HOW ANXIETY CAN AFFECT YOU IN UNEXPECTED WAYS

Most anxiety triggers evolve into a physical manifestation or a noticeable psychological response. You sweat, you are worried, your heart races…. If you have anxiety chances are you have experienced one or all of those symptoms. There are long term effects to anxiety that can impact you in unexpected ways. You might be having one of these struggles at a moment when you are not in the throes of anxiety. However, repeated bouts of anxiety effect one’s cognitive ability, to varying degrees.

Anxiety can affect your memory. Anxiety impacts your ability to focus and that can have a deteriorating effect on your ability to consolidate memories and hinder recall. This isn’t to say that it’s a prelude to a deeper psychological condition or deteriorating of your memory but lack of focus can impact quick queues you need for memory. A classic example of this is remembering someone’s name. Do you get anxious meeting new people? Do you have trouble remembering new people’s names? I sure do.

Anxiety can harm your self-esteem. Having anxiety means you are acutely aware of how you feel and because of our social construct you are aware that it’s not excepted as normal. This can begin to erode away your self-esteem and cause you to exhibit withdraw like symptoms such as changing how you dress, where you look when you are in a crowd and the tone of your voice when speaking to others. These are often subtle but real. Next time you are in a crowd of people, be aware of where your eyes are. Are you looking at the ground? Or are you engaging people head up with eye contact?

Anxiety can impact your immune system. The more you worry the more your nervous system demands resources from your body to accommodate your mind. When something negative happens in your life do you a day or two later end up with the sniffles? This is pretty common actually, the brain demands a lot from your body and this is why it is so important to get enough sleep and eat well. Your immune system can be over taxed very easily, there are germs everywhere and if you’re worried you are sending your immune system into battle with one hand tied behind its back.  

Embrace yourself, Embrace the Light. You are doing awesome, one day at a time.

Anxiety could cause you to have a “break out”. Now this is often exclusive to younger people, however from time to time even those of us well into our adult lives get acne. Worry and anxiety can tax your immune system and one of the results of this can be a break out of acne. I remember when I was a teenager WAY BACK in the dark days of the 80’s  we had all sorts of acne medicine you could by over the counter. I used to get break outs from time to time and upon reflection it was often when I was anxious. That anxiety was a neurological trigger for me that pumped out hormones and as a result I had break outs creating EVEN MORE anxiety.

Anxiety sucks, it’s not cut and dry as to how it affects you and what your triggers are. Just remember no matter how bad it gets, or how crappy you feel, there are millions of us out there who have it. You aren’t alone. This post was more a pep talk really, from someone suffering through some if not all of the above. If I can make it, so can you. One day at a time, you got this !

HOW ANXIETY CAN IMPACT YOUR CAREER

Yes, it’s me again! There is a definite theme to my posts here on the Bi-Polar Writer blog and I assure you it’s not by design. It is the piece that I have created at the moment and as with most creators we write best and most, about things we know about.

Having Anxiety can be very taxing to nearly every part of your life. It manifests itself in many ways, insomnia, mood swings, nervous ticks, the list is extensive. As well as affecting your physical and mental health, anxiety can also result in a decline in your work performance. Work whether we like it or not is a critical part of our lives. It’s not just that its fulfilling (hopefully you have a job that is) but it provides us the means by which obtain income to survive.

I have seen a few of the impacts in my career and others, below are a few:

  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Poorer relationships at work due to mood changes (eg irritability, tearfulness, agitation) and behavior changes.
  • Procrastination and inefficiency when completing tasks.
  • Increased absenteeism due to recurring physical symptoms (for example, upset stomach, headaches).
  • Ongoing feelings of dread about deadlines or specific work tasks and worrying about these in your free time, when away from the workplace.

I have been both an employee and an employer/manager in my career. I can tell you that absenteeism was one of the worst issues I faced as a manager. There are laws that govern what you can and cannot say to an employee who has excessive absenteeism. The biggest issue for me was, the work still had to get done whether that person showed up or not. We got through it, but it always put a strain on the department.

That person ended up being resented by other staff who had to pick up their work. An unintended consequence of anxiety sadly. For me as a manager I had to get production out of my people, I always tried to temper that with as much understanding as I could muster. Often though, corporate demanded results, I had to push, it sucked. I’m not in management anymore, I miss the money but am much happier. Anxiety not only impacted the individual but impacted the entire team. The worse part? That person felt WORSE because they knew it was impacting everyone in the office.

Do you like the people you work with? If yes empower them.

So what do you do?

If anxiety is affecting your work place performance the best thing you can do is talk to your boss. It may be a challenging conversation but once you have it you relieve yourself of a tremendous burden. You see, what happens is, your boss and coworkers have to speculate as to why you are out so often. 9 times out of 10, unless we know you well, we are way off. By letting your boss know you have an issue, you empower them, you relieve yourself, but you also invoke whatever coverage you have under your company’s personnel policy. It’s critical you have this conversation if not for your own preservation and protection, but to provide your boss the tools necessary to adequately address the issue. Not just with you but with THEIR boss as well.

Mental illness/anxiety isn’t often specifically covered by policies, but chances are there is something in there. When you let your boss know, you provide them and yourself coverage. Otherwise, as in my example, I had to get the work out of other people. Had I had a clear picture what was going on, I would have a reason for department performance (not an EXCUSE a REASON). Your employer isn’t your enemy, they need you for whatever it is you are producing for them. If you can do it, make sure they know what is going on, it will help your career in the long run.

We have Anxiety, and there are degree’s. More accurately, every day has degree’s and many of us are on the precipice of mental illness. That isn’t a negative thing, it’s not an indictment of your value as a person. We have to be honest here not only with ourselves but with the people in our lives, and yes that includes people you work with. By finding the courage to come forth about your issues with Anxiety you are doing yourself a tremendous service that likely isn’t apparent initially. You are providing yourself a layer of protection, your company has a vested interest in you being successful. You do not need to share every intimate detail of your condition but by giving them this knowledge, you are empowering them to treat you better.

Anxiety and Working: Cultivate this asset ASAP.

I have anxiety, worse I get intrusive thoughts that at times can really set me back and for lack of a better term plant me flat on my !@#. I have also maintained a full time job since 1988 (yes I am ancient). I’ve worked in many places and have had many different roles. How have I done it? I have worked on one important asset throughout my career.

The asset? A robust professional network. Now we hear this term, “a network” many times but what does it really mean? It means that you accumulate a list of people that you have worked with that are allies and references. Yes, it’s that simple but it’s critical because this asset can be the difference between getting a job and being unemployed. In the stress cesspool we all currently fight so hard to survive in, we have to have assets to help us survive.  A good network is one of the best assets you can have.

Quick story – I lost a job in 2012 the company was sold, and headquarters were moved to Denver. I knew it was coming but like everyone else at the company I didn’t know when. I looked for another job, to no avail and then the meeting happened we got our last checks and I was driving home. There I was out of work, stressed and pretty bummed out. I was angry, I was scared, and I was desperate. I had to pull over. I called my wife and told her I was on the side of the road that I was okay but would be late. She got very scared, a police cruiser pulled up and he tells me my wife called them because she was afraid.

I explained the situation and told the cop I was just clearing my head. He understood, but told me I needed to go home. He followed me, I was humiliated. It was a very low point for me, my anxiety was in full bloom, intrusive thoughts were sweeping through me, and I was losing control. I got through it but the next week was horrible, my kids were scared, my wife was scared, I was scared.

You will meet many people in your career, identify like minded individuals and cultivate a relationship.

I had bills, a family to support I was panicking. It took me weeks to recover from the stress, I recall sitting at my PC at home looking at jobs, and they all sucked. It was then that I reached out to my “network” which at the time consisted of 6 people. These were all professional contacts, none of them were great friends but we had worked together, and I had identified them as allies. Every one of them replied to me, 2 of them had jobs for me. One was at a much lower level then my last job, but it was benefitted, the other was a lateral move from where I was.

I was back to work within the month, because of my network. It’s critical for professionals to network with other like-minded people. This “network” is an asset that you need to maintain like your other valued items. I know this language may not sound normal for the maintenance of relationships but it’s critical to do this. How do you do it? Here are 5 tips to keep your professional network cultivated.

  1. A holiday email: Send your network a happy holidays email.
  2. Birthdays: if you know them, send your contacts a happy birthday email
  3. Do lunch if you can: From time to time reach out and see if they want to meet for lunch.
  4. Follow their social media: don’t stalk them of course but from time to time drop them a “hey” on their Instagram.
  5. Ask how things are going at work: They may be looking for a job too.

Keep it professional don’t go to personal (how are the kids, etc.) unless they do. Remember, as a person living with anxiety we need to look for help sometimes. It’s okay to need other people and its okay to use a professional network when things in your work life aren’t so rosy. I am so glad I had a network, who knows where I would have ended up. Ya we had a little money, we aren’t wealthy though. I recovered fast because I had cultivated this asset. I hope you never need one for the same reason I did but please, build one.

TIME, MONEY & ANXIETY

One of the greatest sources of Anxiety for many of us is money. I have been a finance professional for nearly 30 years and I have seen all sorts of shenanigans when it comes to investing and money. This post is an opinion, when taking any financial advice you should always do your diligence and get educated from multiple different sources.

That disclaimer out of the way let me say that as someone with anxiety dealing with my finances has been extremely challenging at times. If you are reading this its highly likely that you are out there trying to make your way as best you can, and money/income is a serious issue for you. You want to have a good life and a good future, you are going to need money for that, and there is no use in denying it.

I am going to cut right to the chase at this point. Over time if you invest money wisely, you will have less anxiety. Yes that is correct, because income and assets = options. Having money, at least some of it, makes potentially stressful situations a nuance. Imagine a moment your car breaks down and it needs $800.00 in repairs. If you live paycheck to paycheck that’s a serious issue, if you have saved, over time and have say 5,000.00 in the bank the 800.00 payout, while painful, is WAY less stressful.

So how you do it:

  1. Set up an automatic investment from your paycheck. This can be through your employer or a company like fidelity, every paycheck money comes out and goes into your investments.
  2. Select “large cap” mutual funds. You don’t have to be an investment analyst here. Select mutual funds that invest in successful companies. If their portfolio includes companies like: Apple, Microsoft, Proctor and Gamble, Coke these are all established companies that make money.
  3. Do this for years. Yes, 1-3-5-10-20-30 years. That’s YEARS.
  4. At the end of one of these periods you should have a good chunk of money. The longer you wait, the bigger the number gets.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? It actually is, the trick is not panicking with every stock market move and staying consistent. The stock market goes up and down, some years the return is 20%+ some its -20% but on average you can expect from 7-10% return over 30 years. The trick is reinvesting your returns and compounding interest. Yes you can be more nuanced if you want but the goal here is to build wealth, through time with minimal amount of stress now and less stress later.

Stay with me here, I know money talk hurts some peoples brains 🙂

You stick with mutual funds that invest in large companies I’ve mentioned a few, here are a few more. Google, Amazon, McDonalds. Mutual funds that have large companies as their main focus are called “Large Cap”. Again you do not need to be an expert here, you are investing in a spread of companies that are industry leaders in their field, the chances of them losing everything is very, very low.

So, a simple example is you invest 100 dollars at 10% return you make 10 dollars. Year two you invest 110 at 10% return you make 11 dollars. So by year 3 we are at 121.00 and on and on. Now compounding this over time say 30 years? You’re going to have a nice nest egg. Think for a moment where you might be 30 years from now? If you could wouldn’t you want your younger self to be doing things to help you 30 years in the future?

Here is a link to the calculator I used, put in your own numbers see where you end up. Anxiety sucks, saving for your future might be the best thing you can do NOW that will help you relieve stress then. Imagine if you were a young child and you could do something then that would have helped you now, would you have done it? You are not only investing in the market but you are investing in your future mental health. Remember money/income = freedom/choices.

 I know this post was very simplistic compared to other investing advice pieces, and for good reason. Investing doesn’t have to be intimidating and at some point you have to plan for your future and investing now, automatically every paycheck into mutual funds is more likely than not to provide you with a great nest egg later in life. It’s important to plan for your future and as individuals with anxiety it’s perhaps even more important for us to start now.

If you suffer with Anxiety these two words are the most important in any language

What are they? Yes and No.

It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, if you have anxiety we often go with “yes” because it relieves the immediate chance for stress. When someone is asking you something, when you say yes, you are giving them what they want. More often than not this means they will leave you alone to sort out what the yes response means. The pressure is off and that is the immediate need met, the source of the anxiety is gone, for now.

Sadly “yes” often means more on us. We have more work to do, we have expectations to fill, and we have the burden of attempting to gauge expectations pertaining to the yes response. It’s a potent word, it can be empowering. If yes leads you to a leverage position that can be a difference maker in just about every interaction you have. Using leverage isn’t always an attractive option for those of us with anxiety. We feel bad, rightfully or wrongly.

Sometimes a simple “No” removes the clutter.

The more powerful word is no. No absolves you from responsibility for the other person’s desire. Simply put, when you say no you are free from the constraints of expectations of others. Because it is more powerful then yes, it thus has more anxiety attached. You are not pleasing the other person, you are not satiating them, and they may press and ask for more. When you use the no word it can directly lead to conflict, moral, ethical, spiritual, personal, relationship on and on

It is a dangerous word for those of us with anxiety. When we say no, we open ourselves up for mental exercises that can lead to crippling anxiety, I know I’ve experienced it. The thought of this outcome sends many of us into the pit of woe that is anxiety. Look mental health isn’t a simple equation, breaking things down to “Yes and No” may seem silly, but these two words are extremely important we have to consider the ramifications of saying either or.

I am starting to use “no” more and it’s been pretty cathartic. It makes my “yes” responses much more powerful and I feel better about it when I do. I find I am asked to do less, and the more I do the more it is appreciated. Using the “yes” response devalued my contributions, it was expected, and it increased my anxiety a great deal. “No” seems so negative, but it truly isn’t, at least not for me.

Which of these two powerful words do you use most often?

5 Things to make the Holliday season easier for those of us with Anxiety

Yes it’s that time again. Halloween is right around the corner and that is the official start of the Holliday season in most western countries. I do understand people from all over the world read this blog, and these tips can be used really anytime. That said if you suffer from Anxiety and Mental Health issues, this time of year can be horrific. It’s not just the social constructs around the holidays (costumes, gatherings, gift giving) it’s that nearly everyone is in a heightened state.

One of the worst parts of my Anxiety is being in tune to the stress levels around me. It’s like a 6th sense if you will, I can feel it when others are stressed out and it pulls me in to what often turns into a seasonal funk. If you have mental health issues you know what I mean. You are not only keenly aware of your own mental state but you are a magnet for others states as well. Enter what is, in my opinion, one of the most stressful times of the year the Holliday season.

Oh and as an added bonus? It’s 2020, so you get a pandemic and a U.S. Presidential election thrown in to boot. Joy, rapture…. To the point. How do you deal with it? How do you not only get through it but extract some good memories and positive outcomes? Well let’s try the 5 things below and see how we do.

  1. Get as much sleep as possible: The more sleep you can obtain the better you will be physically and mentally. If you are stressed and exhausted you are setting yourself up for a huge crash. Shut down 30 minutes earlier starting tonight, try and stay in bed 30 min longer tomorrow morning.
  2. Identify the top 10: You may have even less than 10 but who are the 10 most important people in your life? These are the people that you love unconditionally, your parents, kids, spouse, siblings… Make a mental list of those people, everyone below it should be held at a distance. Meaning, you expend your holiday energy on the top 10. Work parties? Pass.
  3. Buy less presents: I’m not saying spend less, but get one really nice gift per person. A lot of gifts = managing the process. Wrapping, tagging, delivery. Buy one nice gift per person, be as generous as you can and reduce your gift buying load.
  4. You do you: many people out there don’t celebrate the season at all. However everyone gets exposed to the marketing crush. Even if you don’t live in the west, you’re online you’re seeing the ads. It’s okay not to celebrate the holidays, people that pressure you “what are you doing for xmas” or “did you get XTYRE a present?” tell them you don’t celebrate it. The more you verbalize it the less pressure you’re going to feel internally. Externally when you tell people, eventually they will leave you alone.
  5. Give yourself the freedom to be sad: it’s okay to be sad during the holidays. There are people in my life no longer with me that I miss terribly. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad, it’s natural to miss people. It’s unnatural to be bombarded with influences that tell you, you have to move on, or get over it. Ya you do eventually, but the holidays are one of the times of the year where it’s okay to be a little sad about people no longer with you. Let yourself do that, don’t beat yourself up because you can’t let go.

I hope these help I really do. The most important thing you need to do is be honest with yourself. If you feel extreme emotional swings during the holidays, reach out to someone, do not go it alone. 2020 has been a bad year, we are close to the finish line here. Hang in there, you’re doing great.

WORK ANXIETY – WHAT TO DO IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE.

Anxiety and Mental Health issues suck. I know that’s blunt but why not be direct? For me, my largest struggle is with intrusive thoughts. There are days when something happens and it triggers all sorts of “scenarios” in my mind. To the point where I find myself just hiding in bed, hiding online, hiding always hiding…. One of those triggers for me is making a mistake at work. As this is a piece for the Bi Polar Writer, some of you don’t know me. I am a gen xer just turned 50, I have been a finance professional for nearly 30 years. I have a master’s degree in business admin, work in an executive position, I make good money.

That’s a general overview and it’s important because mental health issues affect people from all walks of life. I function well, but I too have days where I just hide. So making a mistake at work, for me is one of my huge triggers. I’ve been a manger of people and have been managed and in both capacities, I have made mistakes, a few doozies too. Work is stressful, there are so many competing emotions that go into work these days. People that don’t experience it are either numb or blessed. You have competition, backstabbing, gossip, accolades, rewards, bonuses… to name a few. Each one of these and including several others (a demanding boss) can inspire anxiety.

What happens if you screw up? If you make a mistake and you know it before everyone else, what do you do? Quick story: many, many years ago (yes, I am ancient) I had to cut a check to a client for over 300K I put the check in the printer upside down, it looked correct but the vital part on the back was on the stub, not the check part. I got it back signed stuffed it in an envelope and mailed it. I realized later what I had done. I panicked I didn’t say anything to anyone, the client called me, he was unhappy, very unhappy.

I had 3 days of anxiety over that mistake. It was brutal, I was miserable and that’s just one example of several small, medium and large mistakes I have made in my career.  I survived, but what could I have done differently? If you make a mistake at work, you are not alone. Perfection is the bane of very good, but that doesn’t matter right? If you have anxiety you are going to beat yourself up over it. Here are 5 things you should do if you make a mistake at work to alieve your anxiety:

Take responsibility: Let your boss know and the affected parties know. Apologize and make sure they know you will work to fix the issue.

Fix what you can: This intertwines with the above but fix what you can. Some issues, you can’t fix but be available for the fix. Bottom line, if you make a mistake and can fix it, fix it, even if it means you work late.

Make it a learning moment: Cliché? Maybe but you made this mistake for a reason. Learn what you did wrong, and make sure you implement the requisite changes so that it doesn’t happen again.

Forgive yourself: Everyone makes mistakes, but at this moment you’re up. You must make sure you forgive yourself for making a mistake, everyone makes them. If you beat yourself up too much you might cause harm to your future job performance.

Get back to work: Don’t be tentative. Do your job, build your confidence back up.

I know some of these you have heard before and they are common sense right? Well for those of us living with mental health issues and Anxiety, making a mistake at work can be the catalyst for a spiral of negative thoughts for days if not weeks. Work plays such a huge role in all our lives, it doesn’t matter what you do you are working for money to live. If you screw up, all sorts of things can take place. “What if I get fired?” That’s the big one isn’t it? I know I’ve been there and I have had the anxiety and doubt seep into my soul over work mistakes and it’s horrible.

Making a mistake at work sucks, it happens all the time. You will recover, you will move on and you will be successful. Own it, manage it and learn from it. I can’t promise you that it’s going to be easy, particularly if it affects other people at the workplace. On the contrary it’s going to be extremely hard and you are going to feel very exposed. Take a deep breath, try to remember this list and move past it as fast as you can. You are doing awesome out there, chin up, one day at a time.

If you have Anxiety you must talk about money.

 “Money is the root of all evil” You’ve probably heard this saying many times in your life. In fact, it is a misquote from the bible. This passage, based on a letter from the Apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy says, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” Without the word “love,” the verse takes on a completely different meaning and gives the impression that money in and of itself is evil.

Money isn’t evil, it’s necessary. For those of us with anxiety it can be one of the things that cripple us. The worst part is, it’s not just people with Anxiety but many out there are having issues with money. Given the situation with Covid over the last 6 months for some things have become extremely dyer. Not having enough money is stressful, having enough money is stressful, money is stressful ! As individuals with anxiety we have to talk about it. We have to deal with this reality of modern society, to be secure you need income and financial resources.

To be blunt many people spend more time on their star bucks’ orders then they do on their personal finance. As individuals with anxiety we can’t do that. We have the added stressor of being pulled into the vacuum/pit of anxiety on a moment’s notice. It’s random for many of us, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks you name it. Money is just another trigger, but by addressing it we can minimally have a better relationship with our own personal economy. I am imploring you to talk about money. Parents, siblings and spouses are great choices for people to talk to.

If you are having money issues, having someone to talk to about it can be the difference between deep anxiety and survival. Imagine for a moment you aren’t taking care of your finances and your car needs a huge repair and you can’t afford it. That might be enough to really send you over the edge. Your dog suddenly has a huge change in disposition and needs emergency surgery for a blockage, can you afford it? These things happen, when I had my first apartment many years ago I was living paycheck to paycheck. I had $18 bucks at the end of the month once, I put $10 of gas in my car and had $8 to eat with for a week. Granted this was a long time ago but it was a major struggle and I was triggered the whole week. EVERYTHING set me off, not good.

“Okay Karac, if you are so smart where do I start?”

The first thing you do is write out your monthly financial plan. No you dont need a professional, you can do it. Total income on top and then list out all the things you spend money on below, EVERYTHING. Subtract all of those expenses from the income and the result is? Are you negative? Positive? Either way that’s where you start. If you are negative you clean up your spending, positive you save the excess into an “emergency fund” and build that up to 3-6 months of the total expenses you listed in the exercise above.

As individuals with anxiety and various mental health issues money and having a good relationship with money is even more important to us. This can be an ongoing nagging stressor that makes everything else blow up. Its a constant trigger if we dont get our heads around it. Take the time, 15 minutes a week (come on you can do that) and start to educate yourself on your personal economy.

Start now, and this investment of time will pay dividends later. If you can get to a good place with your relationship with money and your personal economic situation this will make your journey with Mental Health and Anxiety smoother.