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Anxiety & Panic Attack at the Workplace: What Can You Do

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

The American Psychological Association (APA) coins the term anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety is truly normal and often a healthy emotion, however, when a person regularly experiences varying levels of anxiety, it may turn into a medical disorder. A panic attack on the other hand is a sudden burst of intense fear that triggers strong physical reactions regardless of the presence of real danger. It is truly a testing condition to deal with and experiencing it while at work is a different situation altogether.

Recognizing a panic attack or the feeling of anxiety is key to overcoming the reaction and keeping ourselves in check the next time we feel close to feeling the same way. Here are some of the indicators that a panic attack is on its way:

It comes as no surprise that it is possible to feel this way while at work because of the numerous things that happen every day at work; dealing with various situations, setting and meeting deadlines, managing the workforce, making presentations, participating in meetings, and even maintaining personal relationships. While some individuals may not seem affected by these things, a majority of people do and that is completely fine, as long as we are aware of how to overcome such situations.

If you or someone around you is experiencing or has experienced some of the symptoms, keep reading to find out what to do to negate the situation or at least better prepare yourself.

Talkspace recommends a technique called TIP to help with handling the situation, and suggests that this would work best if followed in order:

T = Cold Temperature

Reach out to something cold and apply it to your body, this will help you to calm down during a panic attack or reduce your anxiety. You may look for a bathroom so you can run cold water on your wrists, or you could always chug down a glass of cold water.

I = Intense Exercise

Exercise always helps to calm nerves down regardless of whether or not you’re experience anxiety or panic attacks. It makes you feel and aware that you are in control of your body and surrounding. Therapist Laura L. Ryan highly recommends either running fast in place or doing some jumping jacks to stretch the chest. However, when doing these exercises, ensure that you are not disturbing your co-workers as these exercises can get a little noisy sometimes.

P = Progressive Breathing

Take deep breaths through your nose for five seconds and allow your stomach to expand, hold your breath for five seconds, and then finally exhale for five seconds. While you are doing this, remind yourself that this is not your fault and every situation can be handled.

Getting stressed especially at work is completely normal, however overwhelming stress often leads to anxiety and panic attacks and it is extremely important to have a few ideas in place to keep your work life manageable. Although it may seem impossible, it is important to make stress your friend. You may wonder how, given the nature of stress itself is to bring harm but health psychologist and world-renowned speaker Kelly McGonigal makes the case for a re-approach towards stress.

Besides that, here are some pointers by ADAA on how to better manage your work life and avoid possibly stressful situations:

· Talk to someone. Opening up to at least one person would remind you that your concerns are heard and knowing that someone is aware can be comforting, which can help reduce any anxiety about having panic attacks at work.

· Educate yourself. Recognize the symptoms that lead up to anxiety and panic attacks for you and how you can handle them should you experience them while at work.

· Practice time management. Prepare a to-do list and prioritize your tasks. Ensure that you have sufficient time to see through each task or project that you take on.

· Plan and prepare. If you have a major project coming up, get started as soon as possible, and set mini-deadlines towards the final deadline.

· Ask for help. If you do feel overwhelmed, ask for help. You can always return the favor at a later time.

· Stay organized. De-clutter and organize your work station to ensure things are accessible and easy to find when needed.

· Take breaks. Every few hours or so, get up and walk around the office floor and take a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercise, it will certainly help to clear your head.

· Savor success. Take a moment to celebrate your achievements and thank those that have helped you achieve these successes.

· Be healthy. Eat healthily, sleep sufficiently, and exercise regularly.

Now that you are fairly prepared to tackle anxiety and panic attack while at work, be sure to check our next article on how leaders can help employees with anxiety and panic attacks in the workplace.

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