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Anxious much?

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Anxious much?

Anxiety tells us a lot about ourselves.

What makes you anxious?

What does anxiety bring out in you?

I get a variety of responses when I ask questions like these.

"Anxiety is powerful because it is outside our control." 

There are people who look me right in the eye and tell me, without hesitation, that they do not get anxious. They know that anxiety is unhealthy, a drain on their own focus and productivity. They have taught themselves, through willpower, not to feel anxious. Ever.

When I hear that I smile and continue making eye contact, though I am thinking to myself, “Wow! You must really be anxious if you respond to even the very idea of anxiety like that.”

There are few people who do not experience anxiety. Some people can teach themselves to ignore it, but the anxiety is still there.

Anxiety is powerful, and interesting.

Anxiety is powerful because it is outside our control. If we knew we could control anxiety, we probably would not feel anxious. It is powerful because we believe control is essential to our lives. We do not respond well to situations that are beyond us. We have built an entire society, and a large number of companies, dedicated to keeping things under control. Most of us will go to tremendous lengths to avoid or alleviate anxiety.

Anxiety is interesting because it tells us so much about ourselves. Some of the people with whom I work have struggled for years to appreciate why they start to feel anxious and how they can avoid it. Many of our anxieties are deep within us, essential to how we see and understand ourselves.

Some anxieties have seemingly positive results. I know very effective, successful people who would not have put nearly as much effort into what they do if they were not almost terrified of failure. Their attention to detail, their willingness to work longer and harder than others, their passion for exceeding expectations all grow from their anxieties.

I have worked with those people. I have been those people.

Even the anxiety that pushes us to do more has other, less beneficial, effects. Not only does anxiety take its toll on us physically, emotionally, and intellectually, it affects the way we work with the people around us.

Some people respond to their anxiety by doing everything they can to reduce the possibility they might miss something, that anything might be beyond their control. They become focused, if not fixated, on planning, preparation, and dealing in advance with any eventuality. They tend to micromanage the people around them. Their anxiety can distract a company from potentially productive work.

Other people respond to anxiety by ignoring it. They may resign themselves to not being able to control things. They may hide from anxiety to the extent that they do not take actions that would help them manage their work. These people may become adept at dealing with situations at the spur of the moment, “flying by the seat of their pants.” Others tend to become more laissez faire managers, giving the people around them free rein without real direction. Their anxiety can be create obstacles to potentially productive work, as well.

One of the keys to understanding anxiety is recognizing that it is our responses that are essential. Any situation can produce anxiety. When we respond, regardless of our behavior, our anxiety tends to create more anxiety that spreads through a company. 

For many of the people with whom I work, the foundation of responding well to anxious situations begins with balance. When we get out of balance, when we lose our balance, we fall down. 

Finding and maintaining our balance can be a challenging process. It often begins with recognizing the effects our stress and anxiety are already having on us. There are generally physical, emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual costs we are paying related to anxiety.

We can begin taking steps to deal well with anxiety.

Some people take walks or listen to music for a few minutes during each day. The steps are often very personal, specific to us, and reflect our true selves. Developing healthy responses and approaches to anxiety is a series of steps, not something that happens overnight.

What makes you anxious? What does anxiety bring out in you?

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Greg Richardson
Greg Richardson
Born in rural Wisconsin, Greg Richardson was raised to be very strategic. His life and work have been a voyage of discovery beyond anything he could have imagined. Greg is a recovering attorney and university professor. He has served as a criminal prosecutor, a legislative advocate, and an organizational leader. Greg has recruited, trained, and developed volunteers and staff members for a wide variety of companies. He brings his experience, focus, and sense of humor to each of his endeavors. Greg is also monastic, a lay person connected to a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California.His experiences with monks have taught him the deep importance of working from a person’s, ad an organization’s core values and principles. Greg is a deeper, clearer listener. He knows the benefits of silence and reflection. In addition to balancing being monastic and strategic, Greg has a strong appreciation for the virtues of craft brewing. He is on a personal pilgrimage of craft breweries in Southern California, and he writes a monthly column about craft brewing for an online magazine. Greg now lives in Southern California.

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