Are you able to lead your teams through one of the most turbulent experiences of their lives when you too are experiencing this?

How can you show up as a courageous leader when inside you are also suffering from anxiety, nervous that showing this to your teams will send them into a flurry of panic? 

So many leaders are facing this challenge right now. Leadership roles have always been challenging but with the pandemic it has created a whole new layer of complexity and anxiety and everyone is feeling it.

So what can you do to manage the situation? To calm yourself and those around you? To continue to be a leader that people trust and look to for guidance.  

It’s almost impossible to fully remove the feeling of anxiety, but there are ways of managing it. By doing this you can not only better manage your anxiety, but better manage while dealing with anxiety.

Recognise what you are feeling

Pretending that everything is fine, and pushing your feelings away will not work; buried feelings never die, they just fester. You need to recognise you are human and feeling anxious is not a weakness, it’s just your bodies natural reaction to a situation. So take a moment to really feel what is going on and then verbalise it. For example; I’m feeling really anxious right now, my heart rate has risen and I am struggling to concentrate. Just verbalising what you are feeling can release some tension. 

Be the CEO of your mind

You want to try to separate the feeling from yourself. Imagine you are the CEO of you as a whole, and there are many people that report into you (these are your different personalities). Anxiety is one of those people. They do not run the show, you do, they report into you and you decide how you will react. By imaging this, you are able to take back some control. Just remember that you are in control and Anxiety is just a part of you who has got a bit out line. You need to put them back in their box. Try giving this feeling a real name. By doing this you create distance, and by creating distance you can make better choices. You can see; hmm anxious Audrey is here today so maybe that is why I am not able to focus. What can I do about that? How can I manage Anxious Audrey today?

What triggers you and how can you make this work for you?

For many of us, we don’t recognise what we are feeling until that feeling has totally taken over. Start to find your triggers. 

When you feel you are anxious, work out what triggered you and make a note of it. Once you know what your triggers are, work out how you can avoid then, handle them better and anticipate them. For example; if having back to back meetings causes anxiety, always make sure you schedule a 10 minute break in-between meetings. 

One small task at a time

Anxiety is often apparent when we are in situations that we can’t control. Many people try to deal with this by going into overdrive on how they can control this uncontrollable situation. They will spend hours replaying over and over in their head how this could pan out. However this often creates more anxiety. Stop yourself from spiralling. Instead just focus on one small task at a time. Create a plan for your day and only allow yourself to work off that plan. Be very strict on what you feel you can accomplish. Ticking off each task as it is done brings a feeling of achievement which is a great antidote to anxiety. Having a solid plan of what you allow yourself to focus on during the day will also stop your mind from going into imaginary overdrive!

Bring yourself back to reality

Our minds love taking us on a disaster journey. Laying out every bad scenario in front of us. When the pandemic first broke out, my mind kept taking me to a place where I would lose my house and all our savings, and we would find ourselves with no home. However I would tell myself, yes this is possible, but is it probable? No, it’s really not probable. If you find your mind going to a dark place, allow it to wallow for a bit, and then ask yourself; Is this probable though? Get logical and bring yourself back to reality.

Be open with your teams

Having a leader who shows no fear, doesn’t reassure people. If anything they will assume you are hiding something much worse. I’m not saying you need to tell them your darkest fears, but people need leaders who show their human side.

Sharing with your team that you feel anxious will allow them to trust you even more. People will know that you are feeling something, so it is better to share what it is. Being emotionally open is one of the best ways to establish trust. It will create a bonding as everyone knows they are going through the same thing. 

Try these steps and see how it helps alleviate some of your anxiety, and allows you to manage with a clearer mind.

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