Panicking at Work: Try These 5 Centering Techniques
Updated: Sep 8
Stress and frustration can easily sneak up on you at work, and these emotions are brief interruptions for some people. However, if you have anxiety, even small stressors can turn into panic. When you find yourself panicking at work, try these behavioral health techniques to gently center yourself.
How to Handle a Panic Attack at Work
Slow Your Breath
Whether you’re chasing a deadline or feeling nervous about a review, you might experience a rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and sweaty palms as you start to worry. These are just some of the physical symptoms of a panic attack, and you can ease these sensations with a breathing exercise.
As soon as you notice your mind racing at your desk, lean back and hold your hands on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in, focusing on the sensation. When you can’t breathe in any more, slowly let the air out. Repeat this cycle until you start to feel more calm.
This exercise takes your attention away from your worry and forces your breathing to slow down. If you are seeing a therapist for individual counseling, your counselor can give you breathing exercises that are specific to your needs.
Take a Walk
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re sitting in an enclosed room. If you’re able to step away from your desk, give yourself some space and take a walk. The change of surroundings can help you think more clearly and put the situation into perspective. And breathing the fresh air may calm you down significantly. It may be helpful to listen to calming music or call a friend while you walk. You can then return to your work with a fresh outlook.
Mental health counseling services often promote self-soothing techniques and positive self-talk as a way to get through moments of panic. Consider coming up with a phrase to repeat when you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. For example, you might repeat simple phrases like “this will pass” or “I am capable” to ground your thoughts. By repeating a soothing phrase, you’re shifting your thoughts from worry to reassurance to get through a challenging moment.
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to stop panic is to ground yourself in the moment by fully engaging your 5 senses. Anxiety and panic take you out of the current situation and by reconnecting with the immediate environment and tuning in to your senses you can naturally lower the physical reactivity connected with panic and bring yourself back to the moment.
Begin with utilizing your sight and identifying objects in your environment by focusing your gaze on each item and silently stating what you see. You can engage your hearing by attending to surrounding sounds and move on to touch by placing your hands on 3 different sensations such as paper, your desk and something soft like your clothing. For the final two senses of touch and taste, it’s useful to keep calming scents like lavender in your desk drawer and mints or gum handy that have a cooling effect which can heighten your sense of taste. Reconnecting to the present environment will help calm your mind and reduce your panic so that you can move on with your day.
Panic often sneaks up when you’re feeling stuck on a particular task. You might have writer’s block when completing a report or feel stumped about fixing a line of code. A fear of failure or basic frustration can lead to panic.
So, it can be helpful to take a break from the task and come back to it later. If possible, switch to some work that you know you can complete easily and without much thought. The familiarity can center you and calm your mind. You can then return to the difficult task with a fresh perspective, which often makes it easier to complete.
If you’re living with anxiety and want to gain more tools for working through panic, contact the team at The Collective. These Denver mental health professionals can provide psychological assessments, individual therapy, and group counseling to help you cope more effectively. Current and future patients should note that the clinic is now at a new address: 400 S Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80246.
Does my insurance cover a therapist at The Collective?
The Collective is partnered with several insurance providers to make our services more accessible to you. You can verify your insurance through our website before scheduling an appointment.