These are words I’ve heard many times over the past few weeks, when I announced I left my corporate consulting job. My honest initial thoughts were, “Ok, now what?” and “Congrats on willingly leaving any stability I’ve ever known, behind?”. It was a tough decision and it was 1000% the right choice for me but along with doing what you love and creating your own freedom and future, comes anxiety. Anxiety with the unknown.
There is a Lao Tzu quote that really resonates with me and I remind myself of it often:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
In the corporate culture there is a more linear path on where your career will go. You’re some variation of an associate, a manager, a senior manager, a director, all within your given industry. As an entrepreneur there’s an unknown path that can lead to nowhere or can lead to everything you’ve ever wanted. There’s so much excitement and potential in that but it’s not an honest answer to say there’s no downfall or anxiety with all of that as well.
As an entrepreneur, being in the right mental head space is a necessity. I can question myself all day with what I’m not doing right, what others are doing right, what I should be doing, or could be doing. Ultimately though, these are thoughts that are taking away from the actual doing and action of my future. Dreams don’t happen with thoughts.
Dreams happen with action and execution behind them.
This leads me to my first point in how I lessen my anxiety:
Analyzing and thinking up plans can be all encompassing in your head. When I’m in my head all day, that’s when I tend to get a bit anxious and my thought patterns become circular. I find that when I’m actually executing on my dreams though, that’s when the anxiety seems to lessen. I’m a strong believer in a “Do more, analyze less.” mentality.
Be kind to yourself
That being said, we can only do so much as one person. We all have the same amount of hours in a day and we can only do the best we can. Our “best” is different for each day and that’s something that I am learning along the way. Some days I knock out my to-do list in a few hours and I feel like Superwoman. Other days, I feel lethargic, unmotivated, and maybe get one thing done. And that’s ok. There’s no reason to beat yourself up inside if you aren’t perfect and performing at your highest caliber. Tomorrow is another day and you have another opportunity to reset your mind and mood. Let go of the idea that you need to push yourself to max capacity at all times. Be kind to yourself and know that you are doing the best you can at that moment. Lean into self-compassion and become friends with yourself again.
Move every day
The days when I don’t get an exercise break in, are the days I don’t feel the greatest – mentally or physically. Exercise could be a boxing class, HIIT, running, or it could also just be a long walk. Whatever type of movement fits into your day, do it. It will help clear your mind, give you the space, and also help you be more productive when you get back to your work.
Mindfulness as a part of your routine
You can’t write a post about reducing anxiety and not mention the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your current being – whether that is your senses, your surroundings, your thoughts. Meditation has been incredibly helpful for my journey. Even if that means being conscious and mindful of my breath for a few moments, it helps ground me into being present with myself.
Yoga is also another opportunity for bringing more awareness into your life. Sometimes yoga gets grouped into “exercise” since you are moving your body but it’s a much more mental state of being. You are learning how to be still and lessen the clutter that’s going on in your mind. As a part of yoga, practice stillness in holding poses, in being conscious of breath.
Create a schedule
When I don’t have a list or schedule laid out, my brain feels cluttered. At the start of each week or at the beginning of each day, create your master schedule and do your best to stick to it. As an entrepreneur, it can get easy to use your freedom to have long lunches or do errands but that takes up prime day light hours where you can get a lot of work done. Treat your schedule as an entrepreneur as a regular work day in the office. This will also help you procrastinate less and we all know procrastination can lead to stress and feelings of anxiety.
Find a like-minded group
There’s so much strength and comfort that comes when someone says “Same here!”. You feel a little less alone in your endeavors. After speaking to entrepreneur friends of mine who have gone through similar feelings of anxiety, I know that this is a real feeling. Even just doing check-ins with others to see how we’re all feeling does wonders. Everyone needs an outlet of some sort to express themselves.
Collaborate, not compete
The comparison game to others in your field can be very detrimental to your mental state. Rather than getting anxious and annoyed with seeing the success of others in your field, view them as your mentors or collaborators. If you see success in others, learn from them so you can grow with them. Why create unnecessary anxiety and stress in your life by adding in the element of competition?
Focus on your why
I find that when I focus on “vanity” metrics of how many viewers or how much is in the bank, I lose focus. However, when I refocus my energy on my why, my purpose, and my desire to help others – I think less about the minutiae in my day and more about the larger picture on how I can serve others in the most impactful way possible.
I am a huge fan of journaling and gratitude journaling is real. I find my mind becomes a lot more clear when I have the right perspective. If you haven’t started this practice yet and are unsure how, I wrote a how to gratitude journal post to help get you started.
Many of these tips were created with being an entrepreneur in mind; however, these can all be implemented into your lifestyle even if you do work for an employer. Let me know if these tips helped you. I’m here to help inspire you to be the best you, you can be.