Not all that long ago, entrepreneurial anxiety was getting the best of me.
Sitting here writing this post though, it feels almost as if it happened to someone else. I don’t feel anxious now. I feel great!
However, I went through a phase where I worried about my business all the time, and that anxiety would spill into my life…
I’m sharing this with you because I think entrepreneurial anxiety is incredibly common. More common than we realise – especially when we’re ‘in it’, and feeling like we’re the only one.
I think anxiety is something that many entrepreneurs, particularly those working in isolation and largely in the online environment, face very regularly.
If anxiety is something that you are dealing with, you are not alone.
While the ins and outs of my experience may be very different from your experience, I reckon we owe it to each other (as humans, as women, as business owners) to share what we’ve been through.
Of course, I can only talk from my own experience with this stuff. My entrepreneurial anxiety would be triggered by any sustained combination of the following: isolation, inertia, workaholism, self-doubt, financial stress, and inaction on the important stuff.
I’m certain there are heaps of other anxiety-sparkers, but I’ve learnt that those are the ones that would trigger me, and many of my friends and clients have told me these things can impact them too.
I spent too bloody long feeling strung out and alone before I got real with myself and realised it was time to do something.
Once I got serious about managing anxiety, I realised that dedicating a little bit of time and positive energy to combating each of my known potential triggers daily made all the difference for me. Even though it often felt like a pain in the ass and the opposite of what I felt like doing, I learnt that the frequency of little happy actions was much more impactful on my sense of anxiety than big actions once a quarter or once a year.
After a bit of experimentation and trial and error, these little positive actions became the most powerful elixir to keep me grounded and anxiety-free. It’s crazy how a few easy actions each day can totally transform your life, isn’t it?
(Of course, early warning signs that entrepreneurial anxiety may be on the horizon again do pop up now and again — but when they do, it’s usually because I’ve let these little practices slip a bit.)
So for today’s post, I wanted to share a few of my personal entrepreneurial anxiety-beating strategies with you.
You’ll notice that these strategies are simple and bloody easy to do. That’s intentional. When anxiety is moving in, it’s all about keeping things easy and taking the smallest/least overwhelming step you can take in the right direction today.
I also want to specify before we dive in: My experience could be very different from anyone else’s experience and I’m not a medical doctor. (The Dr. in my title is from my PhD!) Talking with your GP should always be part of any plan that you put in place around your physical and mental health, so if you’ve been feeling anxious recently, start there.
OK, now that’s out of the way… Let’s jump into the practices that help me beat entrepreneurial anxiety:
Isolation is the worst.
So: how do I combat those “All by myself” feelings?
Even as an introvert, I reckon us humans are social creatures and need community with others to thrive. Connection is the key. So, to keep those lonesome feelings at bay, I have a pretty radical strategy:
… I leave the house and meet a real-life friend for a real-life catch-up.
Yep, that’s it. And man, is it especially important if you work from home alone most of the time.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this strategy. Time with others IRL can help make problems that seem HUGE and INSURMOUNTABLE when you’re alone at your desk feel much smaller, and offer new perspectives when it comes to problem-solving, and fuel your creativity.
Look, I know it’s not always possible to go on lady dates with friends every day. So my second best strategy to fight isolation daily is a combination. First, leave the house: go to a Pilates session or take yourself out to lunch or take yourself to the movies or go for a swim etc. Then, when you’re done, call a friend.
For me, the important thing is leaving the house and then connecting with real humans that I like and that like me. Anything that helps me strengthen my relationships with other humans and take a mental time out from work helps me put things in perspective, and really rebalances and nourishes me.
Inertia induces anxiety.
And what’s the best salve for inertia? Movement!
That’s why, after fostering human connection, exercise was the second most important part of managing any anxious feelings for me. Exercise always gets my energy flowing in a positive direction, gets my endorphins pumping, and helps me get out of my head.
My problem-solving capacity spikes when I’m exercising. After going for a walk around the lake, or a gym session, or a yoga class, I always feel like I’ve taken a little holiday from work. Obviously, with my back problems, there are a few things I can’t do these days, so no full contact sports for me. However, I’ve since discovered there are plenty of activities that I like to do that keep me fit and fuel my mental health; like yoga, Pilates, little office dance parties, taking Stan for walks, hiking, swimming, and more.
I always feel happier on the days that I exercise!
I’ve had an epic to-do list for at least the last 10 years. Even when I was forced to be in bed most of the time in extreme pain and on very strong painkillers (thanks to my spinal probs), I had a monster to-do list I’d never get around to. I just had it.
As an entrepreneur, I will never be done, and I just have to roll with that… BUT I don’t want my headstone to read: ‘She worked really hard, all the time’. I’d far prefer to be remembered as someone who lived her values and made a difference, not someone who worked a lot. All working all the time does is help me lose perspective and become a Nervous Nelly about all the things.
These days I stop work at least three hours before bed. I schedule time for workouts and relaxation in my day right alongside work appointments and meetings with clients. I make time for a walk every day. I try to have a screen-free day once a week, and make sure I book holidays and long weekends away. I read fiction — so I’m not just reading personal development books, or books about marketing, all the time. I actively pursue hobbies that have nothing to do with work.
This is one of the many reasons why my recent visit to Italy made such a huge impact on me – man, do the Italians know how to live! Afternoon siestas, prioritising meals with friends and families, taking long summer holidays… the Italians have being a human down pat. My travels have inspired me to practice more of that style of living and being.
Comparison and self-doubt.
I’ll do a more in-depth blog post on this soon, but here’s how I fight back against those self-doubt demons:
When I catch myself deep in the comparison zone and always coming off second best, I know it’s a sign that I need to:
- Spend some time offline,
- Be more mindful about my media consumption,
- Confirm the values that are most important to me,
- Check in with myself on my current goals and priorities, and
- Make sure that I’m satisfied that I’m taking action towards them.
Turning the volume down on the noisy online environment, and just taking the entire weekend offline can help me come back to myself. I try to do that at least once a month.
Lest we forget the universal anxiety-maker: Financial stress.
Let me guess, this is your brain on financial stress:
“I’m not making enough!”
“I never feel like I’m getting ahead.”
“I spend everything I make!”
“I’m working my butt off but I’m not reaching my financial goals.”
“I’m feeling out of control financially.”
I’ve been there too, babe! Here’s what I suggest:
- Make a money plan that involves setting some goals; putting aside a portion of all money that comes in; paying yourself; and saving for something specific and exciting (like a holiday, or a very specific investment).
- Stick to a new boundary minimum for your bank balance. So, for example, committing to never ever having less than say $5,000 in your business bank account.
- Track your progress against your money goals daily.
- Read the book Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz. Check it out, there are lots of great, practical tips in there if you know that you’re entrepreneurial anxiety is really tied to financial stress.
Inaction on my ‘purpose work’ triggers anxiety.
If you’re not living in alignment with your values and priorities or birthing the projects/art you know you must? Chances are you’re gonna stress yourself the eff out.
I get down on myself when I don’t follow through on the purpose projects I really want to put out into the world, or when I have great ideas but they go stale because I just never get started, or when I let my fear become more powerful than my dreams, or when I ignore the voice of my Inner Sage* or intuition.
I start worrying: “Will I ever live up to my potential?” and those anxious feelings rear up.
To avoid that mofo, I aim to make progress that I’m proud of daily by dedicating at least 30 minutes every single day to further my most important purpose project. It’s crazy how even just half an hour a day can keep me feeling like I’m progressing my calling.
If you get anxious when you feel you’re not doing enough, I challenge you to spend just 30 minutes a day on furthering your most important purpose projects.
Don’t think you have 30 minutes?
Three great books that always inspire me to make the time to take action on my most important stuff: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
They are each pretty easy reads – and available on audiobook if that’s better for you. They’re just the ticket if you want to reawaken to your purpose, and feel amazing about your work, every day.
Have you ever experienced entrepreneurial anxiety? I hope my tips and little routines have inspired you! Please know you’re not alone. SO MANY women I talk to (including those who have built massive communities and impressive empires!) can relate.
You’ve got this!
*BTW: Have you met your Inner Sage? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, hang tight, I’m putting the finishes touches on a free workshop all about her for you!
This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, you can check out our disclaimer policy here.