Business Today

Turn Anxiety into Energy

Writing that worry list isn't as silly as it may seem. It can actually be the first step to tackling troubles
Team BT   New Delhi     Print Edition: January 28, 2018
Turn Anxiety into Energy

Being blessed rather unfairly with the ability to see into what we think the future may be gives humans the ability to worry beyond the limits of reasonability where anxiety is no longer helpful or constructive. There are degrees of generalised anxiety built into each person; but when it begins to disrupt daily life in some way, it's time to seek help. If you can't concentrate on doing a good job on your presentation because you're too busy visualising negative reactions and, hence, end up putting up a poor show, it's a red flag - your anxiety is not constructive or goading you into action, but instead is crippling.

Before heading to the counsellor or trying, unwisely, to take pills, one can have a good shot at tackling anxiety better. One common advice from experts on the subject is to recognise and acknowledge that you are anxious. One good old trick to do this is to write your worries down. It may seem counterproductive but, according to, it's one way to meet the trouble head on. Start by writing the anxious thought down as soon as it rears its head, and no matter how many times it does so. If the thought that your work may not be acceptable to your boss is eating away at you, write it down each time it occurs.

Use your phone (notes app) to jot thoughts down instead of a diary as it is usually at hand. In a short time, you'll get tired enough of the exercise and will be compelled to think about what you can do to turn it positive and take action on avoiding the outcome you fear so much. If you're that worried about whether your boss is likely to be unhappy with your work, it's a thought that can effectively be turned into energy. Logical steps will include finding out what is missing from your efforts and equipping yourself with the ability to meet expectations.

Margarita Tartakovsky, a writer on psychological issues, like many experts, thinks one can even try blocking some time for sheer worrying. Make a meal of it, as it were. And flood a piece of paper with the worries. "When your brain is bursting with worries, write them down. Release all those cooped-up worries from the corners of your mind, and let the paper deal with them. By writing down your worries, you feel as though you're emptying your brain, and you feel lighter and less tense."

Bag It Right

A choice between soft versus hard luggage has never been more important than it is today, with travel having gone up and luggage allowances being restricted. If it's a carry-on bag you're after, it's a good idea to opt for a soft case because you're handling it yourself and need it to be light. Just as long as you find a safe pocket inside for your electronics or cushion them well with whatever else you put in.

The flexibility will allow you to store it in overhead bins more easily. With larger cases, hard-shell luggage is sturdier, obviously, but it may be a heavier. Polycarbonate bags are light, but check out the weight with four wheels because two-wheel luggage is passe (nobody looks elegant zipping through an airport with trailing luggage). On the other hand, soft luggage typically made of nylon is actually washable and flexible, apart from being lighter and easier to handle. But think of what you usually carry. You may want to shrink-wrap your soft bag, lest it gets tampered in transit.

Don't lose your day to stress

If you have a nagging neck pain, frequent palpitations, persisting stomach flu, constant acidity or poor-quality sleep, it is time to take notice. Simple but persistent ailments could be an indicator that all is not well. There are advisories in cyberspace on how to cope with these issues, but seeking expert medical help is the right thing to do. "Pain can be a symptom of psychological stress," says Dr M. Phani Prasant, a consultant psychiatrist from Hyderabad. In many cases, it is linked to workplace anxiety and depression.

Companies and executives need to deal with it at the earliest. Ignoring the symptoms could be disastrous for individuals and costly for organisations. Dr Anand Nadkarni, a consultant psychiatrist at the Institute for Psychological Health in Mumbai, also works with companies such as Reliance, Siemens, Cipla and Indoco Remedies. To figure out if one is stressed, he looks at certain quantifiable (productivity drop, absenteeism) and qualitative parameters (lack of initiative while working in a team, succumbing to monotony, reluctance to learn new things, withdrawal from work-related meetings or staying aloof even in the office cafeteria). "Do not wait till the qualitative parameters emerge," he warns.

Manage stress better:
To manage stress, understand what is triggering it, says Dr Prasant. "Drop or postpone the things you are handling at the moment to reduce the load." But to get there, the first step is to monitor yourself and ask some basic questions like: Is my sleep adequate? What about my energy levels? What is my concentration level at work? Does my work interest me? Addressing the causes will solve a major part of the problem. Those who are undergoing psychiatric treatment must take their medicines religiously and should avoid double shifts or frequent shift changes.

Deal with other causes: You may think you are living a blissful life, but it could still leave you stressed. "If you are getting promoted, building a new house or expecting a baby, life may seem exciting. However, such things also bring additional responsibilities, and you may feel stressed," says Dr Prasant.

Try CBT, REBT: Dr Nadkarni thinks using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should help. CBT is a psychosocial intervention to improve mental health and focusses on building coping strategies, be it around thoughts, practices or beliefs. For some of his patients, he has also applied rational emotive behaviour therapy, or REBT, developed by American psychotherapist and psychologist Albert Ellis.

Right to Mental Healthcare

We still do not have a broadbased 'right to healthcare' in India, but at least we do have the 'right to mental health'. The new Mental Healthcare Act makes access to mental healthcare a right. This could improve services for people with mental illnesses. Dr Rahul Shidhaye, an Associate Professor at Public Health Foundation of India and heading its mental health division, says, "It is a progressive Act and a very strong legal instrument that can help improve mental health services in the country. As it provides access to mental healthcare as a right, it also means that the person concerned can take the government to court if appropriate services are not provided." It also decriminalises suicide, which means people who attempted to kill themselves may now easily seek medical help without facing the trauma of a police probe. Then there is the provision of 'advance directive' whereby people, when healthy, can state in advance their preferences for treatment.

One needs to observe how its application takes place as some psychiatrists may not be comfortable with it. Setting up mental health review boards could also open up the fi eld to multiple stakeholders, which again may not go down well with some clinicians.


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