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Make Better Decisions in the Face of Anxiety With These 3 Tips

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 10/11/2015 Curtis McHale
ANXIETY DISORDER SYMPTOMS © shutterstock ANXIETY DISORDER SYMPTOMS

Anxiety is part of life, but more so for entrepreneurs since we risk our livelihood on a regular basis. Unlike employees of a business the entrepreneur is personally invested in the success of the business such that our personal self worth may be derived from business success or failure.
Even outside of that a myriad of other issues may contribute to the underlying anxiety of the business owner. Family health issues or issues with children at school or personal financial stresses can add to the stresses the entrepreneur already feels in their business.
Knowing this we must wonder how anxiety affects the decisions we make in our businesses? Does anxiety in other areas like family health affect our decisions to hire or fire? Are we more or less likely to expand our business when we're worried about how a child is doing at school?
About 7 months in to starting my business things were in dire straights. I had burned through the savings I had to start the business. We had car payments and had just bought a house. To say that my stress level was high would have been an understatement.
Looking back at that time of my business now I can see how I my stress in life continually led me to make the 'safe' decision of saying yes to every prospect that came my way. This left me with lots of low paying jobs with bad clients and only increased my stress level.
Years on I say no lots even when things get lean but to get there I had to take determined steps to increase my emotional intelligence so I was capable of making better decisions. I also had to put in to place 3 basic practices to help me make better decisions even in the face of high anxiety.
Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is a term in psychology that refers to the ability of someone to recognize their own and others emotions. For our purposes we need to understand that the better someone's emotional intelligence the better they are at making decisions in the face of their own anxious feelings.
That is they can recognize their anxious state and in the face of that put in place thought processes and practices to mitigate the influence of anxiousness on their decisions. They recognize that the items they are anxious about have little to do with the current decision.
Anxiousness and our decisions
Many times we let our anxiousness about one thing affect the decisions of another. Say you're worried about the health of a family member and at the same time have to make a decision about hiring or expanding your business in to a new location. As you're making the decision about your business you'll end up using emotional information from the unrelated source to make the decision about your business.
When you ask yourself how you "feel" about hiring or the business expansion the answer is that you feel anxious so you're more likely to play it safe.
It may be that the 'right' decision for your business is to take that risk and make the new hire or expand the business. Really we are more likely to make bad decisions in the face of anxiety. With that in mind what processes can you put in place to combat the effect of your emotions on the decision making process?
1. Remind yourself what you're anxious about
In one study people were asked if they'd sign up for a flu shot in the future. Those judged to have lower Emotional Intelligence were initially less likely to sign up for a flu shot. Once the researchers talked with survey participants and identified the source of their anxiety as unrelated to signing up for a flu shot those with lower emotional intelligence were more likely to sign up for a flu shot.

From this we can understand that simply keeping in mind the reasons we're anxious will help us make better decisions. If you've had a stressful drive in to work then before you start the day remind yourself that you're anxious due to the drive. This practice of identifying the real reason for anxiety will yield better decisions.

2. A few quick wins

Once you've reminded yourself of the reasons you're anxious it's time to get a few quick wins under your belt. Deliver that report you finished the day before so you have an easy task off your plate.

This quick win is going to start counteracting the anxious feelings since you're starting to feel awesome about the day again.

3. Don't make decisions right away

Both of the tactics above come down to not making decisions while your anxious. It's rare that a decision can't be delayed 15 minutes (or longer) till you've had time to practice the 2 items above. Simply deciding to procrastinate with purpose will leave you level headed when it's time to make the decision.

If you know that you generally have a stressful commute to work or that family health issues are sticking with you as you start the day, take the time before you leave work to setup a few quick wins. Plan to not make decisions when you start your day.

Maybe the commute to work is fine but you know you have a stressful client call midway through the day. Save your quick wins for just after the stressful call.

Simply doing these 3 easy things in the face of anxiety will mean that you'll be more likely to make better decisions for your business.

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