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Staying Mentally Healthy during an Anxiety Storm

You’re an entrepreneur who wakes up with a smile on your face, grateful for the new day and the chance to unleash the best version of yourself. You’re full of passion, drive and energy. Inspiration oozes from your pores like glistening sweat during a great workout and armed with The Secret Knowledge of Entrepreneurship, you tackle your creation and business with gusto, a well oiled achievement machine crushing your Tuesday well before other non Tony Robbins-type mortals have even had the chance to wash their morning eyes.

If you’re this person, stop reading right now and get back to living your best life ever.

Quickly, before those other days come for you.

Those other days when your brain is Frustration Central, and your inner critic and resident imposter get together, and in your favourite childhood authority’s voice tell you that you don’t know shit. That you should have chosen a steady, predictable job allowing someone else to pay you, rather than you trying to convince your employees to take stock options in lieu of cash.

You’ve done everything right, followed your business plan, so why aren’t things falling into place like they damn well should? Why does your product not launch, why doesn’t that customer you’ve been chasing the whole year not commit? And while your promised funding is, um, on the way, why isn’t your cash flowing in the right direction?

And what’s that pain in your solar plexus? Why are things spinning?

Days when you’d rather crack open your go-to buzz beverage and listen to Tears for Fears:

“…I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad

The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had…”

Of course, the high days are inner giant awakening and ecstasy inducing, and the low days are hellishly stagnating and belly cramp inducing, and we’ve all had both.

Deep down though, we know that neither is the norm, and that the entrepreneurial life is actually about keeping our heads down, plodding steadily along, making sure all the moving parts are in as much sync as possible. “One step, one punch, one round at a time”, like Rocky Balboa.

But anxiety storms do brew all the time, and before you decide to solve your issues by flying off to Madagascar, which actually may be sheer genius on some level; allow me, a brother-in-arms entrepreneur to tell you how to ride out the crappy days..

  1. Mope. That’s right, give yourself the permission to mope. But the condition is that you must set a timer, say for 45 or 60 minutes, and when it goes off, you absolutely have to snap out of it. Go ahead and try it now. Simply sit or lie down. No, not on the bathroom floor, it’s unhygienic and a tad dramatic. Try the bed or couch. Mope in silence. Or shout and wave your arms wildly at the world, if that’s your thing. Let it all out, but remember, you must stop as soon as the timer go off.
  2. Clean up. Take a shower, get ready, make the bed, and get out of the house. If it’s the middle of the day and you’re in the office, go wash your face and then just leave. Shirk your responsibilities and go for a movie, some retail therapy or sit on a park bench and watch the people and birds without staring at any one particular person or bird for too long, because well, that’s just weird. It’s a big world out there with all kinds of things happening and it’ll do you good to widen your lens a bit and back up to a more macro-ish outlook.
  3. Total Recall. For 17 minutes, (don’t ask), think about the passion that inspired you to get on your entrepreneurial journey. Remember how excited you were and how you wanted to tell everyone about it; how thrilling it was for you to secure your very own domain name and office space. Think about how much love you felt in the beginning and see if you can bring that feeling back. Sometimes love is all you need to get back on track.
  4. Free Write. Brain dump. It’s for your eyes only, so do it honestly for about three pages or so. You may find that you get into a flow state and start to feel better. Or you may discover a solution to move you forward, or even pivot. Equally likely, nothing happens but even so, it’s highly therapeutic and effective. Try it.
  5. Work out. Doesn’t have to be at a gym, but do something that either involves high energy or high focus. You cannot ruminate when your primary objective is gasping for air, and you can’t obsess when you’re totally present in the moment.
  6. Talk to someone. A friend, fellow entrepreneur, mentor or your cat. Anyone you trust, while resisting the temptation to whine. You already did the moping thing earlier, remember? So now you need to be in a growth and learner mindset, and recruit a fresh pair of eyes and mind, or develop a new cat-itude (get it?), to figure out your best move forward. And once you do, get to it. Taking action is the best anxiety killer.
  7. Meditate. If you don’t know how, find a teacher and learn this highly important life hack. If teachers aren’t your thing, then try doing what I do: Sit in a quiet place and focus on your breathing, letting your thoughts and emotions bubble up without engaging or contributing to their incessant BS. You may find this isn’t so easy and sooner or later these shadows and echoes will take you down one of their rabbit holes. The moment you realize you’re in one, just return to your breath. I’m definitely no yogi but I believe this is it in a nutshell. Ofcourse, there are various other forms of meditation, so find one that suits you.
  8. Hobbify. Do you like collecting stamps, coins and action figures, or doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles? Ok fine, they don’t all have to be so 1980s. But hobbies can, according to Psychology Today, make you more interesting, promote flow, foster new social connections, and of course, help you cope with stress. .
  9. Nap. Your mind needs to repair itself and all the free association that your brain does when you’re sleeping can give you a fresh perspective. Things look so much more different when you wake up, and if they don’t, well hey, you got a nap! But seriously, you’ll be able to think way more clearly, your mood will significantly improve, and you’ll replenish your well of creativity.
  10. Stop obsessing. Time for some tough love. In spite of how you’re feeling, neither you nor your business is the center of the universe. There are other people and beings around, and when you focus on them instead of yourself it helps you change the feeling sorry for yourself track that you’re secretly enjoying. You don’t have to go and volunteer at an orphanage right away, although if you decide to do so it’ll really change your perspective, but you can start small. Like simply advising and helping out a friend, picking up the kids from school if that isn’t already in your routine, or returning that phone call to your parents or a sibling. Anything really that isn’t about you.

The thing is that sucky days will come along often, and go on for longer than they should. I can also personally attest to the fact that sometimes none of the tips I’ve suggested will do the trick. But the main thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t last and life, the universe and everything has a habit of changing all the time. You just need to keep your mind healthy so that when the tide does turn, you can use your wonderful creative spirit to take that great business of yours to the next level.

If not, well, there’s always Madagascar.

Yes, I want to be inspired!