• Blog >
  • Managing Your Own Anxiety for Effective Leadership
RSS Feed

Managing Your Own Anxiety for Effective Leadership

Managing personal anxiety is critical to effective leadership. Anxiety affects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It affects the way we think and act.

A holistic approach, incorporating techniques and strategies for multiple aspects of life, provides a more sustained effect than a single focus approach.

Some of the ways to reduce personal anxiety are basic self-care strategies, others are specific to dealing with systemic anxiety. Choose one or two from each category, or focus on techniques that will provide a balance to the things you already do to deal with anxiety.


  • Take some deep breaths. It’s simple, basic and momentary, but it’s a good start to dealing with anxiety because deep breaths can relax you physically and mentally.
  • Meditate.
  • Take a walk.
  • Exercise.
  • Eat a healthy meal and resist “junk” food.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Take a break with a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Allow yourself to go to bed on time in order to sleep or at least rest even if you feel keyed up.


  • Talk to friends or colleagues, but do this in a way that avoids triangling (meaning talking about someone else instead of addressing problems directly with the person who provokes your anxiety). Sometimes it helps to talk to a friend who is not part of the system that is giving you trouble.
  • Meet with a therapist or spiritual director.
  • Write about your feelings and experiences in a journal. Insure that the journal will remain confidential.
  • Play or listen to music that expresses your feelings.
  • Express your anxiety by drawing or painting.


Spiritual responses depend on your values and beliefs. I like to do everything I can to improve a situation, then place the issue in God’s hands when I go home. Some days I have to keep repeating this process of giving my problems to God because I have a tendency to want to take things back into my own hands.

  • Prayer. Ask God for guidance and support.
  • The Serenity prayer was written to help people dealing with addiction, but it also works well for anxiety. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
  • Read scripture from your tradition.
  • Meditate.
  • Attend religious services or study groups.
  • Engage in a service project.


  • Know the patterns of systemic anxiety and name them as you see them taking place. A rational analysis can counteract anxiety. See “Eleven Characteristics of an Anxious Leader” for more details.
  • When you notice yourself falling into one of the patterns of systemic anxiety, identify three alternative responses that you could try.
  • Try an alternate response, then reflect on how it worked for you and those around you.
  • Notice negative thought patterns and reassure yourself or reframe to a positive thought. For example, if you find yourself saying, “I can’t handle this” or “Something terrible is going to happen”, try reminding yourself of a time when you did get through a stressful situation, then say, “I have the skills to handle this” or “I’ll be o.k., no matter how this turns out”.
  • Be clear about which things are your responsibility and which are someone else’s.


  • Set aside time to do things that relax you. Don’t work long hours without regularly scheduled breaks and days off.
  • Follow up on your cognitive work by trying new behaviors.
  • Notice when you are feeling reactive to what someone says or does, then consciously try not to engage in a reactive behavior such as responding with an agitated tone of voice, criticizing the person, talking about why your perspective is much better, etc.
  • Find ways to relax before you go to bed, so you are more likely to get a good night’s sleep. For example, stop working at least a half hour before going to bed, don’t talk to a partner about finances, schedules or relationship issues in bed, turn off all of the lights.

Finally, mindfulness in the midst of crisis is a technique that uses awareness of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and behavioral realms when facing a stressful situation. The article on Sept. 9 will address this technique.

Contact Me