Confronting Anxiety in Business
A mentor once said “anxiety is giving negative energy to thoughts about something important, that hasn’t happened yet.”
The key part being “hasn’t happened yet.”
When you’re in the midst of anxiety, it truly feels as though the only possible outcomes for your situations are the ones born from negative thoughts. Anxiety steals your energy and gets you out of sync with reality. The anxious thoughts are all you think about; how could they be anything but truth or the truth seeking to root itself in your mind?
You don’t need to qualify the magnitude of what you’re struggling with, though it often feels like we aren’t allowed to, unless we’re going through something profound; even then, it can be hard to be vulnerable. We often don’t realize that a few adjustments could make a world of difference with anxiety. This is in no way meant to suggest that a few simple tricks will solve all your problems, but it might bring needed perspective.
Giving yourself permission to know that times are hard is absolutely ok, as long as you remind yourself that action is the necessary next step. Whether you’re a new entrepreneur, trying out freelance, a company founder or struggling with something else, so many of us have been there.
So what should you do? Let’s consider some of the following:
1. Identify when you start to feel anxious and what the triggers are
Ants get everywhere and they aren’t very pleasant. Eventually, you get the bug spray out, find where they’re coming from and problem solved; you can return to that lovely wine and cheese you left on the grass. With normal bugs, we know how to find the source and apply a solution. The thing is, ants exist in other capacities that we fail to address, and are more devastating.
ANTs or “Automatic Negative Thoughts” are the constant influx of thoughts that create an endless cycle of depression, anxiety, sadness or hopelessness. Various thoughts or reactions release chemicals in our brain that can become addictive, with negative thoughts being some of the most powerful. Unchecked, ANTs release a steady stream of these negative chemicals, forming an almost physical dependence on them.
Instead of rationally thinking through that big project you have coming up, your brain has been fed a steady stream of ANTs for so long, you’re automatic inclination is to become anxious. Regardless of your talent, prior experience, assurances or any other qualifier, the chemicals prevail.
Once you've identified that you're dealing with ANTS, identify the triggers and interrogate your thoughts. Do not allow them to run unchecked. With rational thought to trace what triggers our anxiety, we are better able to identify when anxiety may be rooted in nothing.
"...hasn't happened yet."
Whatever you’re struggling with, give yourself permission to know that it isn’t unexplainable happenstance. Investigate your thoughts and determine whether they are based on truth. This way, you begin to build a routine based on objectively looking at the things stimulating your thoughts. This will make thoughts that stem from ANTs rather than truth, so much easier to catch early.
This doesn’t mean breaking those ANTs will be easy, but sometimes, even the knowledge that there is an explanation for how we feel is powerful.
2. Seek mentors to be vulnerable about your anxiety with.
We live in a day and age in which we are able to instantly connect with various figures, role models or peers outside of our immediate community. We have access to a vast network of people who have not only been where we are, but who are willing to help. In times of confusion or lack of clarity, it can be hard to take a step back and realize someone probably knows how we’re feeling. Seeking out mentors is one of the most practical steps we can take to help reality shine through times of anxiety.
Someone has started a business in the same situation you have and they probably struggled just as much, if not more. Someone has struggled to book clients for an extended period of time, wondering whether or not they were wasting their time and money. Someone has questioned their vision, worth, or place, while failing to see how integral they are.
Those same people might have been soaring in their businesses. Anxiety prevents us from being able to objectively measure our accomplishments, which is why having someone to help put things in perspective can be so helpful.
Seek the peace of mind that only an outside perspective can provide. This doesn’t have to have the negative stigma we attach to it. Rather than a counselor or therapist (though these are highly recommended), sit with a friend or peer over coffee. Research the most experienced professionals in your community and reach out; people are far more gracious than we give them credit for.
The Dubsado community is also an incredible network of people so willing to offer whatever help they can. Time and time again, we’ve seen members go above and beyond to put the needs of their fellow entrepreneurs first.
Give yourself a breather; you’re not in this alone.
3. Set aside intentional time, separate from what is making you anxious.
This one seems obvious, but it can be tricky. This age of entrepreneurship gives us the ability to pursue our passions as a career, more than ever before. Say you love photography, so you become a photographer; eventually the work anxiety may begin to pile up and suddenly, photography isn’t so swell.
Realizing that what once brought you so much joy is now sapping it away, can be hard to reconcile. It’s important to take time and invest in the parts outside of business that make us feel like ourselves. This is true, even when we feel like we’re spending most of our time doing something that is inherently us.
We often think that changing seasons mean dropping various routines or pleasures. While this is absolutely true in many regards, it doesn’t necessitate changing everything.
Maybe a few seasons ago, when work was slower and you were still planning, you enjoyed staying up late at your favorite coffee shop. You would read new and exciting books or spend time writing. In the season, it was the best you could do to fill the time and it provided a sense of purpose; it might not have been just a seasonal thing. Once the work started to flow and demands started to pile up, the coffee shop excursions started to fade and eventually months had gone by without that dedicated time to read and write.
It might have been something you genuinely enjoyed and bringing it back could be vital to helping to alleviate anxiety.
However you use it, we all need intentional time and space, to help take the pressure off of those passions we’ve turned into business.
Anxiety is becoming more and more common in our personal lives and in our businesses. As our businesses become more and more intertwined with the things we love doing in our personal lives, it can become harder to diagnose and understand. The most important thing is to be honest with how you are struggling, take some time to reflect on what the cause is and then give yourself permission to know that it is likely, very explainable.
Surround yourself with people, resources and routines that affirm the truth and the positive of your situation. Remember that anxiety feeds on the power we give it. Take back your thoughts and leave anxiety powerless.