Feeling Anxious at Work? Channel Your Flight and Flight Response to Enhance Productivity


Have you ever been so anxious about a situation or a deadline or even about a person that you are gripped by an unpleasant feeling of uneasiness, apprehension, uncertainty, and fear? Most probably, the answer is yes. In fact, it is perfectly normal to feel anxious about day-to-day stressors. If I had a dollar for every time I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking about the unrealistic amount of tasks left on my to-do list, I would give Jeff Bezos a run for his money. And you are not alone; your ‘never-bats-an-eye’ coworker or Boss who always brings their ‘A’ game, feel anxious at work too. However, more often than not, the feeling of anxiety can be quite overwhelming and tends to throw one off balance. Stress and anxiety takes a toll on your mental energy, which eventually leads to emotional exhaustion and wears you out. Here, I am going to teach you how to channel that anxious energy into effective, productive work sessions.

Reframe Your Anxiety

Anxiety doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. Telling yourself not to be anxious may exacerbate the situation and entrap you in a vicious cycle. The more you try to avoid being anxious, the more apprehensive you feel. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Rather than calming yourself down and exhausting yourself in the process, accept that some form of anxiety is inevitable and you can even turn it into something useful. Now, try to make yourself believe that those jitters you are feeling are due to excitement and not nervousness. According to a Harvard Business school study, even saying “I am so excited” out loud can perk you up and enhance performance. Since both excitement and anxiety are emotional states characterized by high arousal, you can try to reframe your anxiety as a sign of excitement. We tend to focus on potential threats when we are in our fight or flight mode, but when you reframe the situation, it will be easier to think of potential opportunities along the way. You’ll feel the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders.

Channel The Anxiety into Motivation

You can transform that sense of adrenaline that accompanies anxiety into a surge of motivation. For instance, you have a project due for the end of the month. Your stress levels will keep mounting as the deadline draws closer, especially if you are still a long way from completing it. While that feeling of doom and dread isn’t exactly enjoyable, the increased pressure can act as a motivator to make you work faster and harder and help you stay focused on the task at hand instead of getting sidetracked. Especially if you are someone who is easily distracted, the dread of missing a deadline can help you focus every ounce of energy into getting it done. To put it in a nutshell, a little bit of stress is exactly what you need sometimes to snap out of complacency and meet your deadlines and goals quicker. Remember that anxiety stems from some sort of apprehension about the future. For instance, you may be thinking about the repercussions of not winning over a client or meeting a deadline. Every time you feel the tangles of anxiety creeping over you, let it drive you forward instead of holding you back. Anxiety makes you more alert, focused, and productive, and you can use it to your advantage to enhance productivity at work.

Go Off the Grid

Are you always glued to your devices? Do you feel anxious when your phone dies out even for an instance? You may be experiencing Nomophobia; the fear of being without a connected device. The more you rely on your phones to complete the most basic of tasks, such as checking the time and making calculations, to more important ones, such as staying connected with coworkers or scheduling projects, the more dependent you become. The need to become constantly connected can lead you to shirk your responsibilities and skew priorities. If your productivity depends on your ability to get, you need to break this habit. Know that by disconnecting, you are actually removing barriers to productivity. By performing a digital detox from time to time, you stifle the urge to check your emails or social media feeds every waking moment, or even to attend unnecessary messages and calls that steal your focus from work. Did you know that productive people actively seek out no Wi-Fi zones? Try disconnecting from the Wi-Fi even an hour at work, and watch your output levels spike.

Curb Analysis Paralysis

Anxious people feel a somewhat lethargy-inducing apprehension when they are faced with making decisions. It is estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day, be it what to wear to work or what to order for lunch to more complicated work-related decisions that carry serious consequences. Combating decision fatigue isn’t just about minimizing the amount of decisions you have to take each day, for instance, by wearing the same outfit every day or preplanning your meals; it is also about treating your decision-making moments carefully.

Remember that decision fatigue stems from a lack of goal-setting and not setting your priorities straight. According to a research, multitasking and trying to juggle many plates simultaneously can rob you of clear stopping points. These stopping points are where you get a chance to feel a sense of accomplishment at having successfully completed something. If you are feeling anxious about a big project, use Tesuque to break it down into smaller, more manageable micro-tasks.  Hacking off those items one by one gives you a huge sense of relief and accomplishment, which encourages you to keep going towards bigger wins.

This method can also be used to address anxiety-induced low productivity. If you are procrastinating to start working on a project due to its magnitude, we recommend that you set aside a few hours to complete one small, easy task, even at the expense of other more important tasks. Successfully getting one thing off your plate is better than trying to juggle multiple important tasks simultaneously and completing none.

Schedule “worry time”

Anxiety creates a sense of urgency, which leads your mind into an overdrive. Before you let your thoughts run amiss, why not give yourself some scheduled time to succumb to your mind’s ramblings and worries. You can even book a slot in your calendar as your “worry time.”  However, the first thing to do is to acknowledge that you cannot stop yourself from thinking and that when you are anxious, your mind comes up with even more anxiety-inducing scenarios. In your scheduled worry time, try to address a few of your ruminations, no matter how baseless they may be, and turn your anxious thoughts into positive action. Even doing something small to solve an underlying anxiety-inducing problem can have a profound effect on alleviating it. For instance, if you feel anxious that that your boss is overlooking you for a promotion, have a one-on-one with them and show them that you are ready to take on more responsibly. This way you will be happy knowing that you did more than just worry endlessly.

Focus on What You Can Control

Even though we wish to take the reins of our lives in our own hands and control every facet of our being, it is not always possible to. Despite your best efforts, there will always be things that are beyond your control. Yes, it is frustrating if your bus is running late for your morning commute, you get a flat tire on the morning of an early meeting, or the weather is making it impossible for you to make it to an event on time. But remember that there is nothing you can do about it. Teach yourself to stop fretting over things that you can’t control and instead focus your time and energy on things that you do have control over. A great method designed by Shawn Achor suggests that you write down all of your stressors and sort them out in two circles. All the things that you can control go in one circle and all the things that you can’t control go in the other. Your job is to chuck the second circle out the window and instead focus on dealing with the items on the first “island.” If you are worried about a presentation you have to give to an important client, you can acknowledge your anxiety and let it fuel your motivation to prepare for the presentation.

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