How can I deal with the extreme anxiety I get from putting myself out there in discomfort?
Christina Disler is a workplace wellness expert and founder of Aster, an AI-powered HR analytics platform that will help to identify the challenges of hybrid work and generational shifts in the workplace for both leaders and the workforce. Here's her advice.
First, start small and build up your tolerance
It's essential to start with small opportunities to step outside our comfort zone and build up our resilience and tolerance. When it comes to matters regarding our nervous system, I often refer to the window of tolerance (first coined by Dr Dan Siegel). If we push ourselves too hard, we can put our nervous system into two opposite extreme stress states. Hyperarousal is a fight or flight state (overwhelm, outburst, anxiety etc.), and hypoarousal is a freeze state (zoning out, shutting down, disassociating etc.). These responses won't be conducive to the outcome we're aiming for so the focus needs to shift to activities that support regulating your nervous system.
Go easy on yourself!
It's part of our primal origins to find safety and comfort in being in what is known and familiar (even if what is familiar to us is painful, we often stick there!). Start the process with compassion for self. There is nothing wrong with you for having this stress response. Commend yourself for having the awareness to be able to name that you are experiencing stress or anxiety.
Acknowledging and naming that the stress response is there helps create space between you, the reaction and the feelings (or narrative) that comes with it. Naming your stress response while in it can help reduce your stress by up to 50%.
Remember to breathe
If we can focus on our breath and produce a slower exhale, we can support regulating our heartbeat. This practice has been scientifically studied, and the beauty is it's always with you to try. I recommend breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for 6.
Ask yourself some questions
Once your nervous system is feeling recovered, and you are in a grounded state, but you still feel blocked from putting yourself out there, now is the time for some self-inquiry (questioning and curiosity). Journaling is helpful for many in self-reflection as it takes our thoughts, which often aren't rational, and takes them out of us, so we no longer have to hold them. Some journal or internal prompts that may help:
What would be the worst-case scenario if I did _________?
What would be the best-case scenario if I did _________?
What information might I need to make me feel more confident in making this decision or doing this action?
What's one step I could make right now towards it? (key is bite-size)
Do I have a belief that's getting in the way? What evidence do I have that this is true? What evidence do I have that this is not true?
Signing off with a mantra that I hold onto “Through discomfort comes growth”.
With that said, if your anxiety is at a level where it impacts your ability to sleep, work and live a normal day-to-day life, it is recommended to seek professional help.