image of man in business suit pulling on a tangled ball of string

Coping with Anxiety in the Workplace, part of our webinar series Leading Through Change, will help you manage your own anxiety so you can help your team members manage theirs. Then and only then can you work together to get stuff done.

book cover 90 Seconds to a Live You Love by Joan Rosenberg, PhD

Joan Rosenberg, PhD, summarizes her insights on emotional mastery in this TED talk. Her book 90 Seconds to a Life You Love [Amazon affiliate link] is a how-to manual on mastering the 1 + 8 + 90 formula.

Overcoming COVID Anxiety: 4 Do’s and 5 Don’ts

Not one of us can say with any certainty how this pandemic will affect our business and our mission. For most, what little we can foresee looks pretty bleak. Opportunities may well emerge with the new economic realities this crisis brings, but we can’t yet know what those opportunities will be.

All this uncertainty brings a lot of anxiety. Everyone’s anxious — you, your family, your boss and coworkers, your team. We each show it differently, but we’re all experiencing it, at some level.

We can’t do our best work when we’re in a constant state of elevated threat response. Mastering our anxiety is a first step toward coping with our current challenges and planning for an uncertain future.

You have to start with yourself. Only when you’ve dealt with your own anxiety can you help your team members deal with theirs. Next week’s webinar Coping with Anxiety in the Workplace will give you strategies for getting the most out of your team. Today’s brief message starts at the beginning — with you.

graphic showing eight unpleasant feelings in a circle

We start with a simple (I didn’t say easy!) technique devised by Joan Rosenberg, PhD, author of Emotional Mastery: The Gifted Wisdom of Unpleasant Feelings. (Sorry, this book is out of print, but see Resources, top right, for other options.)

The Rosenberg Reset is summarized as a 1 + 8 + 90 formula:

1 choice + 8 unpleasant feelings + 90 seconds

Your 1 choice is to stay fully present and notice your emotion.

The 8 unpleasant feelings are:

  1.     Sadness
  2.     Shame
  3.     Helplessness
  4.     Embarrassment
  5.     Anger
  6.     Vulnerability
  7.     Disappointment
  8.     Frustration

90 seconds is how long it takes to “ride the wave” of an unpleasant feeling until the worst passes over.

Really. It takes just 90 seconds to get past an unpleasant feeling — as long as you own the feeling rather than trying to tamp it down.

Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll conquer your anxiety completely in 90 seconds. Anxiety results when we have several of these unpleasant feelings at the same time. You can use the 1 + 8 + 90 formula to deal with multiple unpleasant feelings — but you have to take them one at a time.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Circumstances change. New unpleasant feelings arise. So the goal is to increase your comfort level with experiencing unpleasant feelings. You’re addressing  your reaction to the feelings rather than to the circumstances that create them.

Developing that comfort level takes a lot of practice.

You can start right now — today — with these 4 do’s and 5 don’ts.


  1.  Label your emotion: “I’m feeling anxious.”
  2.  Build one key dimension of emotional intelligence.
  3.  Let your mind wander in positive directions. What might be possible?
  4.  Try something new. Learn a language, take a drawing class, start a new exercise program, take up a musical instrument — anything to get your brain and body working in a new way.


  1.  Set an arbitrary deadline by which you will be back in control.
  2.  Allow negative thoughts to flow. Label your unpleasant feeling, but don’t dwell in the attendant thoughts. Set a timer: Give yourself 7 minutes to worry about the economic outlook in Q3. When the alarm goes off, turn to one of the do’s above.
  3.  Just sit there. Get up and move!
  4.  Limit your entertainment to one genre. Too many Netflix sitcoms will rot your creativity.
  5.  Spend too much time in your own head. See #4 above, or pick up the phone and call someone who needs you to cheer them up.

 What you can do today

  •  Pick one of the 4 do’s above, and try it right now.
  •  Think about how you can share what you learn with your team.
  •  Sign up for our webinar Coping with Anxiety in the Workplace to learn more and share your experience.

Questions for discussion

  1.  What’s making you most anxious right now?
  2.  How much control do you have over the source of that anxiety?
  3.  How much control do you have over the ways you deal with that anxiety? I know you know the “right” answer to that question, but I’m asking about how you actually experience your level of control. What is your brain telling you? Your body?
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