Anxiety has risen around the world since the onslaught of Covid-19. And with the confusing flip flops from office to remote back to office and then hybrid working, nowhere is stress higher than the uncertain workplace. A Gallup poll reported that 80% of American workers suffer from some type of work anxiety.
We’ve always known that exercise is essential for work/life balance and job productivity. In fact, the lack of movement can be as bad for you as smoking a pack of cigarettes. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends physical activity during both leisure activity as well as at work to improve and maintain good health and wellness. Now, a new study reported in Frontiers In Psychiatry quantifies the jaw dropping impact regular exercise has in reducing your anxiety. Swedish researchers studied nearly 400,000 people and found that those with an active lifestyle were 60% less likely to develop anxiety compared to less physically active people over a 21-year period.
Devise An Anti-Anxiety Exercise Work Plan
Here are some anti-anxiety tips to reboot your health when you feel like job pressures are crashing down upon you:
- Move and stretch at your workstation. Stand up, breathe deeply, shake, twist and stretch out the built-up tension. Take a few seconds to reach high. Let yourself feel the stretch as you elongate your body and notice where you hold tension then release it. Shake the part of your body where you sense tension. As you continue to stretch, bring your attention to each part of your body that has remained tight. Bend over and touch your toes and feel that stretch letting the tension in your body evaporate.
- Take the stairs. Research shows that climbing four flights of stairs in less than a minute yields good heart health. So instead of taking the elevator to the office, sneak in a few minutes of exercise by walking up and down a flight of stairs on a daily basis.
- Take Microbreaks. Studies show that Microbreaks (five minutes or less) reset your nervous system, gives a fatigued mind a break and boosts your mood. Move away from your workstation and drop to your office floor for a set of push-ups and sit-ups. Walking around the office even if it’s only for 10 minutes not only gives your fatigued mind a break, it also boosts your mood.
- Take an ‘awe walk.’ Taking an awe walk reduces workday stress and boosts emotional well-being. Studies show short, brisk walks in nature raise and sustain your energy level and re-calibrate a fatigued brain. And you perform better after a walk in green spaces or a park than a walk along a noisy, city street. Exposure to a green space reduces anxiety and rumination and improves depression. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, find a park, arboretum or natural setting to eat.
- Practice high intensity interval workouts. During your lunch hour or after work change into your work out clothes and hit the gym to lift weights or jog around the block to let off steam. According to research, high intensity interval training strengthens your heart even more than moderate exercise. You will go back to your desk with batteries recharged, energy renewed and head cleared.
- Practice tai chi. Research shows that Tai Chi has health benefits equal to conventional exercise. Take a break and practice these movements in a space that allows you to move.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule. Set an alarm or time popup for every 20 minutes when you’re working in front of a screen as a reminder to get up from your workstation. It takes 20 seconds for your eyes to fully relax. Every 20 minutes for 20 seconds walk around the room, up and down a flight of stairs or move to look out a window—perhaps at a tree, squirrel or some aspect of nature.
- Try chair yoga. Practice chair yoga between meetings right at your desk. Sit in your chair and inhale and raise your arms toward the ceiling. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you reach upward with your fingertips. Anchor your sit bones in your seat and reach up from there. Place your left hand over your right knee and right arm on back of the chair. Stretch lightly for 60 seconds. Place your right hand over your left knee with left arm on back of the chair for another 60 seconds. After three to five minutes you will notice a renewed energy and mental clarity then you’re ready to get back in the game.
Be Proactive With Self-Care
To mitigate anxiety at work, the key is to make sure you realize you’ve hit your breaking point long before anxiety-warnings set in. Instead of pushing past them, cushion your workday to soften stress blows. In addition to physical movement, avoid putting yourself under unrealistic deadlines. Replace “deadlines” with “lifelines.” Take “health days” in addition to “sick days.” Spread job tasks over reasonable time frames. Build time cushions between meetings.
Establish an exercise regimen tailored to your physical abilities and lifestyle and stay fit outside the office. Whether you work remotely or in the office, think of your work site as the Olympics. Your physical and mental endurance at work hinges on being in good shape. Prepare yourself for your workdays by taking care of your physical health outside of work. In addition to vigorous exercise, prime yourself with good nutrition and ample sleep and avoid nicotine, and use alcohol in moderation.