Anxiety. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives.
Maybe you felt anxious when you started your business, hired your first employee, or had your first difficult conversation with a team member with a performance problem.
Or perhaps you’ve felt anxious waiting on the results of a medical test, flying on an airplane, or worrying about your kids on their first overnight trip.
Many people all around the world are feeling the strong grip of anxiety right now with the global pandemic we’re all experiencing together.
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Different situations can trigger anxiety in individuals. What causes one individual to experience feelings of anxiousness can be a walk in the park for another and vice versa. And there are just as many ways that we can experience anxiety, such as:
- nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
- feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- rapid heart rate
- rapid breathing or hyperventilation
- increased or heavy sweating
- trembling or muscle twitching
- weakness and lethargy
- difficulty focusing or thinking clearly
- digestive or gastrointestinal problems
- and more
Regardless of whether you have an occasional bout of anxiety or it’s a more present part of your life, we can all agree that it can be really tough to experience and often impacts our lives and businesses in many ways.
Even Celebrities Have Anxiety
There’s so much stigma and shame around anxiety that women who experience it often feel broken, as if they could never be successful leaders (or humans, spouses, parents, etc.) because of it. Experiencing anxiety doesn’t mean you’re not capable of being a successful leader. In fact, anxiety often leads to greater empathy and deeper compassion for others, which are both essential leadership qualities.
Did you know that some of the most inspiring and well-known celebrities in the world have experienced anxiety? I know it can be hard to believe, but here are just a few leading ladies who’ve been open and honest about their anxiety and have led the way for others through their vulnerability:
- Oprah Winfrey has been open about her battle with anxiety for many years now, sharing in a 2013 interview about the anxiety that nearly caused her to have a nervous breakdown.
- Adele has been open about her overwhelming anxiety when it comes to performing for live audiences. During a show in Amsterdam, she was so nervous she escaped out the fire exit.
- Missy Elliot experienced extreme anxiety which turned into a full-blown panic attack requiring medical assistance the evening before her 2015 Superbowl Halftime Show performance.
Leading with Anxiety Starts with You
As I’ve talked about before, it’s important to take care of yourself as a leader. Each of these women, and many more just like them, take time away from the things causing them stress and triggering their anxiety, so they can continue to show up and serve their audiences.
In busy seasons and hard times, it’s easy to put our own needs on the backburner and focus on everyone and everything else around us. But as leaders, if we don’t put on our own oxygen masks first, we can quickly find ourselves suffocating and unable to help anyone at all.
One consistent core message I share with my clients who are leading teams is to remember to take care of yourself every single day – no exceptions. Because when we don’t take care of ourselves, it leads to burnout, frustration, short fuses, and a poor environment for everyone.
After chatting with several leaders over the past few weeks, I’ve curated the following list of ideas to help you take better care of yourself, move through your feelings of anxiety, and show up as the leader you want to be for your team. BONUS: These ideas won’t cost you a dime! So before you burn out or blow up as a leader due to overwhelming anxiety, try out some of these great suggestions.
12 Ideas to Help with Anxiety
Get outside for a walk – Take a quick lap around the neighborhood to get some fresh air, sunshine, and movement to boost your spirit and help clear your mind. “Even just a short trip to the mailbox and back can do wonders,” shared Katy. Feel free to take your phone and listen to a calming podcast meditation or uplifting story – or go tech-free and listen to the birds singing instead! And of course, if you have a furry friend, make sure to take him or her along for an extra feel-good mood boost. My sweet girl, Myla, loves getting outside for a walk!
Practice meditation and/or yoga – Ami recommended “meditation and yoga” to help calm your mind, get grounded, and center your thoughts. A quick 10-minute session can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the next challenge with more ease and clarity. My favorite meditation podcasts are the Meditation Minis Podcast with Chel Hamilton and the Stress Free Naturally! Meditations with Ashlie. My favorite place to access tons of great guided yoga practices is Yoga with Adrienne. I especially love this practice for anxiety and stress and this short practice for stress relief, but everything she does is wonderful!
Eat fresh fruits and veggies – “Getting enough nutrients through fresh fruits and veggies is key to helping you feel your best, both physically and mentally,” shared Amber, a Registered Dietician. During times of stress and anxiety, we often reach for those comfort foods that don’t have a lot of nutritional value, which can leave us feeling even worse. Instead of reaching for the chips next time, swap them out with your favorite crunchy veggie. Or if you’re a sweets-loving gal like me, trade that cookie in for a piece of fresh fruit!
Journal – You don’t have to carry all your stress and worry around with you. The simple act of writing it all down can be very cathartic and leave you feeling like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Find yourself a nice journal, like one of these from Red Barn Collections where the covers are made out of old repurposed book covers!
Call a friend – Calling a friend on the phone is like a little lifeline to a boost of confidence, reassurance, and energy. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share openly and vulnerably with another person and to be able to offer the same in return. I reach out to my closest friends often and always love seeing their names pop up on my phone, too!
Disconnect from tech – Take time every day to put down and turn off the devices and connect with the world around you. Read a physical book (right now I’m reading and loving “You’re Going to Survive” by Alexandra Franzen), draw or color, journal, play with your kids, take a walk, sit outside and listen to the birds sing, etc. I also avoid social media for the first two hours upon waking and the last two hours before bed to keep anxiety at bay.
Breathe – When I’m stressed, I usually find that my shoulders are up around my ears and I’m taking short, shallow breaths. Not getting enough oxygen to your brain can lead to brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and decreased physical performance. Set a reminder on your phone to breathe. When the reminder pops up, take 3 full, deep breaths in slowly through your nose and then release them slowly through your mouth.
Change up your workspace – Usually, you can find me sitting at the desk in my office. It’s a nice space that I’m grateful to have, but I find that getting outside and working from the back deck can do wonders for my mood and motivation. Fresh air and sunshine are like soothing remedies for a weary soul.
Take a shower – Mary shared that when her day is feeling too overwhelming and she’s feeling anxious, “I take a shower and imagine I’m washing away that stress, then I take my time doing my skincare routine while listening to music.” How lovely does that sound?!
Adapt a new mantra – Since things are a bit more topsy turvy in the world right now with the pandemic going on, it felt appropriate to set the tone with a new, updated mantra. I chose “show up and serve” as my mantra right now because it feels good to me. I see this playing out in many different ways for me – with my clients and my audience, for my friends and family, and even for myself. Find what feels good to you and write your mantra down where you can see it often.
Make a list – I love a good list! They’re a great way to alleviate stress and get things out of your head. Anxiety can make us feel out of control. So, when I’m feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, I find it helpful to make a list of all the things that are within my control. It’s a quick exercise that takes just a few minutes, yet leaves you feeling empowered and in charge!
Learn from others – One of my favorite ways to learn something is to see if any of my favorite business owners have advice or resources to help, like my Instagram-crush-turned-friend, talented artist, and fellow West Virginian, Emily Kurth of Coco & June! Emily has been on a journey for several years learning how to reduce and manage her stress levels, so she’s “been there, done that” when it comes to finding what works. In addition to her beautiful art, she’s an advocate and educator for stress reduction for small business owners. You can try out her wonderful 5-part system Frazzled to Free for FREE and squash the overwhelm in your business and life…right away!
If you’re like me and thousands of other leaders around the world, you’ve likely experienced anxiety at some point in your life. I encourage you to try out some of the ideas listed above next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, or anxious. Find what feels good and what works best for you.
Which new idea will you try this week? Share below so I can encourage you along, because I truly believe we are so much stronger together.