I’ve mentioned before that I struggled with anxiety and depression a lot in the past 1.5 years. It was tough to maintain the cheerful, upbeat facade while battling demons in my head, because I still had to get clients and make a living.
So back in 2017, I pared down my business significantly, took a step back and reevaluated what I wanted and why I wanted those things. I set new goals for my business and my life, and 2018 has been different ever since.
I only fully stepped into my new confidence and mojo in the beginning of June, but I’ve been monitoring my emotions and stress-triggers and dealing with them pretty well since then. It’s also part of the reason why I love systems and organisation so much - they bring calm and peace into my life when everything else seems to be in chaos.
Staying motivated and inspired might seem like the “fluff” things that entrepreneurs talk about online, but I know first-hand that this is not “fluff.” This cannot be dismissed away for the sake of working on “real” business aspects like marketing or branding.
Staying motivated and inspired helps you build a better brand and business.
Because peaks and valleys are common in everyone’s lives, including those without anxiety and depression. How we deal with it, then, is the crux to taking the opportunity to improve your brand and business through a tough time.
Empathy + Reclaiming Headspace
We all know the deal… You’ve been cruising along, doing just fine, great, even, when all of a sudden, something bad or unexpected happens. You crash. It all seems so hard. And it is, it is hard.
No wonder bad events make us feel defeated and unproductive for the rest of the day. Even normal interruptions can downplay our sense of accomplishment.
The thing is, most of us business owners are way too hard on ourselves. We are critical and want to give our best, and we end up burning out when things don’t go our way or something else is thrown at us unexpectedly. Ironically, that is a trait we need to master, as being adaptable quickly to change is a great asset as an entrepreneur.
The key then, is to know how to pivot at the right time so you never lose your productivity momentum. You can call this compartmentalising, I call it having a lot of empathy for yourself. We tend to find empathy for others much easier than for ourselves, so this needs to be practised.
Allow yourself to accept the “bad event” and feel sorry for yourself, and then figure out a game plan on how to tackle it. Using your momentum from the productivity you’ve been enjoying, gamify this problem and think of 3 creative solutions (realistic or unrealistic) that you can use to solve the issue at hand.
Embracing the “bad event” is a big first step. I’ve found that anxiety mounts when I refuse to accept that things are not going my way. Taking a breath and understanding that it is what it is, and that there is a solution (just not one that I necessarily love) reduces a lot of anxiety.
Anxiety hates plans.
You don’t have to work on the game plan right away, but you need to figure out one really quick. It may even be unrealistic, but it doesn’t matter. You need to draft the solution. Once that’s done, you can leave it on the “later” list to tackle when you have more time, but it will not take up the headspace it would have if you didn’t brainstorm solutions.
Reducing anxiety by creating predictability
I touched on this in the last portion, but I want to go in-depth into how systems and organisation helps ease anxiety and stress. Anxiety hates plans. Because there is uncertainty, your brain goes into overdrive thinking about what to do next, how this happened and why. That’s no good for anybody.
Even though much of life and business is unpredictable, you can have systems in place to deal with the unpredictable. Create your contingency plan. Whenever you start a project, think of the things that can possibly go less than expected, and list them all out.
Once you’ve done that, go back to each one of those items and think of a way to mitigate it if it happens. You don’t have to worry about whether it does or doesn’t, you just have to know how to deal with it anyhow.
Create a legit, on paper, fast and easy contingency checklist. If A happens, B is triggered.
For example, if there are no sales in the first 3 days… I will review my Facebook ads, retarget the ones who’ve clicked, and speak to the 3 people who were briefly interested in my course on Facebook groups.
If my payment gateway goes down… I will create or have a backup payment processor ready to go with an email pre-crafted with apologies and extra bonuses to get back the “lost” sign-ups.
Although you cannot predict everything that could possibly go wrong, creating a sense of predictability will not only help you up your game in terms of critical business seasons like launching, it will also help train your brain that nothing is actually unsolvable.
Don’t go nuts trying to predict every single situation (I know how this can be an anxiety trigger), map out your content and then think of the one or two things that might happen during each stage, and work on those. The rest doesn’t really matter, because (a) it might not happen anyway and (b) you are now trained to deal with the unpredictable! Win win.
Recognise stress and anxiety triggers
Everyone of us is different, so our stress and anxiety triggers are, too. Recognising your stress and anxiety triggers early in the game will help you deal with it before you actually are spiralling and freaking out.
I used to be like this: I would feel inspired and motivated and work on a ton of stuff. I would overwhelm myself and run on empty until I was completely burned out. Then I started freaking out about how much work I still had to do and then getting even more stressed out.
It was horrible.
Now, I still work super hard (a lot of days I work well past 9pm, because of time zones and because I’m seriously in love with the work I do), but I recognise when I’m starting to feel more cranky or dejected and less positive about my business, and know that those are precursors to me spiralling into anxiety and depression.
Start recognising your emotions throughout the day and week. See if at any time, you start feeling less inspired and motivated, and why. Those will be clues for you, and when you can spot them earlier and earlier, chances of staying motivated and inspired are heightened.
Once I realise that I’m starting to feel negative, I step back, take a few days off and do nothing business-related, and then come back with refreshed eyes and mind. Am I worried about lost time? Sure. But I know that not taking my mental health days will cost me way more in the long run. I know I have lost weeks and months to spiralling, and taking a few fun days is nothing compared to trying to get back my mojo after a spell with anxiety.
There are seasons to everything, including your business. Recognising that your business needs to ebb and flow is a huge part of growth. Being able to spot and deal with signs that you’re burning out will greatly improve your brand and business in the long run. You maintain motivation, productivity and inspiration for longer and keep interruptions to a minimum. You start getting better at pivoting and adapting, and soon, you will not only be a business owner, but a CEO of your business. You own the business, it doesn’t own you.
Assess which part of your business is currently giving you the most anxiety. Brainstorm 3 creative ways to solve the issue. Don’t bother if they are actually realistic, just solve the problem. :)