You may not exactly have a name for that panicked feeling that takes over your body right before you have to give a presentation in front of your most critical colleagues, or the pit in your stomach when you’re faced with a room of people at a party that you don’t know. But if anxiety is a fight you wage regularly, you may know this feeling very well. Now, there are obviously some circumstances that are more dire, but if anxiety makes the occasional appearance in your life, there’s no reason for concern. There are, however, ways to battle it that you need to know now.
Here are the best ways to cut down on everyday anxiety.
Identify the source
There are often many different causes for anxiety, so it’s important to determine the root cause so you know how to contend with it, according to Brandon M. Smith, The Workplace Therapist and founder and principal of The Worksmiths LLC. Some anxiety could be situational—for example, before a presentation or a big meeting with a client at work—while others could be related to an environment, workspace or an individual. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can create a plan of attack.
If something is related to an environment or person—some people or places just give off “funky vibes,” Smith says—then you may just want to take a step back. “If it’s a person or culture [that is causing anxiety], then the strategy is to distance yourself,” he says. “Anxiety is a form of emotional energy, and if it’s rubbing off on you, give yourself a little more distance.” If an unpredictable boss is the issue, limit your interactions to the phone or email. If it’s a bustling or extremely loud work space that makes your work day more stressful, then suggest to your boss that you’re more productive working from home. The key is to come up with a solution before raising a problem with your superiors, Smith says.
Eliminate the guessing
One thing that can cause a ton of anxiety in the workplace, Smith says, is spending time guessing about unknowns. If, for example, you are given vague instructions about a project or task, he says, don’t waste time wondering about what you should do. Just ask! “Go back and say, can you give me a little information? Can you help me with a bit more resources?” Smith says. Eliminate the guesswork and immediately feel yourself calm down.
Prepare in advance
Unknown variables can also cause anxiety in social situations as well. You may feel it if you’re headed to a social gathering where you’re unsure of who you will meet and if you’ve never been to the venue before. Daniel Sokal, a New York-based, licensed clinical social worker, says that can be “related to the discomfort of the unknown.” In those situations, perhaps it’s advisable to invite a friend who makes you feel comfortable with you, or do a test drive to the new venue so you know exactly where you’re going the day of the event, he suggests.
Make the anxiety work for you
Sokal points out that some of the top people in their fields—Bob Dylan and Michael Jordan, for instance—experience some level of anxiety before they perform. If you’re about to speak in public for example, “there’s often a good anxiety [that gets you] ruminating about it,” he says. “[Use] a bit of fear to get you to do the best you can.” If you use the public speaking example, for instance, you can recognize that many other people in the audience have also felt that “parallel anxiety” themselves. Pushing yourself to confront your fears so you have no regrets may actually end up creating great results.
Learn how to explain it to others
One thing that is difficult to face when it comes to anxiety is explaining it to others who haven’t dealt with it. How do you go about doing it? The easiest go-to word for coworkers or those that aren’t in tune with anxiety, is “stress,” according to Smith, since everyone has felt stressed at one time or another. If you’re asking for a change in your schedule in environment with someone you have to interact with often, like a job, make sure to come with a solution in hand before addressing the situation.
When anxiety is serious
Obviously, there is anxiety that is tied to a person or situation–and then there are circumstances that are more severe. If anxiety is “newer, not in the same brevity or heft” as before, Sokal says, it may be time to seek professional help. Additionally, if anxiety is impeding on relationships or your life, then it may be part of a larger problem and time to seek professional help.
Editor’s note: The information in this article should only be used as a guideline. If you are thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).