Outside stress affecting your ability to concentrate at work? Here are some suggestions.
Life is full of ups and downs, many of them out of our control. Knowing this, however, doesn’t make those “downs” any more pleasant or easier to take. What’s even worse is that the resulting anxiety can harm our physical or mental health, often even keeping us from enjoying the good things we do have in our lives.
They can also make it hard to focus on our jobs.
But because most of us cannot afford to let outside issues that we can do nothing about interfere with our jobs, here are some focus-enhancing tools.
Talk to yourself. When we are anxious about something we tend to obsess over it, turning it over and over in our minds. But you can change the subject of your mental conversation by telling yourself, out loud if necessary, “I’m not going to think about [whatever it is] right now. Right now I am going to do [a particular task].” Note you aren’t just admonishing yourself not to worry. That never works. You are replacing the act of worrying with the act of doing a specific, concrete task. Very often, once we get started on an activity, the momentum of that activity takes over.
Call a friend. A worry shared is a worry halved, as they say. Fears and anxieties often seem less horrible when we drag them out into the light of day and talk them over. At least you may learn that you are not alone! Choose a friend who is upbeat, reassuring, nurturing, nonjudgmental and makes you laugh. Conversely, spend less time with people who make you anxious.
Get physical. An excellent way to reach the brain is to go through the body. Treat yourself to a brisk walk at lunch, a set of jumping jacks during your break, or just some deep breathing at your desk or workstation. Physical activity releases endorphins that help calm your mind.
Finally, try to accept that uncertainty is an unavoidable part of life. You may feel you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. However, as you still have a job to do and bills to pay, you owe it to yourself (and loved ones who may depend on you) to try not to let anxiety overwhelm you.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.