For most business owners and entrepreneurs, worry is a fact of life. You’ve been there with the 3am wake-up call when you’re sweating over cashflow or how you’re going to handle a poorly performing team member.
Worry and stress normally ebbs and flows. But lately it seems like worry moved in over lockdown, has taken up permanent residence on the couch and is showing no signs of moving out.
While you can’t always control external forces like a global pandemic or a recession, you can control how you deal with worry and stress. You do not have to simply accept these as a cost of being a business owner.
A head full of worry is like an overflowing email inbox
When your inbox is full of emails, it can feel overwhelming. A head full of worry can be a bit like a full inbox. Just like your emails, you can to filter your worries and decide on the appropriate course of action.
There are four choices when it comes to dealing with worry and stress in your business:
Ignore – which actually achieves nothing. The problems don’t go away and just like emails, new ones keep arriving in your inbox compounding the feeling of overwhelm.
Delete – some stuff is simply not worth worrying about. It’s unimportant or plain spam. Putting things through your ‘Giveashitometer’ and deciding whether or not the issue really requires your headspace is a helpful habit to get into.
Forward – as a business owner, you get emails which other people are better placed to deal with. Tempting as it is to handle everything, sometimes the best approach is to delegate or get an expert to help out. Could you hand it over to someone else to take care of it? Or could bringing in an outside expert help alleviate some of the stress?
Reply – finally, there are the big issues that genuinely need your time, focus and attention. It might feel uncomfortable or downright terrifying but these are the ones you really need to deal with.
Practical strategies for dealing with worry, stress & anxiety
1. Think about the bigger picture
It might seem hard at the time, but in the future are you probably going to look back at this moment and think to yourself “why was I worried about that?." And if you're really in one of those 'crucible' moments, think about it as a story for the book you'll eventually write about your amazing life.
2. Have focused worry time
Set aside half an hour to intentionally focus on the problem and how you might deal with it. Set a time, write down what’s on your mind, brainstorm your options and then prioritise your first steps.
3. Lean into the worst case scenario
What would you do and how would you cope if the worst case scenario actually eventuated? In every single conversation I’ve had with a client about the worst possible outcome, they have come to the conclusion that while it may not very palatable they would be endure it and ultimately to survive. Having come to terms with the worst case enables you to put that to rest and move forward with more confidence.
4. Take a break
We all know that sunshine, fresh air, laughter & exercise can help put life into greater perspective. It’s probably not practical to be exercising at 3am, but try to make time during your day to get outside and move your body either on your own or with someone else depending on what you need that day.
5. Manage your mindset
Our self talk and the way we manage our mindset has a huge impact on how well we cope in a crisis. Simple actions like gratitude and mindfulness can made a difference.
6. Write it down
Taking time at the end of a hard day or an anxious period and being able to spill everything onto paper without having to give reason as to why you’re anxious, or having to explain it properly to people helps. Letting everything spill onto a piece of paper makes you feel lighter mentally and allows you to move on.
7. Take a moment to just breathe
If you’re in a social environment and are anxious, take a minute for yourself. Take several deep breaths, tell yourself everything will be fine and gather your thoughts. You'll then be able to back into the situation with a calm mind.
8. Minute by minute
If things are really hard say to yourself “minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day". A very effective technique my wise mother taught me.
9. Ignore what other people think
Comparisonitis can be a killer. If you’re in a situation where you’re worried about people judging you, remind yourself that most people are not taking enough notice of you to care what you’re doing or what you might look like. Most people care more about themselves than what you’re doing. Don't tie yourself up in knots worrying about what other people might think.
10. Talk to someone
The close people around you want to help and make sure you’re okay. It can often be helpful to get reassurance that everything will be okay from those who you trust.
11. Ask for help
Being a business owner is tough and lonely. You can’t always talk to your friends or family about the challenges you’re facing particularly if they are financial issues.
A good coach or business advisor can help you put things into perspective, formulate a plan and prioritise your actions. If your mental health is suffering don’t put off seeing a doctor or a counsellor. You’d see a physio or chiropractor if you strained your back. Our mind is just another part of our body that sometimes need a bit of assistance when it’s under strain.
Depression.org.nz has a great self-test for anxiety or depression which could help you decide whether you have the warning signs of depression or anxiety.
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans – 0800 726 666