17 Feb Anxiety
Are you working on somebody else’s success? This is a critical question I’ve asked myself during a recent period of anxiety.
I was moving to a new house. Now we all know that moving home is one of the most stressful life events, right? And I was conscious of that. But it wasn’t so much the house move that was the issue, so much as it was the catalyst, to a personal and shocking realisation. I was feeling particularly stressed about the number of different things I had to do and the number of people who were depending on me for stuff, including my husband who had done all of the packing and preparation so far. All this in addition to my usual daily business activities and the fact that my Dad had just been diagnosed with a critical illness and was undergoing further medical assessment and investigation. Perhaps no surprise then, that I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious on a regular basis.
On one of these occasions I stopped for a moment to breathe and calm myself. I began a self-coaching exercise and set about making a list of everything I was stressing about, so I didn’t forget anything. I also made a list of the things that made me most anxious. Taking a step by step approach can often reduce the anxiety that comes from feeling overwhelmed and brings back a sense of control. Prioritising the list, I numbered the most important tasks 1. 2. 3. etc. As I did this, I got to thinking about how much of what I had to do, was for other people and I was very concerned about letting people down! I felt frustrated by this and how little time I had left that week to focus on my business and life. I quickly reworked the list again and re-annotated it: Me and Others.
I noted that I was feeling anxious about the simplest of things and that some of my thoughts were irrational and exaggerated, negative even. Believing in myself was a challenge. At times I was catastrophising everyday situations and scenarios to their worst possible conclusions. There were days that I didn’t want to get out of bed. Completing the exercise, I was shocked to learn that over 40-45% of my diarised activity was concerned with something other than my business, my dreams goals and my life ambitions. How had I not seen this so clearly before? This was one of those ‘light bulb moments’ and I was stunned by this revelation; “I have to change this”, I thought.
Having been in business since my late teens, I’m no stranger to the value of business principles such as co-creation, reciprocity, idea-pooling and collaboration. I’ve read numerous psychology and business texts; I’ve practiced Dr Ivan Misner’s Givers-Gain philosophy for years and that gem by Michael E Gerber, The E Myth and how to work ‘on my business’ rather than ‘in my business’. But this, now, I knew was imbalanced. I realised that many of the things in my diary were about giving my time, expertise and skills for little or no obvious reward or benefit to me, my business or my life aspirations and that I was often a passenger in someone else’s dream. This was beyond ‘paying it forward’, I was over-stretched, extremely anxious and it was costing me to the tune of my mental ill-health.
I had arranged annual leave, following the house move to unpack and settle. This was a silver lining that allowed me the space to rest and get medical help and advice, which confirmed my anxiety disorder. I meditated and journaled every day and I pulled back from everything other than the essentials of my business, supported by my business partner. I paid particular and careful attention to my recovery in the months that followed, and l was loved unconditionally by my husband and closest friends. I listened to the messages my subconscious mind offered during meditations by Eckhart Tolle, I nurtured my body with good food, essential nutrient supplements, water and exercise. Following a period of quiet I began to read again and reconnect with the world.
During my journey to recovery I read books such as Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerly, Atomic Habits by James Clear, Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson to name a few. I also read great personal survival journey’s such as The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger which had a deep and profound impact on my ability to fight back; it gave me great perspective. Similarly, it was the following quote by Shannon L. Alder, that became my inspiration to write this blog and share this experience:
“The real warriors in this world are the ones that see the details of another’s soul. They see the transparency behind walls people put up. They stand on the battlefield of life and expose their heart’s transparency, so others can finish the day with hope. They are the sensitive souls that understand that before they could be a light, they first had to feel the burn.”
As with most of my life experiences there has been valuable learning in this episode of anxiety. Through this experience I have developed a laser-focus on my business and life goals, perhaps in a way, I might not have, had I not become unwell? I have re-recognised some of my major life achievements and experience, I am excited and motivated by my life’s work and what I have yet to achieve and offer. Now before I commit to anything, I am sure to consider the value of every appointment I put in my diary, and how it can potentially move me closer to my heart’s desire and my businesses forward. Moreover, I keep the balance to Me 80: Others 20.
In reading this, you may wish to consider whether you are driving towards your dreams and ambitions or are in fact, working on someone else’s? Whichever the case, I’ve shared this here, that it may help those who read it, whether anxious or otherwise, to have hope.
Love and health, Brian.