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Easing Anxiety: Managing Hyper-Vigilance and Fear

In my Peak Resilience Accelerator programme, we are working with Positive Intelligence® to uncover our ‘gremlins.’ Find out which inner saboteurs are holding you back here. This week, I’m looking at the Hyper-Vigilant gremlin, and how we can gain insights into managing the constant anxiety and hyper-vigilance that accompany a fear-driven mindset. 

The Hyper-Vigilant Gremlin

Those with a Hyper-Vigilant gremlin are often life’s saviours. They keep us all safe. The extra care self-appointed ‘guardians’ can provide is reassuring and often welcome. However, managing hyper-vigilance may start as a ‘strength,’ but in time can fast become a Gremlin. 

Like other saboteurs, the Hyper-Vigilant often leads to disappointment. After all, bad things happen and life can’t be controlled. Managing hyper-vigilance is important for those who constantly see the negative in situations, when in truth, it rarely happens.

Hyper-Vigilants seem: 

  1. Reliable  
  2. Dependable 
  3. Stable – ‘I need to know the rules, even if I don’t always follow them.’ 
  4. Security-focused – ‘When is the other shoe going to drop?’
  5. Hard-working – ‘It would be great to trust more people, but you never know their motives.’

The Girl Who Cried Wolf

Marie, a leader at a technology firm, often came to sessions relaying how she’d had to ‘save the day’ several times that week alone. However, when we explored it further, she realised the ‘bad’ thing she was trying to avoid still ultimately occurred. Upon reflection, she realised it didn’t matter as much as she thought it would; she’d still found a way to turn those distressing situations around!

Ultimately, living with a Hyper-Vigilant gremlin is hard. You always have to be on the look-out, and eventually this drain of energy makes people avoid you. Managing hyper-vigilance is going to be key to maintaining and growing your relationships. 

After all, who believed the little girl who cried wolf, even after a real wolf showed up? This may mean you lose credibility and people may avoid you for more creative blue-sky thinking as you are always on hand to tell them what could go wrong. 

Worst Case Scenario

That second question in particular moved Marie’s thinking onwards. In our session, this challenge around managing hyper-vigilance turned into a game. Her current crisis moved from ‘a failed project ‘and ‘being fired’ to Marie mentally experimenting with the possibility of more fulfilling work.  

We even talked about Candy Lightner, and what she did when faced with the worst news any parent could receive – the death of her child. In anger, Lightner started Mothers Against Drunk Driving after discovering that the man who killed her 13 year old daughter in an accident would likely receive no punishment, and that he’d done similar before. Miraculously, with no political or advocacy background, Lightner started the organisation just 4 days after the death of her daughter in 1980. 

When a Hyper-vigilant gremlin understands and believes they can turn even ‘the worst situation’ around, their view gets wider and they see more possibilities. They give the person who is ‘hosting’ that gremlin a bit more leeway. This is key in managing hyper-vigilance. 

The way MADD advocated for laws to change in the subsequent years illustrated that depending on how you react, something positive can come from even out of the worst situations. Puts the minor squabbles at work into perspective, doesn’t it?

If This Sounds Familiar …

Ask yourself: 

  1. When did you work very hard, try to control everything, and things still didn’t work out?
  2. Let’s assume the worst happens. Then what happens? How would you convert that into a gift? 
  3. How often do the things you worry about most, actually happen? 
  4. What is the cost of seeing this gremlin as a strength?

If you want to learn more about what your saboteurs might be doing to hold you back in your career, keep an eye out for my next round of Peak Resilience Accelerator sessions! Or get in contact for some executive coaching sessions, or a webinar talk.

Easing Anxiety: Managing Hyper-Vigilance and Fear
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Easing Anxiety: Managing Hyper-Vigilance and Fear
Gain insights into managing the constant anxiety and hyper-vigilance that accompany a fear-driven mindset. Discover techniques to find peace and respite from continuous vigilance.
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InclusIQ Ltd.
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