Anxiety at Work

March 21, 2019

 

Last September, Christy and I hiked rim to rim at the Grand Canyon. It's an epic adventure and I highly recommend doing it. We hiked north rim to south rim, leaving at 3:30 AM. It was pitch black when we started, with only the light from our headlamps keeping us on the trail and out of the abyss.

 

Work, much like my educational years, was a major source of anxiety. Crippling at times, I developed a massive aversion to it, doing everything in my power to avoid it. I suppressed it. I ignored it. I feared it. Yet I referred to it as "my anxiety."

 

To the left of us, rocks and trees rising hundreds of feet above. To the right–nothing. Blackness. To the right was death. Stay close to the left–calm. Move to the right–anxiety. Move to the right...certain death...danger...

 

That's anxiety at work.

 

Anxiety, when we get to know it, understand its purpose, is a beautiful emotion. Its innate intention is to get our attention, to keep us safe, to keep us alive. Within us is something primordial desperately trying to tell us something. Figuring out what (or who) that is and better understand their discomfort–well, that's an adventure in self-discovery. An adventure in mesearching.

 

When we fear anxiety, when we ignore its signals, it gets louder and louder. We've compounded it by stacking two intense emotions on top of one another. Why would we answer it? It feels horrible and the thoughts that accompany it are like adding gasoline to an already raging fire. However, if it didn't feel horrible, would it get your attention? No, it wouldn't. And the thoughts that follow, if not responded to? That's backup.

 

That's anxiety at work. 

 

Here's the irony of it: We end up either fighting or attempt fleeing anxiety itself.

 

That's anxiety laid off.

 

It's never "my anxiety." You are not anxiety. It's not yours to own, to keep. It's not part of your identity or part of your character or part of your truth. It is a low-vibrational emotion that has survived evolution because it ensured the survival of our species.

 

That's anxiety at work.

 

The next time you experience the emotion of anxiety, acknowledge its message. Ask it a question. "What are you trying to tell me?" "What about this situation do you sense is life-threatening?" It was just an email. It's only an added responsibility. Not the abyss.

So why anxiety? Why that primitive reaction to non-life threatening situations?

 

No change, its intention is still the same. To avoid death. To survive. But how does an 8 PM email from a manager relate to death? The answer is easy when you stop to think about it. It's still anxiety at work.

 

So where do we go from here? I can tell you it's in three places, for sure. One, way back in time. Way back. When I finally found it, it was profound. It made sense. So much sense. The other two are rooted in beliefs and motivations. Talk about three absolutely AWESOME hikes for exploring. Rim to rim to rim. 


 

 

 

Building emotional leadership within ourselves is how we begin to human, better. And it profoundly helps with anxiety at work.

 

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