If you follow my column, you know anxiety, stress, and worry are frequently top of mind for me — specifically for business leaders. And with good reason: Swirling economic crises, the pandemic, and global instabilities are increasing the stress of some 80% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association. Add to that the daily pressures of keeping a business not only humming, but soaring, and you have the formula for burnout, panic attacks, and fits of anxiety.
So let’s start tackling it. As ridiculous as this may sound, especially to C-levels who are on the brink of overwhelm at any given point, I have one easy step forward: schedule time to worry.
Humor me. Let’s walk through what this looks like.
Before the day gets going, set aside 15 minutes to catalog your worries. I don’t mean stewing in your anxiety, I mean actually articulating or writing down your worries in concrete terms.
Here’s how to frame it, in two questions:
What am I worried about happening (or not happening) today?
What can I do about each thing that would alleviate my stress/anxiety/worry?
The first question accomplishes three things: It puts shape to otherwise amboebic sources of anxiety and stress, which allows you to create a clear “plan of attack.” It also dissolves those worries that don’t have enough substance to address. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, it narrows the scope to a single day — reducing the potential for overwhelm.
The second question really gets the notion of control. We often spend our worries on things completely outside of what we can control. This question pushes us to think about actionable to-dos that will address points of worry. Those that are outside of our control — that we can’t change or affect by our own actions — should be flagged as a simple “N/A” (no action).
I recommend keeping tracking of these so you can revisit as needed. Following your “worry journey” is instructive; it allows you to see how your worry management is progressing, and where you’re still struggling. If there are certain categories of worry that continue to plague you, consider spending more time on those in the future.
Ultimately, this routine will train your mind to process worries efficiently and effectively. No more spiraling out of control or nagging “what ifs.” The shift to defining each worry concretely and determining clear action points will be second-nature. The best part? This will carry over into the surprise worries that pop up during the day — you’ll find yourself treating them in the same calm, level-headed way that you handle every other one.