Feeling Anxious at Work? Rope-a-Dope Your Brain

Career Blog

There are a host of strategies to aid those who occasionally experience career induced jitters. Classic techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and adopting a quiet state of personal gratitude can work wonders…assuming you have the presence of mind to engage them early on.

The trouble with these traditional approaches is that they’re hard to leverage if you’ve already shifted from mild anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. For many, once you start spinning in a doom-inspired thought loop, it’s too late for minor course corrections. Try them and chances are, you’ll just start worrying that your mindfulness game is off the mark, you’re breathing incorrectly, and that you really should give to and do more for charity. How’s that for an irony-inspired jab-punch-hook combo to your already battered brain?

When thought demons bully you to the corner, channel your inner Ali and employ humor as the ultimate rope-a-dope with these three steps:

  1. Side-step Fear: Let’s face it. Dread is a formidable opponent, but you can redirect its power by shifting your perspective. Instead of absorbing the blows directly, lean back and watch them whiz by. When a fighter focuses only on an approaching fist, he will often freeze and succumb to the pummeling. When he widens his perspective, he can own the ring and move in a way that prompts fear to foolishly punch its energy away while leaving him unscathed. Your Move: Acknowledge your fear, but don’t own it. Once you see it as a natural part of life, you’ll understand that it’s only a small part. Even gale force winds subside.
  2. Time Your Opponent: Every fighter has a natural pace, a rhythm that makes them, well…beatable. Often trainers will spend years instilling flexibility in their fighters so they can change their timing and approach when an opponent has their number. This is exceedingly hard to do as people are creatures of habit. Your Move: Study your fear like fight film of an upcoming opponent. Once you know its approach, you’ll be able to see the attack before it is ever launched.
  3. Counter Quick: When a fighter has his opponent tired and well-timed, he can embark on a crushing counterattack. One reason why it’s so effective is that it changes the tone and pace of all that has gone on before, startling your foe into submission. Your Move: Instead of listening to jabs of insecurity, doubt and dread, counter the well-rehearsed negative storyline by landing a few “punchlines” of your own. Simply take whatever issue you’re facing and make it big…ridiculously big. Turn that headcount analysis into a key scientific paper on which the fate of the world’s health relies. Transform the board presentation into a peace-brokering address in front of a group of armed warlords hell bent on global annihilation. Just a few moments of playful fantasy can help you realize that while important, your day to day work isn’t a matter of life and death, much less “the end of the world”.

The Acknowledge, Study and Counter “Rope-a-Dope” approach to fear management can help you put your feelings in perspective and return to the project at hand with an abundance of creativity and energy. This shift in mindset will enable you to slow down, breath harmoniously, think with clarity, and most importantly, laugh in the face of the bully you bested…the one who was never really there.

Need a career coach? Contact me via www.PlotlineLeadership.com.

Check out my latest book The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi or LinkedIn



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