Nearly 20% of U.S. adults struggle with anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The past year took that up a notch, with two-thirds of Americans saying they felt anxious and overwhelmed regarding COVID-19.
As an employer, one of the most helpful things you can do to support employees is to give them tools for managing those feelings. While companies are already investing in wellness perks like meditation and flexible time off to combat stress and anxiety, there are also practical, “in-the-moment” approaches that yield more immediate results. We’ll share some of the tools and therapeutic exercises used by professionals to combat anxiety in the workplace.
The Value of Therapeutic Exercises
Employee wellness has become a critical focus for companies, especially in the last twelve months. But unlike conventional wellness benefits, therapeutic exercises can make a lasting change in how employees think in moments of stress or anxiety.
“These tools help rewire the brain and cement thinking,” said Mari Verano, a licensed therapist specializing in narcissistic abuse recovery for Centered, a library of mental health exercises for anxiety, burnout, and depression. In this context, “tools” refer to therapeutic exercises that are usually taught by therapists and coaches during in-person sessions. Tools help individuals cope with difficult feelings when they don’t necessarily have someone to talk to. “Using active tools is the best way to break these patterns successfully,” Verano said.
Here are four Centered tools that employees can use to manage in-the-moment anxiety. We recommend that employees watch the videos in advance, so they can return to them whenever they need relief.
1. Calming Down
This technique is a super simple visualization exercise for when someone has a stressful feeling coming up and needs relief. Mindset coach and hypnotherapist Julie Demsey shows us how to imagine a calming white light, which research has shown can improve mood, fatigue, and anxiety. Employees can then imagine the white light whenever they need to cultivate a moment of peace.
2. Shutting Down a Panic Attack
This technique is ideal for anyone who experiences panic attacks. Michelle Phillips advocates using progressive muscle relaxation techniques to slow our minds and bodies down when we’re tense. This is an excellent tool for employees to have in their back pocket. Even just knowing it’s available in itself can help offer relief.
3. Regaining Control
Sometimes, employees can find themselves letting a stressful thought take over their entire mental state. This tool, taught by therapist Amelia Peck and rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), shows you how to simply “shut the door” on an overwhelming thought.
It’s great for helping employees regain control over their thoughts when something throws them off in the workday or when they’re feeling distracted by things that are out of their control, like the news.
4. Overcoming Overwhelm
It’s super common for employees feeling stressed to become totally absorbed in the challenge they’re facing — often in an overwhelming way. This technique, taught by Somatic practitioner Zacha Belok, is designed to help employees focus on something specific to distract from the overwhelming thought.
For more mental health exercises that help with burnout, anxiety, depression, work stress and more, sign up for Centered.