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Anxiety Reigns - Analyse the Issue

“Not now, not now.” Graham could feel his head going foggy, he was grasping at his breath. These were the early signs he hated. Now was not the time for a panic attack. Everyone had just taken five minutes for a comfort break, having just heard his presentation in the meeting. The Managing Director had let people know there would be time to ask Graham questions about it when they returned. It was Graham’s first presentation and he was certain it was all going down the pan. Belinda from accounts was looking like thunder. John from marketing was just looking out of the window. Arnold the managing director had been vigorously thumbing his way through the handout throughout and hardly looked at him. Graham was certain that they all hated his presentation and him. But he had to stop this panic attack coming on. He remembered what his coach had told him to help. It was time to spend 3 minutes properly analysing the issue.

Graham’s coach had helped him see that sometimes he was telling himself a narrative that may not be true. His coach had told him to take 3 simple steps to check. Read; Realise; Respond.

  • READ – What am I telling myself? What are the facts? What am I making sense of it with?

  • REALISE – What are the alternative explanations?

  • RESPOND – Which explanation is more likely and more helpful? What is my new thinking and action?

READ – What am I telling myself? What are the facts? What am I making sense of it with?

It wasn’t the greatest venue for reflection, but the toilet cubicle at least allowed Graham some privacy. He stood up like wonder woman, hands on hips and shoulders back and slowed his breathing down.

Now, what was he telling himself?

  • Belinda is angry with my proposals.

  • John is bored with me, that is why he is looking out of the window.

  • Arnold is not happy as he didn’t look at me and was looking for problems in the handout.

What are the actual facts?

I am presenting a new idea to save money. It reduces the marketing spend and will mean some training for staff on a new technique.

What am I making sense of this with?

Arnold, John and Belinda don’t like my proposal and think that it is stupid and that I am stupid.

Graham remembered that his coach had told him that often we make sense of things based on our view of ourselves. Graham still wasn’t sure why he was asked to be on this committee and present an idea to them. He struggled at school and he still wasn’t sure how he ended up with this job. Maybe this thinking was affecting him now. He pressed on with reanalysing this.

REALISE – What are the alternative explanations?

Our natural reaction to a situation is because we are sensing a threat and so our emotional part of our brain can sometimes go into overdrive. Taking some time to press pause and allow our cognitive processing part of our brain to catch up, we can then look at alternative explanations. Take Graham’s situation, he assumes Belinda’s frosty face is because of his ideas. It could be

  • Belinda has had a bad start to the day.

  • Belinda is feeling her pressures and although she likes the idea Graham is presenting, she sees more work coming her way.

  • Factor in what you know of Belinda and you also know she has a sad resting, thinking face.

John looking out of the window – what are the alternatives?

  • Some people think looking away, they are still listening.

  • John may have other things on his mind such as his work or family.

  • John may just be being rude as his marketing role will be affected. That is not Graham’s fault, that is just John’s petulance.

Arnold, as MD, what could be going on for him

  • He needs to ensure he fully understands things. His thumbing through the handout could be he is checking for robustness but because he wants to make sure it succeeds.

  • After all, it was him that asked Graham to do the work and his chat over the photocopier last week suggested he saw Graham going far in the business.

RESPOND – Which explanation is more likely and more helpful? What is my new thinking and action?

Graham was starting to feel better already. He now realised that it was more likely that Belinda was thinking, maybe slightly concerned about extra work for her, so Graham could address that in the questions. John often gazed out of the window in meetings, but always come up with questions that showed he was listening. Arnold was always thorough as the buck stopped with him.

That now helped Graham with what he knew he needed to do in the questions. Reassure Belinda that he was going to do the training. Reassure Arnold that it was going to save money and raise profits and how he was going to make the change successful.

He clicked open the cubicle door latch. Panic attack averted. Time for business.

Getting the reigns back - Helping you tell a better narrative

Anxiety can attack at unfortunate moments. Amongst the breathing exercises and body posture to calm the physiology in your body, it is important to retrain your mind too. Our anxiety will be because we are telling a narrative that makes us feel there is a threat. Taking time to analyse what is actually fact (see with our eyes or hear with our ears) and how we are making sense of it, allows us to analyse what we are worried about. Considering the alternatives, allows us to see more likely and more helpful explanations and this then helps us to realise it is not the big threat we thought it was. The more we practise this technique, the more the mind is likely to adopt it.

Try these three ‘R’ steps next time you start to feel anxious. Press pause and take a moment to review

  • READ – What am I telling myself? What are the facts? What am I making sense of it with?

  • REALISE – What are the alternative explanations?

  • RESPOND – Which explanation is more likely and more helpful? What is my new thinking and action?

You might just get a feel of the reigns again.

Can we help you?

We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore anxiety emotions and gain better insight then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. If you have a challenge and you would like our support, then do get in contact with us. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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