When you’re busiest is when you probably most need new ways to cope with anxiety, especially when you are starting to feel overwhelmed. You’re no doubt stressed, and likely a little anxious – if not a lot. Pressures are high, and you’re not sure if you will be able to get it all done. Will you drop an important ball? Will you be able to handle it? Do you really want to?
It isn’t hard to feel anxiety when life seems to be coming at you fast and hard, and to worry whether you can manage it all. It’s pretty common to feel anxiety when we are busy, especially when we are executing on things that matter to us. The more we care, the more anxious we can feel, and out anxiety can become more than a little unsettling. Holding onto balancewhen feelings of overwhelm loom can be tricky.
Finding new ways to cope with anxiety can be challenging, especially when you’re busy. Here are 8 key ways to keep anxiety working for you, rather than against you, when you need it most.
1. Take note of anxiety’s volume.
Anxiety intensity, what I call “volume,” can be pretty high during busy stressful times, and keeping it high without being debilitating is the key. If your anxiety is “yelling” at you, and you are feeling a sense of crisis or panic come on, you may not be able to use it as effectively. Whereas if your anxiety is “chattering” at you, it can help keep you focused and on task, reminding you of what’s at stake and the things you care about. Moderate anxiety and stress have been shown to fuel optimal performance, sometimes referred to as a state of flow.
2. Adjust anxiety’s volume to access peak usefulness.
Too little anxiety isn’t optimal, nor is too much. When anxiety’s volume is too high, it is harder to harness its energy for good. If you are feeling so anxious that you start to experience physiological symptoms like shallow breathing, blurred vision, racing heart, it’s time to take control and stop the panic. Deep, slow belly breathingis another useful strategy to employ anytime you start to feel anxiety creeping up too high. Simply adjusting your breathing rate and depth can trigger your neurological “all safe” response that can help bring anxiety back down to a level you can work with.
3. Know that anxiety and stress can’t hurt you.
Research shows that believing anxiety is harmless, even helpful, makes it so. Likewise, fearing anxietycan escalate it, fueling it into “yelling” territory. As much as you want it to just go away, try instead not to resist it, and let it wash over you like a wave. Its surging waves are simply reminders of the things you care about and energy you can use to keep you focused and motivated. If you don’t fear it, you can use it.
4. Name your anxiety.
Whether to yourself, to someone else, or to your journal, naming is critical to turning on the part of your brain that thinks about itself, and activates more coping skills to help you cope when you are busy. In fact, not talking about negative emotions and trying to avoid them, can make you feel worse according to a recent UC Berkeley study. For more help naming your feelings, check-out my free ebook.
5. Ditch the dread in exchange for a positive attitude.
A positive mindset first thing in your day can go a long way to boosting resilience, whereas dreading your day can inhibit the optimal functioning you need to power through it. A new study from Penn Statefound participants waking up expecting a stressful day had diminished working memory later on compared to those who did not feel a sense of dread regardless of stress levels. More data supporting how impactful our mindset can be on our overall functioning.
6. Give your anxiety a makeover.
Rename your anxiety, or at least choose the most positive way to frame it to yourself. Worried about that job interview tomorrow, reframe that anxiety into excitement and energy to prepare. Nervous you may miss a deadline? Reframe that anxiety as fuel to stay focused. Afraid someone might be upset with you? Reframe your fear into concern about preserving a healthy relationship with someone you care about. The latest scienceshows how we label emotions is in large part how dictates how we experience them. Use this science to your advantage and brighten up your anxiety whenever and wherever you can.
7. Do something with your anxiety.
Fundamentally anxiety is uncomfortable energy that stimulates parts of your brain associated with motivation for action. There is no greater anxiety reliever than productive action aimed at solving its cause. Sure, you may not be able to magically get to the end of your to-do list in one day (or many), but the simple act of tackling any part of your to-do list channels anxiety into solutions that quiet its discomfort. It doesn’t just feel good to check something off your to-do list, it regulates your anxiety.
8. Rest to help grow your capacity and resilience.
Harnessing anxiety can be exhausting, and like with any growth process, rest and recovery are critical. Just as we grow and refresh our bodies during sleep, so too do we growand refreshour cognitive capacities during sleep. And science repeatedly shows that inadequate sleep worsens anxiety, your ability to hold a positive mindset, and your consolidation of memory– all critical to growing capacity. Make sure to do what you can to sleep – it might be one of the most efficient things you can do to boost your resilience and manage anxiety.
Even if you don’t feel like you are at your best when you are anxious, you are almost always functioning better than you would if you weren’t.
Be gentle with yourself, and remember you can handle it.
Looking for more help with anxiety? Check out my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, sign-up for book bonuses including a free mini-ecourseto help you understand how anxiety impacts your life and how to hack its most common challenges,or subscribe to my biweekly newsletter.