Many people describe themselves as empathetic, saying things like, "I feel other people's pain" or "people vent about their problems to me because I am a good listener." These are misguided statements; rather than being emphatic, these well-intentioned people are sympathizing. While nuanced, there are important distinctions between empathy and sympathy.
Sympathy involves feeling sorry for someone, usually pity. It's relatively automatic, effortless, and often sounds like commiserating. "That really sucks. No wonder you're so mad! I would be, too!"
Empathy is the ability to understand other people's feelings because you have a shared experience. You can console because you have walked in similar shoes. Empathy sounds like, "I hear you, I've been there before, too. What can you do to make it better?"
The difference is subtle but important. While sympathy is an appropriate response in certain cases, many times it causes collusion, validating that he or she is a victim of circumstance. This only adds to drama and negativity.
Being empathetic is more effective; it fuels connection and creates accountability to solve problems. As Amy Fortney Parks, educator and psychologist states, "Empathy is when you're down in a deep, dark pit and I climb down with you and say, "It's really dark down here. How are we going to get out of here?" That's empathy. Stepping into someone's shoes, figuring out what he or she is feeling and how to solve the problem."
Here are some tips to be more empathetic:
Don't Give Advice
We naturally want to give advice, but this usually is not what the person is looking for, nor does it help him or her step out of victim mentality. Most people just want to be heard so listen thoughtfully and offer to help develop a solution.
Workplace example: someone just got moved in a company reorg
Don't say: "If I were you, I would put my head down and work hard."
Do say: "This must be very upsetting news for you. Once you've had a chance to process it, I'll help you brainstorm a path forward."
Avoid Saying "You Poor Thing"
Most people dislike being pitied; it makes them feel small. Since empathy is about understanding and empowering, acknowledge the situation and redirect to problem-solving.
Workplace example: someone just received tough feedback from his/her manager
Don't say: "I'm so sorry. That's awful. I feel so badly for you."
Do say: "That sounds like tough feedback and it must have stung. How are you going to address it?"
It's so easy to fall into the gossip trap when there is interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Don't engage, don't collude! Complaining about a coworker behind his or her back is toxic behavior; it tears apart a culture and it not only doesn't resolve the problem, but it also makes it worse.
Workplace example: someone is in a conflict with a co-worker
Don't say: "I would be upset, too. She never pulls her weight on the team. I wish her manager would do something about it!"
Do say: "It seems that you are upset by the situation. What can you do to make the situation better? Can I facilitate a conversation between the two of you?"
Don't Paint a Silver Lining
On a different note, being empathetic isn't about minimizing or putting a sunshiny positive spin on every hard situation. Most people don't want to hear how everything is going to be just fine. Instead, acknowledge the person's feelings and help him or her determine one thing that can be done to make the situation better.
Workplace example: someone is feeling overloaded with work
Don't say: "It's going to be okay; things will slow down next month. You can make it! And at least we are busy; it's job security!"
Do say: "I can imagine you may be feeling stressed about your current workload. What can be done today to make things feel more manageable?"
Empathizing with others will make them feel more respected, connected, and supported while at the same time holding them accountable for finding a solution rather than wallowing in a pity party. It takes intentional practice to be more emphatic but doing so will make you a better coworker, manager and friend.
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Every morning while I am getting ready for work, I think about the day I am going to have. I go through the things I need to get done, the conversations I have to have, and the meetings I need to prepare for. And then I think about how awesome my day is going to be. Even if it’s jammed pack and I am dealing with stressful issues, I imagine myself handling it all with ease and accomplishment. I tell myself I am going to have a successful day, no matter what comes my way. I mentally express gratitude for all the things in my life, including the challenges because they make me stronger.
Then I put a smile on my face.
I do this even when I wake up feeling grumpy, tired, overwhelmed, and generally like I would rather stay in bed and read all day. I refuse to have a bad attitude.
Attitude is a choice. And I choose to have a good one. Why? Because it feels good to feel good. Because I can get more done when I see the positive in any situation. Because people want to be around me when I am in a good mood. What fun is it to walk around grumpy, pissed off, angry, resentful, and being the victim?
Sure, life happens and things transpire that are out of your control. But you know what isn’t out of your control? How you react to what life throws at you. How you respond to the stressors in your daily existence. How you treat those closest to you. The one thing you have complete control over in life is your attitude.
I’ll say it again. The one thing you have complete control over in life is your attitude. Now that is powerful.
It’s easy to allow yourself to become the victim of your circumstance and blame other people (or the government, the weather, the school system, the fill-in-the-blank) for your hurt feelings, bad mood, stressful situation, and negative outlook on life. But it’s a cop out. You give up your power when you succumb to the problems (whether big or small) life throws at you. You can take that power back by simply choosing to view it differently and then respond accordingly.
For some, it’s easy to say, “Ugh, I feel grumpy today and I really dislike feeling grumpy. Better turn that frown upside down!” In an instant, the bad mood is changed to one that’s more positive. For others, it’s much more difficult. It takes a commitment, discipline and accountability to change from a pessimistic life view to an optimistic one. But it can be done (here is wikihows take on how to be more optimistic).
If feeling happier and more content isn’t motivating enough think about this: people with a better attitude are more likely to be promoted, get a bigger raise, be chosen to be on teams, and are generally more successful. Performance begins with you and if you want to perform better, you have to think better. Your mind is your most powerful tool (no, really, it isn’t your iPhone) and you use it so much more productively if it’s focused on finding solutions, making effective decisions, being a team player, and exploring ways to grow and improve.
It’s time we all started being more accountable for how we show up as the world is in desperate need of positivity, peace, productive problem solving, and teamwork. Your attitude has a profound effect on you and those around you. It’s 100% up to you how positive or negative that effect will be. What do you choose? How will you show up in the world?
Thanks for reading! Please like, share and comment to help me spread the word!
Every leader around the globe has faced significant challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainly is almost unbearable, decisions never more consequential, and the call for leadership louder than ever. Like so many others, I cycle through feelings of positivity and excitement for the future and then slump into feelings of exhaustion and dread. One day, I jump out of bed certain that I can accomplish anything and then next, I want to hide under the covers. While feelings of ebb and flow are common, they seem to be more amplified these days.
Reflecting on the past six months, I am struck by how much I have learned as a leader and I’d like to share a few of these insights for your consideration and feedback.
1. Sometimes there is no wrong or right answer; there is a high likelihood that some of my decisions will be both at the same time
The dichotomy of leadership is real and never more present in decision making today. I have come to accept and embrace that seemingly opposing truths can exist at the same time. The uncertainty around what the future might bring requires good decision making but doing so is incredibly difficult. I have gotten comfortable that each decision I make may be right for some reasons and wrong for others and that no matter what, I can pivot if needed.
2. A strong team and a solid culture can survive just about anything
This year has been incredibly challenging. In the first half of 2020, StoneAge went through a significant company-wide reorganization, an encryption attack that took down our IT systems for a month, the COVID-19 pandemic, acquiring a company, layoffs and pay cuts, and more. And we are knocking it out of the park.
Sure, we are still dealing with the challenges that a broken healthcare system and economic shutdown have brought, but we have bounced back from every single roadblock with resilience, grit, and teamwork. Has it always been pretty? No. Has morale taken a hit? Yes. But our team shows up day in and day out, working together to support each other and exceed our customers' expectations. And each day, we realize that we aren’t just surviving, but in many ways, thriving. This would be impossible if it weren’t for a solid culture and strong teammates at every level of the organization. I am incredibly grateful for my amazing team.
3. Bold moves won’t always be understood or appreciated but making them is imperative to come out the other side stronger
At the beginning of the pandemic, we made the weighty decision to go through with an acquisition. Countless nights were spent wondering if I was making the right call. In the end, I trusted my instincts.
Based on our due diligence, we knew the company was healthy and that we could absorb the hit if our projections didn’t play out. Our vision for StoneAge was crystal clear and there was no doubt that this acquisition fit strategically and would help us reach our goals faster. These data points, combined with my instincts telling me to make this bold move, compelled us forward. And six months later, there is no doubt it will pay off.
But not everyone understands the decision; some wonder why we chose to spend money on an acquisition when we are cutting expenses and forecasting conservatively. Some are asking why we aren’t hunkering down. My response is one of dichotomy: you must conserve and invest at the same time. Just do it in the right places. Making smart, well thought out bold moves will set you apart when this is all said and done.
4. Mental toughness is key; I’ve never been tougher
To be highly successful, a leader must be mentally tough; it’s what separates those who are good from those who are great. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve worked hard to overcome setbacks, mistakes, burnout, and stress. I have pushed aside doubt and banished negative self-talk. Sure, there have been a few meltdowns, but when they pass, I realize how therapeutic they were. I know I will be stronger because of the challenges, not despite them. This is the definition of mental toughness.
5. That being said, it’s okay to feel scared, overwhelmed and to say, “I don’t know”
I have said “I don’t know” more in the past six months than I have in all my years of leading combined. This is uncomfortable; leaders are supposed to have all the answers, right? While deep down, I’ve always known this isn’t true, it’s hard to stand in front of your team and tell them that you don’t have answers to all their questions. That I am muddling along, just like they are, trying to do the best I can while feeling overloaded, fearful and worried. I’ve cried on my husband’s shoulder, overcome with the weight of the responsibility I feel for my family, employees and company...and all of humanity.
And it’s okay. In fact, it’s normal.
We all are going through this together, sharing emotions of pain and grief, hope and optimism. We are all human, not that different from one another. I’ve learned to embrace the insecurities that these challenges have brought out in me, aiming to move through them with grace, gratitude, and resolve.
It takes serous fortitude to lead in times like these and it’s an honor to have the trust of my team, family, industry and community. This trust is something I don’t take lightly. Being able to honestly reflect upon and share experiences is what allows us to come out of crises like these stronger. Thanks for allowing me to share mine. Now I’d like to hear from you. What have you learned about yourself over the past six months?
Thanks for reading. Please comment, like and share!
When asked recently to name the one attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the turbulent times ahead, Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell, Inc., replied, “I would place my bet on curiosity.”
Curiosity is the keen desire to learn or know something. It’s the basic element of cognition; it motivates us to explore new ideas and is the building block of our decision-making. Most importantly, it’s fundamental to success.
Why Being Curious is Important to Success
Curious people desire to understand how the world works beyond what they experience, so they naturally ask more questions. This opens doors, giving them an advantage over those who are less curious. Asking good questions positions them to learn how do a job better, faster, and more creatively which leads to new assignments, promotions, and raises.
Being curious makes people more likely to consider new ideas which helps them discover the future. This is vital in today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing world. Imagine the world without curious thinkers such as Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and the Dalai Lama. These leaders, along with many others, devoted their lives to finding new solutions to old problems. I’m not suggesting you should aim to be the next Albert Einstein, but you can make more of an impact by being relentlessly curious.
Curiosity leads to better decision making. This doesn’t mean curious people don’t fail; they do, but they learn from failure. They explore what went right and what went wrong. They work to expand their perspective so they don’t miss important information or overlook a key view point. Curiosity also makes people more willing to change their minds; this is crucial because we all have cognitive biases that cloud our judgment and color our views incorrectly which can lead to mistakes in our thinking.
How to Be More Curious
While we are born curious, it can wane over time as we start to believe that we know more than we actually do. The good news is that we can relearn this trait. Here’s how…
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Aligning your work with personal purpose is an integral part of being fulfilled at work. In fact, it’s often advised to “do what you love; turn your passion into your work!” Despite its feel-good intent, it’s not great counsel. "Passion is not something you follow," says Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search for Work You Love.” "Passion is something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world."
Most highly skilled people are that way because they worked hard at becoming their very best. Take Michael Jordan, believed to be the best basketball player of all time. Remarkably, he was uninterested in sports as an adolescent. Considered too short by his coaches, he didn’t make the 9th grade basketball team. As a sophomore, he made the junior varsity basketball team, but not varsity. Embarrassed, he channeled his perceived failure into motivation to practice more than anyone else. First at the gym and last to leave, he believed that he would get out of the game what he put into it. And, because he worked to be good at basketball, it became his passion. Once it became his passion, he overcame all obstacles.
While most of us will never be the Michael Jordan of our professions, we can learn from his dedication to hard work and practice. It’s rewarding to be great at something and since you spend 8+ hours a day at work, why not commit to being great at your job? It might just turn into your passion.
You can’t be great at something unless you know what “great” looks like. Your goals will change as you master your role so don’t spend time trying to figure out the end game; there is no end game. Pick one part of your job to master first, determine what being an expert looks like, set goals, then act, and then repeat.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s hard to excel at something if you don’t go beyond your comfort zone; you will never achieve mastery if you don’t push yourself. Take on a challenging new project, ask your boss for in-depth, critical feedback on your performance, or learn a new skill. Rather than accept status quo, raise the bar for yourself.
Don’t Get Distracted
It’s easy to be distracted by tasks that minimize the discomfort of working hard at something you aren’t yet great at. In my first sales job, I had to develop a book of business from scratch and I did everything I could to avoid cold calling. I hated cold calling. I checked email, gossiped with coworkers, brainstormed with my boss…anything but put my head down to do the uncomfortable work. I quickly recognized I wouldn’t be successful if I didn’t pick up the phone, so I bought myself a 30-second sand timer. As soon as I hung up from one cold call, I flipped the timer over and I forced myself to make another call before the sand filled the bottom chamber. In six months, I was named Salesperson of the Year. The moral of the story: don’t be your own worst enemy; minimize distractions.
Give Your Best Effort
There’s no way around it, if you want to be great at something, you must work at it. Channel Michael Jordan: practice, practice, and more practice. Look at new tasks and challenges as strength and conditioning exercises; with every task complete and challenge overcome you’ve built your “getting really good at your job” muscles. Give your best effort and analyze your performance. Then practice more.
Never Stop Learning
Read job related books or publications, take a class, go to a conference, join a forum, ask for more training, try a new way of doing something, and find out how other people do your job. Be curious and never stop learning.
Ask for Feedback
Receiving feedback can be tough, but it’s critical to grow personally and professionally. Be coachable by checking your ego at the door. Ask your boss and coworkers for feedback on your performance. If you get criticism, don’t take it personally or give up; instead use it as fuel for improvement.
As Michael Jordan so wisely said, “I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, results will come.” I also believe that if you put in the work, your passion will come.
Thank you for reading. Please comment, like or share if you are so include to help me spread this message.
Having just wrapped up my first decade as a CEO and reflecting on what I want the next decade to look like, I was struck by how much I’ve grown and matured as a leader. The 2010s were filled with many ups and downs, achievements and setbacks, laughter and tears…just like any good decade should be! I took a few moments to jot down what I learned in my first decade as a CEO and this is what I came up with, along with some suggestions for you to consider.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading. I hope this was useful to you as you think about your own leadership journey over the next decade. And, as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares.
Leading from the middle isn’t easy. To do it well, you must be able to manage up, down and sideways, juggling the demands of your boss, the needs of your direct reports, and the collaboration desired by your peers. You need to understand the company vision and strategy while at the same time be able to manage the details of your department. You must handle the pressure of needing to be all things to all people and balance the competing priorities within the organization.
The key to succeeding in a middle management role is to stay focused, communicate often, and don’t take things personally. You can make a significant difference in your organization by figuring out how to navigate the ins and outs of the company structure to get things done. And when you lead well from the middle, you’re not likely to stay in the middle for long. Here are some tips.
Communication is Critical
In most organizations, communication has a trickle-down effect and the ‘why’ gets diluted the further it gets from the top. Do not let this happen to you. Great middle managers know how to ask for information and then distill it down to actionable tasks that his or her team can execute. Make sure you are on the same page as your boss, ask for advice when appropriate, and talk to your team as often as possible.
Great managers are honest and direct in their communication. Both your manager and your employees should always know where you stand. To give feedback effectively be clear, be positive, focus on the behavior rather than the person, be specific, and make it a two-way conversation.
Giving feedback is hard to do and great managers take it like a champ, making it as easy as possible on those who are forward with constructive criticism. Show your willingness to take feedback by listening closely to what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions and refrain from making excuses or getting defensive. Say thank you and then take action to show that you heard and valued the feedback.
Middle managers must be able to handle stress, uncertainty, and setbacks with grace as shifting priorities and miss-communication can put them in difficult situations. Don’t take setbacks personally...they are part of the job. Treat every problem as part of your learning process, don’t over dramatize the issue, find a positive outcome, and then move on.
Stop talking and start listening. To be a great middle manager, you need to understand what your boss, your employees, and your customers are truly saying so you can make better decisions. There are nuisances in every conversation and if you catch them, you’ll be better able to navigate office politics. Pay attention to your employees’ feedback and suggestions; act to show that you can effectively solve problems.
As management guru and author Kenneth Blanchard said, "The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority." To get things done, you must be able to influence those around you. While being a manager gives you a certain amount of influence, you can be more effective if you take the time to build trust and prove that you want to help others succeed. To cultivate influence, learn about others’ working styles, goals, and priorities, be personable, and listen mindfully. Get out of your office and engage.
Great middle managers know that they must work well with their peers to break down silos and get big projects done. Forging ties with management peers enhances individual success and improves the company’s bottom line. Seek out opportunities to connect with your peers, bridge gaps between departments by being helpful, share information and follow up often.
Do Your Work with Integrity
Effective leadership is all about getting results the right way. Do your work with impeccable integrity and intention. Don’t cut corners, cheat, violate values, or step on others to get the job done. If you make a mistake, take ownership of it. People who demonstrate integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable.
More than ever, great managers are needed at every level of an organization. Be bold and accept the challenge of middle management. You’ll emerge a far better leader and you’ll create new opportunities to stretch yourself and your team.
As always, thank you for reading! I welcome and encourage likes, shares, and comments.
I love riding my Peloton spin bike. I’m addicted to it. Not only are the classes challenging, I am inspired by the instructors’ moving stories and thought-provoking comments. A recent ride on the Peloton taught me a new acronym that I can’t stop telling others about…and applying to my daily life with diligence.
W.A.I.T: Why Am I Trippin’?
I like to think of myself as a positive, optimistic person, but I often find myself getting frustrated, or annoyed...and sometimes even angry. I am good at letting things go quickly, but if I’m honest with myself, I probably let unimportant things get to me too much.
Hence my new mantra: W.A.I.T.
As soon as I feel my temperature start to rise, I pause and ask, “Why am I trippin’? Is feeling angry and annoyed worth it? Can I change anything about this situation? Does getting angry serve me well? Does it help me show up as the positive, optimistic person I believe myself to be? Is acting this way helpful to me or anyone else?”
I have found is that 99% of the time, the answers to these questions are NO; they just aren’t that big of a deal. Seeing this has helped me change my mindset and my reactions. Instead of letting the annoyance ruin the moment, I let it go. Instead of complaining or criticizing, I respond in a positive, more inspiring way.
And it’s working! I’ve been applying W.A.I.T to my life for the past few months and the results are remarkable. I feel happier. I’ve had more meaningful interactions with everyone around me. I am better able to defuse emotional situations. I am more accountable.
I share this with you in hopes that you, too, can find it to be a powerful tool to create a happier, more fulfilling life.
Thanks for reading and as always, I appreciate comments, shares and likes!
I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to apologize to someone I hurt. I was conflicted, my thoughts filled with self-justifying righteousness, “I am right, and I am hurt, too!” Yet at the same time, I was filled with regret, choking on unfinished words and self-reproach. “This isn’t turning out the way I want it to,” I said to myself. Ugh…the only way to get myself out of my self-inflected situation was to say, “I’m sorry.”
Apologizing is difficult, especially when the stakes are high and the hurt runs deep. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook, blaming the other person and minimizing your role in the situation. When you finally bring yourself to say the words, stress hormones flood the body creating fight or flight responses. Your brain screams, “Don’t do it! Run!” or “Get mad! Don’t go down without a fight!” It’s takes everything in your power to go through with it. Your mind spins as you think of the million ways to express yourself. But in the end, it’s worth it. When you apologize, it allows space for both you and the other person to move forward, to let go, to forgive. It will make you and the other person feel better.
So how do you apologize the right way?
Write Down the Outcomes You Want
Before you go into a high stress situation, know what you want to get out of it. Write down your desired outcomes and keep them handy during the conversation; it will help you stay on track if the person responds emotionally and you can review them if you find yourself getting emotional or making excuses. Examples of outcomes might be to repair a damaged relationship, defuse an emotional situation, or simply to own your part in a conflict.
Check Your Emotions. Choose How You Want to Feel
Emotions don’t have to dictate your feelings and reactions. Even when they are strong, you can still choose how you want to feel. You can choose to feel compassion, relief, or ownership. Or you can also choose to feel angry, justified, or shameful. It’s up to you to determine your outlook on the situation, so check your emotions and choose to see the bright side of apologizing.
Apologize. Own it. Don’t Over Explain Your Actions
It’s best to just say, “I am sorry; I own what I did.” Most people don’t want to hear excuses because they water down the apology and make it feel insincere. Sometimes though, it may be appropriate to explain your side, but only do it to help the person forgive, not to minimize your role in what happened. Over explaining sounds like excuse making.
Express Regret, Be Specific
In addition to saying, “I’m sorry,” you should express regret for hurting the other person. For example, “I regret hurting you; it was wrong of me to blame you and it damaged our relationship. Our relationship is important to me and I understand that I have to earn your trust back.” This validates the person’s feelings which is what most people want out of an apology. Being specific brings a tone of sincerity and it shows you understand how your actions affected the person.
Ask Questions and Listen
Remember, the person you are apologizing to isn’t there to only hear you out. Give him or her the opportunity to respond. Ask questions to draw out meaningful dialogue, listen carefully and don’t get defensive.
Make Commitments and Keep Them
After you’ve apologized and expressed regret, make a commitment to change your behavior. Outline what you are going to do differently and follow through. Everyone makes mistakes but there is nothing worse than repeating it because you didn’t change your behavior. Trust can be rebuilt quickly if you demonstrate that you’ve learned from what happened.
Smile, Say Thank You and Leave
At the end of your apology, smile. Smiling makes everyone feel better and it releases tension. Thank the person for listening and then leave. Most people need time to process and hanging around afterwards doesn’t allow the space required to do so.
Following these steps will help you deliver a sincere, meaningful apology and will start the process of forgiveness. As famous cartoonist Lynn Johnson famously wrote, “An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
Thanks for reading and as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares!
Whatif by Shel Silverstein
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I'm dumb in school?
Whatif they've closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there's poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don't grow tall?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won't bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems swell, and then
The nighttime Whatifs strike again!
Some people are lucky and can escape the dark trap of endlessly worrying. Others…not so much; they have the "whatifs" crawling inside their ears, whispering stories of danger, fear, doubt, failure, pain, and heartbreak. What if I fail, what if I look stupid, what if I get fired, what if I die….
We all worry. According to a Psychology Today article, “at least one in four Americans - about 65 million of us—will meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point in our lifetime. Even those individuals whose lives are going well may worry excessively on occasion.” In our best moments, worry can take us down a spiral of fear where our minds play out dramas that leave us feeling powerless, vulnerable, and afraid. In our worst moments, worry can be paralyzing and health-diminishing. Excessive worrying can lead to poor decision making and deter us from taking life-improving risks.
The crazy-making part of worry is that 99.9% of the time, the things we fret about never happen. Worry is a time waster, an energy suck, a diminisher of life quality. Engaging in it rarely changes anything. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stop worrying. Good news though; there are some ways to get out of your brain-spinning story of fear and worry. Here are 5 tips:
1. Get some exercise
Moving your body is guaranteed to make you feel better. It not only provides a distraction, but exercise also causes your body to release endorphins which are “feel good” hormones that increase happiness, focus, and energy. Work up a sweat, get your blood pumping, and then notice how you feel. My bet is that you’ll feel better. In my experience, exercising is the number one way to reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Challenge the Worry with Tough Questions
Put your worry into perspective by journaling about it. Write down what you are worried about and why. Then ask yourself these questions, recording the answers in your notebook.
3. Power Pose
Amy Cuddy’s powerful TED Talk on Power Posing outlines the benefits of using dominant body postures to gain confidence and reduce anxiety. While there are Power Posing naysayers, I have found doing them to be incredibly helpful when I am feeling anxious, especially when it comes to speaking in front of people. Power Posing is easy; find someplace private, put your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman, stand up straight, puff out your chest, and breathe deeply with a smile on your face. Hold the pose for a few minutes and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.
4. Talk it Out
Talking about your worry allows you to process it while gaining perspective and insight. Ask a confidant to listen and offer advice (if appropriate). If that doesn’t work, a therapist can be a good listener and provide you with worry-management tools. If your worry is around another person’s feelings, actions, etc., go talk to the person. While initiating the conversation may be difficult, you’ll have a sense of relief when you get to the bottom of it. You may not like what you hear but at least you’ll have concrete information and/or feedback. Even better, you may find out that your worry was all for naught and you can let it go.
5. Get Some Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase anxiety and depression, compounding the "what if" problem. To better handle what life so throws at you, get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Of course, excessive worrying can cause insomnia, creating a cycle that’s hard to break. Here is a great article on why sleep deprivation amplifies anxiety and some tips on how to improve your sleep routine.
A small amount of worry is healthy but letting it take over your life can lead to major health issues. The good news is that most of what you worry about will never come to be. For those things that do...trust yourself and your capacity to handle whatever life throws at you. You can cope with, survive, and move beyond whatever happens. Believe in yourself and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Thank you for reading! I welcome and am grateful for comments, like and shares.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.