Does social interaction, especially at work, unnerve you to the point of paralysis? Has it gotten to the point where your work performance is affected? Are you tired of colleagues telling you to “get over it,” because if it were that simple, you would’ve done it a long time ago?
You’re not alone. In the U.S., around 18 percent of adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Left untreated, these disorders can cripple not only your career, but also your ability to live a productive life.
Fortunately, anxiety is highly treatable. Although your best bet is to see a therapist, here are 10 things you can do on your own to manage your condition:
- Add “Self-Care” to Your Morning Routine
Take steps to ease yourself into the day as soon as you wake up. Set aside a few minutes to meditate on your bed or any other comfortable place. Read a book that isn’t a heart-pumping thriller or horror story. Immerse yourself in a warm bubble bath. Do anything that calms you down without adversely affecting your health the way drinking, smoking and overeating do.
- Take Control of Your Work
Are you always overwhelmed by your daily workload? Unless you take steps to bring that under control, it’ll end up aggravating your anxiety and making your job harder than it already is.
Plan your work beforehand. Determine how much you can reasonably handle in a day. Write your to-do list accordingly and stick to it. If someone asks you to do something that isn’t on your list, turn them down in a professional way. Setting boundaries may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’ll benefit your health and sanity in the long run.
- Take Regular Breaks
You don’t have to work eight hours nonstop. If your concentration feels like it’s fading away or you need to use the bathroom, don’t be afraid to get away from your desk. Your brain will need it to recover and mull over whatever problem you’re trying to solve.
- Ask for Help
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s entirely possible that your co-worker will grumble under their breath for the trouble. If you’ve got more on your plate than you can handle alone, though, it’s usually a good idea to ask for assistance. Even a simple “Hello, could you lend me a hand over here?” will suffice, as long as you promise to return the favor later.
The benefits of mastering this skill even go beyond the workplace — for instance, when you ask for help to manage anxiety.
- Choose Your Crowd Carefully
It’s important to have a solid support system in the workplace. Not only can these people help you with work-related troubles, but they can also lend you an ear if there’s something you need to get off your chest. Just make sure they’re trustworthy and that they respect you for who you are.
- Watch Your Physical Health
Try to allot time for exercise every day, even if you don’t feel like it. Whether it’s jogging in the park or moving into a lotus position, exercise has been proven to ease anxiety levels. Studies have shown yoga to be particularly effective as an alternative approach to treatment.
You can also eat fermented food — like pickles, yogurt and kimchi — for a similar effect.
- Consider a Vacation
Sometimes, work drains you so much, you just want to exert the minimum amount of effort for it. In that case, take time off. You might feel guilty about what you leave behind, but think of it this way: You’ll be a more productive worker if you’re energized and alert from your vacation.
- Consider a Different Job
Then again, it’s possible your job just isn’t a fit for you to begin with. You can power through your current job if you don’t have any other choice, but you might also be able to take one of several jobs for people with social anxiety disorder or ask your employer if they have any telecommuting positions you’re qualified for. It’s never too late to change things up career-wise.
- Celebrate Your Successes
No matter how small your achievements may be, give yourself credit for them. You worked hard for them, so you deserve a pat on the back. However, don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you along the way, too. They’ll appreciate the gesture.
- Stay True to Yourself
As cliché as it sounds, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. If you prefer books over Happy Hours, that’s okay. If your co-workers tease you about your condition, let them. Do what feels right for you and surround yourself with people who support you no matter what. You might be “different,” but that doesn’t mean you’re any less deserving of respect and love than most.
Again, these tips are not cures. They’re simply ways to make your condition easier to live with on a daily basis. If your anxiety is severely interfering with how you function, please seek professional help ASAP. Your mind and body will thank you for it.