Five ways to overcome anxiety as a leader

Leadership in business requires numerous skills – not least the ability to remain calm under pressure. Discover five ways to overcome anxiety as a leader.

Business leaders must be able to connect effectively with individuals while leading with authority. Leaders must be able to inspire and motivate while demonstrating their own commitment. Leaders must be able to rally and reassure, both employees and clients. 

But how do you achieve the above ( and so much more) when you feel crippled by anxiety or weighed down by fear? 

Anxiety in leadership is not uncommon. In fact, according to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety is a reaction to stress.” It’s a fear focused on what might happen in the future. Sometimes, it’s perfectly rational and other times not.

In this article, we will share five ways you can overcome anxiety as a leader and defeat your fears. 

1) Start by acknowledging your feelings 

Whether you struggle with anxiety on a daily basis or only in stressful situations, the first step in overcoming anxiety as a leader is to acknowledge your feelings.

As human beings, we all process situations differently. Some of us are constantly in fight or flight mode while others are motivated to act when anxiety strikes. Anxiety affects everyone differently. 

If you struggle with anxiety as a leader it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and accept your emotions.

When you take the time to acknowledge how you are feeling and admit your struggle with anxiety, you can address it effectively. Understanding your feelings and learning what triggers your anxiety will help you manage it in the long term. 

2) Take practical steps 

Anxiety can make you feel out of control. Many of us experience prolonged feelings of anxiety, even when we aren’t feeling stressed. Our body enters a fight or flight mode for reasons unknown to us, and as a result, we tend to feel hyperaware, short of breath and panicked in scenarios when we should, in fact, feel calm and collected.

Whether you feel out of control of your breathing or your circumstances, putting some practical steps in place will help you manage these feelings more confidently. 

Here are a few practical steps to help you take control against the crippling feelings of anxiety. 

Organize your time

Giving yourself structure during the week is an effective way to manage anxiety and other mental health struggles. Creating and sticking to a schedule is a great way to manage your time effectively, focus on what’s important to you, and schedule time out to rest when you need it most. Organizing your time in this way will help prevent burnout while also helping you feel more in control. 

Take small steps

When you suffer from anxiety, it doesn’t take long for even the smallest tasks to feel overwhelming. The best way to combat this is to take small steps every day.

Within your work schedule, set aside time to complete simple tasks like organizing your inbox, paying invoices, or scheduling a client call. Even if it’s only something small, achieving little tasks throughout the day can help increase your confidence and productivity, while reducing those feelings of anxiety. 

Practice mindfulness

You’ve likely heard it before, but practicing mindfulness is one of the most effective ways to overcome anxiety. A good technique is to focus on your breathing.

You can do an exercise called Box Breathing where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. Purposely slowing down your breathing in this way sends a message to your brain to calm down, therefore reducing your symptoms of anxiety. 

3) Seek professional treatment 

Sometimes, you need help to deal with the uncomfortable feelings and symptoms of anxiety. This is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, you should feel proud that you’re taking proactive steps to improve your mental health. 

Treatment for anxiety is not a passive experience. You will benefit from professional treatment if you fully commit to the process. This could mean you’re required to do some homework such as journaling, putting yourself in uncomfortable but safe situations, taking prescribed medication, and so on. 

Seeking professional treatment for anxiety is an important step for business leaders. It ensures you receive expert support and guidance, tailored to you, that can help eradicate your anxiety for good. 

4) Show vulnerability 

One of the most dangerous aspects of anxiety disorder is the isolation it can cause. Many people with anxiety feel afraid to share how they are feeling. This is particularly true for leaders who can feel the pressure to uphold an image of professionalism in the workplace.

However, showing vulnerability (as much as you are comfortable with) can go a long way towards earning the trust and support of your employees. For many leaders, feelings of anxiety that are hidden away or suffered through alone can be emitted in the form of frustrated outbursts, feelings of irritability, or frequent distraction. And this isn’t what’s best for your team. 

So, it’s important to give thought to the benefits of showing vulnerability as a leader in the workplace. Of course, how much personal information you disclose to your team is up to you. But being open and honest helps you let go of some of the burden while also reassuring your team. 

5) Gather a support system 

If you are a business leader, you need to have a support system in place. Without the right support, you can easily become isolated and anxious as you struggle alone through the ups and downs of business life. 

Whether you prefer to confide in your friends or your family, gathering a support system you can trust is invaluable. What’s more, it’s a great way to fight against feelings of anxiety and ensure you have the right support when you need it most.  

Enjoy your leadership – and feel like you

So, there you have it; five practical steps to help you overcome anxiety as a leader. We hope you feel encouraged that anxiety in leadership is normal and that you are not alone in your struggles.

Hopefully the strategies we have outlined in this article will help you take control of your anxiety so that you can enjoy your leadership role and feel like yourself again. 

Written by one of the anxiety treatment experts at Tikvah Lake Recovery.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema