How to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have Anxiety

Hpw to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have AnxietyWhen I do coaching or psychotherapy with clients who struggle with procrastination, I almost always end up discussing the topic of anxiety.  Anxiety causes us to doubt our natural abilities, making us more vulnerable to procrastination and a whole host of other fears.

Anxiety is present when we fear:

  • moving forward
  • falling behind
  • never feeling good about ourselves or our work
  • never accomplishing our most significant goals because of the small stuff in the way
  • failing to reach our potential

We all need to learn to co-exist with our anxiety.  Anxiety will never totally go away because we need it to alert us to discomfort and danger.  But we need to build our awareness about how anxiety works in order to maintain a feeling of safety and consistency within ourselves.  We can do this through a daily practice of being mindful of what brings us stress and making sure we take enough action to keep our stress at manageable (and hopefully low) levels.

How to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have Anxiety

Here’s a straightforward plan to keep you steer clear of anxiety-fueled chaos:

1. Avoid seeing all of your undone tasks and unfinished things as one big pile.

Instead of ruminating over how much you have to do, start to tease out what it is that you need to do.  Do not take everything on your plate and turn it into a dark cloud trailing you around town all day.  It is more difficult to tackle everything than it is to tackle something.  When we have too many things to do, getting something done can be a huge plus.

My favorite tool for keeping my to do list manageable is the Trello app.  Take a few minutes today to try it out.  I think you’ll find it helpful for avoiding to do list overwhelm.

Related reading: 5 Secret Uses of the Trello App to Overcome Procrastination and Boost Productivity

2. Write everything down.

When we see what we need to do on paper, we can start to make a realistic plan for how to get the details taken care of.  When we just sit with the anxiety and start to freak out, we reduce our odds of being able to do anything at all. 

Take a small, doable section of your plan and write out your plan of attack.  When will you start?  How much time will you allow yourself to take?  What pieces of this plan can you put down on paper right away?  Don’t even think about the rest of the plan until you finish the first part.

I highly recommend you download a copy of the Emergent Task Planner to get your plan of action laid out.  It’s an elegant one-page planning sheet to help you sort out how you’d like your next day to go.

Related resource: The Emergent Task Planner

3. Be patient with yourself. 

When we are in a period of overwhelm, it is easy to feel drained and frustrated.  Frustration makes It easy to give up on our efforts to move things forward.  When we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to invest our efforts into having more compassion towards ourselves. 

Yelling at yourself will just make matters worse. 

Flinging your papers into the air will just make a mess. 

Believing in yourself and allowing yourself to move forward, despite your doubts and fears, will make everything better.

Instead of giving into the negative feelings, start to coach yourself into getting the next step done.  Relax your high expectations.  Have faith this period of difficulty will be temporary and will soon be over.

4. Focus on your WHY

Anxiety tends to crop up when we attempt projects that are most meaningful to us.  Anxiety also arises when we are trying to do something new.  Keeping our focus on WHY we are doing these new projects is one of the best ways to handle the anxiety that is competing for our attention. 

What is your WHY?  Your WHY might be:

  • your purpose in life
  • using your natural talents to help others
  • making the people you care about feel safe and loved
  • doing your best with the resources you have
  • finding new ways to solve old problems
  • enjoying each day fully

Our ability to change our perspective to get us through difficult times is a tremendous skill. Make sure you remember to use your own ability to reflect and to shift your mindset next time you feel you’re about to give in to your anxiety.

Recommended viewing: How Great Leaders Inspire Action TED Talk by Simon Sinek

5.  Remember that you are limitless

Anxiety forces us to focus on small quantities.  Anxiety forces us to focus on what we are afraid of, which can be a small fraction of what we might actually achieve.  Anxiety reminds us that we have limits and tries to make us believe we are about to mess those limits up.  Anxiety gives us a distorted view of what is really going on.  We can never see things for what they are when we are anxious.

So the next time you feel drained by your anxiety, focus on your abilities and potential instead.  Each and every one of us has the ability and the potential to succeed despite intense feelings of anxiety.  It is in our nature to do so. 

Man on a Wire is my all-time favorite movie.  I guarantee you will take a closer look at what you can accomplish with your one life after watching this remarkable story.

Recommended viewing: Man on a Wire

What’s next?

Why shrink ourselves down to smaller versions of what we might be?  Instead of quaking in our boots, let’s take a breath and move forward into what we might be.  Anxiety will have nothing on us.  And, instead of anxiety, we will be filled with different types of feelings, like joy, pride, satisfaction, and contentment. 

Let’s go.

Before you go

I’ve created a free download containing my top 5 tips for being able to stay on track even when you are feeling anxious.  Click the button below to get this list of helpful tips:

Get “THE 5 SECRETS FOR STAYING CLEAR OF FEAR” download now

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7 Ways to Stop Anxiety from Blocking Your Productivity

Learn how to block your anxiety before it blocks you!One of the key strategies I teach to help people improve their productivity and to fight their anxiety is this:

SEPARATE YOUR FEELINGS FROM YOUR WORK AS BEST AS YOU CAN.

This is not to say that we should not care about our work.  It’s that we should not care so much that we become entangled by our worries and erratic thoughts. When we feel anxious, our creativity and our productivity can become blocked.

If our work gets tangled up with our fears and feelings so much, how can we separate them from each other?  Tough question.  Here are my 7 answers:

1. Be the gardener of your thoughts.   Maintain a peaceful, calm landscape in your mind.  Sort the productive, healthy thoughts from the upsetting and disconcerting ones. Do this diligently and with care. This quote from Robin Sharma suggests how: “You have now learned that the mind is like a fertile garden and for it to flourish, you must nurture it daily. Never let the weeds of impure thought and action take the garden of your mind. Stand guard at the gateway of your mind.”

2. Understand that we concentrate better when we are not at peak anxiety.  Although some excited energy is needed to create, when we are fraught with anxiety our creativity and productivity suffer.  Never confuse being hysterical with doing good work.

3. Keep your focus trained on the present moment.  Every time we worry, we take our focus away from the task in front of us.  You can easily check this by seeing if your thoughts are wandering to things you have already done or something in the future you don’t have control over.  Practice refocusing your attention on what is happening at the present time.

4.  Build a plan of action.  If you are feeling trapped or cornered in a not-so-good arrangement or predicament, try to figure out what thoughts and actions created this situation.  Did you miss a meeting or an update?  Did you feel too embarrassed to ask for help?  After you determine what happened, build a plan to free yourself from the confined and restricted feeling you have.  It often takes a simple text, phone call, or conversation to find relief.

5. Don’t cramp your own style.  Don’t hide what you have to offer to the world. You can always scale back, but you can’t get back what you miss out on by being a wallflower, or by being silent, or by pretending you have nothing to say.  By releasing what you have to give, you’ll experience a feeling of satisfaction, which becomes motivation to do more so you can continue to feel better.

6. Instead of focusing on being perfect, take risks and be brave.  Anxiety and perfectionism are cousins.  They are cousins who are no fun and who don’t get out very much.  Decide to leave your anxiety and perfectionism at home today, and go out with a more adventurous attitude.  Try the new program.  Go for the more enticing option.  Give a compliment to someone you are interested in.  You will be okay.  See how different it feels to be moving and grooving.  Keep close to that feeling of being active because it is a surefire way to steer clear of Procrastination.  

7. Develop a mantra to use when you feel anxious.  Turn your fear on its head. For example, if you are worried about making a fool of yourself in public, craft a mantra to keep in your mind when you’re out in public.  Instead of telling yourself “I’m going to say the wrong thing,” remind yourself of your new mantra, which is “I am going to connect easily and well with the people I meet today.”  You’re going to speak to yourself anyway, so you might as well be kind and supportive!

Try this for yourself.  Here’s a worksheet [a free PDF download] I created to help you put all of the steps above into action.  The worksheet includes a section where you can design a mantra to combat the negative statements that may be preventing you from moving forward.

Click here to receive the MINDSET MANAGEMENT WORKSHEET to help you get on your way today!

Anxiety is a mighty foe.  Make sure to keep yourself fit against anxiety by treating yourself well, making good decisions, and being open with others when you need help.  You can minimize your anxiety and make more room for productivity and joy.

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Name Your Fears

Virginia WoolfIn my work as a psychologist, I listen to patients and the fears they harbor.  Since I tend to work with Procrastinators, the fears I hear about most frequently go like this:

  • fear of making mistakes: we worry about doing something the wrong way
  • fear of being awkward: we worry someone else will see that we are not exactly “normal”
  • fear of disappointment: we worry if we move forward with our plans, they will not pan out as we’d like
  • fear of letting someone down: we worry even our best performance will be unsatisfactory to those we are trying to please or to impress
  • fear of rejection: we worry we will not be accepted for who we are
  • fear of being called out: we worry our worst flaws will finally be seen by someone

The list above shows how vulnerable we each can feel, even over mundane matters.  It also shows how important being accepted and being treated kindly matter to us.

The great, unfortunate, irony for Procrastinators is we end up treating ourselves more harshly and viciously than anyone else would.  We do this in the name of self-protection. We try to protect ourselves from re-experiencing hurts we went through or witnessed when we were younger.  We do this by being vigilant and perfectionistic.  We do this by warning ourselves to be careful where we step.  When we use a self-protection mindset as a method of coping with life, our lives tend to get clouded with a general feeling of worry.  When we do this over many years, we end up forgetting our original fears and wind up developing a generalized fear of taking any action.

The benefit of naming your fears, to yourself or to someone else, is a return to the present moment and to life outside the cloud of worry.  When I help patients to name their fears, I also help them to understand their immense capacity to take care of themselves and to handle whatever may happen once they take action.  Most patients tend to find these ideas much more comforting and realistic than the fears they had been carrying around.

Perhaps the real benefit of facing your long-held fears is to replace that feeling of worry that resides in your chest with a feeling of calm self-acceptance.  When we develop and nurture that feeling, it becomes much easier to sidestep worry.  It becomes much easier to be ourselves, no matter what action is required of us.  And that feeling of calm self-acceptance is possible for each of us.

Do you see a bit of yourself in the list of fears?  Can you challenge yourself today to test and break down your specific fear?  Please feel free to share your thoughts on this humongous topic by posting a comment here.

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Celebrating 100 Posts! (Lessons Learned Too)

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Celebrating 100 posts!  YAHOO!

Maintaining this blog has become a great creative outlet for me both personally and professionally.  It’s also been a tremendous learning experience.  Every time I sit down to write, it’s a new adventure.  If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you know that the adventure can be a bit hairy, but I sincerely hope you’ve found the adventure to be fun and informative too.

It doesn’t really get easier to create or to write posts, but the fact that I’ve developed a body of work and a routine of posting regularly is a big plus in favor of my keeping going rather than giving up.

I’ve also learned:

  • I can help people just by writing.
  • I can help myself by jumping in and seeing where things go without having a pre-set plan.
  • I can have low-creativity days, but I can survive them and come back from them.
  • I can fit writing work in even when I don’t think I’ll have the time.
  • I can make something out of what seems like thin air.
  • I can feel accomplished when I try new things, even when I don’t know as much as what other people know about those new things.
  • I can make great friends (e.g. those people who know those things).
  • I don’t have to make masterpieces to relay my message.
  • My message is worth working for.

Here’s another thing I learned in preparing for this 100th post:

We can scare ourselves out of just about anything.

In getting excited about this post, I also got a bit hysterical.  First, I figured I needed a really snazzy image or photo to denote the big deal of reaching 100 posts.  Then, I figured I needed some really smash-down content to denote the super big deal of reaching 100 posts.  And then, I worried I wouldn’t have either and my anxiety near shut me down.

In true blogger style, I decided to trudge on and make something of this mini-struggle of mine.  I decided to set it down as it was – my anxiety about something pretty much insignificant and totally made up by me.  You see, 100 is just a number, and it’s actually just another post.  But as Procrastinators, we know well how there are mundane moments or tasks in our lives that we somehow manage to make into momentous nightmares for ourselves, and make ourselves disabled just by our thoughts.

I hope you understand my message — you can move past your anxiety, especially if it’s crafted just perfectly by you for the occasion at hand.  Congratulate yourself on your creativity and your engagement, and then move on and do the work that needs to get done.  No drama, no excitement, just get ‘er done.

Reaching 100 posts does actually mean something to me.  It’s kind of unthinkable that a Procrastinator like me might carry through to 100.  Having readers like you, who care to change your lives for the better makes my journey worthwhile, and the work worth doing.

Here’s looking forward to the next 100.  I’m nervous already.

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