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Stress management

Re-wire your work worries


Lianne Weaver talks worry in and out of the workplace, and how to work through fears that are out of our control.

1st Mar 2021
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Do you consider yourself a worrier? 

If so, you’re certainly not alone. Around three quarters of us admit to being worriers.

After a busier season than ever before, an increasing number of accountants have been feeling the pressure of workload worries.

“Is it just me or has anyone else had enough? I don't know how much longer I can cope,” member murphy1 told AccountingWEB. “Normal workload, grant advice and support, furlough claims, VAT reverse charge, Brexit etc etc…”

On top of the usual worries of everyday life and work-related stress, we’ve been dealing with the anxiety of the Covid-19 pandemic throughout the past year. We might be worried about our health, about the safety of our family and friends, about money, or about the security of our jobs or businesses (to name a few).

In short, we’ve had a lot to be worried about recently. We experience worry in more than one sense - it can be mentally consuming, but can also manifest physically. We might get a tightness in the stomach, or a feeling of tension in the head, for example.


It’s important to note that worrying is completely normal; it actually serves a purpose. Worrying is your brain’s way of troubleshooting to try to find a solution.

Say, for example, you’ve locked yourself out of your house. Your brain will start thinking about whether there’s a spare key, whether you left a window open, or whether you need to call a locksmith. Once you’ve solved the issue at hand, your brain can tick it off the list and you no longer need to worry about it. 

The challenge with worrying arises when you give your brain a problem it can’t solve. For example, this could be someone else’s health, or global issues. Your brain will resort to its usual troubleshooting tool - worrying - in an attempt to find a solution. 

When, as in these examples, the problem is not within your control and you can’t actually do anything about it, you get caught in a worry loop. You go round in circles, perpetuating the worry and often bringing up other concerns which just amplify the first one. 

However, there are tools and techniques which can help us feel more in control and stop us getting caught in that worry spiral. 

Gaining perspective

A good place to start would be to get all of your worries out of your head and into the open. When we’re worried we tend to keep things to ourselves, but this can make the problems seem even bigger. We can end up tying ourselves in knots and losing perspective. 

Try taking some time for yourself and writing down every single thing you’re worried about. You’ll likely notice straight away that a lot of things which are worrying you are not within your control at all.

You might also notice things on the list which are highly unlikely to happen. The act of writing them down and allowing you to sit back and reflect on them can give you a better sense of perspective. 

The next step is to reflect on the list and work out which worries you can actually influence. This might be a phone call you’ve been putting off, or an appointment you need to get around to making.

If you channel your attention on to these things, you are encouraging your brain to be proactive, and showing it where its power and control lies. This can help prevent your brain from trying to solve every single problem on the list.

Now look back at the remaining worries on your list - the ones outside of your control. Remind yourself that it’s not within your capability to solve these problems.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care - for example, you may be worried about a loved one’s health, and you absolutely are going to care about that. But you need to remind yourself that you can’t affect it. Bring yourself back every time to that list of worries that you can do something about, and allow your brain to troubleshoot those problems. This will help you to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Adapting our language

Another really useful tool is the language you use around worrying. For me, worrying is very physical - I get a physiological response as soon as I say ‘I’m worried about…’. I feel a tension in my stomach and a tightening in my chest. 

Because of this, I decided to move from the word ‘worry’ to ‘concern’. If I say ’I’m concerned’, I don’t get the physical response. Doing this reminds the brain that this isn’t an issue we need it to troubleshoot. Instead, it’s something to be aware of and to care about, but not something to solve.

Quick techniques to alleviate stress
  • Give a loved one, a pet, or even yourself a hug. This produces a chemical in our brains called oxytocin, which is nick-named the ‘love drug’. It’s proven to lower stress levels and make us feel calmer. 
  • Take a ten-minute walk in nature. Don’t listen to music or play with your phone. Instead, focus on your senses. Notice what you can see, hear and smell, and feel the ground beneath your feet.
  • Spend a few minutes doing some gentle breathing exercises. Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps us to relax and start to feel calmer.
  • When we worry our body can start to get tense. This sends a signal to the brain that we are feeling stressed or anxious. Every day make an effort to do some gentle stretches to release the built-up stress you may be carrying around. 
  • Worrying and stress can cause us to speed up. To combat this, deliberately do something slowly, whether that’s going for a walk, having a cup of tea and so on. This can help us to slow down and bring our attention to the present moment.

After a tumultuous year, most of us are probably experiencing worry now more than ever - so be kind to yourself! There is light at the end of the tunnel.


Replies (1)

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By Constantly Confused
03rd Mar 2021 08:21

Thanks for the tips Lianne, hopefully the weather will improve soon and I can convince my partner to come walking with me again :)

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