Do you struggle with anxiety?
I do. Not diagnosed anxiety but every day, I struggle with anxious thoughts. And I often feel anxious. We probably all do!
Anxious thoughts like worrying, fretting or wondering if things will go the way we want are "normal." However, when these thoughts take over, we may feel nervous, jittery or uptight and struggle to do what we need to do. Sound familiar?
Karen struggled with anxious thoughts too!
When Karen came to me for coaching, she struggled with overthinking pretty much everything in her day. Her mind would swirl with anxious thoughts:
Anxious thoughts turn to physical problems
Sadly, these anxious thoughts were manifesting physically in Karen's body! You've probably felt that happen to you too — tension in your shoulders, headaches, tightening in your chest etc. We get ourselves wound up tight as a top!
You're in a painful cycle
Anxious thoughts make us pull in physically. Feeling strain and stress in your body leaves your mind jittery and has you switching from email to text to the document you were working on, back to email again. Then you are heading down the hall (or into chat) to check with someone about something. And, often that "something" could have waited!
This is not helping your productivity
The problem with this muddled mess is that you have a lot to do! So going round and round in circles is not helping you.
When Karen realized her anxious thoughts were causing her to feel less productive and consequently less confident and capable, she realized it was time to get control of her thoughts. How do I do that? She asked!
I suggested Karen use the magic pill that I use
When my thoughts start to pull me in multiple directions at once, make me feel scattered, or create doubt, fear and anxiety in me, I tell myself back away from the computer! Then, I sit down and take a few deep breaths. That chair you've seen behind me in videos is the chair I use. When I am deep breathing, I activate my parasympathetic nervous system and get grounded.
Karen finds this moment extremely helpful
Karen put the technique to the test and told me that she could feel her body relax when taking several deep breaths. Karen finds this mindfulness activity activating her parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, she is so happy she can regain control of her thoughts and thus her focus.
Why this works
The opposite of your parasympathetic nervous system is your sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight, flight or freeze mode. The way I think of this is that your sympathetic nervous system has sympathy for our "tough situations." Our body thinks it will help us by
Why it makes you a better leader
Unfortunately, those sympathetic responses are not so helpful in leadership. Instead, we need to calm our bodies down by taking deep breaths, thus triggering our parasympathetic nervous system. This calmer state allows us to activate our critical thinking abilities, think strategically and have perspective. It also arouses empathy, compassion and caring, all essential in developing strong working relationships.
I think of this like an Archer ready to pull her arrow back. If she's shaking, she's not going to hit the target. But if she can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, she can become laser-focused on what matters most, which is what you need to do to achieve your mission and have a strong team culture to do just that.
How to do this
Although we know that taking "3 deep breathes" helps, you may not be doing it in the most effective way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus making you a better and calmer leader. To learn how to breathe in a way that activates the system, check out the
Webinar Breath Magic: Breathe your way to being a calm, composed and in control leader!
I know this sounds like a soft skill. I suppose it is. Yet, this soft skill will give you the capacity to have the courage to do the hard stuff! Try it, and let me know how it works!
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.