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Is anxiety hurting you at work or in your relationships?

Denver counselor Gideon Killion shares some insights about the impact of anxiety.

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We all have moments of anxiety in certain situations, whether it’s a performance review at work or waiting to hear the results of a medical test. But for some of us, it goes beyond that, with anxiety showing up much more often and in more ordinary situations. When it does, this kind of anxiety can have a real impact on your relationships and work (not to mention your ability to enjoy life). If this sounds like it might be you, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 18% of Americans over 18 have experienced the effects of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is something that I have struggled with, so I know what it’s like. I’d to share with you some of the signs of anxiety to watch out for, as well as what you can do to get a handle on it.

Signs of anxiety to watch out for

Here are some of the most common signs that anxiety is interfering with your optimal functioning. One or two of these experiences could be due to other factors, but if you find that multiple items are relevant to you right now, anxiety could be the culprit.

Things to watch for at work:

  • You have intrusive thoughts about your own shortcomings, in which any mistake becomes a catastrophe.
  • You avoid normal interactions with people, such as by procrastinating on returning voicemails.
  • You feel overwhelmed, “out of control,” or like you can’t cope with job expectations.
  • You are extremely nervous about meetings, presentations, etc., to the point of having physical symptoms (such as nausea) or being unable to participate.
  • You find yourself arriving late or leaving early in order to minimize the time spent at work.

Things to watch for in your close relationships:

  • You feel annoyed by or suspicious of the other person with no particular trigger, or your reaction seems out of proportion to what the other person has done.
  • You make excuses to be alone rather than with the other person (for example, saying that you don’t feel well or have to work late).
  • You are rarely able to relax with your partner or have fun together.
  • You are so focused on your own thoughts or worries that you feel emotionally disconnected from your partner.
  • You have feelings of dread or pessimism about the relationship, even though it has previously felt stable and supportive.

If several of these descriptions apply to your experience in a relationship or at work, you may be seeing the side effects of anxiety.

Things that Don’t Help When You’re Anxious

It may be hard to know what to do when anxious feelings come up. These are a few of the most common — but also least effective— responses to anxiety.

Ignoring it: For many people, the natural tendency in trying to cope with anxious feelings is to minimize or deny the problem. You may find yourself hoping that anxiety symptoms will just go away on their own. What often happens, though, is that trying to ignore anxiety can make it worse—either more frequent or more intense.

Isolating: A common side effect of anxiety is self-consciousness. You may worry that you’re acting strangely around others (or that they will guess how anxious you’re feeling). Although trying to stay away from others provides a short-term solution to this problem, isolating yourself can make coping with anxiety more difficult in the long term.

Self-medicating: It’s tempting to use alcohol or drugs to take the edge off your anxiety symptoms, but they come with their own problems, like dependency. There are healthier ways to address the problem.

Handling anxiety on your own

If mild anxiety is having a negative effect on relationships or causing problems at work, you may be able to counter it simply by providing yourself with in-the-moment techniques to reduce anxiety right away. Here are a few things that can be immediately useful at times when you notice you are feeling anxious:

Count blue things. It sounds ridiculous, but this simple trick can be very effective in calming your nervous system. Look around the room and silently identify each thing you see that’s blue: “the spine of a blue book, a blue highlighter, two people wearing blue shirts.” This technique works because it tricks your brain into shifting gears and focusing on a cognitive task.

Listen to the ticking of a clock or analog watch. This has a soothing effect for most people because a clock ticks at about the same speed as your own normal resting heart rate. You don’t even need an actual clock or watch—a virtual one will do. Search for “ticking clock” on YouTube, or download an app like G Clock that replicates the sound of the swinging pendulum of a grandfather clock.

Engage in proprioceptive actions. Proprioception refers to your own physical sense of your body in relation to the things around it. Thus, any action that involves proprioceptive input can help to calm your nervous system. This can be as simple as chewing gum, or as complex as playing a ball game like basketball or football in which your body comes in contact with the ball. Other simple proprioceptive techniques include squeezing a stress ball, pushing your palms against a wall, or eating a crunchy food like pretzels.

Getting help with your anxiety

When your anxious feelings don’t respond to the simple techniques listed above, or if you feel so anxious most of the time that you’re having difficulty functioning in your normal work and home routines, it’s a good idea to get professional help. Anxiety can be treated through counseling as well as through medication, or both.

A medical doctor, like your primary care physician, or a psychiatrist, can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe medication. It can take a few tries to get the right medication and the right dose, and all medications can have side-effects, so it’s important to stay in contact with your doctor during this process.

Counseling is also an effective treatment for anxiety, for most people. Simply talking to a counselor on a regular basis can be helpful for some people, but the treatment can also include things like uncovering subconscious thoughts and feelings, challenging or defusing intrusive thoughts, or practicing mindfulness and relaxation skills. If you are wondering whether counseling might be able to help you with your anxiety, I would be honored to talk to you. Please contact me and we’ll set up a free, 30-minute consultation at one of my Denver counseling locations.

How Hidden Depression Could Be Hurting Your Career

depressed-man-on-pc-looking-for-a-denver-counselorDenver counselor, coach, and therapist Gideon Killion shares some thoughts on the cost of undiagnosed depression.

Are you struggling to stay motivated at work? Have you been feeling physically or mentally tired or had difficulty concentrating? Do you have trouble making decisions or keeping track of important information at your job?

Career difficulties can arise for both external and internal reasons, but it’s important to ask yourself whether a psychological condition like depression could be the root cause.

If so, you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association estimates that based on 2013 data, up to 9% of adult men experience feelings of depression or anxiety on a daily basis. But depression and other mood disorders can be tricky to identify correctly on your own, given that men’s depression symptoms may not always include the “classic” elements such as sadness. Sometimes depression symptoms may also show up as physical indicators, such as digestive changes or simply feeling more tired than usual.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression in men can include some (but not necessarily all) of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or anxiety
  • Unusual anger or irritability
  • Fatigue, either physical or mental
  • Difficulty focusing on work or trouble with short-term memory
  • Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
  • Physical pain, including headaches, digestive issues, or cramps
  • Reduced interest in activities that used to be pleasurable, including family life, hobbies, and sex
  • Difficulty functioning in everyday life, both at work and at home

Here are some of the ways that chronic depressed mood could negatively affect your day-to-day effectiveness at work and even have long-term consequences for your career.

Impact on Productivity

No one is at their best professionally when they’re struggling with depression. A chronically depressed mood makes it difficult to concentrate on detail work or keep track of important data. It can also lead to problems with time management, thanks to depression’s way of dulling your ability to make executive decisions and stay focused on one activity at a time. In a chaotic work environment with many interruptions, the irritability associated with depression may make it difficult to avoid blowing up at others.

No Motivation to Move Ahead

If you’re barely mustering the energy to show up on time and put one foot in front of he other, it makes sense that depression can put the brakes on a promising career. One of the hallmarks of major depressive disorder is the loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. When depression has sapped you of motivation to take on new responsibilities and seek opportunities to be promoted, it’s unlikely that you will move beyond your current rung on the career ladder. And the mental or even physical fatigue that comes with chronic depression can make small challenges seem insurmountable.

Cumulative Effects on Work Relationships

Depression can intensify some of the challenges of day-to-day work, such difficulty coping with tense co-worker dynamics or unexpected policy changes. Men who are depressed often find themselves withdrawing from peer interactions at work, leading them to feel increasingly more isolated.

Telling your boss—or not—is another challenge of depression in the workplace. It may feel good to be honest about your struggles and ask for specific accommodations, or you may be afraid to disclose this information to management.

Regardless of whether you decide to let your supervisor or co-workers know how being depressed has affected you at work, it can be helpful to connect with others outside the workplace who understand the struggle of coping with a mood disorder. Here in the Denver area, there are several Meetup.com groups focused on depression, including one called Freedom From Anxiety and Depression. There are also several structured support groups for people with depression in the Denver metro area; for details, see NAMI Colorado.

Sometimes chronic or severe symptoms of depression can require professional help in order to improve. If you need help with resources for counseling in Denver or specific ways to cope with depression, give me a call at (303) 952-0168, email me at gideon@lifecraftcounseling.net, or use my contact form.

Workplace Stress: Is the Office Rat Race Bothering You?

Workplace Stress

Workplace StressFor many aggressive and driven individuals, the workplace is like a second home. It is where you feel supported and valued. A healthy workplace motivates employees, inspiring you to be better and to achieve greatness in your chosen field.

There are times, however, when the struggle for wealth and recognition creates an unhealthy work environment which adds to your stress. This takes a toll on your psychological health and general well-being, affecting not only your productivity but the business’ bottom line, as well. This stress may develop into a mental health risk.

Common Mental Health Problems

Around 40 million Americans – or one in five adults – struggle with mental health conditions. Mental health problems among the youth have also worsened, with incidences of youth depression increasing from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.1% in 2014, according to the community-based nonprofit organization Mental Health America.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition shares that anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the most common mental health disorders affecting employees. One study found that depression ranked first among five health problems which cost companies a hefty amount of money on medical and pharmacy expenses.

Avoiding the Stigma

A study published by the Harvard Health Publications acknowledges the fact that mental health disorders in the workplace are often unrecognized and untreated. This is understandable as employees are reluctant to seek treatment because of the stigma that comes with the condition. While the symptoms go unnoticed, the effects are often tangible, such as the sudden and significant decrease in productivity.

Some companies and studies use the World Health Organization’s Health and Work Performance Questionnaire to gauge the mental health situation in an office. This research tool asks employees certain questions, such as how many days they call in sick for work, and assesses their performance at work.

Mental health problems are no longer isolated cases and may affect any gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Or they could be triggered by workplace stress. If you often feel under the weather due to the rat race you’re in, there are services you can access to help you deal with office struggles and other issues. At LifeCraft Counseling, LLC, we offer therapy and counseling in Denver to help you cope with challenges.

Contact us now for more information or to schedule your consultation.

How to Find Fulfillment at Work
(Even When You Don’t Like Your Job)

Denver counselor and coach Gideon Killion shares some ideas about what to do when you don’t like your job.

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Are most people happy at work? The answer depends on who you ask. According to one 2016 study, about 88% of Americans surveyed felt satisfied in their jobs. On the other hand, a different survey in the same year found that only 49% reported satisfaction with their work situation.

In my Denver counseling practice, I meet a lot of people who are unhappy in their professional life. Some of them are not sure they are in the right career, while others believe they’re on the right general path but feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled in the day-to-day experience of their current job.

If you’re unhappy at work, you may not have the option of immediately leaving to find something better. But there are concrete steps that you can take to increase your sense of fulfillment.

Identify Your Purpose

One of the most important factors in job satisfaction is having a sense of purpose. It can be helpful to deliberately reflect on the ways that your daily job tasks benefit other people—including specific clients/customers, your co-workers, and society at large. Take a few minutes to think through this in writing, or discuss it with a friend. In addition to thinking about how your work benefits others, consider the ways in which it is personally meaningful to you. Then, see if you can distill all of these thoughts into one or two sentences, like a personal mission statement. You might choose to write these sentences on an index card and place it in your work area where you can see it each day as you arrive to begin your workday.

In his book “Drive,” Daniel Pink identifies purpose and mastery as two of the three key motivators in human behavior. Mastery, or becoming more skilled over time in a specific task, can be a significant influence on work satisfaction. What skills have you developed in your professional life that contribute to your sense of purpose at work? Consider how you might complete this sentence: “I am skilled at [significant job task], which helps others by…”

Improve the Big Picture by Tweaking Small Things

Sometimes, seemingly insignificant aspects of our work life can become obstacles to fulfillment. When we find a way to make even a small shift in these areas, there can be an exponential improvement in overall happiness in the work environment.

Consider these ideas for improving your work experience:

  • Think of the co-workers you enjoy the most. Look for small ways to connect with them, whether it’s a simple compliment or inviting them to have lunch together. Now, notice which co-workers you enjoy the least. For each one, decide whether it feels best to minimize your interactions with that person—which can be a healthy choice at times—or to actively reach out with a peace offering of some kind.
  • Set boundaries between your work life and your personal time. Commit to devoting your attention to work during your designated work hours, and then let go of work concerns as you transition from work to home. If your job allows, don’t bring work home or check any messages from work during your personal time.
  • If you’re allowed to customize your workspace, go crazy with it. Make yourself at home in your work environment as much as possible. On the other hand, if your employer has rules against personal items on the job, look for subtle or even secret ways to bring your personal life into your workspace. For example, if you play guitar on the weekend, you could keep a guitar pick in your pocket.
  • Build humor and a playful attitude into your workday. What about pulling up Spotify on your break and challenging the person in the next cubicle to a lip-sync contest? If your corporate culture doesn’t welcome outward expressions of humor, try finding subtle ways to remind yourself to lighten up—like wearing goofy socks, or using the reminder function on your phone to send yourself a funny message several times a day.

What do these suggestions have in common? They all focus on finding small ways to take control of your experience at work.

Create a Transition Plan

When the only thing that will significantly improve your experience at work is the vision of a future elsewhere, it’s time to make a plan. Identifying the steps toward finding a better job will provide a sense of hope for the future as you transition to a different employer that fits your current career needs.

One key to a successful transition plan is to consider how your current job can act as a bridge to something better. What skills in your work today can transfer to a different and more satisfying position later? What learning opportunities in today’s job can start you on the path to tomorrow’s new career?

Consider whether it might help to enlist a guide who can support you as you plan for the transition. Here at LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching in Denver, I help men and women find satisfying and fulfilling work that gives them a feeling of purpose every day. Request a free consult to find out more!