How Your Anxiety is Affecting Your Life
Sometimes when my husband isn’t home at the expected time I assume he’s dead on the side of the highway being eaten by wolves.
So far, this hasn’t happened (but that doesn’t mean it won’t).
Hi, my name is Nicole and I am a Catastrophist.
Catastrophisizing is but one of many cognitive distortions we all fall prey to from time to time, sometimes on a daily basis.
Psychologytoday.com defines catastrophizing perfectly into two parts so I’m quoting them:
Part 1: Predicting a negative outcome.
Part 2: Jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe.
It’s interesting that anyone thinks like this because it so obviously doesn’t serve us, either in leadership or in our personal lives. Yet we do, because we want so badly for the good to happen, that we put equal amount of energy into fearing the worst might happen too.
Catastrophizing is – excuse the redundancy – catastrophic for leaders. As a leader you need to be a beacon of resilience. And unfortunately…
Excessive Worrying Reduces Resilience
One of the most important traits for a leader is resilience. Inherent in leading, building teams and building a business are setbacks. Actually “setbacks” has a negative connotation to it; really what we should call them are “events that happen that move us towards the events we’d rather happen.”
It’s part of the game. It’s actually part of life in general and resilience is crucial for your personal life too, but when it comes to leadership, resilience or the lack thereof can make or break you.
You therefore want to build an arsenal of tools that support the tendency of resilience. You want sleep, exercise, a good diet, recuperation time, and a growth mindset to focus on challenges as opportunities.
The irony about anticipating stress is that it creates stress, so you immediately bring into your life the very thing you’re trying to avoid when you worry that it will come into your life.
Assumptions and expectations that cause anxiety arise from our past experiences, what we witness from other people’s experiences, and what we see in society from film/TV/books/magazines/etc.
You might have been fired in a past job and assume you will be fired in your new job. You might have seen someone else get fired and assume you will also be fired. You might have seen someone in a movie get fired for something similar to what’s transpiring in your own life and you assume you will be fired too.
These are all fictions and fiction never fully reflects reality.
Furthermore, the future is a landscape that doesn’t exist. Worrying about the future is the same thing as worrying about anything that doesn’t exist. Would you worry that you’re never going to get to visit the country of Alparnia? Probably not, because it’s a country that doesn’t exist.
Keep your mind focused on what exists, which is the moment you are living. It is the only timeline you can control. This will help build a resilient attitude, which will in turn:
- grow your self-confidence
- give you a flair for adaptation and flexibility
- cultivate the belief that you can influence life events
The Benefits of Anticipatory Anxiety
- Makes you feel terrible
- Creates the reality you fear most
- Raises your blood pressure, stress level, and can lead to disease
- Stresses out everyone around you
- Makes you look incompetent, non-resilient, and fearful
- Emotional contagion will spur others to leave you
Obviously none of these are benefits, but I wanted to label them as such to shine a light on our flawed thinking.
There’s an illusion of strength with your anxiety, that it is giving you control over the eventual outcome. Somewhere in the back of your mind you think “If I worry over it I can effect the outcome I want by thinking of everything I need to do to make sure what I don’t want doesn’t happen.” This is neurotic behavior that only attracts what you don’t want, because you’re only focusing on what you don’t want.
What you do want is nowhere in the equation.
Would you go about making a cake by focusing on all the ingredients that you wouldn’t want to be in it? You’d never make a birthday cake with broccoli, cumin, beef, sesame oil, and a microphone. At least not for someone you love.
Worrying about what you don’t want to happen is putting all of the aforementioned ingredients into a bowl, stirring them together, and putting it in the oven, all the while saying, “I hope I don’t make this cake.” And the only thing you’re doing is making it.
Why some of us are prone to anticipatory anxiety and excessive worry comes down to our core beliefs, which I wrote about here.
How to Deal
- Take a moment to stop the train. You may have to forcibly take a moment to stop doing what you’re doing and just pause. Sit, breathe, close your eyes, and project what you want coming true rather than what you don’t want.
- Find Something Immediately that Makes You Happy. It can be a video, a picture, a memory, it
- doesn’t matter, just go there mentally, visually. You need to replace the anxiety with different thoughts. For me, it’s animals.
- Full Steam Ahead. The best method is to proceed as though catastrophizing is something you’ve never even heard about. Make small choices towards your goals; keep putting one foot in front of the other towards the end game. This helps focus on the here and now while simultaneously keeping the anxiety at bay. What you don’t want is to sit in a chair ruminating without taking any action and/or taking preventative action towards a reality that doesn’t exist.
- Make the Choice. The easiest and hardest part of moving past your anticipatory anxiety is making the choice to move past it. You have to want to move past it; you have to consciously choose happiness over suffering; resilience over stagnation; growth over regression; peace of mind over anxiety. It’s a choice, and the good news is you always have that choice available to you. Make little choices rather than huge sweeping ones. So, agree with yourself to make the choice not to have anticipatory anxiety. It’s not easy, and it’s not an immediate cure, but it’s a start.
Let go of the delusion that your worry is controlling the external world and creating desirable circumstances. Worry is not control.
The solutions, as the saying goes, “are in your head.” You may not permanently solve your catastrophizing, but you can learn to deal with it more effectively.
The New Brand Differentiators Are Operations and Logistics
Operations and logistics are frequently viewed as secondary functions that can be handled by someone else. But here’s the thing: With data so richly available, using it to help reinvent operations and logistics can help you stand out just as much as the next electric car or purple cow.
Just take a look at some of the world leaders in business.
Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and other sharing sites are turning their industries around with structural and operational changes that challenge old paradigms. It’s not the products or services that stand out but the operations, logistics, and method of delivery.
For example, Amazon does not just succeed on lower prices or by offering different products than their competitors. They have revolutionized, simplified, and automated ordering, customer service, distribution, and warehousing.
The results have been staggering. It’s estimated that in 2016, they represent about 30-40% of internet retail sales and 8-10% of total retail sales.
Operations Innovation Isn’t Just For The Big Businesses
You might be thinking, “But that’s for the big businesses. How can that help my small business?”
Changing operational paradigms is for small businesses, too! Take a look at GrubHub. They are a publicly traded company, but think of whom they help: restaurants, big and small. They’ve helped thousands of restaurants expand their sales by providing seamless delivery.
Outsourcing key activities like web design, social media, cloud services, CRM, and even distribution have become both less complicated and more affordable.
No matter the size of your business, you can streamline or maximize your operations to take your sales and profits to a whole new level. The key is maximizing forecasting, inventory control, and distribution to maximize service, investment return, sales, and profitability.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Many operations experts say that 80% of sales are with 20% of your products. It’s often true, yet suppliers continue to proliferate styles, colors, sizes, models, and features to presumably serve more customers and provide more features. By keeping it simple, you help yourself and your customers.
- Pursue profit and not volume. Businesses frequently fail by adding too many stores, products, and marketing. In contrast, focusing on competitiveness, bestsellers, reducing costs, and reducing structure can have huge payoffs.
- Conduct a simple “SWOT” analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to get a perspective on your business. The surprising aspect of this exercise is that we frequently take our strengths and opportunities for granted rather than maximizing them. For example, approaching key and repeat customers usually presents the greatest opportunity, lowest cost, and most profitable source of additional sales.
- Encourage testing new ideas and scrapping ones that don’t work. You will make mistakes. Focus on solving them rather than blaming someone. Consider using the process of develop, test, measure, and adapt. The measure step is, by the way, the most frequently forgotten.
It’s easy to get seduced by design, marketing, or the next flashy idea. Plenty of businesses innovate in these areas. Don’t forget, though, that just as frequently, success comes from innovation in operation and logistics.
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