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Hello, and welcome back. I started doing projects with other people when I was 15 years old. We organized crazy parties that still feel special to this day. Later on, I started many businesses, first at age 18. Startups, retail shops, educational institutions, collaborative art projects, and everything in between.

Sometimes those processes were smooth, but more often they were frustrating, stressful, and led to bad outcomes for the project itself and for relationships with my collaborators and co-founders.

Out of those experiences, I created 3 simple rules that help me choose people and projects wisely and create not only good outcomes but also enjoyable processes.


Rule 1: The Tea Test

If you decide to do something with other people, one of the first things I look for is vibe. To check it, I usually do what I call a tea test. If we just sit down, drink some tea, and talk, is this conversation enjoyable? Is it fun? Is it interesting? Do I want to repeat it, no matter if we're in business or not? If the answer is no, it's an indication that this will probably carry on into the future. And if you decide to do something tougher, the general emotions from the collaboration could be not so good. On the other hand, if the answer is yes, no matter the results of the projects, you will enjoy yourself, and their company, and most likely you will create good results together.


Rule 2: Vision

If you consider working with someone, it's a good idea to align your vision for the project. But not only the vision of what you want to create but also what the person wants to get from the project for themselves personally. A good question to ask in that scenario is, "What would you consider the success of the project for you personally in one year? Ten years?" With this information, you can put your potential partner in a role or situation where they can fulfill it. This makes people very motivated because they know why they are doing it. Also, it's useful for you because you can position optimally not only for their success but also for the success of your enterprise.


Rule 3: Competence - The impressed face test 

Certain projects require certain competencies. If you hire people just using the first two rules, there's a risk that the person could struggle with the challenges the position will bring. So, it's a good idea to check what they are actually capable of.

Usually, you can ask them to show their work or tell you about projects they are proud of, and their role in them. If you feel like nodding with a good impression, that could be a good sign that the person will be capable of doing what they say they can do. It's also not a bad idea to check with people they work with about their experience working with that person. Because people can be deceptive sometimes.


Bonus rule 4: Small project test

Before you get into the boat and float into building the next billion-dollar company sometimes it is a good idea to try something small together. Something that will take 1-3 months to complete. This will give you a clear understanding of how a person acts in the working environment and whether it is a good fit for you personally, and for a thing you try to create.


If you've got your own rules, please share them in the comments below. I'm here to share, but also to learn from you. 

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How to manage anxiety for highly creative and driven people?




Table of Contents

Introduction: My dance with anxiety


What is anxiety and why do I feel it? 

  • Anxiety 

  • Neuroticism

  • What you measure you can control

  • Self-Monitoring


Solutions 

  • 80/20 solution 

  • Certainty 

  • Purpose 

  • Ideal Self Exercise 

  • Goals 

  • Fear management 

  • Thoughts management

  • Journaling 

  • Gratitude 

  • Substances 

  • Alcohol 

  • Caffeine 

  • Work / Rest 

  • Environment 

  • People 

  • Spaces 

  • Geopolitical landscape 

  • Clean your room / make it beautiful 

  • Money 

  • Support team 

  • News


Conclusions



Introduction

My dance with anxiety 


I think of myself as a creative, open, and ambitious person. I always remember myself like that. But at the same time, I am very sensitive to negative emotions. Especially to anxiety. That combination makes my life quite uncomfortable. It means I always want to push out of my comfort zone and I am usually very stressed about doing so. 

In my quest to live a fulfilling life and not go completely crazy, I did try a lot, and I mean a lot of different solutions. From meditation to psychedelics, to unconventional and conventional forms of therapy and breath work.

Today I will share some approaches that stick and work for me and my clients. You can find them useful to manage your anxiety and to create a life full of exploration, courage, and creativity without unnecessary friction.


What is anxiety and why do I feel it?

Anxiety

So, what is anxiety? Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling people 

experience when they think about the future and they perceive it as scary, risky, and probably not fortunate. Anxiety Is very similar to fear, but propane to the future.

It's a normal human emotion that everyone experiences occasionally. However, for some people, anxiety becomes excessive, chronic, and interferes with daily life.


Neuroticism

Neuroticism is a personality trait associated with a tendency to experience negative emotions like anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, and guilt. People high in neuroticism are more likely to see situations as threatening and have difficulty coping with them. They might ruminate on negative thoughts and worries, and struggle to manage their emotions. On the other hand people with low neuroticism tend to be more emotionally stable and resilient. They're better at bouncing back from challenges and maintaining a positive outlook. 

It's important to note that neuroticism is not a binary thing. Everyone experiences negative emotions sometimes. It's the frequency, intensity, and how you handle them that defines where you fall on the spectrum.


  • Biological and Environmental Influences: genetics and environment play a role in neuroticism levels.

  • Adaptability: While there's a biological predisposition, neuroticism can change to some extent through experiences and learning healthy coping mechanisms.


It is important to understand that high levels of Neuroticism can be challenging to cope with but there are some evolutionary benefits to that too. Sometimes people who are more sensitive to treating and dangerous situations survive, because they take action early, while more relaxed individuals don’t.

While levels of neuroticism have a biological and social predisposition, they can change with experience and with adaptation.


What you measure you can control

In general, it is a good idea to name and measure what you want to change or control.


My recommendation is to start by measuring the basic level of neuroticism and to have a basic predisposition to anxiety in mind. 

To do so, I can recommend two, industry-standard tests for 5 big traits (one of the most dominant psychological models today), including neuroticism. — The NEO Big Five Inventory (NEO-PI-R) or The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ). The first test is more detailed and broader and the second is shorter and the design specifically measures neuroticism and extroversion. 


The second step is to measure your anxiety level. This short test is a good starting point Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) test


Self-Monitoring:

Track your physical symptoms: Anxiety often manifests physically through symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, muscle tension, or difficulty sleeping. Pay attention to how often you experience these symptoms and in what situations.


Monitor your thoughts and emotions: Anxiety can be driven by negative thought patterns and worries. Observe your thought patterns and emotional state throughout the day.

Journaling: Keeping a journal can help you identify triggers for your anxiety and track its intensity over time.


These measurements will give a baseline, something you can improve and track. I usually measure any negative feelings, anxiety included on a scale from 0 to 10. When 0 is no anxiety at all, and 10 is a full-blown panic attack. That will give you a threshold you can use for practices in that article to test what things work best for you.


Solutions

80 / 20 solution


I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, and surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.

Jim Carrey


Regular exercise — is one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Period.

So if what a quick fix, stop reading and go do some pushups or take a stroll. Statistically speaking that is the answer. It helps in 80% of the cases. 

When you engage your body, it produces chemicals that improve your sense of well-being, power, energy, and mood, and decrease anxiety. So If you do it regularly and push yourself a little bit (when you feel a little challenged, and maybe a bit of pain too), you will feel more stable and happy.

Exercise is also a very useful way to overcome addictions, which sometimes develop in highly creative and anxious people as a coping mechanism. For more info on the subject, I recommend the book “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence” by Dr. Anna Lembke.

Exercise comes in many forms. I enjoy cycling, long walks, calisthenics as well as a gym. But you can do whatever you enjoy.

For some people, it might be beneficial to play social games, like soccer or frisbee. That is an enjoyable way to stay healthy and connected. 

Frequency: every bit of exercise helps. 10 pushups help. One stretch. So do as many as possible, but be reasonable and don’t hurt yourself. 

Cost: Range from free to unlimited depending on your workout preferences. Plenty of free options like calisthenics, running, walking, etc. 



Certainty 

As I mentioned previously anxiety is very connected to our perception of the future. Especially when it is uncertain and scary. One of the most effective ways to reduce the feeling of anxiety is to create more certainty. 

In that part, we will discuss how to create more certainty in our lives and by doing so, decrease levels of anxiety and increase motivation, levels of fulfillment, and positive emotions. 


Purpose

Finding purpose is very useful. It makes choices easier. It makes motivation and drive stronger. It makes you more inspiring for others. And it can more likely create a positive outcome than just drifting intuitively. It also creates more certainty. 

When you have a purpose, you know why you do what you do and what you want to achieve. It's exciting and aligns your psychic and body towards your goals. It is also much easier to set goals when you have a clearly defined purpose. But how to define it? 

One of the most elaborate ways I found is Jordan Peterson’s Self Authoring. It is time-consuming (but worth it). If you want to explore your purpose in great detail I can recommend you check the future authoring part of the suite. But it is a paid product. If you want a shorter but still effective way to do it. Here is the exercise I always recommend to my clients. It will take you around 40 minutes to complete but will benefit you for years to come.


Ideal Self Exercise 

1. Best Possible Future

Imagine yourself in the future, 30 years from now. There are no rules! Let your imagination run wild. No gravity? Fine! Your surrounded by aliens? No problem. 

Write it all down. I recommend using a pen and paper, but a digital notepad will work too.

Choose one approach:

  • Ideal Day: Imagine how your ideal day starts in that distant future. What do you eat for breakfast? With whom? Where? How do you feel and look? Where do you go after breakfast? What kind of work do you do? Who do you meet during the day? How does your day end? Be as specific as possible and write everything down.

  • Ideal Life in General: What's happening in your life in 30 years? How do you spend your months? What are your goals, focus, and emotions? Who do you spend most of your time with, and why? Write everything down in detail.


2. Worst Possible Future

Now, imagine your worst-case scenario in 30 years. Take your time and write it all down. Many people try to skip that part because it might be uncomfortable. Don’t. It is important to have not just a carrot but also a stick. Something you thrive achieving, but also something you stay away from.

Choose one approach:

  • Worst-Case Day: Imagine your worst day in the future. What does it look like? Write it all down.

  • Worst-case life in General: Describe your life in 30 years if everything went wrong. What's missing? Write it all down in detail.


3. Values

  • Highlight the positive aspects of your ideal day/life. For example, were you surrounded by family? If so, circle "family" because that's a core value for you. If you were living on Mars, ask yourself why. Maybe you like to explore or try new places. This helps identify your values.

  • Do the same for your worst-case scenario, but focus on the opposites. For example, if you were living in a cramped apartment, the chance is you value good living conditions. If you have very bad health, probably a good one is important to you.


4. List of Values

Combine the values you identified from steps 1 and 2 into a single list.

5. Action Plan

  • Identify 3 high-impact actions that can help you achieve your ideal future and avoid your worst-case scenario.

  • For each action, choose one specific step you can take during next week, to move forward.

  • Schedule these steps in your calendar.


Do it! Take action and make your ideal future a reality.

Cost: Free

Frequency: One every 3-5 years.


For a more detailed purpose definition, Jordan Peterson Self Authoring.

Cost: 30$ 



Goals

If you did previous exercises you already established the first actions you can take towards a desired future. But what is a goal? 

A goal is something measurable and relatively short-term that you try to achieve. The better you clarify your goals, the less uncertainty and anxiety you'll have. 

Only when we have a goal in mind our dopamine system starts to do its magic. It is releasing dopamine in our system with anticipation of the goal, movement toward it, and when we achieve it. No goal and no movement towards it = no dopamine. No dopamine = no motivation and no positive emotions. No motivation and no positive emotions = more frustration, friction, and anxiety.


Frequency: set goals once per year/month/week / next day

Cost: Free



Fear management

When the future seems risky and filled with potentially disastrous scenarios, your brain goes into overdrive trying to avoid them. Our brains are wired to find problems and dangers. It helped humans survive in the past when life-treating situations were omnipresent. To help vent the tension and refocus energy it is a good idea to do fear management. I found it in the Tim Ferris book, and it works like a charm. 

Fear management:

  1. Create a Fear List: List your fears. For example, you might be afraid your business will fail, you'll break up with your partner, or your apartment lease won't be renewed. Include anything you dread happening.

  2. Rate the Fear: Next to each fear, add a column with a 0-10 scale. 0 represents no fear at all, and 10 represents extreme terror. Rate the intensity of your fear on this scale. Also, ask yourself how likely the worst-case scenario could happen. What are the chances of a positive outcome? Did somebody pull it off before? 

  3. Prevent: Create a third column titled "Prevent." For each fear, brainstorm solutions and coping mechanisms. Ask yourself: How can I prevent this from happening?

  4. If it does happen, what steps can I take to move forward?

  5. Repair: Create a third column titled "Repair." If it does happen, what steps can I take to move forward? 

  6. Re-evaluate: After completing the action plan for each fear, revisit your initial fear ratings. Add them in the 5 raw. Have they changed in light of the potential solutions you identified?

  7. Benefits: This exercise might seem complex, but it's a quick and easy way to manage your fears, stress, and anxiety. By acknowledging them and formulating solutions, you can prevent anxiety from building up.

Frequency:

  • High Uncertainty: During periods of high uncertainty, consider doing this exercise once a month.

  • More Certainty: For times with more stability, once or twice a year might suffice. Ultimately, adjust the frequency to your needs.


Cost: Free

More: Tim Ferris Blog Post — Fear Setting, “Tools Of The Titans” by Tim Ferris, p 443 


Thoughts management

The study by Poppenk et al. (2020) published in Nature Human Behaviour, used fMRI scans to track transitions between thought patterns in participants. They estimated an average of 6,200 thought transitions per day for young adults.


Every thought we experience has a certain emotion associated with it. And it is normal. If you focus on the things you are afraid of, for example, you are more likely to feel more fear. If you focus on something exciting you will get more of that. We don’t have full control of the context of our thinking, however, we can choose what we are paying attention to, and focusing on. 


There is a simple method to evaluate your thoughts and choose what to ignore — The traffic light method. If you feel like though is positive, you feel great about it, it means it is a green light. So go ahead and let it develop. If it is so-so, emotionally it is yellow. And if you feel anxious, depressed, sad, or fearful, it is a red. Just let it pass and don’t focus on it. Don’t feed it with your attention. It sounds very basic but is very useful to find what thought creates what states and ignore anxiety-driven thoughts. 


Journaling 

Sometimes just using the traffic light method could be insufficient. Some though just stick to us, like gum to a shoe, and it can be a challenge to peel them off. For these types of situations one of the best things you can do is journaling.


Studies, like “Expressive writing: Effects on emotional states and health” by Stephen J. Lepore and Melanie Greenberg (among many others) suggest that writing about stressful or traumatic experiences can decrease emotional burden and improve mood. The act of journaling allows you to process and release negative emotions, leading to a sense of calm and reduced anxiety. It also moves the content from inside of our heads into something we can look at, which creates a distance and more objectivity and control.


Journaling can be a tool for self-reflection and understanding your emotions. By writing down your feelings and exploring their triggers, you can develop healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult emotions. Journaling also improves emotional regulation and recognition. 


My routine for journaling is 15 minutes of free writing every morning. I do it when I pass through difficult times. Free writing means I don’t think about what I write, I just do it for 15 minutes or so, or until I feel like I said what needs to be said. It is a very effective, fast, and free way to reduce anxiety and also to reflect and find solutions. 


Frequency: one per day

Cost: Free



Gratitude 

Feeling grateful and experiencing anxiety is like driving a car in opposite gears. You can't be in both states simultaneously. That's why gratitude practice is so effective in managing anxiety. 


The Practice:

Every day, list five things you're grateful for. Adding these routines to your journaling or using paper is ideal, but do what works for you. Start your day with it or reflect before bed. Simply appreciate the good things in your life.


Benefits:

Gratitude doesn't just reduce anxiety; it rewires your brain to focus on the positive.


Possible routines:

Nighttime: Reflect on your day's blessings before sleep.

Morning: Start your day with a 5-point list of what you are grateful for.

Throughout the Day: Express gratitude verbally or simply think about what you're thankful for.

Weekly Review: Take time for a weekly reflection on the bigger things you're grateful for.


The Takeaway:

Gratitude is a simple, free practice that can significantly improve your well-being.


Frequency:

Minimum: Daily (morning or bedtime)

Recommended: Daily gratitude with weekly gratitude ones per week.

Cost: Free



Substances

 What we consume affects us enormously, we are biological creatures after all. Caffeine, alcohol, and many other drugs can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. I will list just a few of the most common ones, but I recommend you use your common sense and emotional feedback if you decide to consume something.


Alcohol 

Here is a quote from A. Huberman's episode on alcohol. “People who drink regularly (just 1-2 drinks per night, or it could be somebody that drinks just on Fridays or just on Saturdays, or maybe just on the weekend 2-4 drinks), those people experience changes in their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis that result in more cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) being released at baseline when they are not drinking.”

“All of those groups experience increases in cortisol release from their adrenal glands when they are not drinking, and as a consequence, they feel more stressed and more anxious when they aren’t drinking.”


You can watch the full episode if you are interested in the effects of alcohol on your body and mind. Not only that, alcohol can worsen anxiety in the long run by:

  • Disrupted Sleep: Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, which is crucial for emotional regulation and can exacerbate anxiety.

  • Brain Chemistry: Long-term alcohol use can alter brain chemistry, making the nervous system more sensitive to stress and anxiety triggers.

  • Withdrawal Symptoms: When the alcohol wears off, withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, tremors, and rebound insomnia can occur, creating a cycle of dependence.

  • Mental Health Conditions: People with pre-existing anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol on their condition.


A 2017 review looking at 63 studies found that reducing alcohol intake resulted in improvements in both depression and anxiety.

Also, people use alcohol to reduce anxiety short term or enjoy social settings, in the long term it creates unnecessary stress in your system and messes up with levels of stress and anxiety. Avoiding it is the best possible solution. 



Caffeine

I do love coffee. But I don’t like how I feel after it. There is a lot of research that explores the correlation between coffee and anxiety, here are some. 


Caffeine's Effect on Anxiety:

  • Increased Arousal: Caffeine acts as a stimulant, blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. This leads to increased alertness and can mimic anxiety symptoms like a racing heart, restlessness, and jitters.

  • Stress Hormones: Caffeine triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can further contribute to anxiety-like feelings. 

  • Sensitization: Regular caffeine consumers may become more sensitive to its effects over time, leading to increased anxiety with similar levels of intake.

  • Meta-Analysis: A 2018 meta-analysis of 12 studies showed a positive association between caffeine intake and anxiety, with higher doses leading to a greater risk. 

  • Caffeine is the most popular drink in the world besides water. If you want the effect, but don’t want the negatives, try tea, or Yerba mate. They give you similar stimulation but with much less negative effects.


Work / Rest

Maybe you just burned out or got a worried messed up work-life balance? It might ramp up your anxiety very quickly. There is no easy fix to that. But if you feel like your time management and overall structure of work and rest might be improved drastically, I can recommend two books that will cover the basics.

Deep Work” by Cal Newport is a great book that explores knowledge-based work, which most creatives do, in one form or another. And how to do it productively, without unnecessary stress. “The Rest”, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang on the other hand explores the rest runtiness of creative professionals and entrepreneurs.

Combined those two books will update your understanding of work and rest and you can easily implement those lessons in your life.



Environment 

People

Surrounding Yourself with Positivity

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” Albert Einstein


How do you think interaction with very anxious people for long periods will probably make you feel? You got it. So choose wisely. If you can’t stop interaction for good, limit it as much as possible. Also, look up topics of conversation if specific ones make you anxious. 

People you do business with are also very important. I try to work with people I love and respect, and with whom interactions are easy and fun. Having a toxic boss, or teammates who focus only on problems, or treat you unkindly can mess up with you pretty quickly.


Spaces

Geopolitical landscape

If you live in a country with a totalitarian government or a state of war, these will affect your risks and your levels of anxiety. Because risks are real. If you can tolerate them, fine, if you find yourself stressing and thinking about them all the time, maybe you should consider moving to a different country. 


Clean your room / make it beautiful

Spaces we spend a lot of time in are very important. Where you live, work, and with whom matters. If you are surrounded by mess, it will affect how you feel. So it is a good idea to keep your place tidy. Your neighborhood also matters. If you can afford a more clean, beautiful, comfortable, and wealthy place it can be a good investment.


Money

I know too well what uncertainty in finances can do to a person. Life in arts and business can be very hard in that area. We all need to survive but if you want a long-term solution to reduce your anxiety start to save money. Calculate what amount of cash you need to sustain yourself for a month, then multiply it by 6. And save until you have the money. It will not only reduce your anxiety but also give you the freedom to maneuver if you want to change careers or start a new enterprise. Or if something bad happens, and chances are it will, you will have the resources to find a solution without going into debt. 


Support team 

In Jewish Tradition, It's your duty to create a support team for yourself. For me personally, I build a team of people that help me to stay on track, to overcome emotional challenges, and to be a better person overall. 

My team includes 2 coaches, therapists, business consultants, and personal assistants. If I hadn’t spent time finding those people and establishing an ongoing process with them I would probably have gone crazy after experiencing 2 relocations in 2 years and 2 wars. It is a worthy investment. If you don’t have money to pay for helping professionals, maybe you can barter with them. 



News

News channels make money by selling ads. To do so, they use content that is emotionally very potent and often destabilizing. These mean it is negative in its nature. If you live in a tricky environment and you think you should look constantly for potential trends you can ask your friend to tell you them once a week. But the fact is, if something really important is going on, you will probably know about it anyway. Stay away from the news. They can bring anxiety to even the most emotionally stable personalities. 


Conclusions 

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

~Nelson Mandela


We live in challenging times of rising complexity, political and cultural tensions, and wars. I am relatively optimistic about the future, but to feel anxiety is normal in a world like this. Especially if you live an entrepreneurial or artistic life. Because levels of uncertainty and risks are much higher than for other occupations.

The solutions that I mentioned in that article can help to reduce levels of anxiety and emotional stability in general, however, the long-term solution is bravery. When you repeatedly do something challenging and overcome it, and you reflect on your experience you develop a solid foundation for handling similar, and bigger challenges in the future. 

It is also important to mention that if you try everything and it doesn’t help, the chances are you have an anxiety disorder, and it might be a good idea to hire a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in that area.

Be brave my friends and keep creating. 

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