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Team Newsletter

May 2022

HR Updates From Sarah

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Tips for Taming Anxiety

Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association, is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

Anxiety is a completely normal and expected response to a crisis. To ensure our survival, our brains are wired to feel anxious when we encounter uncertainties and threats. You know, fight or flight.

During this health crisis, our anxiety protects us and keeps us alert so that we maintain physical distance, wash our hands often and for 20 seconds, and keep our hands off our faces. For those who are ill or without financial resources right now, appropriate anxiety motivates us to take action to find what we need to survive.

Anxiety becomes problematic and unhealthy for us when it takes hold, overwhelms our coping mechanisms, and keeps us from functioning at capacity.

Although we can’t control much of what is happening in our world right now, we don’t want to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by anxiety. We do have control over how we manage it.

Did You Know? Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the country, affecting as many as 40 million people, or 18% of the population.

 

Tip #1

When you’re feeling anxious, your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is aroused and activates your fight, flight, or freeze impulses, catalyzing a whole cascade of physiological symptoms throughout your body. One of the ways you can begin to calm your nervous system and ease your anxiety is through some physical grounding and breath-driven self-soothing. An incredibly effective tool is a simple presence and breathing exercise:

An incredibly effective tool is a simple presence and breathing exercise: Sit comfortably in a chair or on the couch. Let your eyes close and rest your hands on your legs or on the furniture in whatever way feels comfortable to you. Slowly, and with your lips slightly open, begin taking a deep breath in, pushing your lower abdomen out with air, bringing oxygen to the bottom of your lungs. As you breathe in, notice your feet on the floor, your butt on the cushion, your back against the furniture. On your exhale, release your breath slowly — a few counts longer than your inhale — and continue bringing your awareness to any sensations or sounds you notice — maybe your fingers on the fabric of your jeans, the sound of traffic outside, the breeze coming in through the window… Breathe in and breath out slowly, noticing all the slight sensations around you for 10-15 slow, mindful breaths, allowing your body to relax and your mind to center. And finally, when you’re ready, come back to the room.

Tip #2

Have you ever been so wrapped up in your anxiety that you started to become emotionally flooded? Slightly short of breath, totally in your story, detached from the room you’re sitting in and the person you’re with because of the intensity of your feelings? You may have been emotionally flooding. Again, when you’re anxious and perceiving threats, your autonomic nervous system is aroused and your body becomes flooded with a cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol. This can make it hard to think clearly and to maintain focus and react rationally. This is emotional flooding. Two ways you can interrupt this flooding and help yourself get centered and present is through the following tools created by Annie Wright, Psychotherapist.

Exercise #1: Counting Colors. If you catch yourself flooding or perhaps just caught in the loop of an anxiety-provoking thought, tell yourself to look around you in whatever room or environment you may be in, and try to scan the surroundings to find and count aloud five colors of a certain shade. The reason why this tool is effective is that it pulls your mind away from the intensity of the internal experience you’re having and forces your attention to be external, literally scanning your surroundings and focusing on a task, which can help reduce the emotional flooding you may have been experiencing.

Exercise #2. Counting Backwards. With a Twist. Another great tool to use on yourself (or to use with someone else who is anxious and emotionally flooding) is to count backwards. But not just any counting backwards — anyone can basically recite 100, 99, 98, 97, etc. without much concentration or effort. Instead pick a big number like 637 and then pick an odd, random number like 19.5 and start counting backwards to zero from 637 by 19.5. (Did you just frown in concentration reading those words? That’s exactly the point!) Focused efforts to actually try and do that math engages your brain in a way that can distract from the anxiety and flooding you may have been experiencing. Try it next time you’re emotionally flooding. It’s a subtle, invisible tool that can be wonderful for emotional regulation.

One major response to anxiety is endless worry, going over and over all the possible negative outcomes. It’s based on the illusion that if we keep thinking about things, we’ll eventually find some sort of simple solution. It doesn’t work that way. Consider replacing this obsessive thinking with limited “worry time.” Take an hour (or less) to list your worries. Use two columns. One column lists the things you can control. The other lists the things you can’t control. Once the list is complete, spend some time making plans about how to address the issues you can control. After this initial plan is complete, set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day (not right before going to bed) to refine your plans about how to address the issues you can control and to remind yourself that the others are out of your control.

Anxiety is our friend when we face adversity, but a beast when it gets a hold on us. We can and must tame anxiety in order to preserve our health, security, and wellbeing. As we cope with our current hardships, it’s important to remind ourselves that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But if you suspect your anxiety is more than occasional, everyday anxiety and it’s starting to impact the quality of your life (your relationships, your sleep and health, your job performance and your ability to move in the direction of your dreams), please get professional help or utilize your employee assistance program for guidance and support to get you started on the right path.

To read the full article and additional tips, visit: https://lifeadvisorwellness.com/Uploads/Documents/Ulliance%20Inc-The%20Ultimate%20Guide%20to%20Taming%20Anxiety%20-%20Covid%20and%20Non%20Covid.pdf

Ulliance LifeAdvisorEAP.com | 800.448.8326

Sarah Buchanan
VP of Human Resources