How Great Leaders Tackle Anxiety and Overwhelm

So many people these days are asking me what do we do with the anxiety.

I’m feeling stuff I haven’t created. It’s out there, but I’ve got to handle it and we all all of us really need to know how to handle it. So, think about this, you’re taking a walk in the woods and in the distance, you see something that looks a little squirrely out there. Not a squirrel and you say to yourself, “is that a snake?” or a stick and what? Do you start to back off until you look and you say, “is it moving? Isn’t it moving?” and finally you get whew. It’s a stick and you keep going and kind of toss it into the underbrush. So, nobody else will be bothered with it. So, why do we get feel it was a stick? Why do we get so nervous? Well, we have all of the survival skills that have been handed to us for thousands of years to keep us alive, to protect us.

They’re good. We need them but sometimes they get out of control, and we become so afraid of everything that we don’t know. How to work, walk, live, breathe, be with each other and right now, with stress really at a high level as leaders or emerging leaders. It’s really important to know what to do.

So, one of the things I want you to get is what happens in the brain. Our brains are programmed to really go toward reward and away from punishment. Toward what’s good and away from what we think is bad. Think about, if it were a snake and we’re afraid, we would back off. It’s a stick, no big deal. Okay, think about that and what we do when we get a reward is, we’re rewarded. Our brain gives us extra dopamine and I don’t want to go into a major scientific understanding of this, but I really want you to get that when we have promotions, when have successes and we feel good. Our brain is saying, all right let’s give him or her something really good to work with and we get some extra goodies in our bodies and we feel good about it and that’s where it’s good.

Now, the other part of this is when we are faced with something that is frightening or difficult or creates anxiety in us. How do we handle it? Well, here’s my theory and it’s a lot of researchers going into this and I’ve worked with thousands of people who have come back and said, “you know, when I saw the snake, not the stick, this is how I handled it” and I want you to think about this: it’s about adapting to the moment, taking a deep breath and thinking to yourself, this too shall pass because things do pass. Change is the way of the world and think about one of the great leaders during a difficult time in the history in America, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and remember his famous saying: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

So, when you’re in a difficult situation, when things aren’t going your way, when you have to cancel a meeting, when you have to not be presented with an award because nobody can show up at the time, what do you do? You take a deep breath. You say to yourself, “and this shall pass.” That will give the brain a little bit of room to say, “well if it’ll pass, maybe I can show up and give her some dopamine and make her feel better,” but do something at home by yourself. Close the door and we know that what we do feels better when we dance a little bit, sing a little bit, look at beautiful things. So, take the time during these stressful times to handle your anxiety by doing something that is going to give you some of that dopamine and make you feel better. So that, then you can say to people the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and help people move on.

Have a blessed day and here’s to your success.

Thank you so much.