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Tech Has an Anxiety Problem. This CEO Is Working to Combat It.

August 22, 2017

1:30 pm

Entrepreneurs need to make rapid decisions and act quickly in order to thrive. But those suffering from anxiety — which affects around 40 million Americans a year — actually make decisions with less clarity. And since running a startup often leads to problems like depression and anxiety, entrepreneurs should all prioritize their mental health a little more than they currently do.

That’s why I had a quick conversation with Christopher Adams, CEO of Levium, an all natural 1 oz. liquid shot designed to reduce anxiety. Adams developed Levium following his experiences founding several tech companies. Here, he explains the impact of anxiety on his entrepreneurship, and how it led him to the next stage of his career. Oh, and he covers why Slack isn’t exactly helping anyone’s anxiety problem.

How have your experiences with anxiety affected your career in tech? How did those you knew in the sector respond?

Everyone experiences anxiety at some point but the degree of this anxiety varies greatly from individual to individual. Anxiety can be caused from anything from pre-presentation nerves to social anxiety when you are exposed to a new group of people.

Unforgiving, high stress environments tend to drastically elevate the levels of anxiety we experience. During my time as a tech founder I experienced this profoundly at a personal level and also saw it far too frequently in others whose lives were essentially taken over by anxiety. Tech requires a constant flow of clear and concise ideas and information and to deal with this, you need to be at the top of your game. Unfortunately, anxiety impedes clarity and can make even simple ideas difficult to articulate.

The tech world is a fast-paced, high pressure environment. An inarticulate or indecisive person in tech, especially on a team, can be seen as burden and an impediment to progress. This hits their confidence which in turn hinders their performance and leaves them trapped in a vicious cycle of anxiety which could leave them being alienated, fired, or even worse in a state of depression.

This is even more unfortunate as ironically, people with high anxiety levels often demonstrate a higher degree of empathy and commitment than their peers. Both of these are important attributes of great product managers and exactly the type of individual we need in tech. So there is an incredible amount of raw talent in tech which sadly is not being utilized thanks to anxiety.

My cofounder and myself have seen through our own struggles with anxiety that this potential just needs a little help to break through the barriers. We believe that if they are given the tools to mitigate their anxiety, these people will shine.

Overall, what’s the big problem with how the tech community’s understanding of anxiety (or lack thereof) impacts those who experience it?

Although often overlooked, anxiety in tech is a huge issue, not just for the general mental well-being of people in the sector, but also for its productivity.

Tech is a very competitive, macho environment in which anxiety is rarely understood and is usually perceived as a weakness. This is not just the case for colleagues, but also for anxiety sufferers themselves. As a result, people with anxiety find it difficult to negotiate competitive compensation and are reluctant to report workplace maleficence, harassment and discrimination. They also usually deny themselves to necessary treatment due to social stigmas.

Unfortunately, anxiety in the workplace tends to create a perpetual feedback loop. Those with anxiety feel a need to people please. But the ones they are trying to please see this as a weakness, and either degrade or take advantage of them.

Beyond the highly competitive nature of tech, the products we create can themselves be anxiety-inducing. I’m referring specifically to all those tools used by tech to extract every ounce of efficiency; Please don’t Slack me about this!

You’re developing an anxiety management product to deal with the problem: Tell me more it.

Levium is an all-natural liquid shot designed to tackle anxiety rather than suppress it — as most anti-anxiety prescription meds do. Through collaborative research with leading medical doctors and academics, we developed a formula that can actually counter cortisol production and strengthen the body’s own resilience to stress and anxiety.

Cortisol is an evolutionary trait adopted for survival purposes, but in today’s world, going into fight or flight mode, reducing blood flow to your brain and causing you to tense up, is more of a hindrance than a help. This is not what you need when your slack and email messages are piling up and deadlines are fast approaching.

To limit the effects of cortisol Levium leverages what our neuroscience team calls the “resilience” neurotransmitter: NPY.

NPY, the natural counter to cortisol and anxiety, is produced by the brain on its own but not everyone produces enough.

Levium’s base ingredients are a blend of selective Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4 Inhibitors (DPP-4), which encourages NPY in the body, ensuring there is enough to combat cortisol and therefore make people more resilient to stress.

What’s the best advice to give to a young professional affected by anxiety?

Firstly, acceptance is key. I would suggest joining an online or brick and mortar anxiety group. They are easy to find and can be of tremendous help.

Anxiety wants to tell you that you are all alone and helpless, but this is not the case. The best thing you can do is reach out to others. Discovering that you are surrounded by people who experience the very same thoughts and feelings is very empowering.

Various natural techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, exercise and a healthy diet are also clinically proven to alleviate anxiety. So lifestyle changes are a great, way to start. A daily dose of Levium can enhance the benefit of these improved lifestyle choices and result in a significant reduction of anxiety.

For those with diagnosed General Anxiety Disorder, depression and/or panic attacks, it is vitally important to first stabilize. You should seek help from your physician or psychiatrist for treatment options.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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