Anxiety while working. How to resolve this?

Doctor Avocado, modified 5 Years ago at 11/17/16 11:04 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/17/16 11:02 AM

Anxiety while working. How to resolve this?

Posts: 50 Join Date: 11/2/16 Recent Posts
This is quite a long term problem for me. It probably stretches back to childhood, where I developed a habit of not doing schoolwork until the last possible moment or only if it was absolutely necessary. I'm not sure exactly why it started. I was fortunate not to have to work very hard to achieve high grades, but after some time I was also aware that I was doing this because I was averse to an unpleasant feeling of contraction and stress that arose in my body when I forced myself to sit down and do it. I think somehow I reinforced this association of tension with concentration, and now it seems totally inevitable when I try to do mental work. 

Even now after a few years of practise, I have cultivated (some) equanimity during daily life and practise, but when I'm required to do some complicated mental work like a research assignment, I still feel a really intense contraction around my upper chest and neck. It's like a very specific holding pattern, a physiological brace to some impact from a cannonball. I can also feel my heart rate is significantly faster that it needs to be. And the more I try to focus, the more this contraction seems to increase, blocking my ability to work intelligently and effectively like a chinese finger trap. 

I've tried integrating some practise while I'm working, for instance, loosely Goenka style scanning my body as I'm working on a task. And also, regulating reduced breathing and a slight feeling of air hunger. But I haven't found either of these to be very effective. 

Do you have any advise on practises I can do to develop a new, relaxed way of working? I feel like I'm missing out on a huge chunk of productive/creative time every time by not resolving this issue. 

Stirling Campbell, modified 5 Years ago at 11/17/16 1:35 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/17/16 1:35 PM

RE: Anxiety while working. How to resolve this?

Posts: 605 Join Date: 3/13/16 Recent Posts
As a long time past sufferer of anxiety, I feel for you... I really do. The thing that erased it for me, though this isn't always common, was Stream Entry. My understanding though is that, for most people who experience it, it does at least alleviate it to a great degree.

Two thoughts on it from this perspective:

The body/mind connection often creates anxiety out of the process of "selfing". That is, your body will have a sensation (for me it was often the sour stomach feeling) and your cacaphony of thoughts (monkey mind) will find you something to attach to it. Add a feedback loop of follow on thoughts and you have a decent sized anxiety reaction. These days, I observe the body feeling and watch mind try jump in to add it's two cents to the equation, but my general equanimity is SO high that there is no place for it all to get traction. My feeling is that your practice is obviously a great thing to continue to pursue in this regard. When you feel anxiety beginning, cultivate spacious quiet in your mind so that no mind/body feedback loop can establish itself. I'd even observe when/where the anxiety typically manifests and try to do some meditation BEFORE the event. My recommendation would not be mindfulness, but something more like Zen style "wet" meditation. Sounds like trying this before thinking about your work would be a good idea, on a regularly scheduled basis.

The second thing I'd suggest you look into cultivating is a trust that everything works out as it should via "surrendering". Accept what is happening as it arises as "what is" and let go of your expectations around what you believe should or shouldn't be happening. Things are happening of their own accord, just as they should. It is our difficulty with accepting them as they present themselves that often causing suffering and anxiety.

As an example: Many in the US is currently are in the grip of suffering and anxiety around this very issue - the dissonance between expection and belief in what "should" happen vs. "what is". The manfestation is fear and anxiety.

Try to let go of expectations or tension in your body or mind as they arise around this kind of dissonance. Put your attention/mindfulness/focus on those tensions in the physical body, or onto whatever/wherever your mind presents those tensions, give them a shape in your mind and release them, like putting a knuckle on a knot in your back. See if these strategies help. 

Also remember that, duh, procrastination creates anxiety. You end up carrying the task around with you and poisoning any enjoyment you may have had in that free time by tainting it with the tension of your uncompleted tasks. Try to adopt a policy of immediately doing anything you can do, and putting off anything else by setting a reminder for yourself and consciously letting go of worry about that secondary task, trusting that you have now allotted the time required to complete it. Then let it go, in the knowledge that what needs to get done will get done. 

Hope this is helpful. If not, feel free to ignore it all completely. emoticon
tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago at 11/18/16 2:57 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/18/16 2:57 AM

RE: Anxiety while working. How to resolve this?

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
worry and anxiety have their place in our evolution but are not really benefical accessories in our modern workplace.  they tend to spur us on to action but are threat based motivations and cause a cascade of chemical reactions that are physical and tough to supress.

the success i have had in dealing with things like 'project stress' leans on two pillars.

one was mentioned in the previous post.  the acceptance that 'things will work out for the best', is really a good strategy but its power lies in its constant application and not in its sporadic, event driven use.  one of the techniques i have dound helpful is to really stare down the anxiety / fear itself.  try to get at the raw feel of it and then take that to its extreme logical limit:  what if this kills me, and my family and MANKIND!!!??

this reducio ad absurdum brings a clarity to the fear / anxiety which can be dealt with on a rational level but which also works at a deeper level of attenuating the anxiety itself.  repetition ad absurdum is the facit.

working from the other end of the anxiety pipeline is more difficult to quantify but i suspect has played a huge role in reducing my general level over the years.  that is simply shamatha. 

i can calm myself down now from almost any height recently experienced by turning inward and focusing on my breathing for just a few seconds.  i don't even have to close my eyes.  i can be in a meeting with some very challenging and aggressive people and even if spoken to directly can supress or avoid the bodily reactions which used to boil up instantly.

when i was a kid, my method was simpler.  i would go outside and look at the sky, day or night and imagine the enormity of creation (thanks carl sagan) and how tiny the planet, my life, my problem was.  it worked every time.

good luck

(D Z) Dhru Val, modified 5 Years ago at 11/20/16 12:23 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/20/16 12:22 PM

RE: Anxiety while working. How to resolve this?

Posts: 346 Join Date: 9/18/11 Recent Posts
Wing Biddlebaum:

Do you have any advise on practises I can do to develop a new, relaxed way of working? I feel like I'm missing out on a huge chunk of productive/creative time every time by not resolving this issue. 


Hi there is a lot you can do...

Here is a 2 step quick fix (should take approx. 20min ) you can try before you start working. The time you spend on the exercizes will be well worth it due to the considerable productivity gains and reduced procreastication you will see.

Step 1) Relaxing and dissapating dysfunctional mind-body patterns

Do the 5 reichian exercises listed in the series of you tube videos below

Basically these will help you discharge a lot of fight or flight type anxiety. Don't worry if you don't feel perfectly relaxed.

The whole idea is to put you into a receptive state for the incantations in step two.

(Further reading: See the excellent Reichian Therapy thread on these forums)

Step 2) Conditioning your mind-body patterns for productivity

Basically get up, use positive body language and say out loud- for eg. "I Wing Biddlebaum see, know, and feel that I have high energy, calmness and clarity".

I also suggest having minor incantations in your problem areas 'I do not let problems stand in my way' or 'I am increadibly determined and resourceful'

See this tony robbins video discussiing incantations vs affirmations - (


- It helps if you have some sort of idealized image of a person or fictional character that would have the sort of focus, calmness and energy, imagine taking on some of those qualities within yourself.
- Also helps if you can remember a time where you were in the sort of ideal state that you are seeking to get into

Initially you might not feel it, but keep moving and repeating the statement with will you really start to feel like you are someone a peak flow state.

(Optionial) Step 3 - Improve legibility and motivation with an emotionally charged todo list

Once you are in a peak flow state it is the perfect time to plan a 'todo list'. An emotionally charged todo list puts the motivations and goals first, so tthat you don't

1. Write the outcome first: Try to be specific here:
Eg. I will make tremendous progress towards my goal of writing and publishing my first novel by January 2017

2. Then write 3-4 reasons why you want that out come (try to think of some new ones each time you do that exercize)
Eg. So that can make a difference in peoples lives. OR So I can have lots of fame and money to do the things that I want

These don't have to be the most noble reasons.

3. Write the actual todo list of things you need to do to achieve your goal

4. Figure out the priority or sequence of the items. When in doubt do the most off-putting or hardest thing first so that the rest is easier.

5. Go! Start working on your project.

The idea behind this is to connect everything to your goals and emotions. Increasing organization / legibility witll reduce the portion of anxiety that is caused by not working on the right thing, or somehow missing out.