Handling Anxiety as a Leader

Many leaders suffer from anxiety. If we’re being honest, everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. Here are several points to consider when the inevitable anxious times visit.

Acknowledge your anxiety without denying it. Anxiety never shows up without a reason. So invite it in and try to understand why it’s manifesting right now. Ignoring your feelings and pushing them away never works. Instead, acknowledge your anxiety so you can begin to address it and not just manage it, but effectively deal with it.

Accept your anxiety without attachment. It’s not unusual to internalize anger along with anxiety. But the best way to ease the stress is to accept it without blame. If it makes you uncomfortable, name it. Because the more you try to control your anxiety, the harder it fights back. Avoid the tug of war by learning how to detach yourself and accept your anxiety. When you do, you’ve already made progress in moving through it effectively.

Surf the wave without getting swallowed up by the current. It may be impossible to get rid of your anxiety right away due to circumstance beyond your control. As frustrating as that can feel, part of dealing effectively with anxiety, is understanding that you may not be in top form until things settle down. The goal is to learn to surf the waves of distress without being overwhelmed by their power. God’s peace is available all the time, and the winds and waves know His name when you subject circumstance to Him.

Watch for patterns and label your feelings. For most of us, anxiety comes with a pattern. It may be that stress leads to fear which leads to anxiety. Or it may be that something doesn’t work out, your perfectionist tendencies lead you to anger, and anxiety follows. Look for your individual patterns so you can label and understand the events and emotions that lead up to anxiety. Check your temperament strengths and weaknesses to see where you are operating; weakness of strengths?

Learn your telltale signs. When you’re feeling anxious, take note of your physical reactions. They often function as an early warning system to alert you to imminent anxiety. It might be a stomach flip, tense shoulders, or an inability to focus. Once you learn to recognize your physical symptoms, you can catch anxiety before it overtakes you.

Let go of controlling anxiety and work to manage it. Victor Frankl famously said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Instead of working to control the situation, choose your response. Make a conscious decision to effectively deal with your anxiety by breathing, shifting your attention, and taking small purposeful actions. Exercising choice to not be overtaken by anxiety, and exercising proper offsetting techniques will save you a lot of wasted anxious energy and time.

Many leaders emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace. Wouldn’t it be great if more of them opened up about how they deal with the vulnerabilities that their anxiety points out? That way we, as well as others can actually grow through anxious times and learn triggers, and counter techniques that bring genuine peace.

Lead from within: Anxiety makes leadership interesting, but growing through anxiety makes leadership meaningful—for you and for those you lead.

BH/ Adapted – Lolly Daskal

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