If you’ve read my Anxious Doctor posts, seen my anxiety-related cartoons, or met me, you’ll know that I have a rather neurotic disposition, especially when doing anything vaguely medical. It’s useful when it comes to making sure you don’t miss important diagnoses, but it’s cripplingly debilitating when you want to relax with your friends and your brain sits there worrying about the tiniest aspects of your work life that ‘might possibly’ go wrong in the future.
I asked around at work for tips on how to reduce anxiety at work, and the vast majority of the time people would provide rather unhelpful generic advice such as, “Leave work at work” and “You’ve got to stop worrying”, which is without doubt the least helpful thing to say to an anxious person. It took me ages to figure out how to manage my own anxiety, and am only just now feeling like I’m on top of it. As with all things it’s a continuous process of gradually managing and adapting to change, so here is the list of what has helped my anxiety so far:
- Have a good filling breakfast with good fats and protein, low sugar. I’m a big fan of the spinach, mushroom, onion, egg and cheese omelette. Just make sure to do your teeth afterwards.
- Reduce social media, especially instagram and facebook.
- Weight lifting
- Reduce caffeine if able – I really like coffee, and I notice when I’ve had too much that my anxiety starts wriggling to the surface. Green tea is a decent substitute but adequate sleep and regular exercise is the best way to improve energy levels without drug assistance
- Gratitude diary – keep it by your bed and write down three things that make you feel grateful, however small, from that day, every day. This surprised me at how much of a difference it makes. I did it for a while and it helped, and then had a period of time without. Occasionally I’ll dip back in and I always notice how much it improves my mood.
- Reading for pleasure. This is particularly important at medical school when you’re guilt tripped into only reading medical things.
- Fill your spare time with things you enjoy doing. I found cycling really helpful as it forced me to stop thinking about work for a bit and just enjoying being in the moment. I also had a child during my F2 year, or more accurately my wife did, which I thought was going to make my anxiety skyrocket. What actually happened was I spent most of my time thinking about him and what fun stuff we could do together that I stopped thinking about work so much.
None of these can do you any harm to try (except the kid thing), so if you think you need a bit of neurotic-brain-therapy, these may be of some help.