Feelings of overwhelm and anxiety come naturally to entrepreneurs; these simple steps can help you reduce stress and achieve your goals
Do you ever find yourself struggling with devastating anxiety? Do you experience periods in your entrepreneurial journey where you find yourself overthinking the same problem day and night, automatically imagining the worst possible outcome? Are you way too familiar with habitual worrying and damaging thoughts which eventually manifest physically, leaving you sleepless, with short breath, muscle tension, and even dizziness?
You’re not alone. Entrepreneurs that make it big achieve hero status in our society; people look at them and think they have it all together. But many of the most successful leaders in business face similar challenges when it comes to mental patterns. With more impact comes more responsibility.
Owning a business can be extremely stressful and exhausting. In this article I want to first touch on the main causes of entrepreneurial anxiety and then lay out a proven step-by-step process on how to overcome it.
Here are four common reasons why entrepreneurs struggle with anxiety:
1. Personality And Entrepreneurship
Especially for overachieving type-As, anxiety is tied to their personality traits. They love to set virtually impossible goals that excite them and then freak out on how to achieve them. They’re naturally drawn to the thrill and heights of risks, yet the journey is a process filled with uncertainty, stress, loneliness and possibly anxiety.
2. Impression Management
Many entrepreneurs tend to project optimism on their team, friends, and sometimes family, no matter what. During rough times they find themselves in the numbing state of anxiety, barely holding it together while pretending everything is going just fine. Rather than showing vulnerability and asking for support, they push through by themselves, almost losing their sanity. Opening up about serious struggles is associated with weakness, shame, and loss of control, all of which put even more pressure on them by having to put up a certain impression.
3. Entrepreneurial Passion And Resilience
Entrepreneurs often make themselves less resilient to stress and anxiety by neglecting their physical and mental health. They don’t eat well and get too little sleep and exercise — all of which are essential to sustainable performance and a creative mind. Habitual stress and anxiety heavily affect health, execution, results and overall well-being.
4. Failure And Self Worth
No matter how successful and accomplished someone might be, setbacks and times of uncertainty can knock them flat and affect their confidence. Doubt creeps in, the feeling of being a fraud or imposter comes up and starts messing with them. When entrepreneurs tie their self worth to their business or net worth, identifying themselves with something out of their control, they set themselves up for misery in the long run.
Having struggled with severe anxiety before led me to creating systems to speed up the process to overcome it. Usually stepping back and disconnecting from big issues to calm down is helpful. Unfortunately, when anxiety really kicks in, distraction isn’t good enough. The attempt to relax makes it even worse because the created space in your head gets filled with even more stress. When that happens, it is time to take action as soon as possible.
Here are six things you can do to overcome entrepreneurial anxiety (and they apply to most other forms of anxiety, as well):
Our brain loves holding on to what it thinks is important, which easily causes overwhelm and exhaustion. Take 20 minutes and write down anything that comes to mind: your worries, to do list and everyday tasks. Don’t think; just purge what’s in your head. This way you trick your brain into letting go of all the information because it’s safely stored on a piece of paper and it can finally relax.
Meditation is absolutely invaluable. After creating space in your brain from everything that it’s been holding onto, give it a short break from all the thinking. Preferably choose a guided meditation. Stillness and quiet is amazing, yet when dealing with overthinking, a clear framework for your thoughts can be very helpful while relaxing your mind. Worry might creep into your head when there is too much space.
3. Change perspective
Our emotions are triggered when we adopt a certain perspective. Something dramatic happens according to that perspective. Changing how you look at a situation can give you an incredible relief of stress. Ask yourself how you will be looking at your life situation a few years from now. Picture the worst thing that can happen and come to terms with it. Then create a strategy on how you would handle that situation. Additionally understand that anxiety is a very normal emotion, as Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule, states: “The truth is, anxiety is just a word we use for the normal body state that we feel when we’re facing uncertainty. That’s it”. By normalizing what’s happening and stop resisting it, you can take off the pressure of trying so desperately to unwind.
4. Celebrate what’s working
Instead of focusing on everything that’s going wrong, switch your approach and make a list of all your past and current wins — praise you’ve received, big deals you’ve closed, and anything else that can help shift your energy. Create excitement and a mindset for new possibilities to move forward.
Our brain is wired to solve problems that are simple. Essentially it needs to decide between a flight or fight response. Today’s challenges, problems, and solutions are way more complex. In order to make efficient decisions we have to break them down again to make them as easy as possible. Create and write down a basic, but efficient, action plan for the next 30 days. This will leave you with a sense of control and certainty. Simplicity and clarity are the secret to taking action and being productive.
6. Take action
After getting clear on your action plan, execute. Focus on the process of your strategy on a micro level Instead of focusing on the bigger picture and vision, which might seem unreachable and intimidating at the moment. Over activity of the mind is what leads to overwhelm, so putting ideas into action is essential to clearing your head. What’s important is to occupy your mind with what’s in your control: the process not the results that you hope for. Start defining your success by the effort you’re putting in instead of the outcomes you wish for.
Anxiety and overwhelm are common roadblocks for many entrepreneurs and founders, especially when things don’t go as planned. Detaching from your emotions, creating a simple but effective strategy, and executing your plan as soon as possible are the keys to moving forward without being caught up in emotions that don’t get you anywhere.
>You may also enjoy reading 10 Steps to Directing Your Energy to Achieve Anything, by Elinor Cohen