Some anxiety in the face of stress can be a good thing. It makes us work harder, prepare more thoroughly, and perform more intensely. But people of different temperaments become anxious to varying degrees.
For me, the influx of emails, a growing to-do list, and the fear that I would let someone on my team down triggered anxiety attacks. I’m pretty sure my attacks were visible. I imagine I got this crazy-wide-eyed look. I know it was noticeable because it was actually a goal on my review form to “conquer my anxiety” for two years.
Let’s go high science for a second:
When a person is under chronic stress the structure of neurons can be altered. Neurons have bodies and branches used to communicate with other cells, and the more branches the neurons have, the better the communication. Chronic stress causes a person to experience a loss of higher brain control over emotion. Stress reduces the number of branches in the prefrontal cortex, a regulatory part of the brain connected to memory and depression, which in turn causes dendrites, the branches that relay information between neurons, to shrink.
When we fret, especially when it becomes irrational or compulsive, we fan the hot coal bed of anxiety until it bursts into flames. And so it follows that anxiety must be remedied over time as well, by learning to fret less.
I’ve learned to conquer my anxiety a few ways:
- Yoga (or some other physical activity): Since working from home if I start to get worked up, I take a break. I walk, go for a run, complete a few flows. It helps me recenter myself.
- Diagram: More than a to-do list, I think about how long each project will really take, and if one flows into another. I work out an actual process for completing the work.
- Avoid reacting: We are surrounded by people who are just as anxious as we are. Instead of feeding it, and making it your own. Reassure and demonstrate that you have it handled.
It doesn’t always work and I still have my moments, but on my most recent review it was noted that I had conquered my anxiety. So, I’m feeling pretty good.