Is Anxiety Interfering With Your Productivity?

Are Anxiety and Fatigue infringing on your productivity? Do you find you’re becoming less motivated and more frustrated?

Have you noticed patterns and cycles which never start at peak performance, and end up with limited attention span, procrastination and just utter frustration and disappointment? Everything just seems so much harder now. Trust me I understand, you are not alone and there are very real and measurable reasons for why. Does that make you feel a bit better? Not yet? Don't worry let's get in to it -

But first: 

Stop holding your breath. Relax your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. You're safe and okay. 

Now, the reason we tend to feel less productive and more frustrated is because worry and anxiety have a negative relationship with working memory and attention (Lukasik et al., 2019). Particularly in this time of Pandemic. Extended periods of this stress can make even the simplest and most common tasks (like checking your email or making a list) feel that much more taxing and hard to accomplish.

This is true of everyday 'normal' levels of anxiety (think, pre-COVID). With the ongoing Pandemic, however, our internal levels of stress and anxiety are that much heightened, creating a limiting very real cognitive fatigue as a result of the constant undercurrent of worry ('when will everything go back to normal?', 'will something devastating happen today?'), or cognitive load. It often feels like we're operating at lower baseline levels of performance, and as a result we have to either work harder or escape completely. (Anxiety -> Fight or Flight) 

It's important to understand that both of these options can be troublesome in unhealthy proportions. Overworking yourself, especially while you're already affected by anxiety/stress/worry, can push that cycle into overdrive and leave you feeling burnt-out more often and more frequently. While, escapism or procrastination, can result in a momentary distraction and compounded stress responses later down the road. 

When we engage in procrastination as a way to 1) distract from our stress and discomfort and 2) achieve a short-term positive boost (hello serotonin). The downside of this (as I’m sure you’re aware) is that once we’ve achieved this fix, it can lead to guilt (for not using your time wisely etc.) which compounds on our initial stress and feeds into this anxiety cycle and reduced productivity. 

So what do we do? 

Release stress and worry,

Breathe in creative power.

Don’t be so hard on yourself…

So no you’re not broken or a lost cause. You can do this - with the right tools and some psychological flexibility (Eisenbeck et al., 2019). Research shows that although we want to get the most out of our life uncontrolled emotional response to stress can make it increasingly difficult to do so.

The solution:
  1. Self-Awareness (i.e. becoming aware of detrimental habits and thoughts, wanting to fix them)
  2. Staying in the moment, despite the urge to escape (i.e. mindfulness)
  3. Clear and concise tasks and schedules. If you prioritize your commitments, you can keep take actionable steps to meeting your goals and track your productivity.
  4. Take scheduled breaks and give yourself permission to invest more in your personal value than your productive yield.

 

So, when you start to recognize that you get worked up in the middle of the day and can't seem to rally, it's important to have some plans in place. 

Do you have your own techniques? Do you find that they're working, even during Pandemic? Do you need to make adjustments? Have you tried breathing techniques, meditation, writing lists, going for a run? Or maybe you just don’t think you have time for any of that.

If that’s the case, you can try this 5-Minute Guided Productivity Framework that I created to help you re-focus, get grounded and approach the tasks with an actionable plan. It is a FREE guide, and it is for you if:

  • you find that you often become overwhelmed, frustrated and easily turned off by your to do list.
  • you're unable to overlook the “can’t”s for the “cans”
  • or you feel that you're balancing the world on your shoulders and you're feel as though you can't take a moment for yourself.

This guide is outlined with questions to promote self-awareness, identify your to-dos, create clear actionable steps and promote mindfulness. 

So, try it out and let me know if it helps!  If you're interested in something more interactive and extended, stay tuned for future posts.

 

Resources: 

BBC Procrastination: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200121-why-procrastination-is-about-managing-emotions-not-time

BBC Working Memory: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200611-how-anxiety-affects-your-focus

Lukasik, Karolina M et al. “The Relationship of Anxiety and Stress With Working Memory Performance in a Large Non-depressed Sample.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 10 4. 23 Jan. 2019, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00004

Myrick, Jessica Gall. “Emotion Regulation, Procrastination, and Watching Cat Videos Online: Who Watches Internet Cats, Why, and to What Effect?” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 52, 2015, pp. 168–76. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.001.

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