Dealing with Anxiety as a Boss Mom
Our emotions are information.
I often ask clients to tell me what the good thing about anxiety and depression are -- a question that is frequently met with blank stares. I know the look. It says, "What are you talking about? This feeling stinks and can be totally debilitating, and is getting in my way."
Anxiety is your brain trying really hard to protect you. It's your brain thinking it's doing the right thing. Like a dog barking at the mail person - it sees a threat and is trying to help! It doesn't understand that THIS person coming up to your door isn't a threat - it's just doing what it thinks is it's job. It just doesn't always understand when we are safe and when it can shush and lie down.
Sometimes it's sneakier. Anxiety can be disguised in a lot of behaviors, and often we aren't aware of the fearful root cause. For example, one of my big neon flags is when I am procrastinating something. Somehow I keep not getting to that one to do list item -- or maybe it doesn't even make it on my list because I don't want to face it's existence in black and white! I have this task I am supposed to do, and I know it would serve me in some way to accomplish it, but I am procrastinating like a champ.
Another way anxiety can show up is irritability. Irritability and anxiety are often dance partners, which is not the best way to head into a business interaction or parenting and other relationships!
A fourth way anxiety shows up are as loose or weak boundaries. If we are anxious about something, or insecure about our own level of competence or a decision we have made, we often allow a lot of wiggle room for folks to take advantage. For example, if I have set my speaking rate at a certain price, but doubt my competence I might be tempted to give discounts or speak for free -- in a way that is unhealthy or unrealistic for my own life.
Anxiety when left unchecked, can definitely get in our way as business owners.
One way to get that barking dog to quiet down is to ask your brain, "What is the function of this anxiety? What is the education you are trying to give me right now?"
Okay so, anxiety is information and if left unchecked, can definitely get in our way. There are. Luckily solutions for this, and sometimes awareness is enough to give us kind of a kick in the butt to just become aware that oh, that's the pattern, that's the thing that I'm experiencing, I can name it, I know it. I have tools to deal with that.
Solution 1: Use the education for preparation
The help anxiety is trying to provide is preparation. For example, If I'm nervous about speaking in front of a group, a little anxiety might lead me to prepare a little bit. If I'm nervous about performing on stage, it might prompt me to go rehearse. If I'm nervous about an earthquake happening, I might put together an earthquake kit. So anxiety serves a really important function for us as humans. It won't let us forget about the things our brain thinks we should prepare for.
Solution 2: Look at the evidence.
Another solution for you boss moms is to look at the evidence presented in front of you. Many times we've been conditioned (and a lot of times that conditioning is from sexism) to think that we're not the person to do this. Someone might criticize a decision of ours and we automatically think, oh, they must be right - ignoring the evidence of our own expertise. Stop and look at the evidence presented in front of you. Where are your successes. Up to now, have you been successful. Are all of your other customers feeling this way or is it one single person? Very often that one single person that negative voice sticks with us louder, even though there's another 1000 people who never said anything or have left positive feedback. Maybe you don't need to make a change. Or maybe you could use some backup, some support. This is where it helps to have a group, coach, or therapist.
Solution 3: Notice but don't act.
Pay attention to your feelings, and don't always act from them. Those are two separate things. You know you're having that anxious feeling, you're paying attention to it. You seek out your support, you look at the evidence and then very often you don't make a change. You stick with that boundary, even while you're quaking in your boots.
Solution 4: Delay the editor.
Sometimes my anxiety hits me before the product even leaves the door. It happens in the process before anyone else is involved. Before we even have a chance to offer that awesomeness to the rest of the world. The critical part of your brain is trying to protect you from future hurt/pain and tries to prevent you from risking anything at all. It's helpful to visualize that part of your brain as it's own entity - the editor - and only let it speak during conscious editing sessions. When you are creating something or launching something, put that editor aside. Don't throw it out - trust me, I just wrote a book, good editors are priceless! But I don't want that editor in my brain before I've even produced any content.
Solution 5: Pre-determine decisions
Decision fatigue is the idea that we have a finite number of decisions we can make in a day before it gets just toooooo exhausting. Then you once you've reached your quota of healthy conscious decision making, it's just like the wild west. So save your decision making for the big ones, and try to automate all the smaller things. Sometimes open-ended choices are not always the kindest way to treat ourselves or others. Some flexible structure is the most comforting option. I see this with a lot of parents I work with, who ask their kids, "what do you want to eat?" It can add pressure or anxiety to the kid if they literally have everything as a choice. It's kinder to easily overwhelmed people to say, "do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a grilled cheese?"
Apply structure with flexibility to your business decisions. Create a list of tasks, so when you sit down to work you just jump in. Decrease some of that decision fatigue, and you can sit down pretty quickly and get to work and there's not a decision involved.
Solution 6: Do the next right thing.
I have young kids. I have watched Frozen 2 8,743 times. One of the best lines is, "do the next right thing." Anxiety mixes all our wires and can make everything overwhelming. Ask yourself, What's the next right thing I can do? It doesn't have to be the best thing. Just pick a thing, pick the next thing that might be a little bit helpful. It doesn't have to be the most helpful. Sometimes action, any action, is the key. Throw a dart, roll a dice, pick a task at random. Just do the next right thing.
Anxiety is complicated. It hits us in every corner of our life, business and personal. Part of my mission is to help help all of us using anxiety as information and not let it get in the way of your awesomeness.
If your anxiety manifests as loose boundaries or uncertainty in your business, checkout my upcoming workshops where we deal with these exact things!