Can mindful awareness reduce my anxiety at work?

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Today, anxiety is such a natural part of our lives. Near-constant notifications, relentless pressure at work, and the threat of an unprecedented global pandemic aside, many of us also set unrealistic standards and expectations for ourselves; all things that have led to, what I like to call, the global anxiety epidemic.

When I was growing up, I had a friend who suffered from near-constant digestive issues. He would get sick often, and in the face of any stressful situation, would almost immediately experience some kind of pain or discomfort.

While he was hauled before many doctors, it wasn’t until he spoke to the school counsellor that he realised that he was struggling with generalised anxiety disorder.

While this was my first exposure to what this experience is like, it wasn’t the last. I dealt with it, myself, in university and am now seeing it at unprecedented rates in the companies I work with.

While studies have demonstrated that short-term stress boosts the immune system, chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system and can result in major health challenges.

Having seen, first-hand, the effect anxiety has on people, one of my personal and professional goals has been to help people overcome this experience through meaningful changes in their mindset and lifestyle; most notably through mindful awareness.

Here’s why.  

Reflection, rather than reaction, helps you manage anxiety 

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Bunting, our creator, provides a very useful definition of what mindfulness is. In its simplest form, it is, “an awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and environment in the present moment. It is paying attention in the present moment purposefully and non-judgmentally.”

Especially when it comes to anxiety at work, mindful approaches to stress management may be very useful in the absence of other immediate kinds of relief.

When you feel anxious, mindful awareness can help you become more conscious of your environment, your thoughts, and emotions. You remain present in each moment, instead of ruminating and making the problem bigger in your mind.

Given our standard “anything but this” attitude, we resist what’s happening and try to avoid it, which triggers greater anxiety. Reflection is a better response; it helps us take a step back, identify what’s happening, and figure out how to deal with it without criticising or blaming ourselves.

Mindful meditation activates the relaxation response

When we are exposed to a stressor, our body responds with a characteristic ‘fight-or-flight’ response.

This arousal is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, causing an increase in our blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, and blood flow to the muscles—all things we experience when we feel anxious or stressed.

The relaxation response is a direct opposite of this kind of response, and is a state of deep relaxation governed by the parasympathetic nervous system. This controls our bodily reactions to stress and helps us reduce the physiological effects of anxiety.

Guided meditation, in particular, is a very useful technique that can help you trigger the relaxation response. Beyond the immediate, physical benefits of taking measured, deep breaths, meditation can also ground you and help you tap into the benefits of mindfulness.

Given the relative ease with which this can be done, you can try to reduce any anxiety you feel with a quick meditation break :)

Make mindful awareness a part of your life to reduce stress and anxiety at work

While cultivating mindful awareness can take a little while, it’s not impossible—and it doesn’t matter how busy you are.

At Awakened Mind, our app helps you foster mindfulness through resources like guided meditation tracks and Neurosync™. The latter is something we’re very excited about because it’s a form of brain entrainment technology that primes your mind for the state of mind you’re trying to achieve.

Download our app and explore how you can leverage mindfulness to manage your anxiety at work.