How to get unstuck when you're scared

We're officially facing global pandemic, how do you feel about your ability to lead? It can be easy to let uncertainty, anxiety, and fear get in your way. Fear can make you feel stuck, afraid, constantly worrying, or avoiding life. I want to encourage you to shift your thinking and embrace the opportunity to lead during uncertainty so I compiled my best tips for you.

The truth is, fear is not all bad. Most leaders you admire have overcome their fear of failure and imposter syndrome during situations out of their control. Facing your anxiety can help you make better choices. Fear can mean that you are fully present and aware of the risk meaning you'll take longer to consider all angles and possibly apply better thinking.

You might be thinking, "Meredith, if fear can be good, what's the problem with staying scared?" Listen, I spent a good amount of my life afraid. When I started working in management communications on global issues from the environment, education, human trafficking, women's rights, to disaster relief efforts, I always worried about the safety of people I loved and never met. When my fear and anxiety get overwhelming, I coach myself with breakthrough questions, and I'm sharing them with you as you adapt.

When I'm feeling anxious about the future, I ask myself, what experience have you had to validate that fear? The problem when fear keeps you from acting on what you know you must do as a leader.

Here is my Guide to leading through fear:

1. Get above the clouds. You can't control everything, learning to stop anxiety from paralyzing you will change your life. In uncertain times it can be easy to fear the unknown. Fear is temporary. Leaders know fear is not who they are; it's a feeling in a moment in time. They don't lose sight of their strengths and start to think that fear is a permanent condition. Fear is like turbulence on a plane. You have to get through it to experience the blue skies on the other side.

2. You can always learn something. What is fear here to teach you? There's a reason people make a career out of something that seems dangerous during times of emergency. Many have adopted a belief that if you aren't afraid, you aren't stretching yourself. That feeling of nervousness to try something new could be a sign you're getting closer to your purpose.

What if, while you are staying in the house, you channel your energy into attacking that project you've been avoiding?

Use quarantine to develop a track record of pushing through fear successfully can change your life and make it easier to navigate what's next in your career. Soon you might get addicted to the thrill of feeling fear and pushing through it to achieve your bigger goal.

3. Focus on your why. When you have enough passion for something, fear is much easier to overcome. Having a clear vision and intention for your life gives you the confidence that you are experiencing an important part of your journey. Your motivation can overpower your fear. Now is the perfect time to spend a few extra minutes staring at your vision board in the morning and journaling about gratitude. Take care of yourself and remember you are one person doing your best to achieve a big vision for a better world.

For example, if you're in healthcare you are working tirelessly to manage your wellbeing and care for others. You are going to work every day to save the world from disease, that's an excellent reason to overcome your fear of getting sick. Visualize your why, whether it's how your heroic actions are keeping a loved one safe and let yourself smile knowing a better day is coming for you.

4. Look for role models. Write this down: YOU CAN LEARN FROM ANYONE. Consider that your current mentors might not know how to help you navigate in this crisis. Instead, start looking for examples of leadership that inspires and motivates you to focus on the problem you can solve. You don't need to know someone personally to use them as a case study of how you want to show up. Do you need to dial up your empathy or be more accessible to let your team know you care? Is an email enough or is the news worth making time for personal calls?

5. BE HERE NOW. Take a deep breath. Don't let your mind wander too far into the future, searching for all the potential negatives. Stick with the truth in the present. Stop feeding your anxiety getting everyone's opinion, your reality is happening right now. You can control your future by believing your decisions can shape it. Stay positive and see yourself overcoming your obstacle and achieving success. If you have the time and ability to read this article, you're likely okay. Think of all the scary things you've faced and survived in your life since you were a helpless baby. You can survive this, too.

6. Shrink your fear with action. Fear can paralyze you if you let it. Just like when you were a baby, you can decide how today's experience will shape your view of the world. What would happen if you teach your brain to fight instead of fleeing or freezing? Use this opportunity to change how you react to feeling fear. If you give in and let it stop you, you're reinforcing a limiting belief that fear is an effective way to control you and your behavior.

Try this: Break down your fear by considering what you can do about it in the next 10 seconds? Then do it. Maybe it's washing your hands or stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. Relief comes when you're willing to do something about your fear.

○ You can decide to be brave at any point in your life. Even if something stopped you yesterday, today is a new day. Every step you take is retraining your mind and reinforcing a positive belief that your fear doesn't define you. When you consistently take action you'll feel more fearless.

7. Set a bright vision for your future. Do you want to be motivated by joy or fear? Do you really want to let panic set your course? How will you get anything done if let every roadblock or challenge stops you? Instead, shift your mind to consider what is possible for your life if you don't allow fear to control your actions. Inspire others by sharing what you are learning or highlight someone making a positive impact.

Everyone gets stuck. Successful leaders make a choice daily to shift past limiting thoughts and excuses. Everyone faces fear, and the most successful people learn to overcome it, even craving the feeling. You decide how big of an impact you'll let your anxiety have on the trajectory of your life and your goals. Your mind is the inventor of your ideal life and your worst nightmares. See yourself exceeding your expectations and allowing fear to motivate you to make bigger moves faster.

I have a few go-to movies that motivate me when I'm feeling fear. One of my favorites Inception is about controlling your dreams and vision. The story follows characters navigating the dream space while struggling to avoid falling into limbo, a place between your conscious and unconscious where you are stuck. To challenge each other to face their fear and come back to reality, they ask, "Do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?"

I believe in you and your bright future. If fear is still holding you back, ask yourself, is this fear worth limiting my vision for my life? Email me ( what tips work for you and I'll update this article with our best collective thinking. We're all in this together. The world needs compassionate leaders now more than ever. I'm here to help!

Take Action!

Practice self-compassion. Make a list of ten things you've accomplished this week.

Remember to look for small actions where you overcame fear and jot down a note of encouragement to yourself. If you can't think of anything, try noticing where a trusted friend took action this week. Showing compassion and kindness to yourself and others will remind you of the impact your actions can have.

Journal it! Take time to reflect on these questions:

  • How can fear motivate me?

  • What can I share with others to help them during this time?

  • Want support for your journey?

If you are feeling stuck and aren't sure how to unlock your strengths under stress, I'm here to help. Let's connect virtually for the support you need to lead with confidence.

If this content has motivated you, share this post, and invite your network to follow for more. You can order your copy of Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward, now available on Amazon. #gettingunstuckguide