Are you experiencing anxiety? This is a silly question because – we all are. 2020 and 2021 have taken their toll on our ability to rely on our old tools. You may feel like you’re the one the whole team/family/school etc. is counting on – but you just don’t feel completely up to the task. You may feel really tired (your adrenals exhausted from the long-term worry), generally nervous, restless or tense. You may be having a difficult time concentrating or experiencing a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. Perhaps you’re feeling completely overwhelmed as you try to re-engage in ‘normal’ daily life (whether it be work or personal).
When people suffer from anxiety, it is because they accidentally believe the distortions and exaggerations in their mind. I work with super smart people who also, at times, can’t get out of the loop of intense angst. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of reading the same tips over and over about ‘how to calm down and destress.’ I’m tired of trying to slow down my breathing when my chest feels heavy and question the worst-case scenarios running around my head. I suspect others are as well, so let’s try something else – beyond the “tips.” Let’s talk about developing the ‘practices’ that actually alter our anxiety ‘habits’ and lead to a real and lasting alteration of our relationship with anxiety.
Since much of the anxiety I’m hearing about is centered around a return to the workplace, let’s put our focus there. I’m hearing that people are having:
- a difficult time being amongst others in a physical environment (because they may have been more isolated and working remotely for an extended period)
- concerns about COVID exposure from colleagues in close proximity (and a misalignment of acceptable safety protocols)
- a general lack of energy and focus, and
- a real struggle with motivation and follow through.
If you’re in a leadership position, you may be seeing indications that your team is experiencing this anxiety as they begin to regroup, regather and recover from the pandemic. And, in your position, you may have an opportunity to create the time and space for your teams to work through this angst as they come back to the workplace. I’d like to guide you through the ways you can support them.
First, acknowledge that their feelings are real. And, since we have not (typically) acknowledged social-emotional aspects in the workplace, I am inviting you to lead the way. Making time and space for your employees' experiences does not mean you are excusing their work. It means you value creating a culture that cares as much about your employees as you do the results of your employees.
1. Gain awareness about their anxiety. Ask questions and provide a place for them to share. Keep the time frame consistent and brief. Too much time is not better. Bring someone into your organization that knows how to do this.
2. Get curious about how their anxiety is affecting their day in and day out. Ask your people this: How are they feeling? And, demonstrate that you care about their answers. It’s not a ‘one and done.’ Keep asking questions. It's a practice, not a task. Again, bring someone in to do this especially if you don’t feel comfortable.
3. Gather tools. What are the things they know they need to navigate a highly anxious situation? Here are some ideas: get into nature, talk to someone, exercise, journal or create a little time to meditate. These are simple and important reminders. Have visual reminders of these ideas available for your team, which reminds them that they matter.
4. Grow your commitment to check in on your people. Remind your people that you are committed to helping them take charge of their anxiety vs. their anxiety taking over. Take charge of what you can control and practice releasing the rest. Set a regular gathering time and keep it.
5. Help your team to develop their own healthy practices to keep anxiety at bay. With a little help, you can support your team to develop the practices that will ‘pour cement under their feet’ – empowering them to stabilize and ground. By gaining awareness, getting curious, gathering tools and checking in with your people, you can also help them to take charge of what they can control and practice releasing (or delegating) the rest.
Together, all of us are learning to live with anxiety vs. getting rid of it. We can cultivate a healthier relationship with our worries – instead of hoping they will simply go away. We learn to get in tune with where our mind goes during anxious times. We learn strategies that can be very useful.
Our habit of worrying will kick us in the tush, if we allow it. So, just for today, let's gently usher our anxious minds out of the cozy living room. Be stubborn. Don’t argue with anxiety. Show anxiety who is boss. Let perfectionism go. Settle into a new way of thinking.
None of us should suffer in silence. I am here to support you (individually or as a leader) - no sales pitch - just here to support by answering questions or guiding you through these interesting times. Reach out. Whether you’re wanting support with your anxiety, in general, or with ‘return to office anxiety’ that is emerging for you or with your team, drop me a note. I’d love to explore the ways in which we may work together.
Want a little something more, right now? I teach a class on Skillshare called Cultivating a Healthier Relationship with Anxiety. It’s an introduction to putting these concepts into action! (It has all the strategies and tactics you'll need.) By creating new languaging and mindsets, we can also create an expanded relationship with the hungry beasts known as worry and fear. Gain some skills for yourself or to share with your team.