Tackling Fear - Coping with anxiety at the height of my career

It's 2015 and I'm walking on stage to collect my award at the NatWest Everywoman Awards. The applause is deafening and I am smiling from ear to ear but inside I feel terrified, and not in a good way.

It's not that nervous excitement you’d expect but that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach I had grown to become so familiar with. Lately, my anxiety has been almost crippling - I nearly didn’t turn up to this event.

I'm furious with myself which makes me feel even more pathetic – this is the height of my career! A couple of years ago I was sitting in a cafe on the phone to my mum crying, telling her I had to declare bankruptcy after the failure of my corporate events business. I nearly lost my home, yet with every ounce of energy and determination I launched Simply Bows and Chair Covers and made it a success in less than a year.

Now I am being awarded The Daily Mail's Mumpreneur of the Year award in celebration of this success and I can’t bring myself to feel happy, let alone content. Instead I feel like a failure, like I am not good enough and surely, no one is interested in what I have to say?

Fast forward to today and I still get that nagging feeling of anxiety but I’ve found ways to cope with it. For those unfamiliar with anxiety it’s that little voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough, it's overwhelming wash of nerves is so strong it often stops you from doing the things you really want to do – it's powerful stuff. And I hate it.

Over my time as an entrepreneur, speaker, mentor and friend I have seen that anxiety isn’t reserved for the weak. It is in all of us and even the most confident and successful people can fall victims to it.

The anxiety I am talking about creeps in in times of vulnerability – whatever that situation might be. Professionally, it can mean that YOU are getting in the way of YOU!

It's a cruel reality that those of us who suffer with anxiety do so at the peak of success or around a moment of impending change, it can make things so much harder but you can learn to recognise the signs.

In the video above, I talk about how I tackled my anxiety at the height of my career and how I deal with it today. It is one of the reasons I have started my consultancy work to help clients from all walks of professions from CEOs to those starting out in business to help manage their anxiety and move forward with their lives and aspirations.

Here are my five key tips:

  1. Try to celebrate your wins - Big or small, take a moment to sit in that space and enjoy your triumphs.
  2. Remember, it's ok to feel anxious - Ok so you're nervous, you’re having an anxious day – give yourself a break. How can you best handle this? Be kind to yourself and find what helps you. Perhaps talking to a friend or mentor, exercising, eating healthily or taking a step back to understand why you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Write - Keep a journal of how you feel when you're anxious so you can reflect on this and observe similar patterns. It’s the perfect tool to look back on objectively to see how you maybe sabotaging your own progression.
  4. Feel the fear and do it anyway – Ok, this one is easier said than done but the more times you overcome a situation where anxiety is taking hold, the more you’ll know that next time, you can overcome it. (Don’t forget top pat yourself on the back when you do – don’t berate yourself!)
  5. Don't bottle it up – you can't always spill your every thought to your colleagues, friends or family. Try to speak to someone who is objective, who can help you discover where this fear is coming from and how you can tackle it.

Some anxiety issues need to be treated by your GP and medically managed, if they are getting in the way of your day-to-day life then you may need to seek medical advice (there are some links at the bottom of this page for more information)

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Nick Holmes - Former MD at Rockliffe Hall, Non Executive Director positions at Gisborough Hall, Swinton Estate and Ramside Hall

"Having set up my business when I was 23, Sarah's advice and experiences in the wedding industry were a vital part in the success of my Simply Bows and Chair Covers franchise. As a franchisor, Sarah has always been on the other end of the phone to help me with my dilemmas and pass on her experience and business advice..."

Joanne Smith - Simply Bows and Chair Covers Lancashire

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Ruairidh Taylor - Hotel Manager, Gisborough Hall Hotel

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Alan Green - Corporate Photographer

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I would have no hesitation in recommending Sarah as a mentor and indeed will be back in touch with her soon with regards to my next business venture..."

Katie Lindsay-Brown

"I was so inspired by Sarah’s story, where she had been, what she had endured and the phenomenal success she made Simply Bows and Chair Covers I just knew I had to be a part of this great business model.
I have now been running my franchise for the last 4 years and I love it. Sarah is very supportive, knowledgeable and I know if I need advice she will always be there..."

Adele - Simply Bows & Chair Covers, South Wales