Let’s face it: these are anxious times. There is so much we don’t know about the future, or what a post-COVID-19 world will look like, or even when this pandemic will be over. This kind of anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, we can learn how to harness our anxiety and “humanness” to create meaningful relationships and conversations at work and home, as I discuss in this week’s podcast (episode #205) and blog with top podcast host, author and businesswoman Morra Aarons-Mele.
In her bestselling book, Hiding in the Bathroom: How to Get Out There When You'd Rather Stay Home, Morra describes her own struggles as a socially anxious introvert, and how she harnessed her fears and anxiety and channeled them into becoming a better leader and entrepreneur, creating her own marketing business platform, Women Online, and successful Harvard Business Review podcast, The Anxious Achiever. Morra wholeheartedly believes that our anxiety does not have to hold us back from success. We can tune into who we are, be authentic to who we are, and turn our so-called weaknesses into success at work. For example, if you have a lot of social anxiety, you can use your ability to tune into the people around you and channel it to facilitate amazing conversations and relationships at work. You don’t have to listen to the anxious thoughts that say you don’t belong; rather, you can use your social awareness and empathy to relate to others in meaningful ways.
If this sounds like you, one technique Morra recommends is the 10 touches rule: every week, reach out to 10 people who are in your network or who you want to be in your network, such as checking in with a client who you have not seen in a while or sending someone a message on LinkedIn. This keeps you in people’s minds and helps expand your business network from the comfort of your own home.
Anxiety can also help you be a better leader. In fact, you cannot divorce your anxiety from your leadership, at work or at home, nor should you try. Good leaders can be empathetic and human; they can be vulnerable and still be competent. If you are an anxious leader, then acknowledge it, understand it and how it affects you, and find ways to manage it. Turn it into a source of “humanness” at work. Remember, there is no shame in having anxiety; you can still be a competent worker and a good leader.
It is also okay to not be okay at work. If you are having in a mental health crisis at the office, it is important that you confide in someone, whether this is a friend, a service your company offers, or professional help. Think about ways to ask for what you need, but remember that you don’t have to overshare. You don’t have to tell your boss or colleagues everything; just say what you need to do, have a plan for dealing with your mental distress in the moment and making up the work later, and let your boss know they can contact you if they need to. Ask for what you need and have a solution: be human, but competent.
Some ways Morra manages her anxiety in the moment are breathwork, meditation and mindfulness. She also performs small, meaningful actions like writing notes to friends or making someone dinner. These actions help to unfreeze our thinking by getting us out of our own head, breaking those “end of world” ruminations that keep us stuck.
It is important to remember that giving yourself what you need will help you be better at what you do, so give yourself permission to be assertive when it comes to your mental and physical health. This will take practice, and may be really hard to do at first, especially as a woman (since we are often socially conditioned to be less assertive than men). If you get shut down, find ways to work with the situation. Be confident in who you are and find a way of responding that eases social tension and makes the situation work for you, whether by being assertive and saying something in response, or by listening and asking lots of questions. (This is how Morra manages her social anxiety in tense work situations.)
Being aware of your own mental health and needs will help you avoid burnout at work. Burnout is not about your workload. It is about the anxiety and stress you have about managing and delivering your work. It is a signal you need to listen to, telling you to start asking “why?”. What are your feelings about your work? What can you change? What can you do differently? How can you take care of your mental and physical health? Burnout compels you to look inward and reevaluate the current path you are on, because it is affecting your wellbeing.
For more on anxiety, leadership and mental health, listen to my podcast with Morra (episode #205), and check out her website, book and podcast. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
For more mental self-care tips to heal your mind and deal with your anxiety on a daily basis, pre-order my new book 101 Ways to be Less Stressed, which is now on sale at 20% off!
You can also check out my app SWITCH, which may be helpful if you have a lot of anxiety. It is a great tool for helping you learn how to manage your mind, deal with the roots of your mental distress, and overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors that impact your mental health and relationships by using the mental process of reconceptualization.
4:20 How to survive working at home during the pandemic
7:35 How to manage your anxiety during COVID
11:24 How helping others helps you
16:44 How to handle anxiety in the workplace
32:16 Women, anxiety and the workplace
39:11 Managing burnout and anxiety as a leader
47:50 How to build a career if you are an anxious introvert
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