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How do we lead in a time of anxiety?

When you feel anxiety – how can you effectively lead? If your heart is racing and your mind is all over the place, how can you inspire calm? And how do you deal with fear as a leader?

The fact is that we all feel stress when we experience a threat – and anxiety is the natural response to that stress; a fear of what might happen, whether or not your fears are rational or irrational. Sometimes these fears can be related to something imminent – such as an interview, or well into the future, such as retirement.

Research by Mind Share Partners [1] found recently that almost 37% of workers say that they have felt anxiety in the past year. With these figures only set to increase, how can we rise to these challenges of leadership, even when we feel thoroughly off-kilter ourselves?

Stress and anxiety will never disappear completely, even after the pandemic. So we need to learn to be comfortable with it, and to harness it to become a better leader. Here are some steps for success.

1. Acknowledge it

When you feel anxious, simply say to yourself ‘I am anxious’. This will allow you to start to address it, and to adjust your behaviours accordingly.

2. Wallow… for a short while

Allow yourself to be fully present in your anxiety and fear. Experience the discomfort and let your imagination go with worst-case scenarios and catastrophes. Grieve, have a cry, and go for it.

3. See how you feel physically

Do you have triggers to anxiety such as a flipping stomach, a feeling of dread when you see someone, a headache when you read sales figures? Know what is setting you off. Sometimes these may be related to past events – even from your childhood.

4. Know what triggers you

A good way to develop excellent self-awareness is to keep a journal and to use this to record your anxious feelings and the scenarios that triggered them. Are you a perfectionist who feels anxious when overwork starts to become a problem? What tells you that an anxiety period is happening – clenched shoulders, sore stomach, higher heart rate?

As you get to understand what triggers you and how that manifests, you can start to redefine your relationship with anxiety.

5. Differentiate probable and possible

Yes, catastrophe does happen. But how often? Reframe your fears by working out just how probable they are.

6. Restructure your time

If you become more organised and start to really value your time, research shows that your mental health will improve. Keep free time so that you don’t become overworked and overwhelmed.

7. Stay small

When things get overwhelming focus on small tasks that have meaning. Don’t waste time procrastinating. Do small but important tasks that give you a feeling of control and accomplishment.

8. Try mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques can also help you to get a grip on anxiety, bringing you to the present and keeping you calm. Use an app to deep breathe or meditate for a few minutes.

Find out more

Don’t let anxiety get in your way of great leadership. Contact me now to find out how I can help you to lead with confidence.

[1] https://www.mindsharepartners.org/mentalhealthatworkreport

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