Executive Wellbeing Coach and Mind-Body Peak Performance Specialist Vesna Hrsto shares her advice for women in business who want to overcome anxiety.
Anxiety is more commonly diagnosed in women than men and I’ve found women in business are less likely to talk about it. When I started my business, I worked hard to make it a success and ignored all the signs of anxiety and that I was heading into burnout.
Anxiety disrupts our productivity and performance by interrupting our focus, which according to management studies in the workplace:
1 hr of uninterrupted focus is equivalent to 3 hrs of work and vice versa –
3 hours of interrupted focus is equivalent to 1 hour of work.
It’s not just stopping you from doing your best work, it’s impacting your home life and relationships.
According to a Yellow Australia survey: “One in five say not only their productivity takes a hit as a result of their work anxiety, but they also feel the brunt of it on their personal relationships.”
These are some common signs and symptoms of anxiety:
Panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up, and edgy. Excessive fear, worry, catastrophising, or obsessive thinking and avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life (Beyond Blue).
But it can show up in other ways…
One of my clients didn’t realise she was anxious but it manifested in her drinking alcohol everyday, 1-2 glasses, more on weekends and in social settings. She gained 4 kgs, her stress levels were increasing, she was waking during the night and started the day tired.
Even if you don’t think you have anxiety, here are some things you can do to check in with yourself and if you need help get help.
Tips to check in with yourself
Ask yourself – are you able to cope with all the things you have to do?
Have you felt like you were unable to control the important things in your life?
Have you felt confident about handling personal problems?
Are there recurring themes to your stress?
What to do to overcome anxiety
Firstly, I recommend seeing your GP for a check-up because there are common deficiencies & imbalances linked to anxiety that can impact mood and our ability to handle stress:
Vitamin B12, Thyroid panel, Fasting glucose, Insulin & Iron studies.
Glucose disruption is a common cause of anxiety. A drop in blood glucose levels will trigger adrenalin, part of the stress response and symptoms are similar to anxiety.
I always recommend my anxious clients stop any fasting or restrictive eating, and eat breakfast within 20mins of rising and eat every 3-4 hours to balance glucose levels. This is will reduce stress hormones and improve mood and energy. Be sure to reduce any sugar as it will cause glucose disruption and make symptoms worse.
Our brain resets overnight. If we’re had a good sleep we wake up feeling more relaxed about our stress from the day before because our brain has had a proper rest. I recommend getting to bed earlier, by around 10pm to align with circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that ‘night owls’ are prone to mood disorders like anxiety, depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Cut out caffeine on an empty stomach. When I tell my anxious clients to cut out caffeine, some feel it’s impossible. Caffeine is linked to anxiety, and reducing or removing it altogether is important. My golden rule is not to have any caffeine on an empty stomach as it will disrupt glucose levels and stimulates cortisol release (another stress hormone). Have breakfast first then a coffee if you need it.
Gut health is an important area for mood and anxiety. The gut-brain axis shows the gut communicates to the brain and vice versa all day long. Poor gut health causes inflammation in the body, whole body inflammation including the brain. An ‘inflamed brain’ can trigger anxiety and mood disorders. Restore gut function by cutting out processed foods, improving digestion, and supporting the microbiome.
About Vesna Hrsto
Vesna Hrsto has been voted one of the top ten naturopaths in Australia and New Zealand. For the past two decades, Vesna has made a name for herself as an Executive Wellbeing Coach and Mind-Body Peak Performance Specialist. She has worked with thousands of high-achieving women around the country to help them experience elevated energy, mental clarity & peak physical wellness so they can reach their highest potential.