Hiding My Anxiety with Chris Rainey of HR Leaders

Chester Elton: Welcome to the anxiety at work podcast, I’m Chester Elton, and this is my co-author and dear friend, Adrian Gostick. We hope the time you spend with us will help remove the stigma of anxiety and mental health in the workplace and in your life. With experts from around the globe, we want to provide ideas and tools to deal with anxiety in your world. Our guest today is the amazing Chris Rainey. Chris is the host of the #1 HR podcast in the world, HR leaders. You can find his podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else you like to listen. Chris hosts the most amazing virtual conferences dealing with the most critical issues of our times, particularly at work. Adrian and I have been privileged to be interviewed by Chris and be in his virtual gatherings. It’s also interesting to google Chris’s bio because all you get is the podcast for his conferences. I finally did find one paragraph, and this is his bio from his LinkedIn profile. And you’re going to love it. I’m a husband to an amazing wife, father to a beautiful baby girl, sports addict podcast host, and co-founder of the HR Leaders learning community, powered by the world’s most influential HR practitioners.

We are delighted to welcome you to our humble little podcast. Chris, thanks for making the time for us.

Chris Rainey: It’s great to be here. I think this is the first podcast where I’ve been a guest. We’ve had over 300 episodes of our podcast, but I’ve never been a guest. So this is a new experience.

Adrian Gostick: Chris is a fantastic podcast host, and he brings out the best in his guests. Tell us a bit about you, Chris. We gave a little background there, but tell us what you’d like everybody to know about you.

Chris Rainey: Interesting. I’m still not used to being asked this question. You mentioned I’m a husband and have a beautiful wife. We’ve got an adorable two-year-old daughter. Like most people in this world, I never planned on doing this for a living. I was a professional breakdancer; that was my background. It’s not prominent in the UK, so I couldn’t pursue that one. I did travel around the world as a breakdancer. So that was definitely fun. And somehow, my part-time job in sales – selling products to Human Resources executives has become a 14-year obsession. It was really exciting to speak with HR professionals at the center of every organization. And that was, for me, just amazing to have those conversations every day and learn about different cultures, the leadership styles, and the products and the customers. It was super fascinating. That led us to build the largest conference for HR executives in Europe, which was fun, which is how I met yourself along the way.

It got to the point where I wanted to create a platform where I could share the incredible work that HR leaders are doing with the rest of the world. That led to the HR leaders podcast as well. So the rest is history.

Chester Elton: It really is amazing. You’re talking about virtual conferences; I was with you, and over 10,000 people showed up. Most virtual conferences are lucky if they get a couple of hundred, so you’ve cracked the code on that part of your story; that’s really interesting. Adrian and I wrote our book, Anxiety at Work, and we feature you in the book because when people meet you, you’re this engaging, happy guy, an incredible salesperson. Yet, you really struggled with anxiety for a long time. In fact, you were a master at hiding it. You didn’t even tell your wife. So tell us about that and why you didn’t feel safe sharing this anxiety at work or home.

Chris Rainey: Well, before work, you start at home. It feels like work; they’re one and the same. As a kid, I suffered. I had a very difficult upbringing, drugs and violence, and domestic violence in the household, and that just kind of was a recipe for disaster in terms of anxiety, which stuck with me. I never really knew how to process those emotions of seeing what I saw and being in that environment, which led to school. It was something I just kept to myself. So I had panic attacks. I didn’t know what it was. So as a kid, you’re like, What is this? What is happening to me right now? And I’d seen my mom have panic attacks, and she would never tell anyone, so I just modeled that as in, this is something you don’t tell people about, this is something that you should be ashamed of. It’s learned behavior from seeing it more often. Mom didn’t know the impact it was having on me. Of course, she had her own challenges and difficulties, so it was just something that I always thought, you just don’t talk to people about this. It also made me feel like I was the only one because I didn’t know anyone else going through it. So you assume that you look like a weirdo.

Once inside the workplace, I was in a very high-pressure sales environment, which is not good if you already suffer from anxiety. Yeah, even with my relationship with my wife, there were days when I didn’t leave the house, I felt like I was having a heart attack, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t want to tell her because I was so worried about what my friends and family would think. I think I’m weak, or something’s wrong with me. There’s a stigma attached to mental health, especially among men. I’ll stop there if you want to jump in. Yeah, so I feel like it’s just a fear of what people will think of you, and they’re going to think a little less of you. And again, I’ve always seen it modeled in my family where you don’t talk about this.

Adrian Gostick: So at some point, though, you are actually on a podcast when you decided to come clean, if you will, about what you were feeling.

Chris Rainey: Yeah, I felt like a bit of a hypocrite that I was doing these podcasts about well-being and having these leaders share their own stories, and I was on a show with friend Tim Lindon, who’s a Chief Learning Officer of Unilever, and also the CEO of an incredible charity here in the UK called Mind. And they were both just sharing their journeys and anxiety and talking about PTSD, and they were so vulnerable. More importantly, I could see how empowered they were by their vulnerability and its impact on their employees and everyone else, and I was sitting there asking these questions. I felt it felt like the right moment or a safe place. They weren’t my close friends and family, and they almost made it easier to share. I thought, if there’s ever a time, now is that time, on the podcast, on LinkedIn. I did it, and it was scary.

I can tell you it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I immediately felt a massive weight lifted off my shoulders because I was no longer holding it on my own. I’d been holding it on my own since I could remember, and now all of a sudden, everyone knows. It’s out of the bag. It was a very humbling experience, and I can tell you that all of those fears of what people would think were unfounded, and actually, everyone around me was in a rally to support me. And I feel like it’s one of my biggest strengths now as a leader. I have the vulnerability and understanding that I’m not perfect. We’re going to go through these challenges together. Since then, I haven’t had an anxiety attack, I’ve been close, but I was alone before. Now I could pick up the phone to my co-founder Shane or someone in my team, call the wife, and say, I’m feeling this way. Can you speak to me because I’m feeling really anxious right now?

Before, I didn’t have that outlet. I would just suffer in silence, which so many millions of people do.

Chester Elton: That’s incredible. You didn’t share that part of the story with me before. Since then that you haven’t had a panic attack. The one thing you’ve shared with me that was really interesting is your life on this podcast; your employees were listening, and they had no clue that you were struggling with this. How do I deal with that afterward? You said people rallied, and now your employees go, Wow, the boss is struggling with this, so talk us through that because I think a lot of leaders are afraid. What will my employees think? What will my co-workers think when they hear about it?

Chris Rainey: Interestingly, they were in the room. They were literally steps away from me and hearing it live. They don’t need to listen to the podcast because they were actually in the room with me. There were times when I wouldn’t turn up, and I wouldn’t be in for a few days. I’d tell them I just need some time, but I would be very vague about it, right? I would never say it was because of anxiety. It was always very vague because they knew something was up and didn’t know exactly why or what it was, which was also concerning. I thought that would lead to uncertainty and more questions, but the opposite happened. My team is amazing. I can’t remember what I said. But I just remember everyone being super supportive and some of them saying, “I felt the same way.”

Many of them said they’d felt that way during certain periods, and you realize that you’re not the only one suffering. Some spoke to me about how their family members, girlfriends, wives, or family suffered and how that impacted them. There’s an impact on my wife as well. My exits impacted my family because they were going on around me. It opened up a different type of conversation, and I felt like I bonded with my wife; even though you have known someone for ten or fifteen years, I thought we connected on a very different level than before. So yeah, it was a very pleasant experience and a lot of saying to everyone, it will always be that case because that’s what misled them, really—some here who don’t get it and don’t understand. But as I said, just having that point where you don’t have the weight on your shoulders means you can actually talk [about it] and know you’re not alone. Because I told you when we first spoke, or my most significant thing, I realized I was anxious about being anxious. It’s this vicious circle – I’m feeling anxious, I can’t tell anyone, which makes it even more anxious, and then it feeds back into that loop. And for me, I realized it was probably the worst thing I could have done was feel I was all alone.

Whereas now I can just speak to people and be like, Look, I’m heading this way. On days I don’t want to go out, that’s okay, and I just want to let them know that I need to re-chart. And it’s like, no problem, but it also means that they can come to me when they feel that way.

Adrian Gostick: Well, I thought that was really powerful as you talked, Chris. Earlier, you told us that you didn’t tell your wife that there’d be social situations that would make you very anxious. You would say, “I’m not feeling well” for occasions like weddings, or that you didn’t want to turn out to her friends’ gathering, make excuses, and basically lie. And she knew you would be lying, and she’d get frustrated at why you were lying.

Chris Rainey: This is not obviously the reason, and my friends would always make comments like, “it’s annoying that you are always the first person to leave the party.” I wouldn’t say to them – I didn’t want to say, it’s because I’m feeling really anxious right now because I’d feel like that’s embarrassing. They wouldn’t understand.

But now they know they’re like, Oh, thanks. It makes so much sense. It’s not like I didn’t want to be there. But I felt anxious, and even when my wife’s family would say things like, Chris doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to come, he doesn’t make an effort to turn out for the family, it hurt me because it wasn’t really the case. I just didn’t feel like I could cope. So now again, now when if there’s a situation where I don’t want to go out, I openly, I would just say I’m not feeling up for it, I’ll make sure, and they’re cool with it. Again, I would get anxious about telling my wife because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I have to make up this new lie, which – what does that do? It makes you even more anxious again, and it is a cycle you keep repeating. It makes it so much easier when you can just say, “I’m just not feeling up to it today.

Chester Elton: It’s so interesting. We have all these fears about people we know who love us and care about us, yet we’re still anxious. We don’t want to be vulnerable, don’t want to be weak. You’ve shared a couple of things that you do when you get close [to feeling anxious], you call a friend, you call somebody, what are some of the things you do for people listening who suffer from this, and they’re starting to get there, where are your safe havens, what are some of the mantras [you use], do you meditate? Do you have the one go-to person? Could you share with us some of the things you do?

Chris Rainey: Definitely! Breathing in is a huge part of it because one of the symptoms when you have an anxiety attack, is your heart rate increases, you start sweating, and stuff like that. Abdominal breathing is to breathe in five seconds, out five seconds, breathe in five seconds, and continue. Breathing regulates my brain and calms me down. My heart rate goes down because you get that adrenaline dump. I only ever lost like five or ten minutes. Once you get through that period, I’ve researched that you’ll probably fight off adrenaline and increased heart rate symptoms. It makes people feel they’re having a heart attack and start panicking when you have a panic attack. That’s what used to get me. I’d get that feeling, suddenly, at an event. I’d convince myself that I can’t breathe when no one’s ever died from anxiety – do the research. I’m laughing about it now, but at the time, I was terrified. Even when I knew this would pass after five or ten minutes.

I kind of just breathe through the ten minutes using abdominal breathing. I also get fresh air. There is just something about being outside and having fresh air that helps me. One thing I do is try to step away from the situation. If I’m in my room, I’ll just move into a different environment or the garden or outside because I’m just separating where the anxiety started, if that makes sense; and then try to breathe through. So that’s one thing, the other thing is I just get on the phone with someone, and I don’t face it alone anymore if I start feeling that way. But I try not to get to that stage anymore. I haven’t been at that stage in a long time. So, before I get to that stage, I just pick up the phone and give someone a call and say, look, I’m just feeling this way. Can you just chat to me about anything? You could just talk about anything just to stop my mind until I can calm down so that I’m coping. I’m hoping that someone with me on my side [will help me manage].

That’s the main thing. I was not alone. And then, in terms of longer-term, I’ve done a terrible job recently. I was going to be speaking to you both, and I was like, wow! I’ve been sleeping well for the last few weeks, I have welfare rising, and I can feel the anxiety. Yesterday I was supposed to meet Shane, my co-founder, in the office to go through some stuff, and I didn’t turn up because I just didn’t wanna go in on one of those days that I was feeling anxious. I never have a panic attack if I’m eating well, exercising, and sleeping well, but it’s a knock-on effect. Right? Because if you’re not exercising, you were like, Oh, I could have this food, and now I was going to eat junk food and not as good.

Chester Elton: Interesting! A vicious circle on repeat. You say, “I feel great.” [For this] it’s essential to get an early night, have a good dinner, exercise, and get back in.

Chris Rainey: These are the three things that always served me well if I felt like I was getting anxious. Exercising well, eating well, sleeping well, and if we can go into each, exercise endorphins lead to feeling good, right? And when we’re asleep increases cortisol, which makes us more anxious. I’ve looked into the science behind each of these things. How would you directly correlate to what you eat? Your gut is your second brain right in your body. There is more nerve in your stomach than in the rest of your body. So what you eat is how you’re going to feel. If you eat like crap, you will feel that crap directly, and I’ve noticed that if I eat well or feel well, I’m not completely helpless. I think for years, I just felt utterly helpless, and you can take control of it yourself – very empowering.

Adrian Gostick: Going back to something you said a minute ago, Chris. You said some people wouldn’t get this – the hard part of anxiety. Thankfully, you’re dealing with HR leaders who are typically more enlightened about these issues, yet millions of managers worldwide don’t get this. What’s your message to them? If I’m an employee dealing with a manager who doesn’t get it, is there anything I can do? Is there any way to help enlighten people around us on this issue?

Chris Rainey: If you’re a manager listening right now or a leader – you don’t have to get it. I think that’s a misconception. People are worried about asking their employees questions about how they feel because they’re worried about the actual answers. What if someone does open up to me, and I don’t know what to say as a manager? I think that was my concern. I never wanted to tell my managers because I felt they would not understand. But to managers, you don’t need to understand; just listen. That’s what we need from you – someone to listen. It was funny when speaking to my therapist, they said, Why is it that when you have someone on the phone when you call people, that gets you out of this anxiety? Isn’t that silly? It’s quite silly, isn’t it? Think about it. Having them on the phone and knowing someone’s a breath away helped end the anxiety.

Chester Elton: You’re not doing anything he does better, so you don’t have to have all the answers as a manager, just being very open. And when you are seeing if they’re okay, you genuinely mean it and just listen. You don’t have to have the answers.

Chris Rainey: That’s it. Many of my friends with anxiety [don’t] speak to me because they don’t want to bring up the subject as I worried. I don’t know what to say, and that’s okay. You don’t have to have the answers. Just listen and be there for someone. And then, yes, if you’re in a business, you can signal to people – I can help. Most companies now have the right resources and things to help people, so just be open to a conversation and listen, and you’re not going to be asking for advice about what to do. I never have ever called to and said, Now tell me how to get over anxiety. It doesn’t happen. But just knowing someone’s open, even if they don’t get it, is okay. I’ve never experienced that. To be honest, I’ve never encountered someone who hasn’t been supportive, never. I’ve talked to people, even my co-founder saying, “I don’t get it.” He doesn’t understand. And if you never had anxiety, of course, you’re not going to get it, but it isn’t in a negative way; he’s the gate for me to explain how it feels, and I’m like, Well, this is how it feels. Right? We didn’t get it. It’s hard to explain to people, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone less than understanding. Never. Maybe I’m just lucky, but that’s not an experience so far. Isn’t that amazing, though? Because when you’re vulnerable to people, they’re much more understanding than when you’re lying.

What you can do, and what I did my whole life, is lie. I think that’s something we’ve seen in the pandemic, right, is this conversation comes more to the forefront, and again, some of my closest friends have come out and said, I’ve been suffering; I have even found out, friends of mine, have been seeing a therapist for years. My best friends and I never knew. Those same people I’m going out with and saying “I’ve gotta leave” feel the same way. Some of the topics business executives I like to follow are entrepreneurs. I’m like, I look up to them, and I think – no way, right? As you get out of time with me, they say, Chris, I’m like you! A lot of it. It’s almost a facade. I don’t go on when I’m on a podcast; I do when happy and not feeling down or anything like that, but they’re superhuman, and it was the same days here a few days ago. My wife gave me a call crying on the phone. She couldn’t cope anymore because she struggled to balance her workload and look after our daughter, so I had to tell my team that I needed to go home and help out with life.

Everyone’s got melting points, whereas probably in the past, she wouldn’t have done that. She would have just powered through and not said anything, and she would have suffered in silence. Whereas my wife is much more open. We have a better relationship coming out of this because we can be honest with each other and not feel like we will be judged by asking for help. If anything, it’s probably the most empowering

Chester Elton: Well, you’re so vulnerable right now, this has to be so encouraging for people listening to hear your story, and you know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our inner voices. We’ve all got an inner voice when you’re struggling. Isn’t it interesting, when you listen to that inner voice, how you talk to yourself and how you would never talk to anybody else the way you speak to yourself? Is that part of the anxiety loop that you keep telling yourself? How do you counteract that? To that inner voice, that is, to find out that answer? I wish I had the answer. That is something I hear every day, day in, day out. Self-doubt is one link to my anxiety [fear of] being alone, so if I’m around many people, I never really feel anxious because I know support happens. They’re here, whereas if I’m on my own somewhere, I start panicking, like, what if I have anxiety? No one’s here to help me.

Chris Rainey: Right, some things are tough for everyone to get over. For me, it’s a journey. I’ve never traveled abroad alone because I’m so scared of what if? And it’s the inner voice going, Chris, what if you jump on a plane and you’re on your own, and you have an anxiety attack? No one’s around to help you, and it’s like a constant battle, but now it’s just kind of understanding. I’ve done a lot of research around it, and I understand it’s not real. It’s just in my head, and again, no one’s ever died from an anxiety attack. And if I can get through it for the first five or ten minutes, when the adrenaline kind of wears off, I’m going to be okay. And talking yourself through that way is affirmational. I have done it so much recently. Again, I’ve been pretty bad lately, but I fell asleep to these YouTube playlists of positive affirmations. It’s a five or six-hour piece, and I’ll listen to it because your subconscious mind plays away, so you sometimes wake up during the night.

It’s [anxiety] always there as part of your brand. I’ll be consuming these positive affirmations and powerful formations. I’d wake up thinking that as long as my brain is programmed with positive messages, [I’d be less anxious]. I’d create my own affirmations and play them back as well. Just waking up in the morning and getting out of bed and taking a moment to think about what you’re grateful for, and for me, that’s my family having a roof over our head and everything else we always take for granted. I usually jump out of bed in the morning and think about the day’s challenge, and you don’t want to start a day like that. So yeah, you are right. And that’s probably one of the biggest challenges because whatever you think directly reflects how you feel, so if you think you’re anxious, it manifests physically, and you can worry yourself sick, right? I have done it; I’ve literally worried myself sick to the point I physically get sick because I’m also thinking about so many negative things. I have to be very conscious of that. But now, I catch myself before I lose control. Now I’m like, get back in the gym, start eating well. I even said to my wife and the team, if you see me in over my head, just tell me – you know, Chris, recently you coming to work and not taking any breaks, etcetera, so again, like I’m not in this denial and everyone’s helping each other.

Adrian Gostick: This has been so terrific, Chris. One last question for you is, now that you’re a leader, how are you leading your team differently than you were leading before? We all try to raise that bar from maybe previous generations.

Chris Rainey: Yeah, my generation, when I came up, it was like, you’re a hammer manager, and you’re my employee. You work for me. That’s it. There was no relationship there, and I led like that for years, and I felt horrible. I spend most of my life with you [work team]. Why do I even do it? So my closest friends and family tell me I can’t have a meaningful relationship and be vulnerable and talk to you, so for now, like work, work in life at HR leaders is almost the same. There is no difference, especially now that work happens at home, so I’ve liked being vulnerable as a leader. It has been a game-changer for the team and me, and understanding that everyone has a bad day and if you need some time off or if you want to open up the conversation – Everyone understands. And that’s part of our culture now. I feel like that’s been incredible to be able to do that. At the end of the day, if I’m going to turn up to work every day and spend time with these people where I want to end to be, we always are our whole self to what we hear, but there’s a different meaning to that now, I think I called is of what that means.

Chester Elton: If anyone listening can tell you anything differently that represents our culture here and bring yourself to work because this is [leadership] style was never [used] earlier and all sorts of things there. But I want people to feel safe and have a culture where people feel like they can be vulnerable, and that’s where creativity happens, that’s where innovation happens, that’s where engagement happens, and that’s where the magic happens when people for safe and valued and comfortable, and their voices are heard. Then you’re going to have a pretty good time. It’s interesting.

Adrian Gostick: I feel like we’ve all had a therapy session with you, and listening to you talk and the calm and the struggle and everything you’ve done, as we kind of wrap up, we love to ask our guests, what are three things that you’d want people to take away from this podcast who may be suffering from anxiety, and afraid to talk about it at work. Tell us your top three.

Chris Rainey: Top three. It’s interesting because I saw your questions before, just before it, I was thinking about this. I think the first one is you’re not alone. For me, that was [the worst part]. I just felt I was alone all those years, and it was a dark place, so knowing that you’re not alone and it is of you take from this, that in itself is enough. So if you’re listening right now and you don’t want to talk to your friends with the family, drop me an email, Chris HDS dot com, drop me a message, whatever it may be, I’m happy to have a chat with you. You’re not alone. That in itself, just having someone to talk to. A lot of people feel kind of powerless; you’re not powerless. What works for me may not work for you, but as I said, eating healthy, getting good sleep, and exercising seems the solution.

Try doing what I’ve done. If it works, great. If not, then I’m sure there are other options. And thirdly, just understand the power of your story. Because by sharing your story, you’re helping [others]. Even if one person hears your stories, and it makes a difference for them, that actually empowers; that is why I agreed to come on the show today. As much as I love you, it isn’t about one person. Here’s your story, and [if] it can impact them and change their lives and outlook, then it’s worth it. So yeah, just you’re not alone. You can take control of your [story]. Take that control of your life, and also, by sharing your own story, you’re going to empower other people and help change their lives.

Adrian Gostick: Beautiful. I’ve been moved by our conversation today. This interview has just been so amazing. I’m trying to recall if we’ve ever had an ice hockey-playing breakdancer from the UK on this podcast, and it may be a first!

Chester Elton: And just for you, the impact it can have on your own family. Right?

Chris Rainey: Sorry to jump in, but I recently had a situation with my own family where my nephew? [I don’t want to get too graphic], but he was close to taking his own life, and he’s a 10-year-old kid, this is like two weeks ago, and he was suffering in silence. I got a message from my sister, and I spent some time with him the next day. We met up, and again, This me sharing, even though as a 10-year-old, me sharing my anxiety, he was like, Oh, Uncle Chris, I never thought you would be like that [have anxiety]. I see you successful, and I’d never have thought that you would be feeling the way I am. Again, he felt like as a 10-year-old, like he’s this weird kid that feels his way, and he was all alone to the point where I can only imagine as a kid to get to that stage where you feel like you don’t want to be alive here, and he wrote a letter to my sister. [I’ll start crying on the podcast now – about how we didn’t want to be alive. Right?

And if he had known about Uncle Chris in advance, he probably wouldn’t have felt so alone. And I was devastated, even now. It is heartbreaking to know that kids are suffering during this time, and if you’re alone, I feel like it’s [important] to share our story and be there, and I wasn’t. And now I’ve been involving him in martial arts, and he’s super excited about it. He knows he can give me a call whenever he’s feeling down. What he has done over the past week or so when he’s not feeling well, he has an outlet to not suffer in silence, so that was something that, even though I shared on the podcast, I wish I spoke more about it. Because he would have heard about that, and now we can have a chat, we could have had a chat, we wouldn’t have got to that stage and hit me, I don’t like it just happened in my own family, and no one knows about it.

Chester Elton: I was just going to say that’s not ending on a downer; it is beautiful. We’re all crying with that story because you just don’t know. You just don’t know. People suffer in silence. And I think you know that’s why you work in HR and the stuff you’re doing with your podcast and the stories that you share, and the work that we’re trying to do with anxiety at work and leading with gratitude is that you don’t know where people are coming from, you don’t know if they’re struggling. And so it’s so important to be kind, to be grateful. I love what you said about just listening. Everybody’s having a tough day. Everybody is. And to not take that for granted. Even the happiest people are not happy all the time. We all have tough days, and most times, we are afraid to share those tough days, so thank you so much for being so vulnerable and sharing your story and doing the work you do.

Adrian Gostick: It’s going to help many people know that Chris Rainey can come through that and be the Chris Rainey he is. We’re grateful that you’re here, that you’re our friend Chris, and thanks for sharing your story with us today.

Chris Rainey: Obviously, I’m a big fan of both of yours and super excited about the impact this podcast and the book [Anxiety at Work] will have on people. We just need to play our part. Yeah, I’m really excited to be part of the community you’re building, and as I said, if anyone listening wants someone to talk to, I’m happy to chat as well.

Adrian Gostick: Chris, this has been just amazing. Where can people learn more about you?

Chris Rainey: HRLeaders.com is where you can find out more about us. The podcast is also available, HRH leaders podcast, anywhere podcasts are available, and connect with me on LinkedIn.

Chester Elton: Adrian, what an incredible conversation with Chris Rainey. So vulnerable, so genuine, so honest. What were your key takeaways? What were a couple of things that just popped out, and you say, “that was unbelievable – I’ll never forget that?” One of the most powerful things I heard from Chris was that for 12 years, he hid this from his wife, his colleagues, and everyone. And yet one thing he told me that he said When you hide, people think the worst. You may have anxiety, and that’s probably the best thing they can know because [otherwise] they believe he doesn’t like me, he’s a snob. People assume the worst. It’s better just to be open with this if we can. Yeah, he said, “I would leave weddings early, or I wouldn’t go, and they would say, Well, he doesn’t care about her family,” and then once he said, I have these anxiety attacks, they said, oh, that happens to me too. And they were so forgiving. My big thing was when he finally confessed, if you can say it’s a confession, on the podcast. One of my big takeaways was how he felt this enormous weight taken off his shoulders and that he was finally free of this secret that he’d been keeping from everybody.

Adrian Gostick: Another thing I loved was when we asked him about managers? How they can help. Or team members. And he said, Just listen, you don’t need to understand. Because in this world, we’re trying to understand everybody’s issues. He says no, you’re not going to know how I feel, but you can listen and say, Are you okay? And truly mean it. I love that. Yeah, managers are not going to have the solution. Don’t worry about that. “I’m not looking for advice; I’m just looking for somebody to listen to.” I thought he was so candid when he said, “When I was hiding it, I was lying. I was lying to people”, which is never a good thing. When he stopped lying, it was much better. People are forgiving. And my other big takeaway is he said people rallied. as soon as they knew he had this problem, they rallied to his defense, and that you are never alone. And I thought, Boy, that is so reassuring. If you’re out there struggling with anxiety, you think you’ve got to hide, what you think is a weakness, and yet when you tell people, the people that love you will rally around you.

Chester Elton: Yeah, because some people who are maybe listening to this and going, Yeah, but people around me wouldn’t do this, they’d make fun of me. And it is hard. Everybody’s situation is different. That one thing with Chris is he gets anxious when people aren’t around; others get anxious when people are around. We’re all very different, but I just thought his point about being vulnerable, if people around you aren’t going to rally to you, you’re probably surrounding yourself with the wrong people. I love his vulnerability and how he stepped in to help his nephew, who would not have anybody had Chris not been willing to be vulnerable. Yeah, no, I love that. He did his homework; he did his research; he said, I found these are the things that worked for me. You could tell that he’d read stuff about the endorphins and your brain and how it works. And he did his homework, and he said, Look, these are the things that work for me. They may not work for you. They work for me. If I get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise, my anxiousness, goes way down.

Anything else? Because there was so much there. You and I can be stuck for another hour about our takeaways from Chris. So much good about how he’s learned to deal with it himself, calling someone, breathing, stepping away, finding a new environment, sleeping, eating well, exercise. He has found simple little things at work that are very profound, so hopefully, you see something working for yourself as you’re listening. Again, we are so thankful for our guest, Chris Rainey from HR leaders, and for the amazing insights, he shared with his righteous. I loved the end where he said, Look, if you’re listening to this and need somebody, here’s my email address. You know, Chris @ HR leaders dot com. I think that kind of vulnerability, and that’s what we’re hoping to build in our community at The Culture Works, you know, show up; we want to remove that stigma of being able to talk about anxiety and stress at work and help each other out, share best practices. You don’t develop a community where it’s safe to talk about those things, and we can help you get through your anxiety, that’s our passion, and that’s our mission, right in.

Adrian Gostick: We want to thank our producer, Brent Klein, our booking manager, Christy Lawrence, and all of you for tuning in today. Thank you so much for taking a few minutes to think about anxiety [at work]. If you’d like to connect with us, go to TheCultureWorks.Com or join, CultureWorks.AI, our global community. Hope to see you there, and have a great week.