Anxiety for women in leadership is not uncommon. Unfortunately, many female leaders struggle with anxiety and this can impact their career progression and mental health. If you are a woman struggling with anxiety, know you’re not alone.
According to LinkedIn, “Whether it is a fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, perfectionism, or other self-limiting belief, for many of us have fear that prevents us from being our best selves and achieving our full potential as leaders.”
While anxiety can feel debilitating at times, it is not impossible to overcome. In this article, we will be sharing how you can overcome anxiety as a leader.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
Like many mental health problems, anxiety affects everyone differently. However, below is a list of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety to look out for:
- Regularly feeling nervous, unsettled, or generally on edge;
- Rapid breathing;
- Trembling or shaking;
- Increased heart rate;
- Having a sense of impending doom;
- Trouble getting to sleep and/or having a quality night’s sleep;
- Feeling fatigued and weak; and
- Experiencing gut disturbances.
The Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
As we have already mentioned, anxiety affects everyone differently. As such, it can be difficult to know what kind of anxiety you are struggling with and how best to overcome it. That’s why we have listed the different types of anxiety below.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This is one of the most common forms of anxiety and tends to result in feelings of excessive worry about ordinary life events such as doctors appointments, health, family, money, or work. Because of the amount of worry generalised anxiety disorder can cause, some people find it interferes significantly with their everyday life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
This is one of the most widely recognised forms of anxiety. OCD can affect people of all ages. The condition tends to result in obsessive compulsive behaviours such as repeated hand washing, tapping, or repetitive actions.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a form of anxiety that typically occurs in people who have been exposed to a scary, shocking, or dangerous event. This could be anything from a death in the family to an accident. People suffering from PTSD tend to relieve the trauma they have experienced.
Whether you suffer from panic attacks or you often feel scared of a panic attack occurring, panic disorder can cause intense feelings of anxiety.
This is a form of anxiety that causes people to become quickly overwhelmed, anxious, or self-conscious in social situations. Leaders with social anxiety tend to find it has a significant effect on their ability to do their job well – especially as such a large part of workplace leadership revolves around the ability to communicate effectively in front of others.
Whichever form of anxiety you suffer from, you can overcome it with the right treatment and proactive steps.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
Leadership can be challenging. You carry a lot of responsibility and with this can come high stress levels. As a result, it is common to feel overwhelmed and anxious at times – particularly if you don’t take the time to acknowledge your feelings and manage your stress effectively.
According to Luxuryrehabs.com, “It’s common for CEOs to be portrayed as energetic, in control, and collected. But executives and people in high-level positions face demanding challenges and workplace-related stress that can take a toll on their mental health. With so much going on, you may not notice signs of addiction or addictive behaviour until it negatively impacts your career or life at home.”
When you feel anxiety building, the most important thing you can do is acknowledge it by saying to yourself “I feel anxious.” This is a simple trick but one that can be extremely helpful. By acknowledging your feelings, you can be aware of how you’re feeling (physically and mentally) and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
2. Understand What Triggers You
A big part of overcoming anxiety relies on understanding what triggers you. Do you break out in a sweat at the thought of giving presentations? Do you find it difficult to host meetings? Are you easily stressed in the face of change?
Knowing what triggers you helps you become more self-aware and, as a result, more effective as a leader. As you learn to understand your triggers, you can take steps to overcome the fear you feel in different situations. It’s a process that can take time but the results are worth the effort.
3. Change Your Mental Attitude
When you struggle with anxiety, your mental attitude is often focused on worrying about the worst case scenario and imagining what might happen in the future, no matter how unlikely it may be. Thought patterns like these can make you more fearful and anxious.
Taking proactive steps to change your mental attitude can have a big impact on your ability to overcome feelings of anxiety about the future. For example, instead of thinking about the worst case scenario, focus on the facts. Anxiety is often irrational and, in this way, you can spend a lot of time worrying about things that may never ever happen. Changing your mental attitude and focusing on more rational thoughts can make a big difference in your thought life and help strengthen your mental wellbeing over time.
4. Develop Your Fear Conquering Muscles
Anxiety is something that tends to develop slowly over time. It may be that you have spent years repeating the same thought patterns or behaviours. Alternatively, you may have been the victim of a traumatic event or injury that has caused intense feelings of anxiety.
According to The Huffington Post, “Brain rewiring, also called neuroplasticity, is the brain’s ability to adapt itself based on how we live our lives. The way your brain is wired can significantly impact your success at performing every day and more challenging tasks.”
However, just because you have been thinking and acting in a particular way for many years, that does not mean you can’t overcome your symptoms of anxiety. It is possible to rewire your brain and develop your fear conquering muscles so that you can thrive in your leadership role.
In order to get the most out of your leadership position and truly enjoy it, you need to overcome anxiety. We hope this article has encouraged you that overcoming feelings of anxiety as a leader is possible and that you are not alone in your struggles. Hopefully, the tips we have shared help you take control of your anxiety so you can feel more like yourself again.
HR Future Staff Writer