5 Anxiety Exercises for Managers to Help Boost Team Productivity

Guest Blog by Clare Davis

Are you familiar with that nagging feeling of worry and unease that creeps up on you while you’re at work? Workplace anxiety is a natural reaction when we are under pressure and overwhelmed.

Anxiety is worrying about events that may occur in the future. It’s something that everyone feels at some point in their lives, especially in the workplace. It can take many different forms, from general feelings of stress and overwhelm, to more specific fears such as performance anxiety.

It can be mild, such as feeling nervous about presenting before the team, or severe and crippling, making it difficult to do everyday tasks and get along with co-workers. Our brain can go into fight, flight, or freeze mode, causing us to react emotionally and be unable to cope when we would normally cope very well. In my Mental Health Chats YouTube interview with Tricia Maitland, she goes into great detail about ‘What Anxiety Feels Like’ and how our brain reacts when feeling anxious.

We aim to train our brains to be more positive and relaxed in overwhelming situations at work. As managers, you could introduce exercises to help the team be more productive and manage the overwhelm. 

Here are 5 exercises that can help you and your team when anxiety strikes:

  1. Stop and breathe.
    Our breath can become very shallow when we are feeling anxious. When this happens, we need to concentrate on our breathing to calm ourselves down and think clearly. Fenella Hemus talks us through a breathing exercise for anxiety on the Mental Health Chats YouTube and Podcast series on anxiety. You can practice these different breathing exercises and can include these exercises with your teams during meetings. Breathing exercises have many benefits, including helping you stay focused and grounded.
  2. Stop and focus on the solution, not the problem.
    Psychologists, Grant and O’Connor from the University of Sydney looked into the difference in outcomes when we focus on the problem compared to the solution. When we are feeling anxious, we tend to get fixated on the problem. But if we change our mindset and look for potential solutions, we are more likely to move forward and get positive outcomes. As managers, we can help team members who are feeling anxious to focus on the solution. As a result, they will be more motivated, confident, and productive, which will help ease anxiety at work.
  3. Stop and change the scene.
    Often we can feel in a rut when we are feeling anxious. Workplace anxiety can have a significant impact on our mental health. When people in your team are in a state of overwhelm, it can be helpful to encourage them to change the scene. This means taking a step back from the situation that is causing the anxiety and finding ways to calm and refocus the mind. It can mean physically removing oneself from the situation, such as taking a break, going for a walk to a coffee shop outside of work, or finding a quiet space to practice breathing techniques or meditation. Taking intentional steps to reframe thoughts and perceptions about the situation can help calm down and think in a more composed manner.
  4. Stop and focus exercise.
    In order to significantly improve how you and your team can deal with anxiety, you need to focus on your senses— calming your body and composing your mind to think clearly. Managers, you can make use of my 21-Day High-Intensity Neural Training (HINT) Programme when helping team members in a state of burden.
  5. Stop and reassess the situation.
    So often when we are anxious, we become stuck, only thinking from one perspective. If we look at the situation from a different angle, we can often find another solution that could work. Managers can ask their team members to think about situations in new ways. This can also develop their confidence to deal with anxiety-inducing situations and improve their coping skills with anxiety.

‘Regardless of what strategies you use to combat anxiety at work, it is essential that managers and teams support each other at work. It can be more helpful if you have designated Mental Health First Aiders in your company.

Mental Health First Aiders have a very important role to play in your organisation. They work with managers to help spot the signs of mental health concerns, open up conversations to help those in need, and use preventative measures for emotional fitness for all. Nova Associates runs the 2-day MHFA England Course for organisations. Find out more through our website where you can also get a free guide on how to implement a culture of positive mental health in your workplace.

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