work

How To Effectively Deal With Anxiety In 15 Minutes or Less

One of the top struggles for leaders is learning how to manage their anxiety. As a leader, you carry an incredible amount of responsibility. You have people counting on you. You want to continue to grow and excel, and you want to have an impact. Given the complexity of the obstacles before a leader, their anxiety can often go through the roof.  However, they know that they are being watched carefully, by those who report to them, peers, and those they themselves are accountable to.  Consequently, many try to stuff their anxiety. They “act as if” everything is okay, finding the silver lining in whatever it is they are going through, and waiting till no one is around to allow themselves to fully feel the anxiety that is just under the surface.

Studies have shown that some amount of anxiety can actually help performance.  However, many times anxiety can get so strong that it works against us.  We are not able to generate solutions. We may find ourselves unable to fall asleep, or we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep. Or we may start stress-eating, or stress-fasting.  Perhaps we are not fully present in meetings, or are not hearing our direct reports when they really need us.  Anxiety can take different guises.

I want to offer a simple, tangible tool to decrease your anxiety in the workplace (and in your personal life!).

Do you want to deal effectively with your anxiety in 15 minutes or less?

Download this Excel spreadsheet and I will walk you through a way to do just that. Afterwards, I will give you an example of how I used it to overcome one of my worst recurring anxieties.

Looking at the worksheet, follow me along. You need to be detailed in columns B-F.  The more details, the more you should feel your anxiety being impacted as you go from column to column.

Column A: The date when you are doing this exercise for the anxiety you are currently facing (no details here :-)

Column B: Write in detail the absolute worst case scenario that could arise from the situation that is currently making you anxious.  Describe the factors that make this the worst case scenario, and write what you would feel if that scenario arose.  Do not hold back on details in this column.  You know you are doing a great job if your anxiety picks up, or you can clearly recognize that your anxiety would be horribly higher if that worst case scenario were to happen.  Once you feel that, immediately go to column C.

Column C: Write what good options can come if the absolute worst case scenario happened.  If you did a good job in column B, it should be hard to think of more than one good thing that could come from that worst case scenario.  This is where you have to break down the question by relating it to specific parts of life.  In other words, what good could come....

  • Vocationally
  • Relationally
  • Emotionally
  • Mentally
  • Financially
  • Spiritually
  • Physically
  • For each person directly impacted from the scenario
  • For loved ones
  • For your team
  • For your overall organization
  • Etc.

You know you can stop thinking of options when the edge has been taken off the anxiety and you are starting to feel hope.  You probably still feel anxious, but it has gone down a couple of notches and you can begin to see a way forward.  Then go to Column D.

Column D: Describe the actual scenario you find yourself in.  Once again, you want to state the facts of what you feel along with what you would feel about the facts.  You need to be detailed here.  Really describe it until you can taste it.

Column E: Generate options for what good things can come from Column D.  Since you have found options through the worst case scenario, you should see options for column E.  Literally, you can copy and paste many of the ones from Column C, but here you will get more specific about what you’re actually facing.  You need to keep generating options until you feel hope and your anxiety has gone down tremendously.

My Personal Success Story

Here is a template for what this exercise could look like.  It is a bit embarrassing for me to share this, but it proves how well this tool works.

I used to write business plans for a living and, with the exception of two years of my life, I have always run my own business.  I went to business school and studied business cycles.  So you would think that I would not get overly anxious about the down side of the business cycle in a calendar year.

Yet, despite all of the evidence that shows how predictable the down time is, and even more, the clear evidence that things pick up at about the same time every year, I used to get really anxious during the downtime of the business cycle.

My wife would always look at me and say, “It was like this last year” or “This year is not as bad as last year." And sure enough, things would start to turn around. But year after year, I lived with anxiety.

So if you have the What Good Could Come From This? spreadsheet up, let me walk you through what has put a permanent stop to this recurring anxiety.

A few years ago, I wrote the date in Column A.

Then in Column B, I wrote out the absolute worst case scenario that could come from the downtime in the business cycle.  Here is what I wrote:

During a down business cycle, not just 20-25% of clients drop, but all drop.  As much as I try to generate income for my family, we wind up losing all of our assets, including our house.  Then my wife, my kids, and my in-laws are forced to live under a bridge.  I would see them suffering and feel guilty, ashamed, desperate, isolated.  I would believe it was all my fault that this scenario happened and I would feel crushed by it.

When I got to Column C, I could hardly think of one good thing that could come from the worst case scenario.  So I focused on what good could come in different parts of my life.  Here is what I saw, and I wrote:

Any time I have gone through a career change, a better option has emerged. It could happen again in just the same way. My wife and I have always been tight during hard times - this one could be the same.  I could get more time with my kids.  My in-laws are incredibly gracious and resourceful.  They would help brainstorm ideas. I would be walking a lot more so I would be in better shape.  If I lost all my assets, then anything that gets added would be better financially.  I would have more time to think and get creative.  I could even get positive about this situation if I saw good things come.  It would teach me to be mentally resilient.  I could see people at my church help us in unexpected ways.  God and I could get tighter and I could see Him act in unexpected ways.  Those on my team could find other opportunities.  They are gifted and resourceful as well.  Or they would brainstorm options with me and our company could emerge better than ever.

At that point, I started to feel a little better and had a little hope, so I jumped to Column D.  I described the actual scenario as follows:

There are only two times of the year when the business cycle is lower.  Just as summer is starting there is a brief 10-15% drop. It lasts a couple of weeks and then picks up again, especially with more training gigs.  Then, a week before Thanksgiving through the second or third week in January, there is a 20-25% drop.  Although I get really anxious during this time, all that happens is that we eat out less and we dip into savings a little.  But I get really anxious and believe that it is going to dry up.  I get clouded, don't make the most of the time I have, stay down despite others noting that we experience this drop every year. The holidays help but I am still somewhat distracted.

Then when I got to Column E, it was much easier to generate options for what good could come from the actual scenario.  Here is what I wrote:

  • Vocationally - I have time to do what I don't get enough time to do (i.e. business development, train the team, get ahead on blogs, get trained on the things that will advance clients, take a longer vacation, etc.)
  • Relationally - I can take advantage of the situation and spend more time with my wife and kids.  It would be great to hang more with friends.
  • Emotionally - I can rest up more and do a better job at processing my own emotions.
  • Physically - I can work out more--go after more FitBit Workweek Hustles and beat top competitors.
  • Financially - I can review how my company and family spend money, and eliminate where we are wasting money or find better, more economical ways to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
  • Mentally - I can dream more, focus on gratitude more, do more brain games, even get unplugged more.
  • Spiritually - I can up the times I spend connecting to God in ways that have been meaningful.  My wife and I can take an extra weekend away right in the middle of the holiday rushes.  The kids and I can do more fun things.  The team and I could also do a fun holiday party.  Our company can volunteer and help others.

By the time I was done, I felt great.

I’ve found that in order to experience what I did, you have to give Columns B-E lots of detail, especially in the emotional description of what you could feel (if the worst case scenario happened) or what you are currently feeling (from the actual case scenario).  Then you have to generate lots of options in Column E.

You are going to feel so much hope if you do a good job of generating options.  Capture that hope in Column F.  So I wrote:

I feel hopeful and alive.  I feel free.

The very next year, not only did I not have fear going into the biggest drop in the cycle, but I was looking forward to all the things I would do that would move the needle forward.

Clients who have used this tool share that after they have used it a few times, when they face the next anxious moment and open up the spreadsheet, in the process of scrolling down to the next free row, they don’t even have to write anything because the reminder of how they felt hope when using this tool has led them to feel hope about the current situation.

Moreover, clients have shared that eventually, they begin to feel hope when they just see the spreadsheet in their Finder window.

What’s been freaky to hear is that some clients who were diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and were being medicated for it, have had their meds reduced, and a few have even gotten off anxiety meds completely.

Genuinely hoping this tool pays as many dividends for you as it has for them and for me.

Chew On This:

  • What would remind you to use the What Good Could Come From This tool the next time you feel anxious?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

 

What the FitBit Taught Me about Healthy Competition

When I was younger, I trained to be a professional tennis player.  I had a competitive drive back then, and it served me well.  But as I became established in a helping profession, and being an ENFJ, I found myself working more towards harmony than competition.  I allowed myself to get out of balance and worked an insane number of hours.  I stopped tennis and most other forms of exercise, and gained a lot of weight.

Now I’m committed to getting back in shape.  I joined WeightWatchers, got a weight-loss coach, and got a Fitbit.  I posted on FaceBook that I wanted accountability and competition, and I asked FaceBook friends to connect to me on Fitbit.

I’d barely gotten the post out when a friend invited me to compete on his WorkWeek Hustle Challenge.

I know I must be behind the times a bit, but I had no idea what that was.

So then I read that it was a competition to see who takes the most steps between Monday at 12:00am and Friday at 11:59pm. The winner is the one with the most steps.

Until I was invited to join the WorkWeek Challenge, I had no idea how much of a competitive spirit was still in me.

When the WorkWeek Hustle started, I pushed myself hard and spent the first two weeks physically sore.  Like, so sore that my wife laughed when she heard how slowly I was walking down the stairs.

However, by the end of the second week, I could see that the number of steps I took had increased by a huge percentage over the first week.  My friends encouraged me and even gave me some tips as to how to improve.

At the end of each week, we “Cheered” the winner of that WorkWeek Hustle.

That got me thinking....  Is there a way to create a similar type of healthy peer-to-peer competition in the business world?  I believe that there is.

Here is what I learned from Fitbit WorkWeek Challenges and how it can apply to competition among peers who want the best for each other:

1. Healthy competition ends excuse making.

As implied above, when I was invited to compete, I felt an incredible drive to start.  No hesitation, no resistance. I did not care about having to wake up a little earlier, and I found I could workout when I would otherwise be somewhat brain dead. Even going to the gym after a long day was suddenly doable.  In other words, excuses went away.

How many times have we let excuses get in the way of what we know we need to accomplish?

What do you need to improve?

What if you got a small group of peers who were willing to compete with you in that area?  Make sure it is an area that is tangible. For example, a tangible area could be a specific sales number or percentage, the number of calls made, number of minutes spent thinking and brainstorming, number of ways you can encourage team members to excel, etc. Also, make sure it is something that can be done in a short amount of time (a week or so).  The idea is to push yourself, and one another, to really grow.

2. You can play to win even when you really like your competitors and want their good.

When I trained to be a professional tennis player, unless I was playing my tennis partner or someone from my team, I viewed my competitors as neutral “other” figures.  I did not hate them, but neither did I really want their good.  I just wanted to win.

When my doubles partner and I played matches against each other, it was different. Even during the match we would share how each other could improve.  The result was that it would make the matches even better.  We loved the challenge of beating each other at our best.  It was exhilarating.

During the Fitbit challenges, some of my friends have given me tips on how to take more steps.  It has been so encouraging and helpful.

Could you imagine what it would be like if your small competitive group wanted to make the improvements so badly that they pushed each other to improve and grow, even risking losing just to gain mastery in an area?

3. Increased fun.

It has been so much fun busting out a bunch of steps--only to see one of my Fitbit friends blow me out of the water. I can’t help but laugh and realize how much further I have to grow.  What is even more fun is when I outdo them the next time :-)

The same could be true for you and your small group.  Think of how much fun you will have as you each outdo each other.

4. Increased creativity.

When I first started these challenges, I was using strictly the elliptical.  I love the elliptical, but then I discovered I can take more steps per minute on the treadmill, and now the elliptical is a weekend thing, or a short alternative when my left shin feels like it is going to explode.

Being a creature of habit, I never would have come to enjoy the treadmill the way I do, had it not been for the Fitbit WorkWeek Hustle Challenge.

Anticipate that you will get creative in order to beat your peers.  Think of how much productivity that will bring to you.

5. Push myself above what I perceived was a limit.

I work long hours, having back-to-back sessions (face-to-face, Skype, FaceTime, or phone), so the thought of getting to 10k steps per day seemed like a fantasy.

Then I saw that most of my Fitbit friends were nailing their 10k steps, and I knew some of them worked long hours in back-to-back meetings as well.  In fact, some of them were consistently over 15k steps per day.

So I looked for ways to increase it.  Every little bit counted.

Then it happened.  I passed 10k.

So I went for 15k steps per day.  Nailed it the next day when I realized that if I pace during phone calls, it actually helps me to focus and coach better.

Then I wanted to see how far I can go.... I figured I could reach 18k if I went to the gym twice per day and went for a walk with my wife when I got home from work.  I was completely wrong.  I hit 21k steps in a day.

This would not have happened had I not seen Fitbit friends hit 18k-20k steps in a day.

So just think of how you will reach new limits through competing with your peers.  It is incredibly encouraging when you see your peers reach limits that you did not think you would reach.  And it is exhilarating when you blaze the trail by hitting the new limit first.

6. Chance to compete again next time.

With the WorkWeek Hustle lasting only 5 days, you have the chance to compete again next week.  This is a great opportunity to see how you can refine and improve your strategy.

If you are competing against your peers, make sure that the time of each competition is short, to give you plenty of opportunities to refine and implement a new strategy for the next time.

7. Competitors can celebrate together.

What has also been encouraging is to have fellow competitors “Cheer” each other on.  The winner of the week often gets showered with “Cheers.”  Yet, as much as we can be happy for one another, there is naturally a deep desire to beat them next week.

How often do peers cheer you on when you accomplish something?  How often do you cheer peers on?  I am not talking the short bravos that may take place on a team call.  I mean a heartfelt cheer.

Your small group of peers can do that for one another.

Developing a peer group to compete with will create a team of people who want one another’s best, who give each other tips to improve, who cheer one another on, and want to maximize their own abilities.

Chew On This:

  • Who are the peers that you will ask to join your company WorkWeek challenge?
  • What are the options for tangible areas in which you can compete?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

How To Consistently Get Great Sleep

how-to2untitledIf you smiled or chuckled reading the above meme then this blog is for you. When was the last time you had an entire month of really good sleep?  Here is a scarier question: “When was the last time you had a full week of great sleep without being on vacation?”

What about your team?  Are they getting enough sleep?  If they are not, you may want to encourage them to.

Sleep could be the number one productivity tool.

According to health.com:

Sleep:

  • Improves memory
  • Extends life
  • Curbs inflammation (reduces chance of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.)
  • Spurs creativity
  • Increases winning
  • Improves job performance
  • Sharpens attention
  • Facilitates losing more fat
  • Lowers stress
  • Reduces accidents
  • Lowers chances of becoming depressed

We absolutely need a full night of sleep if we expect our memory, creativity and stress levels to be in an optimal range to bring out our best.

I used to sleep only 4-6 hours per night, but after switching to 7-8 hours consistently for a month, the difference in my life has been tremendous. I've found that I:

  • Am happier
  • Feel more confident
  • Get much more done in less time
  • Listen better
  • Feel alive and engaged
  • Function with far less stress
  • Am able to read people better
  • Etc.

I wish I could say that I ALWAYS get great sleep.  There are plenty of times that I wake up at 2am or 3am and can’t fall back asleep.  But I am learning tips (see below) to help me fall back asleep.

Try some of the following techniques and let me know if they help:

1. Create a sleep ready room.

 

Sleep is serious business.  Turn your bedroom into a sleep-ready room.  For me that means:

  • A really cool room (we turn down the temperature at our house)
  • A warm blanket
  • A fan blowing on me (my wife can’t stand a fan on her but for me it is just the right amount of noise to help me fall asleep fast)
  • Heavy drapes that eliminate light in the room
  • The right setting on my Sleep Number bed
  • Not having any visible clocks in the room (see below for why)

Think of times when you had really great sleep.  What did those times have in common?  Include those commonalities in your sleep ready room.

2. Workout four hours before you want to fall asleep.

 

If you are like me, you might not have much problem falling asleep, but you may wake up at 2am or 3am and not be able to fall back asleep.

Studies have shown that if you want to stay asleep longer you should do a strenuous workout about four hours before you want to fall asleep.  For many this has not only increased the amount that they sleep, but it has improved the quality of their sleep.

3. No screens, including TV, for 2-3 hours before you want to fall asleep.

 

Study after study has shown that the light created from laptops, tablets, smartphones, TV, etc. detracts from our ability to sleep.

4. Develop a bedtime routine.

 

If you set up a thirty-minute bedtime routine and you repeatedly follow it, don’t be surprised if, as you start the bedtime routine, you start to get really sleepy.

The body can be trained to fall asleep fast.

5. If you are struggling to fall asleep quickly, read about this weird breathing technique that helps many to fall asleep within 60 seconds.

 

6. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t look at your clock.

 

Sometimes when we look at our clocks, we worry about whether or not we will fall asleep, or if it is closer to morning, we can decide not to fall asleep and miss some really needed sleep.

If I let time rule me, I get far less sleep than necessary.

Here is a radical thought. Don't have a clock that is visible in the middle of the night so you can avoid seeing the time.

7. No matter what, if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t look at a screen.

 

I love tennis.  Sometimes when the tennis season moves to Asia (like it is right now), I am extremely tempted to see if favorite players like Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams won their matches.

If I see that they have won, I feel excited and happy, which means my heart beats faster and I find it hard to fall asleep.

If they have lost, I feel down and that, too, can keep me up longer than I’d like.

If they are in the middle of their matches, well, of course I want to cheer them on.  So I'm tempted to stream the match. So that is not good either.

It is much easier to eliminate the temptation by not even looking at my smartphone if I wake up early.

Plus, as stated above, my sleep is not hindered by the screen’s light.

I really hope you discover what it is like to consistently get great sleep.  If you have other tips that would help increase the chances of consistently getting great sleep, I would love to know.

Chew On This:

 

  • What will you do to encourage you and your team to prioritize sleep?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

MBTI Bite: 3 Tips for Working With Intuitives (N's on Myers-Briggs)

MBI TYPE_(1)You know us iNtuitives.... We are your big picture, forward-looking, imaginative members of the work team.  When a detail-oriented person (S on Myers-Briggs) is going through the facts of a situation, the N is disinterested and unimpressed. We will be among the first to pick up our phones to check for texts and emails. No, we don’t have ADD.  It is just that as we iNtuitives hear the facts, we search for the meaning behind them rather than focus on the facts themselves.  Then, when as little as 30% or so of the facts are out, we will see a pattern and “lock and load” on it.  

Intuitives are often described as theorists or dreamers.  We live in the future.  We love innovation and are drawn towards shiny new things (well, maybe we do have ADD.... just kidding).  

We also like fuzzy facts and guessing the meaning behind those fuzzy facts.  

You can spot us by the metaphors we use (see “lock and load” above).

Since iNtuitives make up only 27% of the population (vs. 73% for their opposite Sensor types), it would be easy to underutilize the gifts that iNtuitives bring to a meeting or project.

Here are three tips that can help you work more effectively with iNtuitives:

1. Ask them what possibilities or alternatives they see for resolving a problem.

In many meetings, alternatives are not discussed.  Those who have the bigger titles or are the most credible in the room tend to state their opinion, and the rest of the team agrees.

If you know you have a couple of iNtuitives in the meeting, why not ask them what possibilities and alternatives they might see before the big cheese in the room gives his opinion? This will broaden the discussion and help the team come to better decisions.

2. Realize that their instincts are reliable.

INtuitives get a hunch about things, and they are usually more right than not.  They may not be perfect, but their gut instinct should be taken seriously.  

Since iNtuitives live in the future, they will often describe future events as if they are happening in the present.  Don’t be thrown off by this.  They can just “see” it happening a certain way, and this gift can provide valuable insight for decision making.

This future sight” also means that iNtuitives can often spot a trend before the data emerges to support it.  

3. If you need to give a lot of details in a meeting....

        3a. Tie in the facts you are relating with what the iNtuitives are passionate about. 

In past meetings, you may have sensed that your iNtuitives start to get restless if the presentation is heavy with facts and details.  You need to let them know how these facts relate to something they are passionate about.  This will increase their staying power.

        3b. Ask them to spot any patterns they see.

Another way to keep them engaged is to ask them to jot down what patterns they see amongst all the facts.  If they can write them down as you (or the presenter) are talking, that will keep them interested and engaged.  

        3c. Ask them to spot any possibilities or future trends.

This is similar to 3b above.  If they are alert for possibilities or future trends among the facts they are hearing, it will be easier for them to pay attention.  Once again, ask them to write down their observations for discussion later.

Although iNtuitives make up only 27% of the population, we have gifts that can help Sensors shine.  The idea is to give iNtuitives space to do something different from what is typically done.  Let them discuss the trends, possibilities, alternative solutions, and future-ramifications of a situation. Then, if you are a Sensor, add these insights to your data to see if you come up with a better solution.

Chew On This:

  • How will you run your meetings differently, to incorporate the gifts of iNtuitives?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.