Picture this. Your morning starts off smoothly, you're in the office, and you're getting ahead of your day. You look at your calendar and block off an hour this afternoon to focus on something really important.
Then the phone rings.
No matter what level you're at, even if you're the CEO, you're never immune to having your day blown up by a surprise assignment.
That hour you blocked off? It's gone. Any plans you had tonight? Those are gone, too. Instead of doing anything that moves your life forward, you're going to spend today fighting to tread water.
The panic sets in. The tightening in your chest, that sinking feeling in your stomach, the oxygen now sucked out of your body, along with your motivation. In that moment, you--and the millions of people who face the same situation daily--are dealing with what our society labels anxiety, and it's stemming from two emotional drivers:
- Feeling overwhelmed: Your brain is trying to process too much, and it's flailing. Imagine trying to catch 15 balls thrown at you at the same time, and dropping them all.
- Feeling Fearful: You're looking toward the future, and you're seeing things go badly. Like wading out to the ocean and realizing you are way out of your depth.
These two feed off each other and create a downward spiral. Your overwhelming causes you to be fearful, and your fear causes you to worry more, creating more feelings of overwhelming.
Fortunately, this cycle of anxiety can be broken, and not by years of therapy. You can stop feeling anxious and reclaim your power right now by following these four steps.
1. Stop thinking about anything beyond right now.
Often people suggest this is easier said than done, but really, it's easier done than said. Your mind is racing, thinking about your possible future failures and frustrations, and you're the one doing it.
Notice those thoughts in your head, and stop indulging them. You're worried about how you're going to get it all done? Stop. The only way you're going to get anything done is simply by focusing on what is right in front of you.
2. Change your emotional state.
Without getting detailed or technical here, when your brain is racing, where are you putting your attention? Into those runaway thoughts, and the gut-wrenching feelings in your body, right?
Now, you've stopped thinking, focus on grounding yourself. Start to take slow and deep breaths. Notice your feet on floor. Really notice, how does your right foot feel different to your left? What parts of your body are calm and relaxed? How they feel next to the tense parts of your body?
3. Picture yourself getting it done.
Anxiety is a movie you play in your head, one in which your future is negative.
After hanging up the phone, your mind starts watching a movie in which this day -- and the rest of your week is -- is "ruined."
Turn off the film for a moment. No matter what you need to get done, it has to be done one step at a time. There's no imagine yourself failing at some future date that hasn't come to pass.
Instead, put in a movie with a happy ending. See yourself absorbed in your work, surprising yourself at how quickly you get things done. Seeing this day working out amazingly well.
Allow yourself to bask in this feeling for a bit.
4. Absorb in your next task -- happily.
Now you've stopped thinking, calmed your body, and imagined yourself getting these things done smoothly, your job is easy. Remove all distractions, and dive into the work.
Focus exclusively on that task that is right in front of you, and stop thinking about any other tasks until it's done and you're ready to move on.
You still might not get everything done, but the work is going to be there whether you let anxiety eat you alive or not. Why put yourself through emotional torture, when you already know what you have to do?
Do this right and you will enter a flow state, reaching peak happiness and performance. Do this consistently, and you will condition your mind for success.
Good luck today.