In uncertain times like these, most of us feel more anxious about the future than we usually do. But anxiety can make it hard for you to focus on your work and take the actions that will help your business survive the current economic crisis. Is there a way to calm your mind so you can concentrate on what's most important?
Yes, according to psychotherapist and author Hilary Jacobs Hendel, an anxiety expert. In a recent post on the Psychology Today website, she shares four simple phrases you can say to yourself to calm your anxious mind when fearful thoughts take over. She also explains how she used calming techniques on herself to quell a recent bout of anxiety.
What should you say to yourself when anxiety strikes? Here are some of her best suggestions.
1. 'This is temporary.'
This doesn't just apply to the current pandemic and resulting economic turmoil -- it's true in nearly every anxiety-provoking situation. Unless your or a loved one's life or health is threatened, almost every bad situation has the potential to be resolved or improved in the future. Even if you lose a job you love or are forced to shut down your company, there's an excellent chance you'll have another great job or found another company someday.
In February, I fell off a horse and cracked three ribs, which is one of the most painful injuries there is. The doctor gave me a prescription for hydrocodone without my even asking. Walking hurt. So did bending over to tie my shoes. Lying down was tough and getting up was tougher, but it was all OK because I knew that I was going to heal, and that little by little it would hurt less until it stopped and I forgot all about it. And that's exactly what happened.
2. 'Just because I feel more anxious doesn't mean there's more danger.'
I don't mean to suggest in these frightening times that there's nothing to feel anxious about. But as Jacobs Hendel notes, feelings of anxiety tend to fluctuate from day to day and even moment to moment. They can be influenced by things like how much sleep you've had, whether you're hungry or not, or how much caffeine you've consumed. A minor disagreement with an employee or a family member can raise your anxiety level too.
If you're feeling more anxious today than you were yesterday but nothing material has changed, pause for a moment and ask yourself how what you're feeling relates to your actual circumstances. "Anxiety has a funny way of generating catastrophic thoughts," Jacobs Hendel notes. If you catch yourself thinking that everything is ruined and won't ever get better, stop and notice these thoughts. "Remind yourself it's just a feeling or it's just a worry. It doesn't mean it is true," she writes.
3. 'One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time.'
Trying to find solutions to all your problems at once will make you feel overwhelmed. That's a recipe for an anxiety spike. Instead, think only about what you need to do today, maybe just within the next hour. Try telling yourself you're going to that done right now, and then you can return to your worry later on.
If that doesn't work, try a stress-relieving activity. Good options might include taking a walk, getting some exercise, meditating for a few minutes, talking to a friend, or writing in a journal. Cleaning your house or room is a stress-buster for some people. If you can, pick something that you know will make you feel better, even if it means not focusing on work for a little while. Lessening your anxiety will improve your productivity so it's well worth taking that time.
What if, even after your best effort to de-stress, you're still feeling anxious? Then go back to the very first phrase and remind yourself that your anxiety is temporary. Jacobs Hendel writes that if her efforts to combat her own anxiety had failed, "I would've told myself, 'Hang in there! Tomorrow is a new day, and you will probably feel better in the morning.'" That's true for you, too.