How curiosity could be a cure for rising levels of anxiety and worry

Have you noticed end-of-year madness has kicked in? The tension is rising as people scramble to complete projects, catch up with colleagues, make plans for holidays and buy gifts. It seems like there is so much to do and so little time to do it. Rising levels of anxiety of team members were already a concern for leaders. In my recent poll about the challenges for leaders of working from home or in a hybrid model, 33% of survey participants rated supporting the emotional and mental health of team members as a top priority. 

It is a concern confirmed in a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics into the household impact of COVID-19 which shows one in five Australians are reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress linked to the pandemic, with young people, women and those living with a disability the most affected by poor mental health.

So, what does the research tell us about the cause of anxiety and worry and what we can do about it? Dr. Judson Brewer, who is an addiction psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and associate professor at the Brown University School of Public Health, has published some interesting findings in his book, Unwinding Anxiety.

He suggests anxiety is a habit loop. Anxiety and worry feed on each other, getting us stuck, and making both worse, he says. What research has shown is that worrying tends to make people feel like they’re in control, even if they’re not. The key component in his process of unwinding anxiety is learning to be curious. He says we can ask ourselves what feels better, worrying or being curious. Curiosity can help us, because we can see very clearly that these old habits that we are comfortable with, like worrying, are just really not that rewarding as compared to being curious and trying something else.

🙋 How do you deal with end-of-year madness? 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian