3 Tips To Man­age Anx­i­ety In The Of­fice

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY SA­MAN­THA HAR­RING­TON, FORBES CON­TRIB­U­TOR FOL­LOW SA­MAN­THA HAR­RING­TON AT www.forbes.com/sites/saman­tha­har­ring­ton FW

I’m nat­u­rally a pretty anx­ious per­son. In the min­utes be­fore a phone meet­ing, I’m pan­ick­ing, breath­ing quickly, stom­ach flut­ter­ing, brain run­ning through all the ex­cuses I could make to can­cel.

It’s a strange thing to deal with anx­i­ety when your job as a me­dia en­tre­pre­neur is based on un­cer­tainty.

In en­trepreneur­ship, the fear of fail­ure can be more dev­as­tat­ing than ac­tu­ally fail­ing. When you’re afraid of risk or afraid to push the bound­aries of your busi­ness, then you can’t in­no­vate.

I know I’m not alone in those feel­ings. They are also feel­ings that over­whelm­ingly im­pact women more than men.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search by the Anx­i­ety and De­pres­sion As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, women are twice as likely as men to deal with anx­i­ety dis­or­ders in their life­time. Maybe it’s be­cause women’s brains don’t process sero­tonin as quickly as men’s. Maybe it’s be­cause we’re liv­ing with sub­con­scious bias, cen­turies of low ca­reer ex­pec­ta­tions and pres­sure to crack ceil­ings for our gen­er­a­tion.

Ei­ther way, it’s some­thing women in busi­ness need to talk about.

Side note: The best way to deal with anx­i­ety in your life is a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween you and a doc­tor. (And a piece of per­sonal ad­vice in that re­gard, if you don’t have a doc­tor you re­ally like, go find a dif­fer­ent one.) Be­cause med­i­cally, what works for me may not be what works for you.

But even if you have your anx­i­ety un­der con­trol, find­ing a way to man­age it within en­trepreneur­ship can be dif­fi­cult.

I’ve found some sim­ple ways to cre­ate com­fort in un­cer­tainty. Here’s how I do it.

Be spe­cific.

What­ever the part of your job that makes your anx­i­ety flare up the worst, it’ll be eas­ier to han­dle if you have a spe­cific plan for the task. For ex­am­ple, phone calls are my kryp­tonite. So what I do is try to give that phone call as much struc­ture as I can be­fore it hap­pens. If I’m set­ting up the call via email, I try to plan out an agenda. “I want to ask you about this, and this and this.” And then I sort of mock-up a script of my end of the con­ver­sa­tion. You can use this struc­ture in all kinds of as­pects of your work. I’ve found that if I nail down the un­cer­tainty on my end as much as pos­si­ble, I’m less anx­ious about things be­yond my con­trol.

Give your­self ran­dom re­al­ity checks.

I re­ally spi­ral when I think I’m mess­ing up. Talk to your­self about how one mis­take isn’t the end of your busi­ness. And re­ally talk to your­self. Have a con­ver­sa­tion on pa­per or out loud with your­self about what you’re feel­ing and why. Then re­mind your­self of all the ob­sta­cles you’ve al­ready con­quered since you started as an en­tre­pre­neur. Think about the mis­takes you’ve made and you and your team have re­cov­ered from. Also re­mind your­self that the risks and de­ci­sions you’re mak­ing are smart. Al­ways gather data and re­search and check in with your gut so you can make the best de­ci­sion for your ven­ture. And then take a deep breath and take a risk.

Take breaks.

Let your­self off the hook. If you’re hav­ing a re­ally bad morn­ing, you’re not fail­ing if you take an hour to watch Net­flix, take a walk or read a book or walk away from your desk for a lunch break if you work in a more of­fice-type set­ting. As an en­tre­pre­neur you’re prob­a­bly giv­ing way more than full-time to your work. You have to give your­self some time too. And you can’t let your­self feel guilty for do­ing that. Some­times I have to say, out loud, it’s okay that I’m not work­ing right now. It’s okay to set aside the to-do list and breathe. In fact, it’s bet­ter for my busi­ness if I take a break than if I keep work­ing with­out first calm­ing my brain.

It can be hard to man­age anx­i­ety and a busi­ness, but I’ve been do­ing it for a year now, and I’m not let­ting my fears stop me any­time soon. I hope you won’t ei­ther.

LUKAS SCHULZE/GETTY IMAGES

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