What’s even more important than showing up to work is how you show up to work. How we show up ultimately dictates our attitudes in meetings, our contributions, and how we feel after the workday has come to an end. What’s the point of being there if you’re not actually there or you are so anxious that it’s a miserable experience?
The following three ways to own your anxiety in your office can make a pronounced difference in your life both in the office and outside of it.
1. End Meetings That Aren’t Useful
A former employee of mine had an amazing knack for ending meetings. She had a warm sternness that never offended but made others feel how precious time is. Never be afraid to end a meeting that isn’t helpful. So many people deal with workplace anxiety, which is aggravated when a meeting goes on too long.
Obviously, you can’t and shouldn’t always end a meeting, but if you’re feeling trapped, excuse yourself briefly and get refreshed. Go for a short walk through the halls or splash some warm water on your hands and face. Take a few nose-to-belly breaths, think about things you’re grateful for, and ground yourself before returning to the meeting.
If you’re in charge of the meeting, speak up when it’s time to conclude. Be sensitive to others who might be feeling anxious about getting back to their desks. Leadership requires mindfulness. Conclude the meeting by expressing gratitude to your team for how much was accomplished. Then let everyone get on with their day.
You ready? Let’s own our anxiety and empower our people to own theirs, too.
2. Breathe Before Meetings
Have you ever sat down for a meeting and felt so nervous that it was like the only other person in the room was your old friend, Anxiety? You know — heart pounding through your shirt, sweat dripping, the dizziness, the shortness of breath. You’re not alone. So many of us are right there with you.
It’s rough. Meetings can be unforgiving. They can cause feelings of major anxiety, panic, and a general sense of “Get me out of here!” You may even wonder whether you’re about to have a heart attack right there in front of your colleagues.
Don’t worry: There’s a natural way to come back to calm simply by taking a moment to breathe.
Enter Aryan, my yoga guru. Aryan would go to great lengths to teach his students how to breathe. He taught me how sacred our breath is and how we must not take it for granted. Under his guidance, I learned how to breathe. It sounds crazy, because breathing is something we do naturally, but what I mean is I learned how to use breath as a tool to quell my anxiety, especially in meetings. I began sharing this technique with some of my employees at my former company, and they quickly came to enjoy the practice.
One day, before I started a meeting, I asked, “Would you mind if we paused for a moment to breathe?” My heart was racing, and I needed that time.
“Sure,” my colleague said. “I get it.” She compassionately and curiously joined me, and we breathed at our own pace, in our own “space,” for a minute or so.
That was all I needed.
“Better?” she asked when we were both done.
“Much,” I said. “Let’s do this.”
After escorting our negative, nervous, debilitating, anxiety-evoking energy to the door, I could channel that freed-up energy into productive conversation. We were ready to start the meeting.
Taking a few moments to breathe before a meeting will set you up not only to own your anxiety but also to deliver your best at that meeting. In addition to breathing before meetings, I also suggest visualizing in advance the result you want for the meeting; using positive and strengthening affirmations that make you feel confident; arriving 15 minutes early; and giving gratitude before it’s go time.
3. Manage Your Breaks
Are you mindful of what you’re doing or not doing on your breaks? A break from work — or any other responsibility — is so important. When we don’t take breaks, we exhaust ourselves. Anxiety comes knocking shortly thereafter.
Let me give you an example. Just the other day, I was in a cute Italian café. At the table across from me a woman sat down. She had an espresso, which she slammed back in two sips, and then she proceeded to feverishly type away on her phone. One of her legs was shaking convulsively. Fifteen minutes later, this woman looked far more anxious as she left the café than she had when she arrived. Was this her break?
Beside me a man sat down with a gigantic latte. He was head-down in his coffee and then head-down on his phone. He grunted under his breath. Then his phone rang.
“Hello, Joe Smith, here! Oh, yes, let me write that down. Hang on … going to type it into my phone as I put you on speaker. Ugh, it’s a little loud in here. Sorry, can you speak up? Speak up, I said!” He shouted this last part. I watched as his knee started to shake, up, down, up, down. A few moments later, he ended the call, chugged the latte, and rushed out of the café.
Do you see that both these people didn’t really break effectively? All they did was exchange one anxiety-provoking activity for another. To make it even worse, they were consuming caffeine, which can also increase anxiety.
If we don’t think about how we take our breaks, we may eventually break. Tune in to yourself. What does your body or mind want most right now?
If it wants to feel invigorated, go for a walk.
If it wants to feel centered and calm, close your eyes and meditate.
If it wants to feel energized, do some push-ups or jumping jacks.
If it needs a charge of energy, opt for a shot of ginger instead of caffeine.
If it’s hungry, eat a healthy snack like a green apple, not something full of processed sugar or heavy carbs.
If it needs a break from reality and an escape, read something that takes you away.
Tune out the world. There’s no reason to be hooked on a screen during your break. Why go from your laptop screen to your mobile screen? Put your cell on silent and disconnect for a few minutes. You’ve earned it.
I’d also suggest giving yourself at least three deep, intentional breaths of gratitude on your break. You have so much to be grateful for. A break is the perfect time to remind yourself of that. The more intentional we are about our breaks, the less chance there is we’ll ever break.
Excerpted from Own Your Anxiety: 99 Ways to Channel Your Secret Edge by Julian Brass. Available September 17, 2019.