Anxiety is a constant — and we need our leaders to address it Recognize It

Up until the last year’s pandemic, there was little to no open discussion about anxiety. It was something we all understood, and so it made no sense to talk about anxiety. It was simple: Manage. Cope. It’s possible to figure it out.

This was clearly not sufficient. We turned frequently to Google for diagnosis and treatment, but with websites of questionable authority dotting the internet, it was hard to know whom to trust. Breathing exercises were tried. CBT. Yoga. Although I cannot speak for you, I did see some improvements.

We all experienced a rare isolation. Our busy lives, including the family obligations, social engagements and work, caused us to lose our focus. Our thoughts were all that remained.

This echo chamber saw more people acknowledge the anxiety and depression. Social media was filled with messages of support and kindness. Be gentle with yourself. Today, you’re doing well. It was everywhere we heard.

These messages were mainly from our peers. Many came from anonymous organizations eager to recognize the urgent mental health crisis that we all faced. However, I was able to tell that very few of them were business leaders.

We are now in our second year of COVID-19 weirdness. It’s time to reflect on how we could do better for ourselves and each other. How could authority and business leaders have helped us in times of anxiety more effectively?

  1. Make anxiety your friend.

Anxiety is clinical when it’s unstructured and lacking context. It is difficult for most people to relate. It becomes easier to understand it when we actually live it and make it real. An unmeaning corporate press release stating that anxiety is “affecting everyone” is pointless. It is easy to relate to a CEO who writes an op-ed explaining how anxiety affects daily life. This is combined with practical guidance and community support, and you can see the way forward.

  1. Recognize that anxiety does not cause stress and give perspective.

Leaders can readily admit to the occurrence of anxiety-provoking events, such as the pandemic. Our interaction with other people suffers when we are isolated. We were left with anxiety thoughts and a lack of an external perspective. Our anxiety problems might not have been as painful if authority figures were more willing to acknowledge this, encourage us to communicate and even offer forums for that purpose.

  1. Remember that we are constantly changing and will continue to adapt.

It’s like parents saying to their child, “everything will work out fine.” Uncertainty was a key factor in our panic during the early pandemic lockdowns. We didn’t know how the situation would develop, what time it would take to get back to normal and if any of our loved ones would be affected. We cannot give absolute answers but we can remind ourselves that collective resilience is the key to our survival and growth over many centuries.

It’s important to show others how you have gotten through difficult times when anxiety strikes. The edge of anxiety can be eased by reminding us about the larger picture and our ability to adapt and thrive.

  1. Keep in mind that anxiety can be a constant.

Can crisis be avoided? But it’s far from the happy-go-lucky status-quo. For almost everyone, anxiety is a constant. Continue to have these conversations. Keep talking about your anxiety struggles. Employees should be able to access the resources they require when they are struggling with anxiety. Encourage employees to get professional support if they feel anxious.

Put simply: Support, don’t stigmatize.

While the pandemic presented challenges unique to all of us and will not have the same impact on the society for many generations, it is possible to apply the above lessons in other situations. The above techniques can be used to ease anxiety in any environment where there are a group of interdependent people who face radical change or threats — such as a business.

Last note: I want to thank all those who were brave enough to acknowledge the anxiety that accompanied the pandemic. Continue doing what you are good at. Remember that leadership goes beyond dollars and egos. Leadership is about being unapologetically, plainly human.

Inc.com columnsists’ opinions are not the views of Inc.com.

Publited at Wednesday, 01 September 2021 05.11:31 +0000

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