How to transform anxiety into a powerful tool
Anxiety is a conversation that is regularly coming up more and more when I’m coaching leadership teams. As we navigate the uncertainty of this pandemic, it’s more present in my conversations and online than ever before. Of course, anxiety is personal and manifests itself differently in each individual case, but through my experience of living with it, together with my understanding of human behaviour, I have discovered how anxiety can be transformed into a gift for positive progress and change. How rather than crippling you, with time and increasing your self-awareness it can become your companion to keep you focused and in charge of your mind. To ensure you can move forward and create your own impact and success in life and business.
My experience writing my personal story in The Law of Brand Attraction book initially did raise some anxiety. Feelings of vulnerability hit me with the thought of everyone reading my personal and (until now) private experience. However, I have now realised the potential power of stories and how sharing your experience can help so many others transform their lives. So sharing my journey with anxiety felt like the natural next step.
How Anxiety and I met
I was 19 years old and waking up from a very heavy night out. I was rebelling after suddenly losing my dad to a heart attack 8 months before. He had died the night after we had all been to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the theatre. I had sat next to him that night. The next day he was gone and my life had been transformed. So when I woke up feeling like I had a rock in my chest, lips tingling, and couldn’t breathe. I put it down to drinking too much. I then told myself this was a sign that I needed to start taking better care of my body.
That was until it started to become a regular occurrence. I began to need time off work to cope with it, and started to fear going out in case it came upon me suddenly. It was only when I went to see a Homeopath that I finally had the label for the intense experiences taking over my body: anxiety. Through talking and taking natural tablets I was able to gain more control, however, these only ever kept it at bay for the short-term, this new “friend” of mine was here to stay.???????
“How can you be a leader with anxiety?”
For the next 15 years, I became accustomed to anxiety being a feature of my life. Some days were good, some were terrible. I became a professional at noticing all the clues for when an anxiety attack was coming: how to slow down, breathe and find someone I trusted to sit with me (not to speak) while I rode it out.
The anxiety attacks were all the proof my mind needed to tell me that I wasn’t good enough and that I couldn’t cope. It would say to me, “How can you be a leader with anxiety?”. Unsurprisingly during these years, my confidence took a bashing. I was driven by my mission to make my dad proud, however, the crippling feelings I was regularly processing seemed like obstacles to achieving success. ???????
Taking charge of anxiety
After a bad experience in a new job in Melbourne, I unlocked a new path in my life by discovering leadership coaching. Through this, I found a way I could reach out and create a positive impact in people’s lives. I became obsessed with expanding my learning about human behaviour. It was then that I had my lightbulb moment. I learned that anxiety is the worry of a perceived threat of something in the future. By knowing that I could control my thoughts and feelings about the future, I realised I could be in charge of my anxiety.
I also discovered that having some anxiety and stress was good as it is all part of your personal growth. The metaphor I frequently revisit with leaders I am coaching is of a temperature dial. Our comfort zone is set at a certain temperature. When we want to expand our comfort zone and grow, we need to turn the dial up higher. This can activate stress and anxiety as we are needing to change in an area that brings uncertainty, but this is just a part of the process. Suddenly anxiety for me became closely aligned with growth, one of my strongest values. Not only did I know that I could work through the feelings I was having, but that it was a sign that I was reaching out beyond my comfort zone.
A checking in method for coping with anxiety
From what I now understand about human behaviour, together with my own experience of anxiety, I created a method for the leaders that I work with. It won’t take your anxiety away, but it will shift your thinking and give you the ability to start taking control of any overwhelming feelings. So when you next feel anxiety creeping in, try following this technique:
When the first feeling of anxiety hits, take a moment and be grateful that your body is giving you a nudge to check in with yourself
Ask yourself the following questions to help shift your perspective:
“What am I thinking?”
“What am I making these thoughts mean?”
“How is this making me feel?”
Notice if the feelings of anxiety have appeared because you’re learning something new or are about to try a new experience. If so, recognise this as good anxiety as it means you’re turning the dial-up and allowing space for you to grow. Or notice if this is a nudge to put some self-care in place, to ask for support, and give yourself some time out.
Being able to use anxiety as a way to check-in and ensure you’re looking after yourself can be truly transformative. For me it has meant I no longer increase the panic with my thoughts, nor do I feel the need to hideaway. It might not be the silver bullet we’re all looking for at the moment, but it is a way to bring an element of control into your life at a time when, arguably, we need it the most.
To discover more methods and strategies, you can purchase your copy of The Law of Attraction Book at www.thelawofbrandattraction.com You’ll also receive bonus content and get to hang out with me and the other amazing authors.