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How to face an anxiety crisis while starting a business?

When starting a business, it is vital to know relaxation techniques and know-how to manage stress

  • MERCEDES BALTAZAR LOBATO
  • 20/11/2020
  • 17:53 hrs
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How to face an anxiety crisis while starting a business?
Women in positions of high responsibility have considered leaving the workforce due to the exhaustion presented during this health crisis. (Pixabay)

Today I begin my column by sharing something very personal: the last two months, I have been dealing with an anxiety crisis that has worsened in recent days and from which I am fortunately on the way out. My past self would have been very uncomfortable saying this out loud - and more about publishing it - yet I increasingly believe in the value of sharing the ups and downs of this entrepreneurial world (in a pandemic).

My case is far from being an exception; according to the Women in the Workplace 2020 report prepared by Mackinsey & Company, three out of four women in positions of high responsibility have considered leaving the workforce due to the exhaustion presented during this health crisis. If to "exhaustion as usual," we add the responsibility of keeping a business afloat, taking care of the house, children, facing market reductions, etc., the formula can be explosive.

When you are in charge of an enterprise - or of a work team - the traditional model has told us that we have to be a kind of superheroine: everything under control, newly rounded heels, hair-hair, perfect nail, and pearl white smile. We feel an obligation to run smoothly on all lanes.

THE ROAD TO FRUSTRATION

When things get complicated, and our mental health begins to suffer, we choose to ignore it or try to pay attention to "calm down," "it's not that bad," "think positive," etc.

Let me tell you a secret: this is the direct path to frustration. Without going too far into the biological process of anxiety, burnout, or extreme tiredness, I want to clarify a common character in all these stories: cortisol. It is a substance that the body secretes when we are in an episode of anger or stress; making a somewhat crude analogy is as if our body was preparing to flee from a tiger (or the predator of its choice).

The reality is that we will hardly find ourselves in need to flee from the danger of such magnitude. Our stress is much more mental, but the body is unaware of that, and cortisol triggers a series of exhausting reactions.

They are probably thinking: "But Mercedes, this is an entrepreneurship column; why are you talking about biology?", Although I understand them, we must know that this has a physical component to be able to start fixing it in the background. If our heads are not clear, it is unlikely that we will find quick solutions that we can unleash our creative side or identify opportunities. Taking care of our mental health should also be a business priority. 

WHAT TO DO?

Beyond the catharsis, I want to share some tools that have been useful for the last few years and helped me get out of the pothole in these months of a pandemic

Exercise: 

It's probably the least we want to do. It may even seem like a waste of time. I don't want to sound like "Legally Blonde"; however, exercise helps us release oxytocin, and this is one of the best ways to counteract the evil cortisol. If life doesn't give you a full hour, you can try the 7-minute interval training apps or apps. The body will appreciate the movement, and after several days you will begin to notice more clarity.

Support net:

We do not have to carry the world alone, and an external perspective will probably help us find new solutions. My recommendation would be to find another entrepreneur to bounce ideas off. If you don't have close friends in the same condition, the compass to define this support network is empathy. The important thing is that you ask yourself if the advice they give you helps you have more clarity or contributes to stress; if it is the second, it is not. Remember that the important thing is to get through this period with more tools than you started with. A support network can be small and very significant.

Meditation or mindfulness exercises: 

The following will sound familiar to you: you start to see the list of things to do for the rest of the week, and suddenly you feel a lump in your throat takes over. The "excess of future" in uncertain times is anything but relaxing; meditating or doing centered exercises to return to today is a good antidote. I recommend Meditate Podcast, Calm, Headspace, or even search YouTube for short meditations. 

Breathing: 

When it is full of cortisol, one of our body's reactions is to stop concentrating on breathing; we will likely breathe faster, which increases the feeling of danger. Conscious breathing is one of the best friends right now. I have two favorite exercises:

Breathing in 4x4 - that is.

Inhaling in four times and exhaling in another four - and breathing counting from 0 to 5.

Interspersing 0 until you start again (0-1-2-3-4-5, 1 -0-2-3-4-5, and so on).

At first glance, it is something simple, but you will feel the difference after doing it several times.

Clear schedules:

Raising awareness with my therapist, I realized that my schedules are chaotic since I work at home. I work longer than before, and I think about things related to the business, and there is little time to rest. Establishing a routine requires discipline; let's remember that our day to day will shape the near future, so it is worth the effort.

More tea, less coffee:

I know, this sounds like a kind of heresy; how is one going to function without coffee? The reality is that if we are at an anxious peak or of burnout, caffeine will not be our best friend, and it is necessary to ask for a time and exchange it for tea. I just discovered Tulsi (or holy basil) tea, and after a few weeks, I see that it delivers what it promises.

Hobby:

I know that the schedule screams: you don't have time for anything! The problem is that this leaves us with a few exhaust valves. Finding a hobby that has nothing to do with work or home activities helps your brain rest. It must be a mainly manual activity, from drawing to gardening (or going back to sourdough recipes). Avoid thinking of this hobby in terms of productivity; ask yourself what would make you happy, comfortable, or cuddled.

Think about your scenarios to make decisions: 

This advice is the least Zen of all; there is a value in facing the worst fear in the face: thinking about the worst scenario that can result from a critical moment, what is it? How does it look? What would you do about it? It is scary to start; without a doubt, it also brings a lot of wisdom and makes it easy to size it. Above all, it opens the mind to think about potential solutions or reactions. Does this mean that it is going to happen? No, what he means is that if it happens, it will not catch us off guard.

The only way out of a crisis is to go through it, fight less, and consider yourself more. These are challenging times, and you have to recognize the smallest achievements to the most complicated battles. Entrepreneurship is a path of peaks and valleys, but I can assure you that each valley will leave you with valuable learning. It is okay not to be well sometimes; only in imperfect processes, there is growth.

Traducción: Valentina K. Yanes