Are We Cut Out for this Entrepreneurial Sh*t? Skills for Anxiety

entrepreneurship and anxiety

Strike one: our minds are incredibly averse to uncertainty, ambiguity, and rejection. Strike two: our bodies are hot-wired to swiftly react first, ask helpful questions later. Strike three: the very definition of being an entrepreneur requires us to thrive in the first and to zen master the second.

A surefire recipe for disaster? A paradox against humanity? A total setup for anxiety?

It doesn’t have to be. But you’ll want to keep reading because you can’t continue full speed ahead relying on your big brain instincts and the catlike reflexes you’ve become accustomed to.

Your life as an entrepreneur, while pitting you against your basic 300,000 year old genetic coding, can be hugely gratifying, successful and anxiety minimized IF you realize you are uniquely poised to capitalize on two evolutionary hail marys. Neuroplasticity and awareness.

Neuroplasticity is the updated understanding of our brain’s ability, with consistent practice, to continue to learn and change throughout our life. This updated notion is that our thoughts and feelings don’t get set into stone. Although we start with biases or preferences, they are changeable. Neuroplasticity, then, means that you can be trained to thrive despite your brain’s huge dislike of uncertainty, ambiguity, and rejection.

Tag-teaming the brain’s neuroplasticity is our ability to train greater awareness into our day to day. Greater awareness is the ability for us to identify things in real time, as life is actually happening. By increasing your sense of thoughts and feelings in real time, you will be able to pause your autopilot and choose and direct your reactions. Awareness is your antidote to your body’s wiring of reacting first, asking questions later.

In order thrive as an entrepreneur (and enjoy your life), it’s critical to learn how to use neuroplasticity and awareness to positively override a few components in your factory installed operating system. Let me break these down into a few actionable ideas you can start using right away.

  1. Your brain prefers efficiency, the future, and ruts. It will often (and repeatedly) default to fear, anxiety and worst case scenario thinking about things that are not happening in real time. Sure, there may be a chance of bad things happening in the future, but that doesn’t mean you have to be consumed by those things 24/7. Actually, after you think about these potentials once or twice, they need to be turned off. They actively start working against you instead of for you.

  2. The first couple times you receive the message of fear, anxiety, worst case scenario thinking check them out and take action, if action is needed. Then, if you still keep having these thoughts, label them false alarms and purposefully turn your attention to think of something else. (Often as entrepreneurs worst case scenario thinking is helpful for its ability to help us problem solve every angle and anticipate challenges. Fair enough. As long as you use your problem solving for good. If you find you’ve exhausted this helpful exercise, then it is time to turn it off by labeling them false alarms. )

  3. Keep it short. Don’t get into a long winded internal diatribe against these thoughts of fear, anxiety, and worst case scenarios. Label them false alarms. Short and sweet...and accurate. They are false alarms not because there isn’t some truth to what you are thinking and feeling. They are false alarms because you’ve already received the message but your brain keeps sending it as if you haven’t. It would be like continuing to call 911 when the fire truck is already in your driveway.

  4. Your breath has a VIP relationship with your nervous system. Regular slow, deep, rhythmic breathing is essential to mitigating panicky reactions and disruptive overreactions. Bonus results for longer exhales than inhales.

  5. Slow, deep belly breathing, in addition to calming your overreaction reflex, helps increase your general awareness of thoughts and feelings. This is a total backdoor hack. You are not focusing on source of your thoughts and feelings in order to increase your awareness. Your breathing is the big domino that gets all good things going.

  6. When you are aware of your thoughts and feelings, you can stop your anxiety in its’ tracks by labeling it a false alarm, turning your attention to something else and taking deep belly breaths.

  7. Rinse and repeat.

I’m biased but I think the world will be saved by entrepreneurs. Okay, biased and dramatic. Even so, this fuels my interest in helping entrepreneurs learn the skills, tools, and strategies to stay in the game and thrive. Leave a comment regarding how these strategies work for you and any other strategies you use to prevent and overcome anxiety.