Productivity and Anxiety: How to Reduce Work Anxiety so You Can Stop Burning Out

In our modern society what we do, and how much, is highly correlated with our self-worth. I can remember when I was doing my dance with burnout it felt like if I wanted to change my relationship to work I had to change my entire identity.

To not be a producer of movies or executive who works 18-20 hours a day and someone who rarely goes to the restroom (look at me I am so committed I don’t even break to eat or sleep!) felt like death.

Stepping away from this “role” I played and all the external validation that came with it was really emotional.

The grief was palpable.

Who am I really if I am not constantly working? (Sometimes working for me was “working to help others” in my personal life. “What we do” correlating to our worth does not stop at the office door.)

We are sold a lie that success requires serious hustle. But how are we defining hustle? The formal definition is: “busy movement and activity.”

​Hustle in action typically looks like: worrying as a mechanism for accountability, making decisions without space to think creatively, living in fear of losing what we do have, working beyond our capacity to avoid letting anyone down or being seen as “not a team player”, deferring to others over our own instincts, constantly telling ourselves we haven’t done enough.

​I want to suggest a different lens: What if success requires serious discipline?

​The discipline to trust ourselves. The discipline to stay present. The discipline to delegate. The discipline to create space to think and rest. The discipline to ask for what we need. The discipline to choose environments that align with those needs. The discipline to choose our health over our fear.

**It is important to note that these things are engrained in us from the culture – this is not a YOU problem, it is a systemic problem.

​These last few months I have been working with a really talented co-founder team on their personal burnout, and preventing burnout for their staff. They have a big book of business, demanding clients, they fly all over the country (and sometimes the world) often leading teams of 100+ people on multiple projects at the same time.

In just a few months, I’ve watched them go from the habit of burning out to now approaching work through the lens of discipline (while increasing their productivity and success).

Here are two key areas that have made significant shifts for them and their organization:

1. Identifying what they value, what steps they need to take in order to lead from those values, and making those values actionable and measurable. (Ie: making “stress levels & employee health metrics” as important as “financial metrics”).

This is going to be different for every single person and organization. When I really sat down to evaluate what impact I wanted to make in the world with my talents and who I would become once I retired from producing, I started with my values.

I value brave spaces
I value honesty
I value kindness
I value integrity
I value health (physical and mental)
I value impact

Once I was clear on those values it was very clear how I could take action in my daily life to fulfill those values.

As an example:

Brave spaces: Creating environments for myself and those I work with where we can all express our needs without fear of retribution, process our emotions without shame from ourselves or anyone else, communicate when we have met our capacity without being judged, articulate our ideas and be met with encouragement and support, give critical feedback only after receiving permission, assume good intention when receiving critical feedback, and take accountability or apologize when we fail to meet each other with understanding and acceptance.

That value, along with the others, led to the creation of our community and are the lens we look through to make every decision, including whether we are the right fit for a client. Yes, saying no to business or walking away from business is hard, but it is the only way we stay true to our values.

2. Radical personal accountability

This statement can be really triggering. There are layers here with diversity, inclusion, and toxic work environments. We know there are a lot of environments where no matter how accountable we are, the systems are so toxic that nothing ever changes and no one is really safe.

What I mean by “radical personal accountability” in this context is personal awareness. Both of the leaders in this particular example are reflecting and correcting on a daily basis; holding themselves and each other accountable.

When they make decisions, they check in with their values. When they step outside their values, they ask; what led me to do this? How would I approach this differently next time? What does accountability look like to myself and those involved? Is there a system that can be created to help us avoid this in the future?

When they communicate, they communicate around their values. Rather than “he said/she said” or pointing fingers. This looks like:

“I feel like kindness isn’t really present here, how do we get back to it?”

Key question to ask ourselves: What does it look like to be accountable to myself?

If I value safe spaces, honesty, kindness, integrity, health, and impact, Hollywood is not a good match for me. The system is so broken and not in alignment with those values. In my lifetime, I think my biggest impact can be made outside the system. That is what led me to start my company.

The same can be true for you in your current role at work or as a leader in your own company. When we are out of alignment we often feel more anxiety. Why? Because we are working against our nature and gaslighting ourselves.

When we are in alignment things can often seem “too easy”. Don’t let this derail you. “Too easy” is actually “in alignment”.

It doesn’t matter if someone else can “handle the workload” or “loves to work without breaks”, what matters is how you feel! What matters is whether your values are present in your work and daily life.

​So, what are your values? What do they look like in action? What decision can you run past your values list to get clarity on a next step?

Looking for more assistance in this area? Book a free strategy call and let’s talk about how we can reduce your anxiety and get you working more creatively and efficiently.

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