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How Does Anxiety Affect Your Work and Relationships?

If you feel on edge these days, you're not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, most people have experienced an uptick in anxiety over the past two years since the global pandemic [1].



In this article, we will explore what anxiety is, how it affects our work and relationships, and what we can do to manage it.


What is Anxiety?


Simply put, anxiety is a feeling of worry, apprehension or unease. I used to be someone who tried getting rid of my anxieties because I felt uncomfortable with it. There’s also this thing about anxiety that makes you doubt yourself and think there is something wrong with you.


But I have learnt over the years that anxiety is actually a normal response to stress or danger, and it’s something that all of us experience at some point in our lives. A little bit of anxiety can be helpful in certain situations, such as when it motivates us to prepare for an assignment or presentation at work. Other times, it protects us from dangerous situations by triggering our fight-or-flight response.


However, too much anxiety could indeed interfere with our daily lives. For example, if we start to experience intense physical discomforts such as a racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath, or avoidance of situations that are not actually dangerous, then that may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.


Impacts of Anxiety When Left Untreated


When symptoms of anxiety ramp up and are left unchecked, it can affect your ability to perform at work or maintain your social relationships.


Work


Here are some ways anxiety can impact your professional work:



Lack of Focus: When you experience anxiety, your body enters a state of heightened arousal. It can become difficult to concentrate on the tasks at hand, make decisions, or stay organised, all of which can lead to decreased productivity.

Procrastination: Anxiety often involves excessive worry and a sense of overwhelm, leading to avoidance or procrastination of tasks that we find particularly challenging or stressful. This could potentially limit your exposure to new experiences and learning opportunities.

Absenteeism or Presenteeism: In some cases, anxiety results in absenteeism or presenteeism. Absenteeism refers to missing work completely, while presenteeism refers to being physically present at work but not being able to perform effectively due to anxiety. Both of these can have a significant impact on our job performance and create additional stress.

Relationships


Anxiety disorders can also affect our relationships, whether they are romantic, platonic, or familial. Studies indicate that on average, adults with anxiety disorders are likely to experience poor relationship quality [2].



Here are some ways that anxiety could affect relationships:


Overdependence: In romantic relationships, anxious partners may come across as overly possessive or clingy, overthinking, or getting anxious if a partner does not respond quickly. This can lead to overdependence on others for reassurance, which can create a burden on the relationship. Social Isolation: On the other end of the spectrum, some people may withdraw from their relationships or stop participating in activities that they once enjoyed as a way to cope with their anxiety. Social withdrawal can lead to feelings of loneliness, abandonment and further exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Communication Difficulties: Those with anxiety may struggle with communication, and find it difficult to express their needs and feelings effectively.

How to Improve Your Relationship With Anxiety?

Personally, managing my relationship with anxiety has been one of the most challenging life tasks yet. That said, it is also a fulfilling one, and we tend to get better with effort and practice!



Here’s sharing four science-backed tips to help you cope on a daily basis:


1. Practice Relaxation Techniques


One of my favourites is relaxation techniques! I try to practise deep breathing or visualisation exercises before a nerve-racking situation to help calm my mind and body. Research suggests that multiple forms of relaxation training can help individuals reduce anxiety symptoms by enhancing relaxation states [3].


2. Stay Active


Staying active doesn’t have to be hard. It is helpful to develop a routine by scheduling simple activities such as walking or yoga at regular intervals each week. Personally, I am a big fan of routines as having one reduces uncertainty, and helps me cope with daily challenges better.


3. Establish Healthy Habits


Forming a healthy relationship with food is a key part of my coping mechanism. A healthier relationship with food is not just about eating your kale salad but it’s about taking all foods in moderation. Don’t beat yourself up when it comes to an occasional piece of chocolate chip cookie or pizza. Eating a balanced diet with certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are linked to reduced anxiety [4].


4. Make Sleep a Priority


Given our multiple daily responsibilities, it can be a big struggle when it comes to getting adequate rest each night. Yet, studies suggest that sleep deprivation increases one's state of irritability and general distress relative to those who had a normal night of sleep [5]. If you’re also someone who finds it challenging sticking to your sleep schedule, try to consciously incorporate some “wind-down” activities such as journaling or reading 30 minutes before bedtime!


Managing Anxiety Is a Journey


Remember, managing anxiety is a process, and it is important to be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate this journey. If you struggle with implementing these strategies, reach out to a friend, family member or health professional about your anxiety.


If you are looking for a professional wellness provider to support you through your journey, Actxa Wellness is here to help! Our Journey with Wellness (JWW) is a holistic wellness programme that helps individuals track personalised bio-data, and is specifically designed to help elevate your wellbeing through an evidence-based curriculum revolving around nutrition, rest and physical activity.


Start your wellness journey with us here!


About the Writer

Jeannette Qhek is the Wellbeing Lead at Actxa Wellness, where she curates the wellness curriculum with relevant science-backed content. Extremely passionate about the psychology behind human behaviour, she is now pursuing her Master's in Counselling with Monash University. Her other passion is content creation, and she is part of Tiktok's team of Youth for Good Wellness Education. As part of this exciting journey, she created "Chill By Nette", an online wellness space to share her resources and learnings. Through sharing her voice and creativity, she hopes to make psychological concepts and wellness research knowledge more accessible and fun to the public. Connect more with Jeannette Qhek here ➡️ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeannetteqhek/


References


[1] American Psychological Association, Stress in America 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. Date Accessed November 18, 2022.


[2] Zaider, T. I., Heimberg, R. G., & Iida, M. (2010). Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples. Journal of abnormal psychology, 119(1), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018473


[3] Toussaint, L., Nguyen, Q. A., Roettger, C., Dixon, K., Offenbächer, M., Kohls, N., Hirsch, J., & Sirois, F. (2021). Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2021, 5924040. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/5924040


[4] Aucoin, M., LaChance, L., Naidoo, U., Remy, D., Shekdar, T., Sayar, N., Cardozo, V., Rawana, T., Chan, I., & Cooley, K. (2021). Diet and Anxiety: A Scoping Review. Nutrients, 13(12), 4418. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124418


[5] Babson, K. A., Trainor, C. D., Feldner, M. T., & Blumenthal, H. (2010). A test of the effects of acute sleep deprivation on general and specific self-reported anxiety and depressive symptoms: an experimental extension. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, 41(3), 297–303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2010.02.008

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