In this special Mental Health Month edition of the podcast, we meet Andrew Pearce, founder and professional coach at Anxiety Free Living in Melbourne, Australia, where he runs courses on overcoming anxiety. In today’s show, Andrew shares some useful strategies for dealing with anxiety. Stay tuned as he explains anxiety is not something that happens ‘to’ us, but something we create ourselves by the way we think.
Remember that we’re supporting Open Sourcing Mental Illness in their fundraising campaign this month. Check out their site (which includes some excellent resources for the tech industry), and be sure to donate to their campaign if you like what you see!
Andrew begins the interview by explaining the varied symptoms of anxiety including sweats, a fast-beating heart, feeling shaky, overthinking, doubt and/or worry.
He points out that the ‘fight or flight’ response is hardwired into our DNA, which is why these reactions come about in the first place. There’s an important differentiation that he points out though when Cath asks him, “What can we do when we just can’t handle a problem or situation?”
“I can’t handle this, actually means, I don’t want to have to handle this.”
Andrew goes on to explain that we create the experience in the first place, with what we tell ourselves and the way we frame our thoughts. Much food for thought here.
Cath asked Andrew for tips on preventing Anxiety. He offered two main strategies:
Cath added weight to this by giving an example of how she breaks things down herself – almost by ‘tricking herself’ to get through her feelings of overwhelm.
When asked about self-care, Andrew’s response was emphatic – you must prioritize it by making it valuable.
Entrepreneurs always ‘just have to get stuff done’ before they relax, so they sabotage their self-care more often than not. You need to put time aside and then commit to it. Something will always come up, so unless you set this time on your calendar and honor that booking, it won’t happen. Ironically, you’ll be more productive by doing less work.
The final piece of this process is to just slow down – “You go faster by slowing down,” claims Andrew. Otherwise, you spread yourself too thin and won’t be working to your full potential.
It’s well worth heading to the 15:50-minute mark of the interview where Andrew goes deep on explaining how we often sabotage the one thing we’re chasing as entrepreneurs. He claims that on a deeper level we’re actually resisting the success or higher income that we crave. Ultimately, we need to feel worthy and open for positive results. He’s currently developing a program called “Entrepreneurs in Flow” all about this concept.
Finally, Andrew offers some tips on how we can manage expectations.
He explains that the process of putting expectations on ourselves is actually what creates the stress and anxiety around that expectation in the first place.
The belief of, “If I don’t meet this, I’m not good enough” is now set up. Then when you do reach your target, it’s still not enough.
Having an expectation is output dependent. Andrew suggests instead making a goal that is ‘input’ dependant. For example, avoid self-judgment by aiming to give your best each day. If you give your best day in and day out, there’s not much more you can ask than that! Remember that your best will vary from day to day. If you’re feeling sick, your best isn’t going to be as good as when you’re feeling 100 percent. So you are not setting yourself up to fail; you are being realistic.
Andrew uses a great ‘house’ analogy to explain this concept at the 26-minute mark.
Finally, Andrew recommends that if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or worried, the first thing you need to do is to take responsibility for where you’re at. If you’re ready to make a decision to do something about it, take some sort of action that you feels right for you – see your GP, tell a friend, buy a book. Don’t wait for things to happen – it’s up to you to take responsibility and take action.
A lot of angst around expectations and anxiety can be removed by changing the way you think about a situation or event. Slow down, become aware of your thoughts, then take a moment to reframe them.