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July 14, 2020

Practical Tools for Managing Anxiety

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We recently shared an article about the impact of COVID-19 on general levels of anxiety. One of our experts shared tips on scheduling and self care as tools to reduce anxiety and overwhelm. Today, we’re hearing from two more experts on common thinking traps and emotional self-soothing.

Our experts sharing with you are:

  • David Reid, a Forensic Mental Health Clinician who also runs a mental skills coaching consultancy for people and organizations striving for elite performance. He currently consults to a number of individual performers, athletes and coaches as well as corporate businesses and a number of sporting franchises including the Essendon Football Club (AFL), Melbourne Stars (Big Bash) and the Chennai Superkings (Indian Premier League).
  • Cameron Aggs, one of Australia’s foremost mindfulness training specialists who has facilitated more than 200 professional mindfulness training programs in Australia and the UK. He is a Clinical Psychologist, an internationally published author on Mindfulness and is passionate about making mindfulness intuitive and easy to apply.

Common Thinking Traps

David introduced the idea of common thinking traps, and how to approach them. “It’s critical to explore the content of our thoughts.” Anxiety often has a physical manifestation, such as sweating or a racing heart, “But until we address the thinking patterns, we’re not going to get substantial long term improvements.”

With the AFL players, David spends a lot of time planning their performance on the field, in a method based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. “CBT is the most evidence based intervention I’m aware of. It’s got a very simple framework – thoughts, emotions, biology, and behavior are all interconnected. If you change one part of that system, you change the others.”

Some of the thinking traps David regularly sees people fall into are

  • Comparing themselves to others.
  • Feeling a need to be overly productive.
  • Spending too much time on social media.

“There seems to be a prevailing guilt for all of us that if we feel like we aren’t in the midst of some sort of productive period of drastic self-improvement that we failed to use this time. I think we need to be very gentle on ourselves at the moment.”

The Power of Gratitude

“I do think if you’re in an emotional storm right now, we need to remind ourselves that like the weather, it will change fairly soon.”

At Essendon they are training optimism using gratitude prompts. “Every day through the lock down period, they got a gratitude prompt. The mind finds what it looks for. At the moment, we’re in this period of uncertainty, looking for signs of anxiety and fear but it’s really important to remind ourselves that we have some control over our perspective.”

You can train your optimism through practices like gratitude journaling and dinner conversations focusing on things that went well.

Focusing on Being Good Enough

Another trap David identified is, “Fear of other people’s opinions and a cycle of self-critical thinking. It basically comes down to a thought that what I’m doing isn’t enough. The deeper level of that is I’m not enough.”

To combat this, David recommends regularly reminding yourself that you are enough, as a person, parent, friends, sibling, player, partner, son or daughter. “It’s a very simple way of getting out of that rabbit hole of self critical thinking.”

Emotional Self-Soothing

Cameron shared with us a four breath technique for emotional soothing.

“COVID or not life is full of unwelcome events, which we can term emotional injuries. The problem is we don’t factor in the fact we’re having daily hurts and heartaches. We just think we should always be pushing through, we should be winning. The reality is, if I’m going to be living an engaged life, I’ve also got to have a bit of a routine around soothing from the hurts and heartaches of your day. We can use the breath as a container to do that in real time.”

Acceptance of ‘what is’, is a start to breath work. “Let me feel it. It’s already here. Let me breathe it in, in a way that allows me to repair this daily hurt and heartache, acknowledging, naming and nurturing myself through this feeling.”

Two Hands Technique

This method builds your ability to take long, slow, deep breaths to calm yourself via a simple set of instructions.

  1. Plant one hand gently on your chest and the other on your belly.
  2. Lower and relax your shoulders.
  3. Just notice your breathing for a few breaths.
  4. Now focus on expanding your belly as you breath in. Get a sense of a long breath coming down into the bottom of your lungs. Your bottom hand (on your belly) should be moving more than the top hand (on your chest).
  5. Take several slow deep breaths into your belly and feel yourself relaxing.

Four Breaths Technique

Using the long, slow breaths of the two hands technique move to the four breaths steps.

  1. Bring your thumb and forefinger together and touch their tips in an O shape.
  2. Take one long, slow, deep, belly breath, breathing in and out.
  3. Release your thumb and forefinger, and bring together your thumb and middle finger.
  4. Take one long, slow, deep, belly breath, breathing in and out.
  5. Release your thumb and middle finger, and bring together your thumb and ring finger.
  6. Take one long, slow, deep, belly breath, breathing in and out.
  7. Release your thumb and ring finger, and bring together your thumb and pinkie finger.
  8. Take one long, slow, deep, belly breath, breathing in and out.
  9. Relax your hand.

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.