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How to Deal With Anxiety While Running A Business
February 01, 2020

How to Deal With Anxiety While Running A Business

Did you know that anxiety is among the most common mental health-related conditions for business owners? Mismanaged anxiety in leadership can cripple both productivity and bottom-line revenues of a company. In addition, much like its twin brother, depression, anxiety can derail even the most well-formed intentions and plans. This can be detrimental when maintaining a growing business.

Much like all other mental illnesses and conditions, anxiety has nothing to do with strengths or weaknesses. Chronic tension and crippling fear creep up on all of us. Typically, it comes from either genetic predisposition for stress or particular sets of circumstances.

Anxiety Isn’t Uncommon Amongst Business Owners

For many people, anxiety creeps in slowly over time, growing in intensity as time goes on. Anxiety can become habitual, revealing itself in different ways: being indecisive, depressed, angry, lethargic, and panicked.

There are physical symptoms of anxiety, as well. Some of these include overeating or a loss of appetite, heartburn, breathlessness, and ulcers. Additional symptoms include insomnia, alcohol dependency, and overall tension.

Overwork is often an escape option for entrepreneurs who are attempting to shift focus away from their anxious thoughts. While this works in the short term, usually it leads to lousy business decision making. Intense, chronic anxiety also leads to weak confidence, physical health struggles, and social isolation. Poor lifestyle decisions and sleeplessness are also factors plagued by the anxious.

It should come as no surprise that business owners are more prone to anxiety and depression. Owning a business requires a potent mix of bravery, creativity, and ingenuity. It’s not for everyone.

As an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for large-scale decisions regarding company growth. Many times, substantial percentages of revenues and income are involved in these decisions. They can come to fruition from years of work and planning. Long periods can lead to questions as to success factors.

Every once and awhile, fear and anxiety is a pivotal piece of the business ownership journey. However, when these fears morph into heavy tension, your world can quickly become self-defeating.

This begs the question: besides medication, what lifestyle changes can be made to deal with anxiety? There are plenty of methods, but which processes work best for busy business owners.

How To Deal With Anxiety in Four Steps

Do you feel like you’re headed towards anxiety? Are you clearly within the realm of suffering? If so, some things can be done to mitigate and manage the associated condition.

However, it should be noted that Fora Financial is in no way a professional medical provider. We highly recommend seeking counsel and advice from health professionals as soon as possible.

These experts can prescribe courses of anxiety treatments unique to your particular set of circumstances. This can range from CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to medication, guided relaxation techniques to meditation, and beyond. In addition, there are lifestyle changes that you can make in your business and personal life that provide significant benefits. Below are four examples of these changes:

1. Maintain Control Of Your Small Business

Much like many small business owners, you likely play a very active role in your business’s operations. It’s common to have your hands in almost all job functions and decisions. Delegating tasks to employees? Sometimes it’s easier just to do things yourself than have to train someone, right?

Maybe it’s time to change things up. This doesn’t mean losing control of your business. However, some processes can be done to ease the associated stress. Start by writing down a list of everything you can think of that you have to do this week.

Once you have your list, look for opportunities to free up your time through the development of SOPs. An SOP is a standard operating procedure. It’s a step-by-step system or process that can be replicated regularly. While this helps decrease the time spent, it also can ease the delegation process when that time becomes appropriate.

Some small businesses have more opportunities for delegation and SOP development than others. One example of this is the consumer goods manufacturing industry.

Many business owners struggle in handling both operational and production processes. In situations such as this, some conventional systems can be set into place. This includes:

  • Production schedules and timelines
  • Operations budgets
  • Pre-approved vendor lists
  • Customer questionnaires and surveys
  • Quality control and review checklists
  • Competitive bidding processes for contracts over a specific dollar amount
  • Document centralization and filing

Once these procedures are in place, you can start slowly getting comfortable with training and delegating these routine tasks. This can take focus away from what-if scenarios. It assists in fine-tuning processes as well. From here, you can take comfort in business expansions, and revel in decreased anxiety.

2. Embrace And Know The Worst-Case Scenarios

After proper maintenance control processes are in place, the next step to take a look at is the worst-case scenario. Things happen, and knowing how to be prepared for potential disaster goes a long way to alleviating stress and anxiety.

As a business owner, you likely spend too much time thinking about everything that can go wrong. To address the burning question regarding some crucial decisions that you may be pushing, try answering one question. Is this changeable?

Many of the most challenging decisions business owners make aren’t permanent. Maybe you’re interested in purchasing an expensive piece of equipment that’s part of the manufacturing process and would improve overall productivity. However, it’s expensive. So, what’s the worst-case scenario?

This presents the question again, is the decision changeable? Let’s assume the equipment costs $300,000. If it’s maintained, it can be sold for $250,000. However, if you don’t get the use you hoped out of the equipment, and you’ll lose $50,000.

When looking at things from this perspective, the fear barrier can be broken down. This helps with managing anxiety as a small business owner and frees your mind for important decisions.

If you’re faced with a stressful decision and want to learn to cope better,  imagine the worst-case scenario. Then, determine if it’s changeable.

3. Set Aside Some Time For Yourself

Self-care is vital for everyone, especially business owners learning how to deal with anxiety. In this case, self-care isn’t a day at the spa or a shopping spree. Instead, it’s making sure that you take some time for your physical and mental well-being.

One of the most neglected facets of life for entrepreneurs is ensuring they get enough sleep. Extreme levels of fatigue compromise performance and leads to bad decision making.

It’s been shown that sleep deprivation causes impairments, similar to inebriation. The best business decisions aren’t made under the influence. Why would you make them in a state of extreme fatigue?

However, it goes beyond sleep. Getting enough rest but drowning in work is a recipe for disaster. It’s imperative to take some time away from the daily grind.

Business owners are the most likely group to work seven days a week. While discipline and presence are crucial to being an entrepreneur, balance in life should never be discounted.

4. Practice Healthy Mental Habits

Ensuring you practice healthy mental habits is crucial to the growth and development of your business. Remember, as a business owner, you’re the grease that keeps the cogs moving. Two of the strongest methods to improve mental health are mindfulness and meditation.

While many successful business owners find their achievements lead to success, this success comes with a side effect of anxiety. The scrutiny and intensity of their positions lead to many feeling anxious, lonely, and isolated.

It’s here where mindfulness makes a shocking difference in stress and perspective. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to moment-by-moment experiences, “living in the moment.” Through this, one can focus on connections with others without underlying fear, dread, and worry.

If mindfulness seems like a detraction from productivity, a stronger place to start may be meditation. The idea of setting aside 10-20 minutes each day to do absolutely nothing may seem like a productivity killer. However, the benefits of clearing your mind before particularly stressful days can’t be discounted.

A great way to ease into meditative practice is with a little assistance from technology. Apps such as Calm and Headspace act as a wonderful sidebar to both meditation and mindfulness. Put in your headphones first thing in the morning and spend ten minutes getting into the right state of mind.

Per the JAMA Network, meditation has a positive effect on depression, anxiety, and pain. Also, studies from the National Institute of Health have shown a correlation between mindfulness and alleviation from anxiety.

Combating Negative Thoughts Is Easier Than You Think

Coping with anxiety and panic attacks is one of the most beneficial mental health steps you can take. Strong, focused leadership is a crucial factor in whether a business will sink or swim, succeed or fail.

Will you develop standard operating procedures for business operations? Are you planning to start meditating each morning? Maybe you’ll try catching up on some sleep, or take a vacation?

There are plenty of methods for dealing with anxiety. Which additions are right for you is dependent on your unique situation.

Looking for more tips on how to manage stressful situations in your small business? We recommend the Fora Financial newsletter!

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].