How to overcome feelings of stress & anxiety
If you suffer from bouts of overwhelming stress and anxiety you are not alone. Many of us know what it is feels like to be overtaken by worry, from fear of losing your job, financial concerns, relationship woes or just everything and nothing at the wrong time, however if anxiety is not controlled it can begin to take over your life and that’s when it becomes less of a nuisance and more of a mental concern that can escalate and even effect your physical wellbeing.
According to a recent survey by Statistic Brain, stress is affecting up to 77 percent of the US population. What’s more, numerous studies uncover that young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are most likely to feel the pressure.
The increasing emphasis put on financial success and career progression, coupled with a frail economy is putting young professionals under more stress than ever before. The backlash from the 2009 recession is still being felt by many young men and women trying to get a toe hold on the employment ladder.
It’s no wonder then, that anxiety is common; speak to most of your peers openly and they will admit to experiencing stress, yet despite its ubiquitous nature a lot of us find it hard to deal with anxiety when it punches its way into our lives.
Lightheadedness, skin rashes, depression, sadness and physical pain are all symptoms associated with anxiety. Some sufferers will notice the symptoms over a long period of time, others will feel it come and go almost instantaneously. There is no hard and fast cure – after all we cannot (unfortunately) just remove stress from our lives, and different coping methods will work for different individuals.
Here are some different methods for coping with anxiety when it rears its ugly head:
1. Get moving
I was once told that all stress stems from claustrophobia – the feeling of being trapped. Whether you feel trapped by debt, a job you don’t enjoy, a negative relationship or simply a situation you don’t want to be in, claustrophobia is the cause of your negative emotions and thus your anxiety.
Back when cavemen walked the earth, their stresses and moments of claustrophobia were very different; they felt trapped by predators and their reaction had to be fight or flight in order to survive. Their bodies prepared by releasing adrenalin, which back in the day was burned off by fighting or running for their lives.
Today, we are far less active – often our stress builds up while we are motionless at our desks and the adrenalin produced is not dispelled, often making us feel dizzy or unwell. The cure therefore is exercise; a long run, a weight lifting session, a bike ride or a hike every day. Not only will you use up any excess adrenalin but exercise releases endorphins and can help you take you mind off a hectic day or negative thoughts.
2. And breathe
If you can control your breathing you are immediately more in control of how you’re feeling. A deep breath can calm your body and relax your muscles making you feel immediately more at ease. Once your breathing is calm your mind is also able to put any concerns into perspective more efficiently.
Deep, relaxed breathing is one technique praised by doctors, scientists, yogis and health practitioners alike. It helps clear your head, relax your muscles and expels air, helping you slowly breath more in.
SEE MORE: 13 traits of successful businesswomen
3. Shift your focus
If you head is suddenly clouded with feelings of anxiety, one way to clear the fog is by physically changing your setting or shifting your focus. Dave Carbonell, Ph.D. a clinical psychologist and author of The Panic Attacks Workbook says that physical fixes can help combat acute anxiety. He recommends shifting your focus to your immediate environment to get out of your own head at critical moments.
“Play with the volume of your voice; shift your visual field,” he recommends. “If you’re sitting, stand up; if you’re standing, move. Use your body to remind yourself that you’re not trapped; that you are in control and that there is a whole world out there, beyond what’s going on in your mind.”
4. Distract your mind
And movement is not the only way to distract yourself. Anxiety often builds up because you spend a lot of time thinking about being stressed – which, ironically, in turn makes the feelings of anxiety worse.
Stress is not an enjoyable emotion so you need to find ways to distract your mind. Run a bath, read a book, watch a film or simply strike up a conversation within someone nearby. The more you dwell on the feeling of anxiety, the greater that feeling will become.
SEE MORE: How to create a positive work culture
5. Put it in perspective
Sometime the best cure for anxiety is to ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? What is the worst-case scenario? Then ask yourself whether it’s worth worrying about. Can you change the outcome, and if so, how? If you cannot influence the end result then you have to learn to accept that some things are beyond your control and that’s fine too.
Somebody once said to me: “Ninety-nine percent of the things we worry about never happen,” so we cannot spend our entire lives thinking about the what-ifs.
6. Identify the cause
This seems like the most obvious method for overcoming stress, however it’s surprising how many people fail to identify the cause of their concerns. One of the first – and most proactive – things to do when a worry sets in is identify the source – what exactly are you stressing over? Once you have identified the cause revert to number five and put it in perspective. Can you influence change – if you can great, go ahead and do it. If you can’t you need to overcome the negative associations in other ways.
Stress is not something that can be cured by taking a tablet; you need to work hard to overcome feelings of anxiety and its important to teach yourself how to relax. Many experts suggest meditation, yoga and other similar forms of exercise, however you need to identify what works for you. Ultimately, if your anxiety becomes too overwhelming, its time to move away from the negative situation, be that your place of work, a relationship or indeed a location that makes you feel on edge. Failing that consult a doctor who can help you find the path that most suits your needs and emotional state.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.