Managing Stress & Anxiety Whilst Running Your Own Business

By Amanda Cavallaro

‘Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle’ – Bill Phillips

Business, can be both an empowering experience and a battle of stress and uncertainty all at the same time. The stress of growing your business and the day to day tasks that come with it, the ongoing uncertainties of ‘will I make enough money’, balancing work/life commitments whilst maintaining your own health and self-care. Stress is common amongst entrepreneur’s and surprisingly the right amount in short bursts CAN be healthy for a business, it can help you stay more alert and improve performance levels! Unfortunately, when stress turns into anxiety is when it can become a detriment to your health, emotional wellbeing and business.

There is no doubt that running your own business can be a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, fears and stresses. The key to stress is not only learning how to handle it but also learning how to channel that stress and anxiety into a positive driving force and energy to fuel creativity, passion and innovation throughout your business. There are several challenges that come with running your own business such as, workload, staff and customer management, maintaining a Healthy Balance (Home/Work), financial Stressors and a change of conditions (Product demand, Environmental and External factors). These challenges can often result in prolonged stress and anxiety which can appear in both physical and non-physical ways in the body. Here are some common (although not restricted to) signs to look out for..

  • Feelings of Overwhelm

  • Frustration

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue

  • Loss or change in appetite

  • Problems sleeping

  • Headaches, muscle tension

  • Decrease in Immune System (find yourself getting sick more often)

  • Nausea

  • Constipation/Diarrhea

  • Racing heart

  • Feelings of Unhappiness

  • Feelings of Guilt

  • Constant Negative Thinking

  • Memory Loss

Symptoms differ from person to person, I guess it’s fair to say that we all deal with pressure, stress and anxiety so differently. Each individual will notice they experience those symptoms with different intensities and frequencies. So, what do I do if I am feeling this way I hear you ask??? Below I have included some of my Top Tips to help you better manage your stress and anxiety whilst running your business and improve your performance.

1. Have realistic expectations of yourself and the business.
As we all know we are so hard on ourselves! Ensuring you set realistic expectations of yourself as well as the performance of your business will minimize guilt and disappointment. The key here is to set goals or have expectations that are realistic and within the capabilities of you and your business. Be specific when setting goals this allows them to be more measurable and as a result more achievable.      

2. Celebrate your Wins
We are so quick to mourn our losses or focus on our stressors that we often forget to celebrate our wins. It is so important to be mindful of this rather than being caught up in the moment and automatically placing your focus on the next task. Your wins big or small are just as important to fuss over as your ‘losses’, it can be motivating and a great way to remind you to focus on the positive elements rather than the negative. This can be something simple you do for yourself and or your staff (such as going for lunch).

3. Sleep and Eating
The importance of good Sleep is underrated in our go-getter society. Sleep is not only crucial for our day to day functioning and health, but also our bodies way of having some time out to heal and re focus. Lack of sleep not only heightens your anxiety, impairs your judgement and affects your memory but also lowers your immune system. A good balanced diet is also another essential to your health, wellbeing and performance. It can be very easy to skip meals and survive on caffeine when busy with work. It’s sometimes so much more convienent to just reach for the easy option... or even at times nothing at all! Food preparation is great for those busy days, having easy on hand snacks to munch on (such as fruit, healthy dips and vegie sticks, prepared salads etc.). H2O is also another important one, keep a bottle at your desk as a reminder and be creative by adding fruit and fresh herbs such as mint to your water to make it more tasty and exciting!

4. Communication is Key!
If you have staff working with you in your business, communication is key! Discuss an open communication channel to allow everyone to be free to discuss concerns or worries they may have or you may want to bring up in relation to their work. Being open with each other reduces the anxiety and apprehension that sometimes comes along with dealing with disagreements or not seeing eye to eye. As a business owner, it is also very beneficial to have someone to regularly talk to such as a close friend or relative or even a business coach, psychologist or counsellor.

5. Maintain a healthy Work Life Balance
The temptation to give up all your time and energy and place it in to your business when it’s your own is very common amongst business owners. You want to do the best you can and give it your all. This can result in long work hours at the sacrifice of your family and heath. It is super important to set healthy boundaries in order to maintain a good balance between work and home life to prevent burnout, especially when working from home. Some of these boundaries may include setting specific work hours (9am-5pm) and then no work-related calls or emails after that time or setting aside allocated time to work on answering emails etc. out of those hours. One of those boundaries may include having weekends off to spend with friends and family or just time for you to unwind and re energise for the week ahead. Be sure to look out for warning signs and act accordingly.

6. Keep Active
Physical exercise is not only good for our physical wellbeing but also our emotional and mental wellbeing. It produces all those happy hormones we LOVE and gives us more energy. It is important to keep active especially if you are stuck behind a desk or computer all day. Get in the habit of scheduling time in your week for a walk, jog or even a class of your choice to get those muscles moving!  

7. Take a Break
We are working harder than ever and unfortunately it is at the cost of our physical and mental health! Just because it is YOUR business and there is no one there telling you to go and have some lunch or take a simple break, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it – be sure to take a lunch break and schedule time throughout your day even if it is 10 min time slots to stretch or go for a quick walk. We all know the feeling of a mind block, sometimes a quick change in environment gets those creative juices flowing again and gives you the recharge you need to keep powering through!

Many of us go by the concept that if our business is not the TOP priority in our lives we are not doing everything we can to make it successful. That we are in a sense ‘neglecting’ something that could be ‘better’ or ‘more’ amazing than we could ever imagine. The matter really isn’t that at all, the reality is that by making our selves the top priority in our lives, our business as a result will flourish.  

Amanda Cavallaro is a Anxiety Coach, Mum and face behind The Anxiety Wellness Queen. She is passionate about reducing the stigma associated with mental health and making a difference in the management and approach to treating anxiety. Amanda loves to travel and cook, she find it very relaxing and therapeutic. In the last 2 years her business has moved solely online and now works with clients all over Australia via phone and skype to manage their anxieties. Amanda has recently started a blog to share her knowledge and passion with the world.  You can find her on Facebook or Instagram.

Photo by Verena Yunita Yapi on Unsplash

Mindful Painting: Turning Anxiety Into Art

By Monica Kovach

If you’ve had any experience trying to develop a mindfulness practice, you know it can be hard work. Mindfulness, by nature, illuminates whatever is present - the good, bad, and the ugly. Learning to face all parts of ourselves with compassion and equanimity is no easy task, especially when we’ve learned to hate, fear, and avoid parts of ourselves.

Growing up, I was a pretty anxious kid, but you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell. I was afraid of doing anything wrong, and I got really good at flying under the radar. I learned to value “goodness” and “niceness” so much, that when any aspect of my personality showcased any opposite qualities (like anger or impatience), I worked hard at denying them, and thus, buried them. If you’re having a hard time picturing what this might look like, think: UniKitty from The Lego Movie.

And just like UniKitty, these buried parts of myself were destined to boil over at one point or another, and when they did, it was extreme. Not extreme as in I unleashed hell on everyone around me; because, I was still deeply afraid of negatively affecting anyone. It was extreme in the way that I reacted toward myself.

Self-deprecating shame spirals were a common occurrence, as were migraines and emotional breakdowns in the form of uncontrollable crying. And later, panic attacks.

All of this self-inflicted abuse continued until I learned how stop avoiding the parts of me I didn’t love, and ultimately, accept and love them instead. How did I do this? Mindfulness. And therapy, let’s be honest. But mindfulness was a big part of my therapy journey as well, so yeah… Mindfulness.

This concept and practice of mindfulness is really just about observing what’s happening in the moment - thoughts, sensations, and emotions - without judgment. It’s the “without judgment” part that really tripped me up at first; I would immediately label my thoughts or emotions as “bad” because I learned to do that at an early age.

The thing that really helped me break free from the automatic judgment response was art - specifically painting. I never considered myself a painter; in fact, I went to school for photography and was pretty attached to that identity for my creative outlet. But when I started experimenting with watercolors as a medium to express my inner experience, it just clicked. The way the colors blend, move, and spread across the page matched my inner thought-scape. Their watery nature felt like an accurate representation of subtle, elusive states of mind, body, and spirit. Their fast, fluid unpredictability said “Yes, this is what emotions feel like.” And after a while, I realized that I was practicing mindfulness.

By representing my thoughts and emotions as abstract, fluid swatches of color, I was able to literally observe what was happening in the present moment. I was able to release judgment, knowing that unpredictability is just part of the watercolors’ nature, and that it would be silly to judge a watercolor painting for doing what it does best. How easy it was, then, to replace key words in that sentence: It would be silly to judge a mind for doing what it does best. There’s a fascinating thing that happens when we create something that resonates so profoundly with our inner experience. It’s like looking into a mirror, and seeing all your flaws, strengths, and features. Then, magically, we look at the image looking back at us, and see ourselves with fresh eyes… With compassionate eyes… With loving eyes. It’s this compassionate and loving experience that I was a stranger to for most of my life.

Watercolor painting opened up an avenue for self-expression, authenticity, and ultimately, self-love. And while I still dance with anxiety, my relationship to it has changed; I now realize that it’s just part of the masterpiece that is my fluid state of being.

Monica is an art therapist and career coach, based in Detroit, Michigan. She runs, where she helps dreamers, doers, and change-makers find and live their calling.