Overcoming Anxiety

In the initial post on anxiety, we looked at the signs, symptoms and different types of anxiety.

In this blog, we will look at measuring and treating anxiety. We will use Amelia’s anxiety about returning to work after being on maternity leave as an example.

Let’s meet Amelia, before her maternity leave she was a credit controller for a bank in London. Amelia was confident in her role and often led the team project, however, since being away on maternity leave for six months she is feeling anxious about returning to work. Although she is excited about being back at work, Amelia worries about industry changes and fitting back into the group. She fears the dynamics may have changed since she has been away. Amelia attended the first ‘ touch’ day at work, but, she didn’t go to her last one as she felt overwhelmed with anxiety. She’s questioning her abilities at work and whether she can successfully juggle her responsibilities at work and home.

When Amelia thinks about going back to work she experiences shortness of breath and heart palpitations. She feels confused as she’s never experienced these thoughts, feelings and sensations before.

Measuring anxiety

A great way to measure Amelia’s anxiety is by reflecting over the previous week and using the GAD-7 tool to assess whether she has experienced any of the below symptoms:

  1. Feeling nervous, anxious or on the edge 
  2. Not being able to control worrying 
  3. Worrying too much about different things 
  4. Having trouble relaxing
  5. Being so restless that it is hard to sit still
  6. Becoming easily annoyed or irritable 
  7. Feeling afraid something awful might happen

Amelia could also rate the intensity of the symptoms by giving them a rating from 0-3. With 0 being not at all, 1 representing several days, 2 equating to more than half the days and 3 meaning nearly every day.

You may wish to complete this question yourself

If you do and you score over 10 then it is recommended you contact your doctor for advice.

We’ll assume Amelia scored 8 in intensity overall. Which is mild to moderate anxiety. 

Emotions, thoughts and behaviours

Now, let’s break Amelia’s situation down into three-part to look at the emotions she feels, the thoughts she has and the behaviours she performs.

Firstly, her primary emotion is anxiety. Amelia feels anxious at the thought of returning to work and the extra responsibilities that come with it.

Next, her thoughts are – Will I fit in with the team? Am I up to date with industry changes? Will I be able to get the baby to childcare on time? Am I competent?

Lastly, her behaviours involve avoiding going into her workplace.

Treating anxiety

To help reduce Amelia’s anxiety she could break the situation into steps.

Amelia could write a list of things she needs to do to get ready to return to work. Amelia could then put them in order and work towards completing each task.

The list could include:

  • Checking finances to see whether returning to work will be financially viable 
  • Finding childcare for her baby
  • Settling the baby into childcare
  • Meeting up for lunch with co-workers to get the office gossip
  • Going in to work for a few days to get up to speed with what is going on before she returns
  • Trying the daily commute before starting so she knows what to expect when she returns to work
  • Starting part-time and increasing days overtime so she can adjust to working fulltime 

Breaking her return to work down into the steps above is a practical way for Amelia to reduce her anxiety. By slowly exposing herself to the changes she needs to make, Amelia is more likely to feel in control. As she can see herself progressing towards her end goal.

Is there a situation that makes you feel overwhelmed or anxious?

Maybe you have to give a presentation at work, drive to somewhere you are unsure of or, look through your finances ( this makes me anxious!). You may also feel anxious because of the recent pandemic.

Answer the GAD-7 questions above to assess your anxiety symptoms and their intensity.

If you do feel anxious about anything, write down your anxiety and make a note of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

If you want to reduce your anxiety you could break the situation down into steps like we did with Amelia and create a plan to overcome the situation.

I have a few things I’d like to work through.

Feel free to share your anxieties or plans in the comments below. 

Don’t let fear and anxiety hold you back! 

Keep safe 


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