Handling anxiety and overwhelm in leadership

One of the most common issues I help my leadership clients with is anxiety. They often link this with a sense of feeling overwhelmed.

Anxiety and overwhelm is something that senior leaders are particularly prone to. Stakeholder management, challenging targets, making difficult decisions and juggling numerous projects can leave you feeling overwhelmed and close to burnout.

Add to this the loneliness of being a senior leader and our modern tendency to be constantly available. It’s no surprise that many senior leaders are struggling, despite outward appearances.

As it’s mental health awareness week, it’s a great time to be open and honest about the toll senior leadership can take on our mental health. Even more importantly, it’s the perfect time to implement strategies to banish overwhelm and defeat anxiety for good.


The importance of taking time to reflect

This is one of my favourite topics, which you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of my blog. That’s because when you consistently make time to reflect, it works. Reflection is a simple, very powerful, practice that can help you become a better leader and a calmer person.

A common reason for leadership overwhelm is the feeling that you don’t have the time to get everything done. So, making time to reflect regularly can feel impossible. However, building in regular reflection time doesn’t have to be difficult.

You can reflect in as little as 3 to 5 minutes per day. Plus, taking time out to reflect can actually help you become less anxious and more productive.

The question shouldn’t really be do I have the time to reflect?

It should be why don’t I have the time to reflect?

The importance of recharging

You wouldn’t charge your mobile phone once, and then expect it to last three months before charging it again, would you? Or your laptop? And you definitely wouldn’t only give it enough time to charge halfway, but then expect a full 24 hours usage.

Yet we often expect ourselves to perform consistently day in day out, with very little time to recharge our own batteries. Getting enough sleep is very important, but we often underestimate the importance of taking proper downtime. Making time to do what we love is so important.

What that looks like can be different for everybody.

For some, time spent by the sea might recharge them. For others, it’s making time for a long lunch with friends. Or it could be as simple as a couple of hours spent reading for pleasure.

Whatever it is that restores you, if it makes you feel relaxed and refreshed then it’s something you need to make time for.

Of course, if lying on tropical beaches is what restores you best, it’s not something you’re likely to do every weekend. However, if that’s what truly recharges you it’s something you should try and fit it in when you are able. In the meantime, do something more achievable regularly like a walk in nature or a long bath.


The importance of self-acceptance

You’re not perfect. Nobody is, and that’s okay.

Yes, improving yourself is all part of being a leader, and actively developing yourself can contribute to your self-esteem and reduce anxiety. However, it’s important to recognise the positives of where you are right now.

We’re all works in progress, so don’t focus on what your weaknesses are. Instead, focus on what you do well and what you’re already doing to address weaknesses.

Allow yourself to be less than perfect, and give yourself due recognition for your achievements.


Make one small change this week

As it’s mental health awareness week, I’m challenging you to make one change to reduce your own overwhelm and anxiety.

It can be as small as granting yourself uninterrupted lunch breaks, or as grand as booking that holiday you’ve been eyeing up (if you are booking a holiday, I’m very jealous!).

The change I most recommend?


If you don’t already make time for daily reflection; this is my recommendation.

It really is one of the habits that makes a difference in my client’s leadership practice.

If you can only commit to three minutes per day, that’s OK. Set a timer and for those few minutes look back on what has gone well during your day, and what you would do differently.

Are you ready to take the next step to reduce anxiety and overwhelm?

Join me on my next retreat – a great opportunity for you to reflect, recharge and refocus on you and your impact as a leader. I’ll help you slow down and focus on leading yourself so you can lead others from your core values and strengths.

If you prefer to work with me one to one, let’s chat. Book in for a discovery call with me to see how I can help you discover your unique strengths and how to leverage them to become the best leader you can be.

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Join our free online community Be Confident: Make Time For You. It’s a safe and supportive place for like-minded people to reconnect with themselves, make positive changes, and flourish in every aspect of their life and work. Think of the group as your one-stop shop for reflecting, connecting, inspiring, learning, and most importantly, committing to change.

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