As Stress Awareness Month unfolds, I’ve been thinking a lot about our mental health and how it plays out at work. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, and I’ve seen it come out in professional settings, like when a meeting gets put on my calendar without any context, or when I see the three little dots that indicate someone’s typing, but they haven’t responded yet. Like a lot of people, my mind can race in those moments, assuming I’m going to hear bad news, or that I did something wrong. And if you’re an anxious person, you’re all too familiar with the mental whirlwind that can happen in a scenario like that. 

I recently sat down with my friend Morra Aarons-Mele, an amazing podcast host and founder of the social impact agency Women Online. She’s also the author of a new book, Anxious Achiever, a title that deeply resonates with me. We spoke all about navigating anxiety at work, especially when it comes to leadership. Our conversation was a huge eye-opener for me. It made me reflect on my own experiences with anxiety as a leader and how it’s both held me back and pushed me forward. While anxiety causes us to worry, overthink, and catastrophize, it also pushes us to work harder and focus under pressure. I’ve seen throughout my career that my anxiety can be a really positive thing. A bout of anxiety can put us into fight-or-flight mode, motivating us to do some of our best work —  to push through, think creatively, and unlock new ideas. It truly is a blessing and a curse.

I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career as a leader with anxiety. I’m a big believer in the idea that when we can open up about these taboo subjects, we can remove some of the fear and shame around them. My hope is that some of these insights can help you arm yourself with actionable tools to help you deal with your mental health at work, and maybe even encourage you to see your anxiety as a superpower — because it is! 

Here are three of the most impactful things I’ve learned as an anxious achiever:

  1. Conversation can be a meaningful tool.

Conversations around stress and mental health can feel uncomfortable. And while more and more people are talking about well-being at work, it feels like there’s still a stigma when it comes to something like anxiety, especially in leadership. I’ve found that talking to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, a loved one, or a therapist, can be a useful tool. For one, it can help deepen your connection with that person, allowing you to understand each other better. It can also help you maintain perspective. Anxiety can feel like you’re stuck in a loop of racing thoughts — and when you allow yourself to talk about some of your worries and stressors, you can gradually break out of that loop and switch gears.

  1. There’s power in boundaried vulnerability.

Boundaried vulnerability is the concept of finding a balance between being vulnerable with others but not oversharing. This is something Morra and I spoke about, and I love the idea.  When a person in a leadership position is a completely closed book, others might see that lack of communication and assume there’s something stressful going on, leading them to become anxious. But at the same time, nobody wants to overshare about their personal lives in a professional setting. There’s a healthy level of vulnerability that can encourage trust and strengthen our connections. When you can set boundaries around your vulnerability, you can find a balance that works, and encourage a culture where everyone feels valued and heard.

  1. Shifting perspective takes time. 

Seeing my anxiety as a superpower isn’t something that always came naturally to me. I was always taught that leadership was a skill set — and I remember earlier in my career, wondering how I could be a leader who can dive in and fix problems while living with this sense of self-doubt. It took years for me to address my inner critic and change the conversation I was having with myself. Slowly, I started finding positive moments that came from my anxiety, like meeting deadlines, thinking ahead, and checking in with teammates. Changing perspective doesn’t happen overnight; but when you start practicing what it could look like to reframe your anxiety, you can unlock an entirely new viewpoint — one that helps you harness your fears as a source of strength, and transform challenges into opportunities for growth.


  • Jen Fisher

    Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"