All stress, anxiety, depression, is caused when we ignore who we are, and start living to please others.” – Paulo Coelho, 2014 –

While I believe it is great to breathe slowly when you are anxious, it is not a long-term solution to problems. I have been into Marcus Aurelius, the former Roman emperor’s philosophy, and have incorporated a lot of it into my coaching work. It is important to completely understand our triggers for anxiety and to do so, we need to think clearly. Sound judgment and clear rational thinking can be achieved if we are intentional about it. I have learned through my work that human focus is reducing due to multi-tasking, a busy lifestyle, and multiple online meetings in a day. Here are some ways to help think clearly:

Understanding your perception of life

Taking control of our thoughts on life and people is an important step in thinking clearly. We need to be careful where we spend our energy. For example, let’s say, Lilly was yelled at by her manager at work due to no fault of her own. Rather than focusing on the one event that didn’t go well and labeling the entire day as a horrible day, changing her perception to what went well at work that day and believing the one incident was a one-off event that was beyond her control, helps change her perception of life. Checking our emotions to see if they are rational is an important task in making decisions. Another example would be using extreme metaphors and hyperbole such as saying, “I will never succeed in my business” the first month of starting your business, or statements such as “I am a loser” for just failing in one small task. Using our words carefully is an important tool in thinking about our perspective.

Emotional regulation

This is a hard one for most of my clients too. A good demonstration of low emotional regulation is the obvious behavior of yelling, screaming, passive-aggressive jokes, criticism, etc. but it is also important to understand that suppressing our emotions is a sign of low emotional regulation. The healthy way to regulate our emotions is through understanding the trigger of the emotion and redirecting it to a positive thought.

Let’s say an act or a behavior by a friend angered you. Using and channeling that energy to understand the friend’s intentions or reasoning for the act helps us pause, reflect, and choose a course of action that is more favorable. Now let us say, the emotion is fear; fear of speaking your mind to your manager about a career promotion. The emotion of fear can be used as a tool to prepare yourself for every possible question that the manager may ask you and to go forward with the meeting. Doing your best in any circumstance and seeing success in what you can control, in this case, your behavior, and your ability to speak up leads to a healthy channeling of your emotions.

The power of control

We all have power over our minds but not over external factors such as people, incidents, traffic, daycare, etc. I had an executive client tell me she is getting anxious that the schools have opened, and the traffic is terrible, which leads to her getting to work late which in turn affects her mood, making her more anxious. Embracing our life to the fullest means embracing everything that comes with it. Some of the factors that affect people are not getting a promotion, a particular job in a particular organization, motherhood, relationship with someone. Differentiating the factors that are within your control when investigating the matter and those that are out of your control is important. In my client’s case, controlling NYC traffic is out of her control but how she feels about it is within her control.

Another example would be someone being devastated that they are not getting a promotion when they were never even a potential candidate. Here the decision on promotion is out of their control. It is in the hands of their upper management, the company policies, and even the economy. If the person was not even an eligible candidate for promotion, it is like being upset over an opportunity that never existed. What is within their control are making sure they have a clear understanding of the expectations for the next role, speaking up about their career progression to their immediate boss or their skip level, holding the upper management accountable in career progression meetings, and understanding that success can be measured by every step they have taken to achieve it.

Understanding your values and virtues

As a leadership coach, I truly believe leadership is doing the right thing at the right time. Not knowing your core values can lead to making wrong decisions in a leadership role and looking elsewhere externally for answers. Whereas, if you have a true understanding of your values, you look within yourself. This does not mean, by any means, not listening to your team or your mentor. People around you can guide you but not make decisions for you. Decisions should come from within you.

Middle ground

It is important to stay away from extreme opinions that lead to catastrophizing everything. An example would be, let us say for this purpose, two of Lilly’s friends whom she met in a new city she moved to betrayed her. Lilly forms a perception that she may not get loyal friends in this new city. This is catastrophic behavior and coming to an extreme conclusion that may affect her personal life and friendships in the future. It is always best to stay in the middle ground.

Zooming out

Looking at the bigger picture is important in reducing anxiety. When we are too close to our problems, we only see the problem and it may seem devastating. Stepping back and looking at the larger picture leads to a different perspective, a more mature perspective. For example, being miserable in a role because of a poor manager can seem like everything is going bad in life but if we remove the emotional investment in the role for some time and look at the bigger picture, we may notice that there may be other things that work in our favor such as having a great team, working for a good organization, great benefits, etc. It may also give us a chance to make decisions on whether to look for another role or not.

Dealing with anxiety is difficult but getting help can make a difference. With self-awareness, the right tools and techniques, you can overcome a lot of the worries. Self-awareness makes us become more understanding of people’s emotions and thoughts. It makes us attack people less as we learn to pause and reflect during communication.

Hamna Siddique is an Executive and leadership coach focusing on behavioral factors that influence success at work for Fortune 500 companies. Email: ha***********@go********.llc. || © 2023|Goldbridge Coaching LLC |All Rights Reserved|

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