We have been chatting a lot about tactical strategy on the blog lately, so this week I wanted to flip the model and talk about mindset and mental health. As a business strategist, I believe it plays a HUGE role in business. But also, if you are thriving your business thrives. Period. If it is good for you, it is good for your business.
Anxiety in Business
I have shared this story before, but I never dealt with anxiety until I started my own business. I would hear people talk about it, but wasn't quite sure what it was or if I needed to worry about it. And then I started feeling this pit of butterflies in my stomach non-stop, or it would be hard to breathe when I woke up (and then it never went away), or insert the migraines. That is how my body responds to stress. A migraine that is so intense it knocks me out. But I never experienced any of this until my 40's.
Now that I am 3+ years into my business, I contribute my anxiety to two things: my relationship with money and social media, and my ability to communicate my feelings.
I grew up as the oldest sibling of two in a divorced family, so I was always the worker, the fixer, and the doer. More work did mean more success. The harder I studied, the better I did. I made it through college, got my MBA paid for, and eventually landed my dream job. In the corporate world, you are rewarded for more work and so that is what I did. Except I never stopped to deal with anything. My parents divorce, my dad passing away from cancer, and the fact that I was always the fixer, the doer the worker.
When entrepreneurship entered my lifestyle, I started realizing that more work wasn't the answer. Except a funny thing happened. My goal to create more free time and capacity actually gave my feelings a space to live. Enter ALL the anxiety from the last 40 years.
In creating my dream schedule, I created a space where I actually had time to feel my feelings.
Then layer on the stress that comes from supporting a family of four on an income that is NOT predictable. i.e. the life of an entrepreneur.
I share this because before I share what I do to deal with this newfound anxiety, I think it's important to understand where I am coming from.
So what do I do with all these feelings? There are a couple of daily activities that help me the most.
Daily Activities That Help Me Deal With Anxiety
#1 Get to know your personality
I am a manifesting generator 2/4, enneagram 3, and love the doing. But for me, the doing can be dangerous. It is how I hide my feelings. I could literally work 24 hours and not come up for air until it is too late. The 2 in my human design is actually a "hermit" and as soon as I understood that I need time to myself to recharge, it helped significantly with my anxiety. So what do YOU need is my first question. I need quiet in the morning. I have always been an early riser, but if you come talk to me before 7 am I might bite your head off. I like to have the silence to work on what feels good, which thanks to a lot of therapy usually ends up with a workout and journaling. I wake up with energy. My anxiety grows overnight so a good workout to get the negative energy out with some intentional journaling practice is what helps the most.
2) What re-energizes you?
I mentioned above a few things re-energize me, but when my anxiety hits bad, I go outside. No matter the weather. I actually make it a daily practice to walk outside for at least 30 minutes without my phone. Why? Well at first I thought, oh I'll just walk every day. But then I would listen to podcasts, answer messages, etc, and my brain never stopped. I found that I truly needed a brain break first. So the first 30 minutes, silence. Then I'll dig into activities if I need to. One of my clients is actually in my neighborhood and I joke that when she sees me walking she knows I am working stuff out.
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3) Set boundaries.
I've set so many boundaries that I sometimes lose track, but they work. I mentioned that money and social media were the main triggers for some really epic anxious moments when I started my business, so I set boundaries around those. I've worked hard to improve my money mindset
and talk about my boundaries around social a lot, but here are a few:
- I turn my phone to do not disturb from 7 pm to 7 am and after 30 minutes of "screen time" on social apps, it gives me a warning.
- I set aside "scroll time" and when time is up, it's up.
- I do not check our finances every day. I have a weekly reconciliation process and monthly budget meeting. I am super intentional about what I look at and when, otherwise can go deep into a spiral.
- I spend at least 24 hours / one full day a week offline. This means not answering Voxer messages, DMS, or scrolling. It's magical.
I am not a therapist and have a long way to go with this, but clearly understanding your personality, what fuels you, and creating boundaries to protect that can make a HUGE difference. I also have a communication tool I use with my husband which is - "I know this sounds crazy, but I just need you to listen" and this is when he knows that we don't need to solve - insert topic of choice, but I need to get it out of my system. It's almost like my "safe sentence". Find a friend or family member that you can talk to, even when it sounds crazy.
A recent survey involving women entrepreneurs showed that a startling amount of them had suffered from mental health issues. 130 women entrepreneurs were surveyed, and 95.2% said that they had experienced anxiety. Building a business is a lot of work, but struggling with anxiety makes it 10X harder. My hope is that sharing my experience will help yours. Together we can make a difference.
Have you experienced anxiety as a business owner? What are your go-to resources to help?
Looking for more on this topic and your High-Level Action items? Check out the Strategy Lab in the Crush the Rush Club!