Anxiety is something many people suffer from in various parts of their life. The degree of anxiety varies between person and situation.
One type of anxiety is needing constant reassurance, such as in the workplace or at home. For example, at work you are among the highest achievers, going above and beyond when possible. You look for recognition from your boss and always want him to acknowledge that you are doing a good job. Not getting this habitual approval leads you to feel some anxiety. Reassurance at home might include you wanting your spouse to always tell you that you look beautiful, but rather than enjoying hearing it when he does, you do not feel good when he does not.
If you consider anxiety as “being in your head,” that is, stuck in thought, then there are only 4 possible ways to resolve the anxiety:
1. Get out of your head (thoughts): this can done through mindfulness techniques such as meditation and other forms of being present in the moment. This supports the idea that anxiety, and depression for that matter, comes from our thoughts. Mindful activities help you step outside of thought. Once you notice that you were in thought, you are no longer stuck in that thought. Being stuck on a particular unwanted thought is what creates anxiety, so getting out of the thought will reduce or eliminate anxiety.
2. Support your head (thoughts): this is your lifestyle. Lifestyle includes caffeine consumption, sleep, misuse of drugs/alcohol, stress management, exercise habits, and general diet. Too much caffeine, or not enough sleep, for example, will heighten anxiety, oftentimes alongside other symptoms. Whether you suffer from anxious thoughts or are diagnosed with anxiety, healthy habits can mitigate symptoms and help manage it.
3. Get through your head (thoughts): you can go through the tunnel of the negative thought (and out the other side) using therapeutic techniques such as cognitive restructuring. Anxiety is often linked to irrational thought, and challenging that thought can help you feel better. It’s not a bad thing that your manager meets with Joe on a weekly basis but not you; perhaps Joe is not performing well and needs more handholding. You, on the other hand, are doing a great job and your boss has faith in your abilities. People sometimes awfulize a situation, blowing it out of proportion. An example of awfulizing is as follows: “my boss didn’t like my presentation and if he didn’t like my presentation then he thinks I’m doing a bad job and eventually he’ll fire me, then we’ll be out of money and our house will go in foreclosure, then we’ll be living on the street, then we’ll all die.” If you can relate to this, first recognize that you’re doing it and that is irrational. Then, imagine the most reasonable or likely scenario. For example, if you really did get fired, you would collect unemployment, find a new job, and everybody will be fine. In fact, you may even enjoy the new job better than the current job.
4. Ask others to manage your head (thoughts): sometimes we expect or want others to help manage our anxiety by talking it through. This isn’t all bad but should not be overused. For example, allowing yourself to be transparent (and thus vulnerable) with your boss by telling her that you need her acknowledgment in order to know that you are doing a good job is a good strategy of creating a healthy working alliance. The same can be said about telling your spouse how you liked to be acknowledged. That said, be careful not to become dependent on your boss or spouse to manage your anxiety, such as by needing constant acknowledgment.
Getting out of your head and supporting your head should be followed by everyone on a regular basis because it’s nearly impossible for anxiety or stress not to creep into our lives. Getting through your head only needs to be practiced when an anxious thought occurs, and asking others to manage your head should be done judiciously.