8 ways to reduce anxiety at work

8 ways to reduce anxiety at work

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

According to Mental Health First Aid England, 1 in 6 people at work will experience anxiety or problems related to stress at any one time. The fashion industry is accepted as one of the most stressful to work in due to its unique pressures. Although fashion may appear exciting and glamorous from the outside it is a demanding lifestyle, fast paced, highly competitive and insecure where overwhelm and anxiety are commonplace due to the pressure of excessive workloads and long hours. For many the early years also are made extra challenging by low pay and in some cases it causes individuals to leave the industry. It has been well publicized that several well-known designers and entrepreneurs in the industry have suffered from burnout and worse but it is really important to acknowledge that this occurs throughout the industry at all levels.

Feeling overwhelmed at work is a stress response when we feel the demand on us outweighs our resources. This can take us into survival mode where we are unable to think clearly or concentrate and we constantly worry and feel out of control. To others we may appear defensive or irritable and it can cause difficulties with working relationships. As well as the emotional toll anxiety can manifest in unpleasant and debilitating physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, headaches, not being able to relax or sleep well.

Having experienced burnout myself when I began my career as a young designer, I understand how hard it is to ask for help, but having eventually found the courage to do so it was life changing. With the right support I was able to make positive and transformational changes to the way I was working and living. It enabled me to reclaim my motivation to enjoy and succeed in the career I loved. I was healthier and happier knowing I was more resilient and had the tools to manage and respond to challenges when faced with them.

The most important step is to take action and seek help if it is interfering with our everyday living. We can learn strategies and routines that will help reduce overwhelm. It is crucial to understand what is at the root of our anxiety and build a personal toolkit so we can have more than one strategy to implement when stress and anxiety kick in.

Here are 8 ways to help manage anxiety

1. Become more self aware

Self awareness is paramount when it comes to managing stress because if we know ourselves well enough then tuning into our feelings, thoughts and behaviours daily allows us to recognise any early warning signs of stress. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling now?” Reflect on how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Have you noticed any changes in the way you behave or respond to situations or other people? Someone else may notice change in your behaviour so rather than being in denial or defensive consider the benefit of taking a moment to reflect. This may be a gift that can help you to acknowledge the early warning signs of stress when you can reduce the risk of longer-term health issues.

2. Identify your triggers

If you are experiencing overwhelm and anxiety at work it is important to identify why you are feeling that way. Be self aware and honest about what is causing you stress. Is your workload too great? Are there not enough hours in the day? Is your boss putting excessive pressure on you? Do you lack the resources needed to complete the task in hand? Knowing your personal triggers is the first step to dealing with your anxiety. Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings and actions and what causes you to feel stressed. Writing them down helps to clarify the issues.

3. Don’t suffer in silence

If your workload is unmanageable it’s a good idea to speak to your boss. I know you are thinking that this might seem really difficult to do, but if you do nothing then nothing will change and it will only get worse. If you plan ahead for the meeting and remain calm and professional, you are more likely to get a positive response. Be clear about your job description and identify what you are doing, how long the tasks are taking and what resources you need and why your workload is challenging. Take some control by suggesting practical solutions that would help to alleviate the problem.

4. Change your view

Putting things into perspective can be difficult at work especially when it feels all-consuming. Remember to focus on the important things in your life. It’s not just about work. Recognise what you have control over and try to consciously let go of those things that you can’t control. Even when you can’t control circumstances you can control how you respond to them.

5. Nurture yourself and your wellbeing

When you are overwhelmed the tendency is to just keep going even though you are exhausted. However when things are tough at work it is important to remember that prioritising your health and wellbeing is more important than ever. Set boundaries between work and the rest of your life. Commit to include other activities outside work into your day and stick to them. Ask a friend or someone you trust to make sure you do the things you decide to do. Don’t isolate yourself, enjoy time with a friend, get involved with an activity you love or help someone else so you take the focus away from yourself. Even a short walk during the working day outside in a different environment helps to break the cycle of overwhelm. Listen to a relaxation or mindfulness app or make some time just to relax and do nothing to reclaim your energy.

6. Live in the present

Focusing on the future is unproductive and stress inducing so focusing on the present is more helpful. Take each day as it comes. Focus on your life, connecting with friends and finding enjoyment and gratitude for everyday simple tasks and events. Laugh and smile, humour can help break a negative stream of thought.

7. Stress is not all bad

It is important to recognise that you need positive stress (eustress), to motivate you and help you achieve your goals. Stress is inevitable but rather than seeing it as all bad try finding ways to embrace it and use it for good. Building resilience and mental toughness will help you learn how to control your mind rather than letting your mind control you. Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress: Why stress is good for you (and how to get good at it), is well worth a read.

8. Take action

If you have difficulty managing stress and it impedes your ability to carry out your normal daily activities then don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Asking for help is not a weakness, taking action will help you to reduce your anxiety, increase your resilience and build a happier and healthier life. You can learn how to master your mind and create the life you want. Do something about it today. It really helps to talk.

If this resonates with you then do something today that your future self will thank you for

Click on the homepage and book a Complementary Stress Breakthrough Session NOW

 

5 Ways To Replace Self-Doubt With Confidence

5 Ways To Replace Self-Doubt With Confidence

“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” – Cicero

It’s common for us all to experience self-doubt at times, especially when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It can hold us back and prevent us from expressing whom we really are and what we want to do because we fear of failure or rejection. Comparing ourselves to others can exacerbate self-doubt. Finding our true voice and purpose isn’t always easy. It means having to confront our own vulnerability, but this is where we can start to build our inner strength and resilience.

I spent too much time my first job, in the fashion industry, in a persistent state of fear and self-doubt. Having only just graduated from university, I was given the responsibility for totally re-branding and designing all the collections. The responsibility was enormous and the pressure intense. I started to doubt my ability to produce what was required. I often worked sixty or seventy hours a week trying to prove I could live up to the company’s expectations and climb what I believed to be the ladder of success. I never thought of the consequences on my health and wellbeing until I was overwhelmed with stress and physical and mental fatigue.

What I learnt from my experience was that I needed to change the way I responded to my self-limiting thoughts. I took a step back and allowed myself to be vulnerable, which was not an easy thing for me to do. The first thing I did was to ask for help. I then started to explore and learn how I could find ways of overcoming my self-doubt. The biggest step for me was to be realistic in acknowledging my abilities and capabilities. I was scared of admitting I couldn’t handle the huge workload. Instead I had pushed myself to do the work of 2 or 3 people and this was unsustainable.

Self-doubt and entrepreneurs

Many clients I have worked with have experienced self-doubt and the resulting negative impact it has had on them. I work with female entrepreneurs and they often feel they have to be good at so many different things to get their business started or to grow their business. They often doubt their abilities to handle all the responsibility and this can lead to them feeling stressed and overwhelmed. If left unchecked this can result in them feeling paralysed when having to make decisions.

But the good news is that Self-doubt is not always negative.

The nervous energy you feel from the stress and anxiety caused by self-doubt can work for you. If you can harness that energy in a positive way it can help you to motivate yourself and to take action. It will also help you to be more resilient.

Here are 5 ways that can help you to replace self-doubt with confidence 

1. Is your self-doubt realistic or unrealistic?

Realistic self-doubt is when you can acknowledge that you have set out to do something that is more than you feel you can achieve at the moment. That’s okay as it makes sense. By owning it you can then act on this realistic knowledge and make a decision about what action to take in order to make it more achievable. For example, perhaps you could take a course or ask an expert in that field for their help.

Unrealistic self-doubt is when you know you have got the resources and skills to achieve what you are trying to do. Change the way you respond by thinking about something you may have done similar before. It may be challenging, but you know it’s achievable with effort and commitment. In this case your initial feelings of self-doubt are likely to be untrue and there is no real reason to doubt your capability.

2. Trust yourself

If you have a decision to make you may ruminate on it too long and that just feeds your self-doubt. Self-doubt can lead to you look for reassurance from others. The best way is to trust yourself and go with your first reaction. How many times have you chosen to follow someone else’s suggestion and then realised that you should have listened to your gut instinct and gone with that. Make a decision and trust yourself that you know what’s the best course of action for you. This is a great way to build your confidence.

3. Clarify your values and what matters to you

When you decide what really matters to you and you find your purpose and meaning in life, your self-doubt will diminish. This will help you to connect to yourself and to others, and will help you manage the challenges and decisions you have to make. Ask yourself is your purpose aligned to your values and strengths?

4. Treat yourself with self-compassion

I remind myself daily to practice self-compassion. If you constantly judge yourself or are seeking to be perfect at everything you do self-doubt or your inner critic will creep in as a form of protection. Imagine how you would respond to a close friend who is struggling with the feelings of self-doubt and respond to yourself with the same words you would say to your friend. Stress experienced from self-doubt can be exhausting so take a break, spend some time with friends or just go for a walk or a run. Self-care is the number one priority and builds your confidence physically and mentally.

5. Don’t compare your accomplishments to others

Comparing yourself with others serves no purpose. Everyone is an individual and on their own journey. What matters is that you are following the path that serves you well. Are you doing what really matters to you, what works for you and is personally fulfilling? Gain confidence through doing what you love and enjoy. This is what makes you feel good about yourself and it doesn’t matter if it is different to what someone else is doing.

Let’s talk

If any of this has resonated with you and you would like to find out more about how to replace self-doubt with confidence please contact kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584. Let’s talk.

Embrace stress and become more resilient

 

Why do some people seem to thrive under stress? Research has shown that this is because they think and respond differently to stress. The difference is that they embrace stress and become more resilient. They have a different mindset because they accept stress as a normal part of life. Resilient people have a growth mindset and believe that to learn and grow they will have to endure difficult experiences to find their strengths to follow their goals.

Embracing stress can change the way you think about yourself and what you can achieve. It can help you to discover your strengths, courage and compassion.

Learning to see the good in stress and see it as a friend rather than an enemy can enable you to meet the challenges in your life and thrive. You can change how you perceive and respond to stress and use it to improve your life both personally and professionally. Recent science has indicated that we are capable of transforming stress into something good. Stress can enable us to learn, grow, connect and engage in all aspects of our life.

The psychologist, Salvatore Maddi, named this attitude and the associate coping strategies as ‘hardiness.’ Hardiness is the courage to grow from stress and enables you to thrive before, during and after the stressful event.

 How to change your attitude to stress

To help you think about stress in a different way take a little time to answer these three questions.

 

  • Identify situations when you have been challenged and felt stronger as a result?

 

  • When has anxiety helped you to rise to a challenge?

 

  • How can you embrace stress and become more resilient?

 

So rather than stress being something you think is damaging to your health and wellbeing you can rethink it. You can become more resilient by learning to embrace stress and use it to pursue what matters to you. Developing a growth mindset will help you become stronger, smarter, healthier, happier and more successful.

Act now! Learn how to embrace stress and make stress work for you. If this post has resonated with you and you would like to find out more please contact kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584

 

 

‘Ask The Expert’ feature in the October 2019 issue of Psychologies Magazine

I was delighted to be asked by Ali Roff of Psychologies Magazine to be their guest coach for their ‘Ask The Expert’ feature in the October 2019 issue. Suzy Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Psychologies Magazine is passionate about the benefits of coaching and is a wonderful supporter of coaches like me who were trained by Barefoot Coaching, a leading and established training organisation, led by the inspirational Kim Morgan. Qualified Barefoot coaches  feature on Psychologies expert blogging platform Life Labs. Check out my profile here.

Click to download the full article here

It’s okay to ask for ask for help. It’s a strength not a weakness

Most of us are good at giving advice and support to others but we often find it difficult to show our own vulnerability and to ask for help ourselves, even though it may well be holding us back. Leading and managing a small business can be isolating and it can seem like you are very much on your own. Your responsibilities can be daunting and many people are relying on you. This can wear you down if you’re not careful.

Our culture has made us feel that going it alone is something we feel we should be able to do and as a consequence we can be fearful of appearing vulnerable. Looking at what is holding us back and finding the courage to share our fears or problems and ask for help is understandably challenging and requires courage. We are fearful of exposing our vulnerability because it makes us feel we are putting ourselves out there to be judged or perhaps seen as a lesser person.

Trying to be perfect and appearing to be managing everything to the outside world can sometimes mean that people read us wrongly and assume things about us that are not true. It can be stressful and exhausting trying to keep everything under control and appearing brave on the outside, when we are actually really scared on the inside. This isn’t being resilient. In fact it’s the complete opposite. Building our resilience will come from being open, honest and accepting of our limitations, flaws and weaknesses. If we accept the challenges and changes that we experience in our lives and use the learning we have gained from them we can bounce back, recover and go again with more confidence.

Resilient people realise that to be successful they can’t do it alone and will ask others for support, advice or encouragement.

How asking for help can benefit you?

Many of my clients have been fearful of speaking to their family, colleagues or friends about issues that concern them because they are scared of the outcomes. When clients have felt supported in the safe environment to talk about their vulnerabilities and fears it has enabled them to make great strides in their lives.  When they feel able to lower their protective shield and are brave enough to say how they really feel they are then able to ask for support, encouragement and acceptance. This is not easy to do, it takes courage, but the benefits enable them to be their authentic self and it will enable them to take risks, start new things and set new boundaries, knowing they don’t have to go it alone. Courage is contagious and maybe sharing their vulnerabilities will allow others to follow suit.

Being able to start asking for help and support will transform your life, allowing you to be open about your fears and increase your resilience knowing you are being accepted for who you are, flaws and all. Make a start by asking yourself the following questions:

Who can help me most at this time? 

What help would I benefit from? 

Where can I find the help I want?

If you find this article resonates with you and would like to find out how one to one coaching could help you contact kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584

How to prevent burnout

If you are an owner of a small business it’s very easy to overlook your own self-care or that of your employees. You are probably overwhelmed by the workload and the responsibility and before you know it burnout can creep up on you. I know because it happened to me many years ago. After listening to the ‘You and Yours’ programme on Radio 4 ‘Have you been affected by stress at work?’ it certainly gave an indication how many people are suffering the effects of stress and burnout at work and it reminded me of how as an owner of a small business, where there is no HR, it is something that is very important to be aware of.

When as a young ambitious professional in the fashion industry I suffered from burnout there was no support or understanding of what I was going through. The focus was purely on the bottom line and not on the people that worked long hours, with little or no support or resources to create the business. In fact it was very difficult to even mention as it was something that was not talked about and I was scared that I would lose my job.

The results of a recent survey of 1,078 professionals carried out by CIPD and Simply Health of over 1,078 companies in the UK that stated that almost two fifths of businesses in the UK have seen an increase in stress-related absences over the past year with managers and management style increasingly being blamed. Poor management style was blamed for 43% of stress related absence, an increase from 32% from the previous year.

This recent worrying survey surely highlights the urgent need for owners of small businesses to invest in resources that focus on the importance of creating a culture of resilience and wellbeing to reduce stress before you or a member of your workforce experiences burnout. So what actions can you take to reduce the chance of burnout and improve you and your employees wellbeing?

Make self-care a team goal

It is really important to demonstrate to your people that you take the issue of stress seriously. By making this clear by authentically raising the issue of workplace stress it will make it easier for individuals to share their worries or concerns without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. When people are under stress they often feel it is a personal failing, which it is not, so by speaking openly about stress it will encourage people to feel that you understand and will listen to them.

Lead from the front

Before you can help others you need to manage your own stress. Taking care of yourself is not an indulgent luxury, it is essential for your health and wellbeing.

Acknowledging how you feel when stressed and your emotional reactions will better place you to understand how others feel.

Take notice of the people who work for you and think seriously about how you are going to help them get what they need. Consider work practices and behaviours that could be improved. It is important to know you must act when you see someone having a difficult time and provide support. Don’t ignore it.

Call an end to the working day

People always think by working longer hours you produce more, but it’s not the case. When we are overworked we are less efficient, make mistakes and find it difficult to concentrate. Why not set a limit where emails are not sent after the working day, at weekends or when people are on holiday. This is becoming more popular as good managers realise that it is necessary to make downtime a priority and show your people that time out to rest and rejuvenate is important. It also sends out the message to your employees that you value them.

Focus on the why

A common cause of stress and burnout at work is when there is a disconnect between a person’s values and the work. As an owner of a small business you need to convey clearly the reason for the work and the objective. Being engaged with your people and with a shared sense of purpose is key to people feeling more positively about their work.

Demonstrate compassion

The world we live in is demanding and frenetic and it means many of us are feeling under pressure constantly. Compassion can make a huge difference to the working environment. By committing to actively practice kindness inwardly and outwardly you will create a psychologically calmer and safer place for everyone. Show your employees that you appreciate that the workload is great but that you can deliver by positively supporting each other to achieve the objective.

Promote positivity and optimism

When you are experiencing particularly heavy workloads or demanding deadlines make a concerted effort to be positive and optimistic. Think about your behaviour and the impact it has on your employees and be aware of how you can acknowledge, appreciate and recognise people’s efforts. Actively cultivate a feeling of support and empathy.

Creating the right organisational culture and management style that supports good mental health and promotes wellbeing of the employees is essential to ensure your business and people thrive. It is up to owners and managers to set out clearly to your employees how you will support them, your expectations and how you continue to address the need for training or support.

Make coaching resilience and wellbeing a priority and reap the rewards of investing in your people and your business.

If you would like to learn more about how you and your employees can increase their resilience and wellbeing to prevent the distressing and negative effects of stress and burnout contact kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584

*It has been highlighted by the recent results of a survey of 1,078 professionals carried out by CIPD and Simply Health of over 1,078 companies in the UK that stated that almost two fifths of businesses in the UK have seen an increase in stress-related absences over the past year with managers and management style increasingly being blamed. Poor management style was blamed for 43% of stress related absence, an increase from 32% from the previous year.

Change. Opportunity or Threat?

Change is a constant and inevitable in our lives both professionally and personally and is frequently present in things that we find stressful. We tend to fear change because it threatens our need to be in control and to feel secure.

The body responds to stress with the fight or flight response which is a primitive animalistic instinctive reaction to physical threats. This was crucial in keeping our ancestors safe many thousands of years ago when they had to respond very quickly to survive. The fight or flight response took the ‘thinking’ out of the equation so that they could react immediately to physical danger.

Now change is much less physically dangerous but far more complex, constant and the consequences can be unpredictable. However we still retain our evolutionary instinct that leads us to trigger the same fight or flight response to even the slightest possibility of change, even though there is no real threat to survival.

It means that when you feel unable to cope, be whether it a perceived or imagined threat, you react the same way as if your life was threatened, rather than thinking and using all your competencies. Responding to change with a sense of fear and anxiety can undermine your resilience.

Studies have shown that people tend to react either by seeing danger or fear in change while others can see opportunity and potential and are more resilient.

If you are aware that you tend to be fearful or resistant to change then your brain can get high jacked by strong emotions and you act without thinking. This is survival mode and it is exhausting and distressing if repeated over time. It is important to learn how to develop another way to respond to change.

If you respond by seeing opportunity in change you are acting in competency mode where you have full access to your brain and its functions that allow you to make full use of your abilities, potential and make healthy decisions.

You are more likely to approach change with more:

  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Organisation
  • Preparation
  • Optimism
  • Enthusiasm
  • Focus
  • Realism

The ability to respond with flexibility is essential quality of resilience and an important quality to develop.

How you can learn to see change as an opportunity not a threat.

The only difference between someone who allows the fight or flight response to keep triggering and the person who embraces the opportunities and possibilities of change is that the latter will interrupt the fight or flight response. This is a skill that requires awareness, commitment and practice but is well worth the effort.

Change can be challenging, but by taking time to assess the situation thoroughly can help you to gain clarity, confidence and motivation to make the most of the exciting possibilities change can also present.

Take time to consider your answers to these questions about the current and potential changes in your life:

  • What are your anxieties about the current changes in your life?
  • What could you lose from these changes?
  • What is it about these changes that you could be excited about?
  • What could you possibly gain from these changes?
  • Having considered these questions how do you feel now about the changes?
  • Write down your thoughts and reflections on your responses.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frank

Working with a coach can support you to explore how you could embrace change and maximise the opportunities change offers. If you would like time to think and plan with clarity and confidence then contact  kate@finerthinking.com or call 07736 649584