6 Tips for Managing Work Anxiety

I’ve had a lot of clients ask me to explain exactly what anxiety is, and I’ve always been able to give a basic text-book definition: an intense worry or fear about something. I’ve explained that some people have intense fear or worry about specific things like; taking tests, public speaking, or flying on airplanes . Some people feel intense fear or worry about their lives in general. Some people experience anxiety as a result of a traumatic event. For some, anxiety is annoying, but manageable. For others, anxiety makes it hard to function on the day to day.  Anxiety does not look the same for everyone, and it can range from mild to severe. 

While I’ve had the ability to put myself in my client’s shoes and think about what anxiety could be like for them, experiencing it while at work has allowed for a whole new level empathy. I mean sure, I’ve been worried about a school test and driving in downtown Dallas makes my heart race but until recently I had never wondered, “Damn, do I need medication for this?”. 

With COVID-19 and the whole lockdown, people were not coming in to have mental health evaluations. There would be some days where I did one evaluation, and some days that I did zero. I knew that with the pandemic; depression, anxiety, and substance use would likely be on the rise, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for just how busy I would get and fast. As the stay-at-home orders were lifting and establishments were starting to open up, there was an immediate increase in the amount of people needing evaluations. I started to see more people in the lobby (socially distanced of course). People were coming in groups of two’s or three’s to be evaluated. There would be multiple appointments and multiple walk-ins. I started to notice that I was becoming stressed and overwhelmed more easily. Before even getting to work, I would be worried about how I was going to manage. Getting to work and seeing double-booked and back-to-back appointments filled me with dread. The very sight of three or four people in the lobby waiting to be evaluated instantly overwhelmed me. 

About a month ago, I started to experience the physical symptoms often associated with anxiety. When I was overwhelmed, I felt I couldn’t breathe properly. It was difficult to breathe all the way in and it was uncomfortable. At the same time, I would feel this pressure in my chest (I hate that feeling so much). These sensations often wouldn’t go away until the lobby was empty, or I was finally able to take my break. Then one day, I did something that I had never done before. I left for my break with people still in the lobby waiting to be evaluated. 

I don’t like for people to have to wait to be seen so I usually just put off my break until I can find an opening. I couldn’t do that on that day. I felt slightly panicked and I kept thinking to myself “I have to get out of here”, and so I did. Luckily, I didn’t experience a full-on panic attack, but I was damn sure close. 

After that experience, I decided that I needed a plan for how I was going to manage this anxiety so that I could function at work to the best of my ability. I needed to manage this not only for myself, but for my clients as well. I still feel stressed, overwhelmed, worried at times. I still get that pressure in my chest, but I’m managing very well thanks to these tips…

Tip #1: Start your morning with positive self-talk, and affirmations

Think of this as giving yourself a pep-talk before work so that you can go in prepared and confident. Affirm yourself with statements like; “I will not stress over things I can’t control”, “I will do my best and my best is enough”, “I am strong and capable”, “I can adapt to anything”.

Tip #2: Use aroma therapy 

Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and wild orange can aid in relieving stress and anxiety. Use a topical oil or a lotion that has the oil in it. If you can have a diffuser in your work space or office, that’s a great option as well.

Tip #3: Practice deep breathing 

Deep breathing helps to slow down your heart rate and blood pressure which are usually elevated when you’re anxious. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, and then exhale out of your nose for 6 seconds. Repeat as many times as you need to. 

Tip #4:  Ask for help when you need it

Workplace anxiety can often come from a heavy work load and never-ending deadlines. If there’s something that you can get assistance or support with, ask! Asking for help does not make you incompetent or unqualified, it makes you smart.

Tip #5: Take a break when you need it 

Taking breaks is good for your overall health and well-being. Make sure to step away from your work space and do things like; take a walk outside, eat, drink water, listen to music, watch a funny video. 

Tip #6: Be kind to yourself 

Dealing with anxiety symptoms in the workplace can be frustrating but try not to beat yourself up about it. Becoming stressed or anxious at work does not make you weak! You can learn to manage it, whether that’s on your own and/or with the help of licensed professionals.   

Anxiety in the workplace can come from things such as a toxic environment, issues with co-workers, heavy workload, etc. We spend a lot of our time at work and it’s in our best interest to manage anxiety as best we can. Do you experience workplace anxiety? If so, what is your experience like? How do you manage? I’d love to hear from you! 

My First Tip for Changing Your Toxic Behaviors

My First Tip for Changing Your Toxic Behaviors

Maybe you ghost people

Maybe you don’t communicate properly

Maybe you have to always be in control of everyone and everything

Maybe you constantly need reassurance from others

Maybe you hop, skip, and jump to conclusions

Maybe you constantly compare yourself to others

Maybe you constantly doubt yourself

Maybe you let people take advantage of you

We all have things that we want to fix about ourselves. Toxic traits that we want to put behind us. Self-defeating behaviors that we want to quit. Unhealthy thought patterns that we want to let go of. I’m all for self-improvement, but maybe we need to re-think fixing ourselves. After all, the term “fixing” implies that we are broken. Maybe, real healing starts when we take a moment to discover the “why” behind it all.

“Healing is not fixing yourself, it’s discovering yourself”

@theholisticpsyhologist

I’ll use my own example of recent self-discovery…

Unfortunately, I can be a passive person, especially when it comes to expressing my wants or needs to others. I also have a bad habit of assuming that people know what I want or need, instead of communicating like an adult. Obviously being passive has been problematic for me in many different aspects of my life, and I’ve been saying that I need to fix it for a while now.  Until recently I had never really thought about why I have such an issue with expressing my wants and needs. The ugly truth is that sometimes I fear being told no or being rejected. Sometimes I’m just being hella prideful. Sometimes I think that my wants and needs don’t matter. Sometimes I may even sub-consciously believe that I’m underserving of the things that I want and need.

So how do we begin to change our toxic traits, self-defeating behaviors, and unhealthy thinking patterns? While I don’t have a complete answer, I do have a tip..

Examine your core beliefs.

Simply put, core beliefs are the central ideas that we have about ourselves. Some common negative core beliefs people have are:

I am unlovable

I can’t trust others

My needs are unimportant 

People will end up leaving me

I am weak

I can’t do anything right 

I have to be perfect

I’m not good enough

People will leave if I set boundaries 

I am bad

I am worthless

You might resonate with one or even a few of these. You might wonder how on earth someone could ever believe that about themselves. Either way, negative core beliefs are real and they have a huge influence on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Our core beliefs are not something that we are born with, but rather effects of our childhood experiences or even difficult experiences in adulthood. Negative core beliefs affect our relationships with ourselves and others. Negative core beliefs affect our decision-making and reactions to the world around us. They shape who we are. Lucky for us, even the most deeply-rooted core beliefs can be changed, thus changing the way we think, act, and feel.

Stay tuned for my next post where I give even more tips for changing your toxic and self-defeating behaviors. Until then, take time to discover what your core beliefs are and how they have affected you.

I Still Remember the Days Where I Prayed for the Things I Have Now

The other day my friend sent me a tik tok. There are different variations of it out there, but most importantly it’s a voiceover of Nene Leakes (if you don’t know who that is, it’s ok lol). The context is that Nene visits someone’s home and is disgusted by what she sees.

 Nene goes on to say “They had a white refrigerator. I was like ughhhh ooooo, not a white refrigerator. Girl please put your shoes on, let’s go find you a home”. Now, I find Nene to be hilarious so of course I laughed, but I also had a moment where I thought to myself… damn, I used to have a white refrigerator.

It was actually only in February of this year that I moved into a renovated unit in my apartment complex that came with wood floors, granite countertops, and yes…. A STAINLESS STEEL REFRIGERATOR. I distinctly remember living in my old apartment and just waiting for the day I could move into something like what I have now. 

I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now

I began to reflect on where I am now in life versus where I was 1-3 years ago. I remembered first moving to the DFW and not being able to find a job for about 3 months. I remembered being so frustrated that I had a bachelor’s degree but apparently still wasn’t qualified enough. I remembered working at different jobs for $10, $13, $15 an hour. I remembered working for no pay at all (unpaid internships should be illegal). I remembered long days of working then heading to class at 7:00 PM. I remembered being worried about rent. I remembered getting a credit card just to pay for necessities. I remembered using that credit card for things I didn’t really need. I remembered looking at people on Youtube and Instagram who went on trips and had gorgeous apartments then thinking “Why can’t that be me?” or “When will my time come?”. 

I’m not trying to say that I struggled oh so hard nor am I trying to say that my life is perfect now. I am saying that I feel blessed that the things I mentioned above are no longer my reality. Those things mentioned above are important aspects of my journey in life that have played a part in making me into the woman I am today.

I don’t know where you are in life right now, but if you are wishing and praying to be some place different, I want to tell you that it’s coming. Keep working, keep striving, keep praying. When you do get to that place you wish to be, don’t forget where you once were. Use the past chapters of life as motivation and reminders. Keep working, keep striving, keep praying.

What are you willing to do?

I really wish I could sit here and say that I enjoy going to the gym…. but I don’t lol. I don’t know when I’ll reach that point of excitement about working out, but until then I guess I’ll continue spending 30 minutes moaning, groaning, and debating about going.. until finally forcing myself to put on gym clothes and getting in the car. There are even times when I have to call my sister so she can motivate me to go because I know if I don’t call , I’ll stay on the couch re-watching The Office. I wish that I liked to work out because that would make things so much easier, but there’s also this sense of pride that I feel when I finish a work-out knowing that I fought against being tired, unmotivated, or just plain lazy. The point of this post is that sometimes the things we want require a lot from us. Hard work, discipline, consistency, and sacrifice are what separates people who reach their goals and accomplish their dreams from the people who don’t. I also think that the people who reach their goals and accomplish their dreams accepted that they would at some point have to be uncomfortable. For the longest time I struggled with not wanting to do something if it made me feel even the slightest bit inconvenienced or uneasy. The issue with that is… we don’t grow when we are comfortable or when things are easy. The challenges we experience in life are what force us to evolve and uncover strengths and gifts we didn’t know we had.

“Growth is uncomfortable because you have never been here before, You’ve never been this version of you”

Kristin Lohr

Whatever it is that you want to achieve; whether it is losing weight, gaining weight, starting a business, obtaining a degree, buying a house….

What are you willing to do to get it? If you had to go through a period of discomfort to get it, would you?

Chapter 25: The Glow-Up

Chapter 25: The Glow-Up

On March 30th, this picture was taken of me. When my boyfriend handed me the phone so that I could look at it my first words were “Wow, I’m beautiful”, and then I immediately started tearing up.  Of course he didn’t understand so I explained that I hadn’t felt beautiful in awhile. Seeing this picture was like having a major epiphany about myself. My epiphany didn’t stop there though.. in this picture I saw so much more. I saw the woman that I had always known myself to be deep inside. I saw a woman that was confident in who she is and what she has to offer the world. 

Confidence is an attribute that I’ve always strongly admired in other people. I’ve always admired it because for some reason It has not always come naturally to me. I distinctly remember in Jr. high and high-school hating myself and how I looked. From the shape of my nose to my frizzy curls to my teeth…I was deeply unsatisfied. In college I distinctly remember not having confidence in my ability to lead or speak up. Throughout my college years I slowly began to develop confidence, but I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Post-graduation, I had gained some weight, struggled in a couple different areas of my life, and slipped back into that Jr. high/high-school mindset. 

So what recently brought me to my great epiphany? I think a major part of it is doing what I’m passionate about… 

Throughout my MSW program, I’ve had the opportunity to work with women in recovery from substance abuse, as well as with children with different mental health diagnoses. I currently work with adults dealing with various mental health diagnoses in a psychiatric unit. Never in a million years did I think I would have the confidence to get up in front of such vulnerable populations and not only educate them but HELP them. I seriously get up in front of people older than me and offer guidance. I can’t explain the feeling I get when a patient or client tells me “You’re going to do great things” or “That was such a great group” or “This really helped me”. Through pursing my passion, I’ve been able to see who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m a bad-ass. 

On my birthday one of my sorority sisters said “You got you a voice!” and that is the truth. I’m no longer afraid to lead or speak-up. Realizing that I’m beautiful in my looks is one thing, but slowly becoming the woman that I’ve always dreamed of being is another. What’s crazy is, I’m only going to get better…

How Do You Cope?

Coping skills was a very big topic this last week for clients that I work with, and it got me to thinking about how I cope with things. I want to challenge my readers to think about what coping skills you use, and better yet are they healthy or unhealthy? It’s no surprise that the clients I work with tend to use a lot of unhealthy coping skills, but they are not the only ones. I believe people everywhere, inside and outside of mental health facilities, use unhealthy ways to cope with this crazy thing called life. I, myself use unhealthy ways of coping sometimes.

So what are coping skills? Simply put they are things we use to deal with uncomfortable, difficult, and stressful situations.

So what determines whether a coping skill is healthy or unhealthy? Well to give some examples..

Unhealthy; over-eating, excessive sleeping, self-harm, procrastinating, withdrawing, giving up, blaming others, drinking and drug use, excessive spending.

Healthy; journaling, exercising, listening to music, developing a gratitude attitude, yoga, deep breaths in and out, taking a hot bath or shower, talking to friends/family, seeing a therapist.

I believe a lot of unhealthy coping skills provide temporary relief, but no long-term solutions and can even be detrimental. More importantly, I believe unhealthy coping skills do not help us get to the root of the problem. It’s like when you have a cold, and you take medicine. The medicine is great and helps to relieve symptoms, but the actual cold is not cured. Unfortunately, since there is no cure for the cold, we continue to get them. 

I wanted to touch on drinking and drugs because some of you may be thinking, “Isis, some of that is legal!” Yes, I’m aware lol. I drink and I enjoy it! Marijuana is slowly becoming legalized and I think it’s great. Drugs and alcohol is a very big part of our society and again, I just want to challenge you to think. When you drink or use drugs; what is your goal? Do you set limitations for yourself? Are you trying to forget or avoid something? Are you trying to numb yourself?  Do you fail to meet obligations or handle responsibilities due to use? Are relationships in your life becoming strained due to use? You can even apply some of these questions to other coping skills to determine if they are unhealthy.

 Deep reflection about what you do and why you do it, is key. 

To end on a lighter note, I thought I would share some of my favorite healthy coping skills. “Developing a gratitude attitude” is one I use a lot.  When I’m feeling down, stressed, or really negative I like to come up with a list of things in my head that i’m grateful for. I also sing or listen to music. My go-to song to sing is “Tell him” by Lauryn Hill. Two of my personal feel-good songs are “Pop Thieves” by Childish Gambino and “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison. Cleaning my entire apartment is also something I do to cope with stress.

What are some coping skills you use? Which ones would you like to stop? What new ones would you like to try? I’d love to hear from you!!

My Plate Is Full and I’m The One Who Fixed It

It’s the second week of the spring semester and I already feel overwhelmed and annoyed. I thought I would have at least made it a month before these feelings showed up. In my defense I have a lot going on. I’m balancing three classes, an internship, two jobs, my blog, going to the gym, and maintaining a social life. 

Today I got home at about 4:00 PM and went straight for an unopened bottle of red wine that I had in the fridge… it’s only Wednesday. 

Alright, I’m done venting and complaining so now here comes the good stuff…

I don’t remember where I saw this quote at but it goes “I can’t complain about having a lot on my plate when the goal was to eat”. I’ve pretty much been reciting that quote over and over again to myself because it’s so incredibly true . My goals include graduating, learning more in the mental health field, advocating for mental health and wellness, inspiring my peers, losing weight, and living my best life. Everything that I’m doing is a step towards each of those goals in some way or another.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed or negative, I try really hard to replace those feelings with an attitude of gratitude. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that I have been given to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. I look back on last year when I was working at a job that I HATED and it’s like how could I complain??? LOOK AT WHAT GOD DID. Everything that I’m doing right now, I prayed for at an earlier time. Everything that I’m doing right now is preparing me for greatness. 

When I start to have that attitude of gratitude (and have some wine) I feel a heck of a lot better, and it’s like I’m excited about my goals all over again.

If you can relate to this post in any way I just want to say that; 

You’re amazing. 

You can do anything you put your mind to. 

Be mindful of how you’re doing mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Take care of yourself.

You got this. 

First Time Experience: Seeing a Therapist

First Time Experience: Seeing a Therapist

Since the very beginning of my graduate program, professors have suggested the students see a therapist at least once. I remember thinking “I just want to be a therapist, I don’t want to see one”.  As I became more knowledgable on the topic of mental health and wellness, I began to realize that the suggestion was not so crazy after all. Then finally came the time when my own mental well-being was in jeopardy.

Think of mental health as a continuum. On the far left you have “mental well-being” and on the far right you have “mental illness”. Well in September of 2018, I was slowly but surely sliding on over to the right. Each day I slid a little bit more until finally, I had an emotional breakdown at work (in private, Thank God). I decided “Ok, it may be time to talk to someone”.

Honestly, I wasn’t too sure if I was depressed. All I knew is that something was wrong. Crying every day, feeling unmotivated, and constant negative thoughts was not healthy.

I started my search by going to my health insurance website. I was given a list of therapists that were in my network and would take my insurance. I went through each listing and went to their website (if they even had one). I researched their education background, what disorders they specialized in, and what methods of treatment they used. It was important to me to find a therapist of color, so I looked for that as well. 

I found one that looked promising and contacted her. We spoke briefly about what was going on and scheduled an appointment for the next day. I was so nervous the night before and even thought about cancelling because what if I wasn’t even depressed? What if I was wasting her time and my time? Then my boyfriend assured me that I was making the right decision. He said something along the lines of “Therapy is like prayer, you don’t only have to use it when something is really wrong”. Amen.

I went to my first session at 9:00 AM the next morning, and from that very first session she told me that she didn’t believe me to be depressed. She did however, believe that I was having a hard time mentally and emotionally. 

So, I wasn’t clinically depressed but let me tell you the reasons I went on to see her a few more times…

I did not lie on a couch while being asked “So how does that make you feel?” every two minutes

I don’t know why therapy is portrayed that way. That is not how any of this works. 

I was able to talk freely about my issues without being judged

Sometimes friends, family, and significant others can end up being judgmental without necessarily trying to. Plus, it’s helpful to get perspective from someone other than them. 

I didn’t feel like my issues were being minimized 

Example: “Mom, I’m sad” “you ain’t got nothing to be sad about, you got a roof over your head”.

I got to talk about different aspects of my life

I went for a specific problem but I was asked about my friends, family, boyfriend, work, and school. It was helpful to address all those areas of my life as well.

I felt like I was being listened to 

We’re talking about active listening here, not everyone has that skill.

I was allowed to cry

It’s nice to cry without feeling dumb or feeling compelled to apologize for it. 

I was challenged 

Yes, therapists should be empathetic and understanding. They should also give feedback and challenge you to new ways of thinking and behaving.

I felt comfortable 

My therapist was a black woman. She was very personable. Our conversation flowed easily. Her office was really cute and felt very welcoming. 

I feel very lucky to have had a great first experience seeing a therapist. I feel that I was properly helped and still keep in mind the things that I learned. I would, without a doubt, go back should I feel I need to. In my personal opinion, everyone could benefit from talking to a professional. We are all human beings with either issues, hard times, past traumas, dysfunctional thoughts, bad habits, unhealed wounds, or toxic behaviors. Some of us battle with these things more than others. Some of us deal with these things better than others. 

Therapy is not bad. Therapy is not only for certain people. Therapy does not make you weak.