Podcast Episode 12: The anxious achiever


Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | RSS

Everyone has experienced anxiety at one point in time. But as high-achieving individuals, we need tools to be able to get us out of anxiety and back into action. 

What you’ll learn in this episode: 

  • Why you experience anxiety
  • How anxiety shows up in high-performing individuals
  • Recommendations for managing anxiety
  • Tools you can use anywhere at anytime to manage your anxiety 

Mentioned on the show
Essential oils. I have no relationship with these distillers beyond being a loyal customer. 

EnfleurageNew York, NY

Stillpoint AromaticsSedona, AZ

Article: Verizon Media, Snap, Spotify and Kellogg want to destigmatize mental health at work Fast Company

Box Breathing Technique

Mental Health Resources

Mental Health & Suicide Resources 

Final Local Support


Anxiety is part of life and it’s certainly part of a high achiever’s life. To the achiever, you need to take risks, push yourself, and drive towards a goal, and anxiety is inherent to this process. The key to managing anxiety is learning to identify it, understand it, and respond to it with self-compassion.

Read the Transcript
Hey friends, welcome. I love that you are here to join me today. 

Thank you for sharing this podcast with others. I really appreciate your notes and feedback. It means a lot to me that this content is helping you and others. I appreciate that you are giving me your time, attention, and your ear. 

Today we’re gonna talk about anxiety and achievement. 

The majority of my past and present clients all have listed that anxiety as one of the conditions they want to get a handle on. Much of the career coaching I do, focuses around anxiety around the current job, getting a job, interviewing for a job, or what’s next after this job. Anxiety is pretty common. But it really means different things for different people. Anxiety becomes problematic when it feels unmanageable — which also means different things for different people.

For me, anxiety swings from a low-level hum to more intense thoughts and sensations. Over the years and through a lot of trial and error, I have learned how to manage my anxiety and remain a high-performing individual. 

What I mean but Anxious Achiever is that this is someone who is professionally ambitious, driven, and who feels anxiety in their life. The anxiety could be short-lived or situational but it’s present. And it’s no joke. 

I am not a mental health expert and I have resources in the show notes if you are thinking that you may need professional help. I am, however, an anxious achiever in recovery. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population. 

The Millennial and “Gen Z’ cohorts have been dubbed “the most anxious generation”. All of us, but these cohorts especially, are in desperate need of a shift in leadership style. Most of our visible leaders have a style that’s centered on power and bravado. Talking about wellbeing or our emotions has been viewed as a sign of weakness. 

From what I’ve seen, the only leaders who talk about anxiety and their mental state are entrepreneurs. Hi! I’m Jill Griffin and I am a recovering anxious achiever. 

I want to change this and I continue to help my clients find the words they choose to use to dispel myths and judgments in their workplace. 

Our culture subtly and sometimes not so subtly tells those of us who suffer from anxiety that we can’t succeed and we shouldn’t be leading, so it kinda makes sense that no one would talk about it. 

I was thrilled this past week when I read in Fast Company that a quartet of companies is launching Mind Together,a coalition aimed at improving workplace culture around mental health. Verizon Media, Snap, Spotify, and Kellogg are the founding members whose aim is to destigmative mental health at work.  

When I was in agency land, I rarely talked about the anxiety I experienced. I did, however, have quite a few peers who I felt comfortable disclosing my anxiety to, and I wasn’t surprised when they shared their experiences. I knew I found my people. 

Anxiety is part of life and it’s certainly part of a high achiever’s life. To the achiever, you need to take risks, push yourself, and drive towards a goal, and anxiety is inherent to this process. The key to managing anxiety is learning to identify it, understand it, and respond to it with self-compassion.
 
For months, maybe even years, I would wake up with a hum, a vibration in my body of anxiety. 

A general feeling of worry or apprehension. Nothing in particular needed to be going on to feel this way, it could just be Tuesday. 

But when I was filled with apprehension I had less resilience to manage my mind. And if I wasn’t able to manage my mind, then it was challenging to be innovation, creative, and collaborative with colleagues and clients. 

Other times, I’d experience anxiety around a specific work event, like the time I was asked to write and shoot a spot in less than 24 hours. We didn’t have a studio or talent. After a migraine and a sleepless night, we ended up hiring an improv troupe. Disaster averted. 
So anxiety, for this reason, made sense. It was an insane ask and task. Anxiety for no reason is what confused me. How come I felt the same apprehension whether there was a reason for it or not. It comes down to my thoughts. 

From a survival standpoint, Anxiety has served us well when we need to be alert and react quickly to stay alive. 

Today, the upside of anxiety is that it can serve us in our line of work–we’re hyper-vigilant, we’re very attuned to what’s going on, we’re more prepared, we may even be able to predict other people’s actions making us conscientious, we are an attuned communicator, able to empathize, we stay focused.
  
My clients who work in special events or production tell me that a dose of anxiety helps them at their craft. That low-level worry helps them think of all the things that could go wrong and then get ahead of them. There’s a plan B, C, and D to pivot to when needed. 

The feeling of anxiety feels intense but the sensation can be harmless. I am not talking about serious mental health disorders when I am referring to the anxious achiever but if you are experiencing a serious mental health disorder, I have resources in the show notes.  

Anxiety is a sensation in your body. What can cause problems is our resistance to anxiety. When you start to feel anxiety it’s going to be uncomfortable because it’s a fight or flight response. Evolutionary biology shows us that anxiety makes us think we are in danger. We tense or freeze to protect ourselves. We are getting ready to resist and go to battle. This response only triggers more adrenaline and more discomfort. 

Over time, I learned how to incorporate thought and breathwork, visualization, meditation, aromatherapy, and exercise to process what I was feeling. I used different tools at different times. I began to look at my anxiety as high tide and low tide. Nothing is wrong here. It’s just a cycle. I  know when I am in low tide that high tide is coming. This mental image helped me to accept that my thoughts and feelings are here now, but that soon they will shift just like the tides. It helps me get into the flow of acceptance that anxiety can be present and I can still carry on throughout my day. It comes and it goes. High tide. Low tide. 

The brain can’t be in fight or flight AND calm you at the same time. It’s not possible. Research shows that mindfulness techniques like breathwork can reduce anxiety and improve cognition. 

They help us tap into the part of our brains responsible for awareness, concentration, and decision-making, and this puts us in a calmer, more focused state. 

So by dropping into a mind hack tool, we are able to think more clearly and make better, more thoughtful decisions, rather than relying on the part of our brains that view anxiety as a threat. 

The way to manage anxiety is to have tools ready for the discomfort. As an anxious achiever, finding the tool or tools that work best for you is the key to getting out of the apprehension and back into action. 

So the next time you are feeling the sense of anxiety tightening in your chest, tensing your neck and shoulders, or you feel like you need to scrub the bathroom, I suggest that you acknowledge and name it. Seriously, say to yourself, ‘oh, hello anxiety and notice where you feel it in your body.

Allow yourself to feel it. If you have to shut your zoom camera or take a walk to process then do what you need to take care of yourself. The sensation may get more intense because you are allowing it, but it will dissipate in a few minutes. 

Alternatively, you could temporarily ignore it. And I mean temporarily. Ignore it now but address it later. Only you know, what’s best for you, but sometimes, when you have to perform, like when you are an event planner or you are about to present to a packed zoom audience, processing the sensation may not be possible. 

Breathwork is a really helpful tool you can do quickly and use anywhere. I only recently learned how to breathe correctly. This is a curious thing for a person who meditates daily, and I sang in a gospel choir for 10 years. When I learned to breathe correctly I was able to reduce the strain on my voice and the stress on my mind. 

You can, take a deep breath for the count of 4, hold it for the count of 4, and then exhale for the count of 4. Google ‘Box Breathing Techniques’ and I will also put a link in the show notes. There are both physiological and psychological benefits to using breath techniques from regulating heart rate to removing the attention from the agitator and focusing on your breath. 

Another tool is aromatherapy. 

I’m a clinical aromatherapist (as a brain injury survivor can be really sensitive to smell, and years ago there were very few plant-based products on the market so I decided to study botanical chemistry so I could create my own products) 

Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain (amygdala and hippocampus) connected to smell, including the nose and the brain. Here’s how this works, molecules that enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs, and from there, to other parts of the body. As the molecules reach the brain, they affect the limbic system, which is linked to emotions, the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance.

Put a few drops of cardamom, frankincense, orange, or lavender on your palms or on a cotton ball and inhale. You can even stick the cotton ball or tissue in your shirt pocket so that you can carry the aroma wherever you go. For essential oils, I love Enfluenage.com right here in the west village of NYC or Stillpointaromatics.com in beautiful Sedona, AZ. I have no relationship with these distillers beyond being a loyal customer. They both create beautiful and reasonably priced products so you can have a little pocket pal to manage your anxiety. I used to formulate for anxiety and defuse the aroma in my office. Everyone would comment that it was ‘so nice’ to hang in my office. No duh. 

Another tool is visualization. I am going to do a special episode just on visualization. Visualization is the technique of using your mind, your imagination to create whatever you want in your life. You frequently use the power of your imagination unconsciously—you use it for worst-case scenarios. Pausing and using the power of your imagination consciously, and creating how you want the presentation, the project, the experience to go, you have the opportunity as to be ‘in the room where it happens. Your thoughts when practiced create your results. 

Remember you are feeling anxious because you are having a thought and a sensation in your body. When I feel this way, I get really curious about what I am thinking and write down all my crazy thoughts. Don’t try to change anything. Just get curious. When you can look at your thoughts on paper it helps you see what’s illogical or fear-based and then you get to decide how you want to think about the situation. If you don’t process the emotion you can’t release it. 

Alright, my friends. Check out the show notes for the details on the information I provided. 

I love hearing from you. You can let me know what you think by joining me on Instagram or emailing us at hello@jillgriffinconsulting.com 

Have a fab day, and I’ll see you next time. 


Show description: 
Everyone has experienced anxiety at one point in time. But as high-achieving individuals, we need tools to be able to get us out of anxiety and back into action. 

What you’ll learn in this episode: 
Why you experience anxiety
How anxiety shows up in high-performing individuals
Recommendations for managing anxiety 


Mentioned on the show: 

Essential oils. I have no relationship with these distillers beyond being a loyal customer. 
Enfleurage, New York, NY
Stillpoint Aromatics Sedona, AZ

Article: Verizon Media, Snap, Spotify and Kellogg want to destigmatize mental health at work Fast Company

Box Breathing Technique


LIFELINES
Worldwide Support Hotline
U.S. Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
MENTAL HEALTH & SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on Suicide Prevention
Mental Health List of Educational Programs
Befrienders Mental Health Resource
REFERRAL RESOURCES – FINDING LOCAL SUPPORT
Mental Health Center Locator
Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator
Substance Use Treatment Locator
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator 

Tune into The Refresh Your Career Podcast Available on all streaming apps. https://jillgriffin.buzzsprout.com/

Follow @jillGriffinCoaching on Instagram daily inspiration.

Tune into The Refresh Your Career Podcast Available on all streaming apps. https://jillgriffin.buzzsprout.com/