Don’t start a business if you suffer from anxiety.

Instead of congratulations, I would hear similar comments to this blog title when I had made the decision to quit my job working at a production company to start my own business. I must admit, I was even saying it to myself. Leaving the comfort of a regular wage was frightening and my anxiety was in full force.

In 2018, I’m in my 6th year of business. My anxiety is still there but now finally it’s taken a back seat. If you are gripped by anxiety or depression and it’s stopping you from taking the leap into a life you want to live, this post is for you. I share with you my own personal battle with anxiety and how you have nothing to fear, how to run a business consistently around anxiety flare ups and how I put anxiety in the corner for good.

From as long as I can remember, I have had unrealistic expectations of perfectionism, no matter what I did it was never good enough. The amount of pressure I put on myself began to build up towards my early teens until around the age of 12 I was diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder and for many years I received intense therapy. So yes, on paper starting a business with all it’s ups and downs was probably a stupid move for someone like me. Making the journey from employment to self-employment was not an easy one for me. Here are the lessons and coping strategies I have learned along the way.

Create a cash buffer before you take the leap

That very first month that you don’t have the regular pay check coming, the anxiety is going to be at it’s highest. Having some cash in the bank gives you confidence and keeps the anxiety at bay so you can concentrate on the first important months of setting up your business and a network. Before you make the leap, try to get at least 6 months worth of liquid capital saved up.

Get some business buddies

Starting a business can be a very lonely experience, and this can kick up anxiety or depression several notches. Connect with other people who are starting out in business or are already on their journey. There are many online communities on Facebook, local business groups and mastermind programmes. If you are specifically starting an online business, I recommend the entrepreneur membership community Youpreneur run by Chris Ducker. There are loads of people in there at different stages of business. I made some online business buddies for life within that community. To enable you to progress with less bumps in the road I would also recommend you find people that are a few stages ahead of you in business. They will be able to share valuable lessons they learned when they were first starting out.

One of my podcast production clients Helen Stewart and I on stage at the UK Pod Awards. She is not only a client but a great business buddy. We support and kick each other’s butts when it’s necessary!

Get an accountability partner to kick your butt

From your new bunch of business buddies, try to find someone who is at the same stage in business as you and willing to become your accountability partner. Meet regularly over the phone, video conference or in person to set goals for that week /fortnight /month. If you don’t meet those goals, you will have to come up with a good reason to your accountability partner and vice versa. On the days when your anxiety grips you and you want to hide away, the prospect of letting down your accountability partner will help to keep you focused on the tasks in hand. For me this was very important when I had a bad day.

Hire a coach that gets you

There are a lot of coaches out there these days, it’s like everyone is a coach, so finding the right one can be a minefield. If they are willing to take money off you before they have found out first if they connect with you and your values, steer clear. But keep searching! The benefits of a good coach when you are battling anxiety and perfectionism, it’s really invaluable. I have been working with power coach Martin Murphy for a number of months and my levels of anxiety are at the lowest levels they have been in years. I have learned that the physical symptoms I get when I have a bad day are nothing but my body trying to tell me that I am in danger. Of course I’m not in any danger, it’s just a fear of failure manifesting itself in a physical symptom. Now I am aware of this, the physical symptoms have subsided significantly and I can get on with life. Just learning to manage this side of my anxiety alone thanks to guidance from my coach has made a huge impact on my business growth and how I face challenges within my business as a whole.

Hire a team as soon as you can and set up proper systems

There are going to be times when sometimes the anxiety or depression wins on some level and you need some down time to take care of yourself. But what happens to your business if it just depends on you? It seems like quite an investment of time and money but get a team in place to do repetitive tasks such as social media posts and put systems and checklists in place asap so that your business can continue if you get sick. I’m not talking about hiring full time members of staff in a bricks and mortar business. Start small with a remote team of freelancers. You can find freelancers on services such as Hubstaff or Upwork. I also recommend my good friend Tony Brown’s book Standard Procedure if you’re new to setting up systems within your business.

Journal

I must admit I am a bit of an intermittent journal writer, but when I am not happy with how something has gone or feeling in a low mood, I write down bullet points of what I have achieved that week and how I am going to improve on the things that have gone wrong. I have a page a day diary which I use every day for tasks and when I have time I write a paragraph journal entry. Not only does the journal entry give me a bit of a release of anxiety, it’s really nice to look back through on my progress throughout the year.

Reframe things and let go

This is something I am constantly working on with my coach and if you suffer from anxiety you will level with me on this. Quite often I cling onto things in business and take things personally. I get anxious thinking over the “what ifs” after a meeting or business negotiation or beating myself up over something that has gone wrong and is completely out of my hands. Turn the bad situation in your business into a positive, even get excited about it. Meeting not go well with a potential client? They are not meant to be your client, something even better will come along. Let go and move onto the next exciting potential project.

Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome

You see someone in your line of work, their social media looks immaculate, they are successful, they have a stream of loyal customers and they talk with such conviction. They started at zero at some point. In the early days they had no following and no sales. It will have taken years of consistent hard work to see that level of success. Concentrate on being consistent with your own business and you will see these kind of gains. Don’t let your anxiety prevent you from turning up.

Just get yourself out there

“The thought of networking events just fills me with dread. I hate showing up online, it just looks like I am boasting. Talking about my business and my achievements makes me feel sick.” All of those thoughts filled me with enough fear to not do any of it. There is nothing to fear. Just take that first step, no matter how small. Start a blog, start a Facebook group, start a meetup, go to a networking event or even put on your own event. The more you do these things, the more it will become familiar to you. Not only that, you will build a community of people that build you up and love what you do.

Get rid of the negative people in your life

It’s hard enough to get a business off the ground if you have anxiety, never mind people that don’t buy into what you do and keep putting you down. You have no time for these people during this new and exciting chapter in your life.

Leave the house

I love working from home. Even though I have a perfectly good studio, I just prefer to stay at home a lot of the time. And if you are only starting out, chances are you are also working from home. Only problem with working from home is that you might find yourself sitting at your computer 12 hours a day non-stop and before you know it you haven’t left the house in days. Doing this is not good for your mental health, you need to step away. Try to treat the day as a normal working day, get dressed, have a lunch break and step out the house. Go for a walk around the block to clear your head or join a gym / class to keep moving. I own a horse so go down to the stables each night to look after my horse and have a chat with the other people who have horses there. Not only does it get me out the house, but it allows me to chat to other human beings if I have been indoors all day working on a project by myself. It has made a big difference to how I feel each day.

Don’t make anxiety the excuse

If you allow it, anxiety can suck you in and turn you into a victim. This will reflect on the way you do business. No one will want to work for or with a business that has an owner that plays the victim. Anxiety also provides a perfect excuse to hide and procrastinate. Using anxiety as an excuse to stop progress will just enhance how anxious you are feeling as you miss planned deadlines or miss meetings. Just keep going, even if they are small steps but don’t stop. You are capable. You are strong. The only thing getting in between you and where you want to be is…yourself!

I know I will never get rid of my anxiety, but I no longer allow it to dictate which direction I take my life in. You CAN start a business when you suffer from anxiety or depression. I’m here as a business owner 6 years later and making the leap was the best thing for me and my mental health.

Emma-Victoria Houlton

Written by

Award-winning Podcast Producer. Audio Editor Huff Post. A storyteller with a purpose. Learn more about my work and clients here: www.artofpodcast.com

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