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How to Stop Worrying

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I wish worrying was a marketable skill, because I am good at it. An expert, even. When everything is hunky-dory, I’ll find the one potential issue -- and worry about it. Life might be grand, but I can guarantee I’m thinking of the 10 ways it could all go south in just two weeks.

I know I’m not the only worrier out there. In fact, I’m guessing most people worry (although maybe not as often or as expertly as me). The problem with being a worrier in sales? Your anxiety can seriously impact your results. It’s hard to project confidence and trustworthiness when you’re panicking about potentially missing quota. It’s harder still to be focused and efficient when your heart is pounding and your mind is racing. And if you didn’t get any sleep the night before because you kept thinking, “What if I don’t win that deal?” or “Am I cut out for sales?” or “Will I get fired?”, there’s no way you can perform at your best.

“High stress and powerlessness can amplify stress to a point where you can do nothing but stare at your email open notifications and inbox,” says Appcues director of sales John Sherer.

Luckily, there are proven, science-backed ways to reduce your worrying -- so you can stop staring and start selling.

1. Take action

"Worrying is a signal that something needs attention,” says Kristen Kelley, Principal AE at HubSpot. “I developed a personal mantra early in my sales career that I still use today: ‘Don't worry, just work.’”

Address the underlying cause of your worry, and you’ll feel more in-control -- which will make you less tense.

So next time you can’t stop thinking about something, ask yourself:

  • What can I do in the next 5 minutes to improve this situation?
  • The next 5 days?
  • The next 5 weeks?

Then commit to doing those things. For example, if you’re anxious because you’re behind on quota this quarter, here’s what your answers might look like:

  • In the next 5 minutes, I can use my typical conversion rates to reverse-engineer my target and figure out exactly how many emails, calls, and demos I need to complete per day.
  • In the next 5 days, I can come in early to do administrative work so I have more time to sell when prospects are reachable.
  • In the next 5 weeks, I can work with my manager to identify the weak areas in my process and start to improve them.

Once you have a plan, it’s far easier to mentally move on.

Kelley says, “Relief can quickly supersede worry if you take the right steps to course-correct.”

2. Picture the Grand Canyon

Next time you’re worrying about something, try the Grand Canyon trick. First imagine the Grand Canyon as your life. Picture various parts of your history, starting with your past. Over there is your high school job, next to it is the day you graduated college, next to that is your move across the country, and so on.

Then move to your present: Your coworkers, friends, favorite restaurant, the movie theatre you’re going to on Friday, etc.

Now envision your future. You can see your 60th birthday party, the self-driving car you’ll use to get around, the trips you’ll go on …

Finally, drop your worry (your looming quota, a problem customer, new comp rules) into the Grand Canyon. Notice how miniscule that worry looks compared to your entire lifetime. It seems huge and pressing right now, but it’s actually nothing.

3. Schedule time for worrying

This might sound weird, but it really works. Allocate 10 minutes per day to worrying. Put it on your calendar, set a timer, make it official.

When you experience worry outside of that time, tell yourself it’s not your scheduled time to worry. This mental technique helps shut down negative thoughts before they take root.

4. Spend time in nature

If you have a green space nearby, try to spend 20+ minutes in it every day. Nature is incredibly therapeutic; according to Your Brain on Nature, just one-third of an hour in a forest can “alter cerebral blood flow in a manner that indicated a state of relaxation.”

However, we’re not all lucky enough to have a park or forest a short trip away. Good news: A study published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found simply looking at pictures of nature is enough to lower your stress levels. So browse through a few National Geographic albums, then go for a quick lap around the office or block. Who needs the great escape?

5. Find a healthy distraction

“I lean into activities that operate as escapism,” explains Sherer. “It's unique for everyone. For me, it's playing basketball or reading fiction.”

If you don’t already have an activity that lets you completely disengage from your worries, try:

  • Going to the movie theatre (which is more immersive than watching a movie at home)
  • Cooking
  • Taking a workout class
  • Running
  • Volunteering
  • Taking a workshop on pottery, glass-blowing, jewelry-making, or another hands-on activity
  • Painting
  • Doing some creative writing
  • Going to a comedy show (or watching a standup routine online)

6. Talk it out

Worry is often isolating. You feel like you’re dealing with your problems by yourself -- which only adds to the stress.

Chances are, there are several people who’d be willing to listen to your thoughts and give you perspective and support.

"Sometimes you need to step away from your desk and talk to a manager or colleague,” Kelley “Take a 30,000-foot view of the situation instead of staying in the weeds.”

Ali Powell, a Principal 3 rep at HubSpot and founder of the Women in Sales community, agrees.

“If you can't stop worrying about something, you need a pep talk,” Powell says. “There is always someone in your life that can help talk you up.”

“We’ve all had off days or months,” Powell continues. “We can all help each other feel better.”

7. Write it down

Sometimes, the best way to stop dwelling on your thoughts is to write them down, explains HubSpot Principal Partner Consultant Jordan Benjamin. “This lets you take the emotion out of the situation and put it on paper.”

Research shows writing about their emotions can help people cope with trauma, depression, and stress.

“Writing about something may foster an intellectual process … that helps someone break free of the endless mental cycling more typical of brooding or rumination,” writes Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D. and Editor in Chief of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Final thoughts

“Once you are in sales for a few years, you realize all the worry is unwarranted, and you just figure out how to do the job better, quicker, or smarter,” says Tyson Hartnett, Director of Business Development at MLC Media. “And, if it doesn't work out, you know you did all you could do, and now you have that on your resume for having accomplished X, learned Y, and met different people along the way. So when you start worrying, get to work, and have trust that your hard work will pay off, which, as long as it's genuine and true, it will.

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