I have found it hard to write over the last week. Between the continuing international crisis and the challenges of work & family, I was struggling to add anything of meaning for myself or others. At some point late a Sunday, Stage 4 of lockdown settled in the pit of my stomach as a lump of discomfort. Anxiety had arrived in force.
Anxiety can be a creeper. For me is starts when stress is elevated for an extended period of time. That’s usually the result of taking on too much, pushing myself harder than I should at work and judging myself on a harsh curve. However, that stress can be exacerbated by circumstances from the stresses of friends and family, the stories on social media through to anticipating the consequences of a global pandemic.
Like stress, a little anxiety can be productive. It helps me to focus and to be on my better performance. I don’t know I could present, pitch or negotiate without some edge to help me pay attention, concentrate and assess and tune performance in real time. There’s little to be gained by coasting through work. However, too much anxiety is destructive of performance and ultimately health. Nobody performs at their best paralysed by fear and the physical symptoms of mental stress.
Last night, I tackled the lump in my stomach and the growing stress with some deep breathing and just being. Quieting the ever busy mind is a needed part of these circumstances. The more prescribed our lives, the harder it is to quieten the mind walking in nature, exercising, absorbed in sport or lost in crowds. After some sleep, I am better for the presence that I found.
We cannot be what we want to be for others and in the world, unless we can sustain ourselves. Learning to spot the hidden stress and anxieties and tackle those before they overwhelm us is an important part of performance. Simple mindfulness techniques like deep breathing can bring a great relief in times of stress to the mind and the body. Continued performance requires the ability to stop, take breaks and be present. Your body and your mind will thank you.
Watch out for the signs of stress and anxiety in others too. These are challenging times and your questions or conversation might bring welcome relief or distraction to others. We can all look out for those around us and encourage them to look after themselves and get help when needed.