BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER: I AM NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. EVERYTHING I TALK ABOUT HERE IS PERSONAL AND BASED ON MY OWN EXPERIENCES. IT’S ALWAYS BEST TO CONSULT AN EXPERT, AND WHAT MAY WORK FOR ME MAY NOT WORK FOR SOMEONE ELSE.
Starting a small business is scary, challenging, and stressful no matter who you are. But if you suffer from stronger-than-normal anxiety… It feels like an insurmountable obstacle.
As someone who happens to have anxiety, I can confirm this, lol.
So I wanted to take this post as an opportunity to share some ways I’ve been able to (mostly) curb anxiety to where it doesn’t (mostly) affect my business. These tips may not work for everyone, and I am not a mental health professional, so it’s always best to seek one out for your specific situation… but I wanted to offer up these tips in case they could help.
Real quick: I’ve just published my Imposter Syndrome Survival Guide. If you’re dealing with anxiety, then you’re also dealing with Imposter Syndrome.
My ebook is totally free, and shares my personal tips surrounding Imposter Syndrome: how to recognize it, and some stuff to do about it. We get into the nitty-gritty… and like I said, it’s totally free because I want to spread more awareness about Imposter Syndrome because it had such a huge impact on my life… and I didn’t even know it existed until I started my own freelance copywriting business.
Find Organization Tools
The biggest impact on how anxious I am around work hinges mostly on feeling aware and prepared. It’s so much easier for me to start feeling overwhelmed if I’m trying to micromanage everything inside my own head. That’s why I STRONGLY recommend investing some time into setting up some Organizational/Productivity tools to help you.
This could be a devoted planner or bullet journal, or it can be one (or more) apps that you can access quickly and easily wherever you are. I prefer digital tools for the previously mentioned reason. I can always access them no matter where I am or what I’m doing. That means if I suddenly have something I need to add to my “to-do” list, I can just whip out my phone and pop it into an app (getting it OUT of my head).
Here are my favorite FREE productivity apps for desktop and mobile (and I’m also pretty sure ALL of them allow you to invite/share their content with more than 1 user):
My favorite. It’s very flexible, customizable, and fluid, but can be a bit overwhelming at first. I recommend watching some YouTube videos to get some inspiration regarding how you want to layout your personal Notion platform.
The app I used when I first started my business. It’s PERFECT for beginners because it’s VERY easy to learn. Trello is visually appealing, and provides just enough customization to suit your needs without overwhelming you with options. Strongly recommend it if you’re new to productivity apps.
This is a new one to my arsenal, but the more I use it the more I love it. It’s as if Notion, Scrivener, and Trello had a baby. Currently, I’ve been using it to focus mostly on personal/creative work, but it’s really fluid and fun to use. I’d also say it’s pretty easy to get the hang of right away, and there are little pop-up tutorials and tips to help you out.
I use Asana when I want to list projects out more than 1-2 weeks in advance. I’ll put long-term projects, or things I know may not come up for several weeks. I also like to use it for collaborating with clients. It allows me to outline all of our projects, as well as their progress, without inviting them into my private productivity and to-do apps.
This should be a companion download no matter what other app you decide to use. Google Calendar really helps keep me on top of deadlines, reminds me of events, etc. It’s free and easy to use (just like the rest), and it’s worth having a digital calendar in your arsenal.
Remember The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You
One MAJOR source of anxiety when starting a business is fear of failure or “letting down” potential customers and clients. This is especially true if you’re a creative service provider.
It’s so easy to get into your own head, and I’ll give you an example (though this happens to me all the time lol).
Recently I did a bunch of work for a client that had a pretty tight deadline. After getting clear on the creative brief, I hammered away at work, and submitted the projects early (just to make sure the client had time to request any edits).
However… Even though I sent several emails regarding the projects, I got radio silence. So… my anxiety brain started to assume things like:
“Man, they probably really hate your work. You suck.”
It was almost 2 weeks of no word (one of which I was on vacation, so I was doing my best not to think about work-related things).
And out of the blue, I got an email from the client praising the work and apologizing for their lack of response. They’d had several personal things come up that occupied their time and needed their attention.
All that to say: try to catch yourself when you spiral into those self-deprecating/fearful thoughts. Remind yourself that there isn’t a problem until there is a problem (I didn’t come up with that phrase, someone else shared it on social media somewhere- but I can’t find the source.)
Don’t always assume something is wrong, and remember everyone has their own stuff going on. Trust me, I KNOW how hard this is… we’ve survived because our anxious brains convince us that always emotionally preparing ourselves for the worst outcome somehow protects us… but it usually just fucks up our day, our ability to focus… and our overall well-being.
It’s really important to set work/life boundaries when running your own business- because it’s very easy to get caught up in a cacophony of yucky emotions and end up overworking yourself into a state of burnout (if you’re already burnt out, click here to read my post about what to do to recover from burn out.)
You need to set clear boundaries and expectations with clients, and you need to set them for yourself. Trust me, there’s nothing less productive than burning yourself to a crisp… because once burnout actually hits, it can take a while to recover. Understand that most of us only have about 3-4 hours of “deep work”/”good brain” time a day.
Once we start pushing beyond that timeframe, our work starts to suffer, and focusing becomes REALLY hard.
Ideally, you’ll want to start noticing what times of day you’re most productive/focused and try to work on your more important/creative projects during that time.
And don’t fall for “hustle” culture, thinking you need to work 12-16 hours a day to build a successful business. Consistency is what matters.
Productivity is not equivalent to the amount of time you invest- but how you invest your time. You’ll be surprised just how much you can accomplish in a short period of time.
While we all need to be committed and work on things we may not always feel like doing, it’s just as important to know what to stop.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is nothing.
Keep Your Cup Filled
Don’t underestimate just how much energy creativity can use up. Make sure you give yourself space and time to replenish your tanks. We’re all different, and require different ways of refilling our cups. For some that might be yoga and meditation, for others, it could be video games… or if you’re like me, you might fall somewhere in between lol.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to resist the urge to turn self-care into a task. While we should practice our rituals mindfully, if we start applying the same anxiety around the “Accomplish our self-care task or we’re failures” mentality, it’s just as likely to burn us out.
Trust me, I’ve been there and it was BAD.
So find things that genuinely bring you peace, and don’t turn it into a chore you must complete in order to feel validated.
If you find that none of these tips help alleviate your anxiety around running/starting a business, then it might be worth speaking with a mental health professional. We’re all unique, and a qualified mental health pro will help you identify your unique strengths, and educate you on how to cope with your unique triggers. It sure helped me!
In fact, even if these tips do help alleviate your anxiety, working with a therapist is a great thing to do in general. 🙂
You’re Not Alone
Anxiety makes us feel like we’re alone- like we’re crazy… but it’s not true. We’re not alone- and we’re not crazy. In fact, we’re pretty freakin’ cool for managing to get through so many daily tasks when we feel so “on edge” all of the time.
It’s okay to feel nervous about starting your own business… Everyone does. What matters is doing everything you can to reach for your dreams anyway.
Don’t let anxiety’s snarky little voice convince you that you can’t do something- or that you don’t have something amazing to offer. You can and you do.
Take care of yourself, I believe in you, and I love you.
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