Entrepreneurship is anything but smooth sailing. There’s no argument about that among entrepreneurs. The question is what’s the best way to cope with these episodes with anxiety?
The essential step in overcoming entrepreneurial stress is to accept that anxiety is normal.
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This may seem strange but recognising that anxiety is not unusual is one of the most significant differences between people with high and low stress potential. A study by a psychologist Adrian Wells points out that “meta-worries”, or worrying about being worried, is one of the main criteria that separates those who are perpetually concerned and those who are not.
Adrian Wells and other researchers have found that external signs of anxiety help intensify and sustain anxiety. Similarly, research conducted by the British Institute of Psychiatry revealed that people who suffer from high social anxiety are more likely to perceive other people’s concerns and then interpret this as an acutely negative thing. That’s why the most crucial step in overcoming entrepreneurial stress is to accept that anxiety, in the end, is relatively usual.
According to psychologists, people who focus on their personal strengths and rely on coping resources are successful in reducing their anxiety. Meanwhile, people who interpret their anxiety as a weakness and a disability increase their stress level.
When you evaluate the above facts in the context of a business world, you will find that there isn’t any entrepreneur whose work does not involve stress. So, once again, reducing stress begins by accepting its banality.
“When you build a startup, one day you are euphoric and convinced that you will own the world; another day, the catastrophe seems very close and you think you are completely ruined. Again, again and again, and again.” -Marc Andreesen.
The financial benefits of networking in the business world are invaluable. But in a culture where we primarily focus on the commercial motivations of networking, we often forget to recognise the importance of networking for our emotional well-being.
According to an RHR International survey of CEOs, half of the respondents acknowledged that they had already experienced a sense of loneliness in their business; and 61% of them felt that isolation hindered their performance. Fear and ego are two of the leading causes of this kind of isolation. Entrepreneurs can tackle loneliness by connecting with other startup founders or with business groups or associations of likeminded folks. Try BOAA (Business Owners Association of Australia) and you’ll see me at all of their networking events.
Entrepreneurs need to find a safe space where they can feel at liberty to have unfiltered discussions. Becoming a CEO or being a founder of a startup can make you more alone than you think. Too many entrepreneurs believe that they must be impervious to problems. They must also find an environment where they can be vulnerable — an environment of trust.
This is a big issue for entrepreneurs as they usually consider all potential peers as competitors, who see networking entirely through the lens of how it can benefit their business. They are ultimately less likely to build lasting business relationships and are also more likely to become a victim of stress.
If stress becomes a major problem for you, there is a good chance that your family and friends have something to do with it. Research has found that feeling part of a group (even as a low-status member), having close friends and relationships significantly reduces feelings of social anxiety.
Although entrepreneurship is inherently stressful, we tend to create a lot of that stress ourselves by overthinking, mindless speculating, worrying about trivial matters and undertaking more work than we can actually handle. To succeed in your business, you must set priorities so that you do not accept more projects than you can handle. Both professionally and personally.
Delegate more and avoid micromanagement – a bane of young ecosystems and old traditional business environments (like Australia). Hire new talent if necessary. Learn to say “no” to that extra 10 % of work because it will seem like 50% of the workload when you try to do everything. Track the time you spend on each task. You will quickly discover that some tasks take up too much of your time and yield minimal benefit. Take a fresh look at your business and ask yourself how you would do things now if you started from scratch. Remember that you may actually still be in that starting phase by the way.
What processes would you eliminate? What would you change to create a less stressful environment?
Acknowledge and accept your stress, connect with your peers and redefine the priorities of your work tasks – and life. Ultimately, speak up, share, communicate.
Do this and you will probably see a radical change in your ongoing quality of life as an entrepreneur.