03 Mar 2021 17:52 IST

Managing anxiety at workplace

Re-framing focus and making up rituals can reduce anxiety and help improve performance, says research

Leaders deal with their own stress as well as the anxiety of their team members. When you’re faced with uncertainty or high demands, or put in a situation that’s new or consequential, anxiety is likely to kick in. Many try to conceal their racing heart rate and sweaty palms at a workplace, and pretend like nothing is going on. But research shows that anxiety is not as innocuous. People who feel anxious are less discerning and become more likely to seek bad advice.

The main reason why people refrain from revealing that they’re feeling anxious is because it is commonly met with the “just-calm-down” response. But that’s an impossible ask of an anxious person. So, Knowledge@Wharton suggests two powerful ways to control anxiety and its negative effects, both described below.

Tricking your mind

This first action step is re-framing anxiety as excitement. Stating out loud “I’m excited” when anxious reduces the negative impact even as the heart rate remains elevated. It’s important to train your mind to focus on improved performance instead of what could go wrong.

Creating simple rituals

This is more commonplace in sports. Athletes wear lucky shirts, bounce a tennis ball a precise number of times before a serve, or adjust a cap before pitching. From something as juvenile to cultural rituals that comfort us during some of life’s most stressful periods, including the death of a loved one. According to research, rituals, even when made up — lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve performance.

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