by Lori Milner, author, entrepreneur, thought leader and founder of Beyond the Dress
The equation, ANXIETY = Uncertainty x Powerlessness, comes from Chip Conley’s insightful book ‘Emotional Equations’. Chip believes that the product of what you don’t know (uncertainty) and what you can’t control (powerlessness) creates the emotional condition of anxiety, which is greater than the sum of its parts.
Anxiety is an emotion, not a character defect. People with the greatest need to control their lives are often hit hardest by anxiety symptoms. Those who experience high anxiety levels tend to be high-functioning, high achieving, strong individuals who exercise a lot of influence over their lives, yet can’t understand when things go wrong. For me, anxiety is a big clue that something in my life is out of balance – whether my mind is too future-oriented, my desire for control too amplified, or my sense of my own power too unappreciated. Anxiety is not an equilibrium condition; it’s not what we should strive for. But we can welcome it into our lives and then ask ourselves what we need to do to reduce our uncertainty or feeling of powerlessness.
When anxiety strikes, create a balance sheet of what you know and what is within your influence. Unravel the sense of mystery about what you don’t know. Anxiety lurks in the dark, so shine a flashlight on what it is that’s disturbing you. Is this situation as uncertain as you think it is? Are you overestimating the danger associated with this mystery or the importance of the event?
Then explore whether you are truly ill equipped to address the experience. If you are, what resources can you tap into to help you feel a little more powerful? Make a list of your strengths, your coping skills, and the resources available to you. Sometimes the best solution is just to focus on what you can control; that may be as simple as your breathing.
Here’s how it works:
Create four columns on a piece of paper. Label the first column “What I know” and the column next to it “What I don’t know.” Label the third column “What I can influence” and the final one “What I can’t control.” Then fill in the columns. In the process of making these factors explicit, people are often surprised by how much certainty and influence they actually have.
There are some things in life that are worth worrying about, and there are others you just need to let go. My best advice is to focus on what you do know and can influence: your body and your mind. Reduce your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake, and eat foods that provide you with healthy fuel. Physical exercise is one of nature’s remedies for stress, and getting plenty of bed rest allows your body to rejuvenate itself.
Kevin Cashman, the CEO of LeaderSource, says that typically, before any great mental breakthrough, there needs to be a “pause-through” when you let your body and subconscious take over from your conscious mind. When the world is uncertain and overwhelming, breathe, and miraculously, you may find that your mind moves from a war zone to a refuge.
Here’s to letting go of what you can’t control.
LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.
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