Anxiety into action

By admin on 05/06/2013

I had a thought and posted a tweet the other day, reflecting on it (along many other throw away thoughts) I decided it deserved more substance than the 140 character limited snippet it was.

Anxiety is something every business owner has to deal with, as likely does every conscientious employee, family member, friend and so on. The good thing with anxiety is its easy to spot as it manifests itself physically: pacing, increased heart rate, sweating, sleeplessness, shaking and so on.

What is interesting is that anxiety isn't an illness, it's a mood. The physical manifestations come from your brain promoting your own thoughts to be perceived as things to actually be afraid of thus the effects are similar to that of actual fear from a real threat, so anxiety is the beginning of irrational fear.

Brilliant, we now know what we already did which is that sometimes we experience anxiety. Simply identifying it and acknowledging it is a good start, but really that's the easy part. The real thing we want to know is what to do about it?

Be an annoying little kid

Ever been around a little kid that won't let up? Incessantly asking "why?" Seemingly just for the fun of watching the answerer get more and more irritated with the question. Of course you have, you may even remember being that kid. Well, the next time you recognise yourself feeling anxious, be the kid.

Ask yourself why you're feeling that way. At first it's hard to answer but stopping yourself from fretting and actually composing an answer will almost instantly make you feel a bit better. Sometimes our brains stop us actually doing this and focus on the ill feeling and panic purely to avoid acknowledging the actual problem.

But don't stop there. One "why?" isn't annoying at all, you need to take it at least a couple more levels deep to really get to the root of the problem.

For example:

  1. Anxiety kicks in. I realise it because I'm in bed, it's getting late and I'm tempted to check twitter/Facebook/email/whatever to alleviate the boredom and try to distract my racing mind.
  2. Why am I feeling like this? I said I'd email that client today and I didn't.
  3. Okay good, that feels better... But why? Because they're looking forwards to seeing the new release but I'm not happy with it yet and am afraid if we show them now they'll think we won't deliver to a high enough standard.
  4. (In the whiniest possible voice)whyyyyyyyy? Because our work reflects our business and in turn ourselves. I don't want to be associated with substandard work and its impact on our clients.
  5. And if you were to pick up the phone first thing in the morning and tell them all of that don't you think they'd understand? Probably, yes


Okay so that's a bit of a contrived example but you get the picture. By this point you're hopefully feeling a little better and have some idea of what you need to do. But don't leave it there, there's actually a whole plethora of possible actions you can deduce from that short conversation with yourself

  • Compose yourself on how best to present the situation to the client. On the phone/in person is best as you can be far more genuine than in an email, the tone of which can be easily misread
  • Trace the problem back as far as you can, typically this will be to the expectation you have set for your client (I have another post on expectation in the works)
  • Plan time to think about what you could have done differently should this situation occur again
  • Is there anything you can do to offer some added value to your client for the inconvenience? (Not at the expense of too much time as you don't want to compound the issue!)
  • Talk to your team, try to identify the challenges that have contributed to this delay and ask for ideas on how to avoid them in the future

Once you take control of your thought process you might even find the feeling of anxiety becomes an ally, helping you to surface problems and opportunities for improvement that you have been subconsciously burying. Taking appropriate action can really address the issue and also help avoid repeating the same problem again in the future.

It doesn't always work, we're only human after all and sometimes our minds just get the better of us but this process does very often help in my experience. Let me know if this helps you or if you have any comments to add on twitter.