The Wicked Truth About CEO Anxiety and How to Break Through



Being a CEO comes with the immense responsibility of continually driving growth by providing vision, purpose and leadership to your team. While you are constantly in service to others — in meetings, writing emails, answering questions and making important decisions — it still feels lonely at the top. The pressures of executive leadership can at times feel overwhelming.
You might feel like an imposter putting on a brave face to hide your inner doubts and you cannot let yourself slip. People depend on you. Any wrong move could destroy tremendous value.
All of this weighs heavily on an executive leader. CEO depression and anxiety are real. And harboring that anxiety without taking steps to overcome it only makes things worse.
Research on executive decision-making has found that a CEO’s anxiety can hinder a company’s growth. A leader with anxiety will focus on potential threats rather than seeing potential opportunity. This kind of fear can prevent an anxious CEO from taking important strategic risks.
While every decision should be thoughtfully evaluated, it has also been proven that calculated risks often precede high growth. Thankfully, our fears as CEOs are not insurmountable. Struggle, in fact, is a requirement for growth.
Here are 3 concrete steps you can make to overcome anxiety and take strategic risks:
1. Be Purpose-Driven
Are your fears inhibiting you from fully actualizing your mission in business and in life? Leaders with the most influence lead with purpose. Napoleon Hill wrote that “definiteness of purpose” is the starting point of all achievement. Clarity around your purpose gives you power. It gives you the courage and conviction to take risks that move you towards your grand purpose.
2. Take Massive Action
Taking massive action begins with simple steps. Try different things. If something’s not working, try something else. Revise and reinvent. You know Einstein’s quote about insanity; it makes no sense to repeat the same thing while expecting different results. Take note of what does not work and create a new solution.
3. Bring Your Best Self
When you are under extreme pressure, it is easy to focus on your work and not on how to take care of yourself — even though self-care will help you optimize for better results. Remember the important instructions: If your plane loses cabin pressure, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. As a leader, the best investment you can make is in your own learning, growth, health and wellness. Then you can maximize the contribution you make to others.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America also gives these tips to manage anxiety and stress
-Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
-Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
-Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
-Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
-Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
-Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
In the words of Epictetus “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”
Once anxiety and fear are no longer ruling your life, you will have the freedom to thrive. Be a seeker of truth, a lover of wisdom and a driver of your grand purpose.


Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Foreign and Commonwealth Office

About the author: Dave Carvajal

Dave Carvajal built HotJobs (650 employees, IPO & $1.2B market cap then sold to Yahoo!) as Co-founder & TheLadders (400 employees, $80M revs) where he focused on attracting, retaining and developing all employees. These days he’s asked by top VCs and CEOs of high-growth startups to build their Boards and leadership teams with the top 1% of A+ executive talent. He is an Ironman and lives in NJ with his wife where he is co-founder of twin boys and a pup named Clover.

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