public venue with like-minded people that is helpful. The clams lowering chronic pain, increasing life span etc.? those seem like stretches to me. I’d like to see a larger sample to prove out the data but I don’t take the article as complete hogwash either. Studies don’t get published unless there is minimally good controls and the researchers are of some merit. Yes, the data is probably being vetted now by other psychologists comparatively with their own research.

That said, as a non-psychologist dealing with anxiety we take any morsel of info we can get to help us along the way. So maybe visit a museum or two this year. Make it an annual rite for yourself, perhaps it will help with anxiety and the many other issues discussed in the article.

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