It’s an unfortunate fact of life: the times in your career when you need to be the most levelheaded are also the times when you’re least likely to be feeling calm, cool, and collected. Whether it’s a big presentation in front of colleagues from another office, or a scary meeting with the boss about a deliverable that didn’t get delivered, dealing more positively with anxiety can mean the difference between turning a tricky situation to your advantage and making things worse.
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Most of us don’t breathe deeply, even when we’re not in the throes of career-induced anxiety. Throw in some extra adrenaline, and we’re lucky if we don’t wind up turning blue. Even if you’re too wound up to consider breathing exercises specifically for anxiety, just paying attention to your breath can help.
2. Take a walk.
“Exercise can be a great stress reliever in itself, as it helps you blow off steam and releases endorphins,” writes Elizabeth Scott, About.com’s expert on stress management. “Taking a walk when stressed can bring you the benefits of exercise — both short-term and long-term, and it provides the bonus of getting you out of the stressful situation. This can provide you with some perspective so you can return in a new frame of mind.”
Sometimes, our anxiety is about our perception, instead of anything intrinsic to the situation. Put another way, your fear might be inspired by a real event (e.g., an email from the boss, explicitly outlining an infraction) or it might be your anticipation of an event that may or may not take place (e.g., a generic meeting request from the boss, which you then interpret as a precursor to that same meeting).
The answer? Cognitive restructuring, a set of techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy that can help you stop skipping to a dreaded result, long before you have definitive proof that something is wrong.
“Try these three questions,” suggests Alice Boyes, Ph.D, at Psychology Today. “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen? The best possible thing that could happen? The most realistic?”
These questions, which come from Judith S. Beck’s textbook Cognitive Behavior Therapy, are a good way to force your brain to reevaluate situations.
Even if your worst fears are true, thinking positively will help you hear what’s being said, not what you fear. And that could lead to a more positive outcome, no matter what.
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