Ask many modern entrepreneurs what their most prevalent problem is, and a countless number of them won’t tell you that it’s cash flow, product development, time management, or even marketing – many of them will say that it’s handling all of the emotions that come with entrepreneurship. Namely, anxiety and overwhelm.
Being intrepid trailblazers at heart, entrepreneurs can solve many of the issues that we face on our own, given that we’ve got some grit and put in the work. Resources and information on all of the more technical facets of running a business are out there in abundance, but managing entrepreneurial anxiety is still fairly new and barren territory for the modern world.
Sure, we’ve heard about how essential oils, a cozy book, and some herbal tea will calm us down temporarily – and that might just do the trick at the moment – but I’ve just always wanted more. I need more answers, not temporarily fixes. (Holler if you hear me!) For example, where does anxiety even come from? It’s not all chemicals, right? Why am I more anxious when I’m in creative mode? How can I accept and integrate anxiety into my life?
Step 1 in Unconventionally Managing Your Entrepreneurial Anxiety:
Instead of trying to just ‘manage’, ‘eliminate’, or ‘slay’ your anxiety, re-frame your thoughts about it altogether – accept that you can use it to your advantage
Maybe anxiety’s not as bad as society always paints it to be. Don’t get me wrong – anxiety that leaves you with tendinitis, panic attack hangovers, and hospital bills from thinking that you were having a heart attack are definitely no laughing matter. (I actually thought that I was having a heart attack the first time that I had a panic attack, and I called my mom to tell her that I loved her one last time, just in case). Anxiety’s extremely uncomfortable, but it definitely has some upsides. In fact, you could even befriend it.
I can hear you now: “What? Anxiety has some upsides and maybe I should stop trying to kill it and be its friend instead?”
HEAR. ME. OUT. The same people that are full of enough imagination to conceive a company are the same people that can imagine up worse case scenarios. Anxiety usually just comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur because both take vision, and with the good, comes the bad. Dealing with the plethora of tasks and responsibilities that come with entrepreneurship only fuels natural anxiety further.
“There are people who are ambitious, competitive, big-thinking and novelty-seeking, but who also have a makeup that leads them to become easily overstimulated and anxious. They often feel like they’ve got one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake” says Alicia Boyes, Ph.D., author of ‘The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points’.
Step 2 in Unconventionally Managing Your Entrepreneurial Anxiety:
Acknowledge anxiety for what it is – energy
All energy can be channeled and harnessed, and as entrepreneurs, we need all of the energy that we can get.
So if you think of anxiety as the negative manifestation of imagination energy and creativity as the positive manifestation of it, can you start to see how anxiety can be channeled into creativity?
Step 3 in Unconventionally Managing Your Entrepreneurial Anxiety:
Make a list of 3 creative projects related to your business that you’d rather your energy flow to instead of anxiety
These can be regular ol’ run of the mill creative projects that you’re already working on, but go for the more exciting, daring, and audacious ones.
An example of these are: start a webinar series, make a comic strip as part of your next promotional campaign, or try making a parody music video about an aspect of your business. (These are totally current creative projects of mine.)
Step 4 in Unconventionally Managing Your Entrepreneurial Anxiety:
The next time that you feel anxiety run down your spine or flutter in your heart, shift your mental energy to one of those 3 business-related projects
For at least the first few times you do this exercise, you’ll have to keep re-focusing your brain when it wanders off down Useless Anxiety Lane, but you can just steer it back onto Productivity Parkway. (Yeah! You’ve got the steering wheel!) Think of ways to make the project funny and relatable, try to come up with unconventional ways to promote this creative project, research people that you could collaborate on it with, and keep a running task list. Just give your mind a strong push in the direction of positivity, and you might be amazed at how much better you feel after awhile.
If you think of this mental process like making a new trail in the woods, you can see how it’s the most difficult to walk down in the beginning. You’ve got to walk through spiderwebs and prickly bushes, somehow avoid ticks, and you might even have to cut down a few branches. But after using that same path over and over again, that trail will get more worn and easier to walk down.
Now, if you follow all of these steps, I’m not saying that your anxiety is going to go away, and you’ll be left with nothing but blissfulness and peace. (What the fuck is peace?) I’m suggesting that – if channeled correctly – anxiety can actually be fuel for your creativity and your business. You’ll probably be just as anxious, but a lot more productive.
Want to know more about this channeling anxiety into creativity voodoo?
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Cameron Gray is the founder of EvergrayDigitalMedia.com, whose focus is on helping ambitious artists and creative entrepreneurs take over the world through ecourses, webinar workshops, and PDF resources like spreadsheets, workbooks, quizzes, checklists, & ebooks.
And on YouTube!