Anxiety reduces productivity and increases drama. Not only do stressed out colleagues tend to think less clearly and get less done, but they're also often both miserable and unpleasant.
Someone who fears she's about to miss an important deadline unloads her terror in the form of constant criticism. A colleague who is anxious about being judged is quick to see everything as a personal attack -- and respond in kind. A team mate who worries she's being taken advantage of insanely monitors others' productivity.
So what do you do when a colleague is melting down from anxiety and it's affecting everyone in the office? If you want some good suggestions, just ask a teacher or parent. Kids are full of fears (some well founded, some not at all), so those who deal with them often become skilled at identifying when their young charges are stressing and helping them cope. Which is just what you need to accomplish with your anxious workmates.
That's what makes this massive list of 49 phrases to calm an anxious kid from psychologist and life coach Renee Jain valuable not just for educators. but for entrepreneurs and their employees too. Some phrases like 'Can you draw it?' or 'Can I hold you?' would earn you some odd looks (or a sexual harassment lawsuit) at work, but others seem like they would be remarkably effective for calming anxious adults.
1. "What will happen next?"
"If your children are anxious about an event, help them think through the event and identify what will come after it. Anxiety causes myopic vision, which makes life after the event seem to disappear," writes Jain. This might just work for that colleague who is going crazy with anxiety about a big presentation or performance review too.
2, "I get scared/nervous/anxious sometimes too. It's no fun."
"Empathy wins in many, many situations," says Jain. Work is among them.
3. "Tell me the worst thing that could possibly happen."
Thankfully, unless you're a surgeon or a first responder, chances are no one's life is at stake if you screw up. Keeping that in perspective can reduce everyone's anxiety.
"Once you've imagined the worst possible outcome of the worry, talk about the likelihood of that worst possible situation happening. Next, ask ... about the best possible outcome. Finally, ask them about the most likely outcome. The goal of this exercise is to your child [or co-worker] think more accurately during their anxious experience," instructs Jain.
4. "Worrying is helpful, sometimes."
"This seems completely counter-intuitive," concedes Jain, "but pointing out why anxiety is helpful reassures your children that there isn't something wrong with them."
5. "Let's find some evidence."
Looking for evidence that a colleague's anxieties are well founded can be a gentle way of leading them towards a more sensible appraisal of the situation.
6. "What is the first piece we need to worry about?"
Giant problems or projects can cause giant anxiety. Break them down and they become more manageable. "Anxiety often makes mountains out of molehills. One of the most important strategies for overcoming anxiety is to break the mountain back down into manageable chunks. In doing this, we realize the entire experience isn't causing anxiety, just one or two parts," claims Jain.
7. "We're going for a walk."
8. "What do you need from me?"
Children might need a hug. Your co-worker is probably going to say something like, help with an overdue sales report, or an opportunity to vent about that unreasonable client.
9. "Remember when you made it through XYZ?"
"Reminding your child of a past success will encourage them to persevere in this situation," writes Jain. There's no reason it couldn't have the same effect on a stressed out adult.
10. "Tell me about it."
If you've got a minute, this extremely simple phrase could be the most effective of all. "Without interrupting, listen to your children talk about what's bothering them. Talking it out can give your children [or your co-workers] time to process their thoughts and come up with a solution that works for them," says Jain.