What do you do when you need to reduce anxiety? During this week’s episode of Reflect Forward, I share a story about a recent bout with anxiety and how I dealt with it in the moment. Because let’s face it, we all feel anxiety and these days, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by it. But as leaders, we must preserve and lead ourselves and others. And the good news is that there are steps you can take to get immediate relief.
Now for the story…
A few weeks ago, I thought I had a panic attack. I was stuck in traffic, which is saying a lot since I live in a town of 20,000 people. Road construction and tourists clogged the roads, and I was annoyed. No, annoyed isn’t the right word – more like pissed off. I was late to pick up my son from golf practice, and he gets nervous when I am late and then begs me for a phone, which is a hard “no” at ten years old. I was still reeling from the horrifying images of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. As the CEO of a fast-growing company, my to-do weighed on me and pangs of guilt flooded me. “I really should be working instead of fighting traffic,” my brain said. I even Googled, “how do you know when civilization is ending?” I got home and told my husband we needed to buy a generator and a food-growing dome in preparation for the end of the world.
He replied, “That’s not a terrible idea, but you need to take some breaths and stop reading the news. You need to reduce your anxiety!”
At sat at my desk, trying to work, and I felt disoriented and upset. My eyes and brain wouldn’t focus on the board meeting agenda I was trying to create.
“Okay,” I said to myself. “Enough is enough. I’ve got to get my thoughts and emotions under control. Being constantly agitated isn’t sustainable, nor is it healthy. What can I do right now to help myself?”
When feeling anxious, which is pretty much the norm for most of us, you teach the body that living under constant stress is okay. But we all know that constant stress isn’t okay; it wreaks havoc on our physical and mental health, damages relationships, and makes us less effective at our jobs.
So, what do you do in the moment to relieve anxiety when you are a busy executive or entrepreneur?
Here is what I did.
First, I asked myself, “What’s one stressor I am in control of that I can remove right now?” Then I deleted all news apps from my phone and committed to quit reading the news for at least a month. I don’t watch tv, so it was all about creating more discipline around my phone reading habits. Quitting the news has been the biggest game-changer to date. It’s incredible how much better I feel when I am not cramming my brain with doom and gloom over which I have zero control. If you are still reading or watching the news, go cold turkey for a few days and see what happens.
Second, I went for a walk and listened to relaxing, fun music that made me want to sing along. I tried to stay in the present moment, watching the clouds pass by in the sky, observing the birds and insects flittering about, and noticed the sun and breeze on my skin. I took big, deep breaths, exhaling loudly through my mouth, imagining stress escaping with each exhalation. The combination of moving my body, listening to music I love, being present in the fresh air, and taking deep breaths calmed me quickly.
Third, I picked just two items off my to-do list, committing to get them done and saving the rest for the next day. After my walk, I felt more focused and completed the tasks. Then I smiled. I still accomplished two things while taking the pressure off of completing everything on my list, which was impossible anyway.
Fourth, I committed to getting a good night’s sleep. After eating a healthy dinner, I took a bath, drank this mind-relaxing superfood mix instead of a glass of wine, listened to a guided meditation, and turned the lights out by 9 p.m.
The next day, I felt better. I still wanted a growing dome, but I was good with forgoing the generator. I thought about looking at the news, but I realized it was just out of habit – something to do while waiting in line at the grocery store. I felt refreshed after sleeping for 7 hours and working out in the morning. I picked up a book to read, which inspired my day.
You, too, can do these three things when feeling anxious and stressed.
- Remove at least one controllable source of stress
- Move your body– outside
- Pick two things you want to get done, do them, and let the rest go
- Get a good night’s sleep
If it seems simple – well, it is. Simple doesn’t mean easy, but if you are successful for one day, you can build upon it and try it again the next day. And the next. And the next. Practicing is how you create new patterns and habits, and you might be surprised at how much better you start to feel when you work to reduce your anxiety.
Question of the Week
This week’s question came from one of my employees who asked, “How do I become a better listener?” During the episode, I give examples of how to be a better listener using the suggestions below.
- Give Your Full Attention
- Practice Empathy
- Ask Open-Ended Questions
- Avoid Interrupting
- Use Nonverbal Cues
- Reflect and Summarize
- Manage Your Response
- Seek Feedback
Being a better listener is a valuable skill that can elevate your leadership in the business world. It fosters trust, enhances communication, and leads to better decision-making. By dedicating time and effort to improve your listening skills, you not only benefit your organization but also create a more inclusive and collaborative work environment. Remember, great leaders don’t just speak; they listen actively and attentively.
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