I'm getting this weird anxiety feeling at work..
October 7, 2008 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting this weird anxiety/breathing problem at work..

It started a few months ago since I started this new job. I'm pretty sure it's because this job does a lot of repetitive tasks on the computer.. like pasting text over and over, lots of repetitive stuff in photoshop.. also having to do it fast, and a never ending barrage of work coming in..

The problem might be more psychological.. and more to it than just stress.

I used to do web development, I was working for places like yahoo, monster, etc.. It was my goal to work for one of the biggies, but after being there, I came to realize I hate something about it. The people, the vibe, culture, I dunno. But I hated it so much, I decided to do a career change and do something I like.

I want to do something art/design related, but I don't have the experience to work for a major place yet. But I found a smaller company that does some post production work and other stuff, they had an opening for this odd position.. not really a standard industry position, it requires me to translate menus and motion for DVD's across multiple languages. It's usually pretty slow, but then everything comes all at once.

I took it because I like this company and industry way better, and it's a foot in the door so to speak. It's not a BAD position, it's just that it does require a bit of tedious work.

I don't want to quit, I like this place, but lately, I notice at the end of each day (starting around lunch) I find myself taking really short breaths, it feels like I'm almost holding my breath, it feels really unnatural, like my stomach feels 'full' as if I ate too much.. but worse I feel like it's putting some major pressure on my heart, I can imagine this CAN'T be a good thing for my heart. It just doesn't feel right.

I really don't want to quit. I kinda got my little niche here. Hopefully in the next few years I'll get into a position that better suits me. I just don't know what to do about this breathing problem in the meantime.

Has anyone had this problem before?? You know any ways to deal with it? I'm trying to stay away from meds, like xanax.. cause I know I'd use it everyday if I did. I'm seriously considering using medical marijuana for it cause I know that'll relax me.. and oddly it's a legit reason. And I do stop, take deep breaths, go outside, etc. But I'm looking more for a long-term cure.. not just behavior changes. I'm already trying to be as calm as possible. Thanks..
posted by 0217174 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've found this technique useful: 61-point relaxation technique. It's not as complicated as it may sound, as the 61 points are all very symmetrical. I've found that, after learning it, I can do it in a relatively 'casual' way during the day (I may be doing something else and not giving it full concentration, and maybe not even making it through many of the points), and yet it still works pretty well. My breathing will slow down a lot after doing it for a few minutes, which is something that's much more difficult to achieve if I just try to slow down my breathing directly.
posted by dixie flatline at 6:01 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I do that. I just forget to breathe. It's probably just because you're focused on the tiny tasks.

Set a chime on your computer to make a beepy sound once per minute and train yourself to take two or three VERY deep breaths whenever it goes off.
posted by rokusan at 6:07 PM on October 7, 2008

What you're describing sounds like a panic attack. What are your other symptoms?

Medical marijuana may help take the edge off, but one of its major side effects is anxiety when discontinued.
posted by LecheFresca at 6:08 PM on October 7, 2008

Medical marijuana may help take the edge off, but one of its major side effects is anxiety when discontinued.

Marijuana can also induce anxiety attacks. Let's leave the doctoring to doctors.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:22 PM on October 7, 2008

This sounds very similar to a situation my friend found herself in this week. She works a busy schedule - lots of repetitive artwork stuff, mostly in Photoshop. By the end of the day she feels choked. I've got a similar job and in the past I've found myself experiencing symptoms identical to yours. I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's not as uncommon as you think. You're definitely not alone. Maybe it comes with the territory?

I asked my GP about it and she immediately put me on an anti-anxiety pill (Zoloft). This was a mistake. My GP didn't know enough about this kind of drug and, although it helped my anxiety, it really screwed my body up (YMMV). What I ended up with was a book called Don't Panic by Reid Wilson. I don't know if you will find it useful or not. I did, but I was experiencing full-on panic attacks in some areas of my life (fear of flying). What was most useful in the book was breathing exercises. These will help your symptoms. Reading a book about anxiety and getting an understanding of what's going on with your body will sometimes help your symptoms and stop your panic from building upon itself.

What I've suggested to my friend is to avoid the pills, get plenty of exercise, try the breathing exercises and to get to the source of the stress and anxiety. If your task management system or workflow is something you can approach individually, try changing it up a bit and see if it improves!

Good luck! I hope things get better for you.
posted by bristolcat at 7:27 PM on October 7, 2008

I have this problem in my building. I do have anxiety problems and I do have panic attacks sometimes. But, there's also a major problem with air circulation (yes, the fans blow air around, but they blow stale air around), and I think I might also be allergic to the weird dust in the air. So, are you working in a smallish area? Like a closed office? Sometimes I feel like there's no oxygen in the air I'm breathing. It gets even worse during ragweed season for me (hooray allergies!).

It could be the anxiety and bad air compounding. Some office plants might take the edge off until you can see a doctor.
posted by giraffe at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2008

Do you go outside during your lunch hour? Do you go anywhere particular for your lunch? Shake your routine and see if it makes any difference.

Also: macros and actions – the machines are supposed to do the dull repetitive bits.
posted by mandal at 8:04 PM on October 7, 2008

Giraffe - you pointed something out, lack of oxygen.. That might possibly be the culprit. Yes I am in an enclosed 'warehouse' type building. There's no windows, but there are air ducts exposed above, with a high ceiling. I never thought about that.. but that might be it.

I'm going to try to bring in a huge house plant and fan, but will that really add any useful oxygen?

What are some other ways to get extra oxygen in the room?
posted by 0217174 at 8:32 PM on October 7, 2008

Wear nothing tight-waisted. Loosen your belt.
The fan should help.
Listen to the instrumental flamenco station on Pandora.com.
Don't eat a high-carb lunch.
No slouching. If your chair makes you slouch, adjust it or get another one.
posted by serena15221 at 9:00 PM on October 7, 2008

I used to do a lot of repetitive Photoshop work - and by the end of the day I was tied in knots. The problem is that, as you concentrate, you hold yourself in one position for a very long time (I would hold myself pretty much rigid for 2 or 3 hours at a time) and you don't breathe correctly. I don't know why this is, I think it has something to do with trying to do the work quickly-combined with some freaky concentration artifacts. Anyway, the solution is to set your cellphone alarm at one hour intervals. When the phone goes off, get up and stretch. Get a drink of water - stare at the wall - just break that bizarre concentration spell. As long as you move every hour, you will be fine.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:18 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

After lunch? 1h-2hs after or so? I had an ulcer that made all that happen, panic attacks etc, with zero-stress in my job. I wrote it all down somewhere you want a chilling read. Just offered it as an alternate.
posted by lundman at 1:08 AM on October 8, 2008

Yeah, sounds familiar.

It sounds a little like hyperventilation induced by shallow breathing. It could be a result of posture and/or stress. I'd go get your breathing checked out by a doctor. Could be you need some Alexander Technique or there may be other issues like apnoea or asthma.

Also, I think you sound a little like you're trying really hard to look on the bright side. It's okay to say things are a bit crap right now if that's how you feel, even if everything is going swimmingly for you. If you're stressed out from your old job you might need more time than you realise to get that out of your system.

Oh an I think you should keep the MJ recreational and leave the medicating to the experts.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 3:34 AM on October 8, 2008

This doesn't sound like lack of oxygen, this sounds like too much oxygen -- hyperventilation. Does it feel like what you need is to take one good deep breath? And then when you do it feels good, but it doesn't fix the issue?

Honestly, the only way I've gotten around this the three or four times it's happened to me, for weeks at a time, was to remove the stressor -- break up with the ex, come out to my folks, quit grad school, get out of the abusive job. It's ramped up to full-on panic attacks before. I know you are trying to stay away from the drugs, but one thing that has helped for me is my Xanax prescription. I don't take it often at all, but I always have a pill with me, and knowing it is there and I could take it at any time calms me.

Is there a similar drug or food or something that has helped you in the past that could be your security blanket? It's not even taking it, it's just knowing it is there if you can't handle the stress.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:14 AM on October 8, 2008

Late to the party, but - you've probably heard of Workrave for RSI, right?

I think it might be a very suitable thing for you to use, to remind you to change position, give a little stretch, and take some deep breaths.
I have 20second 'micro-breaks' every 30 minutes, and rest breaks every hour & a half.

If you were a girl, I'd say make sure you're bra isn't too tight across your ribcage (darned torturous corset devices), I'm only mentioning it for the benefit of others, but for yourself, just make sure you're not wearing anything a leetle bit too tight. It's fine for hours and then you get this constricted feeling.

Maybe try some 1 minute relaxation response / meditation type exercises?
Try the 'centering' mp3 etc on this page http://www.hypnosisnetwork.com/downloads/?M56YB
Or if you can work a nap into your day, try the free downloads from http://www.pzizz.com/ focusing less on sleeping, more on 15 minutes relaxing, 'quiet time' (I've been doing better when I don't convince myself I'm running so stressfully behind I can't possible pop out for 15 minutes).

Good luck!
posted by Elysum at 6:23 PM on October 20, 2008

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