Anxiety is a natural part of being an entrepreneur. We all need some anxiety in order to focus and do the things we must do. But anxiety can also turn into a nightmare if it is prolonged. I know the paralyzing impact that anxiety can have on entrepreneurs mentally, physically and emotionally.
A medical definition
According to its medical definition, anxiety is a state consisting of psychological and physical symptoms brought about by a sense of apprehension at a perceived threat. In anxiety situations, the threat does not necessarily need to be there, it just needs to be perceived. For example, if you believe that your business is in trouble, even if there is no actual evidence to prove this, then you are going to experience nervousness that may turn into anxiety.
The symptoms of anxiety vary greatly according to the nature and magnitude of the perceived threat and from one person to another. If you believe that your competition is out to destroy you, you are likely going to experience higher levels of anxiety compared to an entrepreneur who is not worried about his or her competition.
As entrepreneurs, there are many things that can create anxiety for us: losing customers, not being able to make payroll, having a difficult business partner to work with, trying to convince investors to invest in your business idea, having fewer Twitter followers or Facebook fans etc.
A good side to anxiety
We all feel anxious from time to time and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Anxiety is an important emotion that has been shaped during the course of human evolution. If you are in a potentially dangerous environment, concern increases your awareness of your surroundings and puts you in a state of psychological readiness to deal with any threats.
In our increasingly complex world with constant change, some anxiety is good for you because it can help you be more vigilant in how you make decisions. For instance, anxiety makes you more cautious when making risky business investments. In other words, anxiety serves as a warning to move away from dangerous or counterproductive behaviour.
As entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to exaggerate our skills and expertise, and that’s where unease comes into place. Instead, try to view anxiety as an opportunity to honestly look at yourself.
Do I have the experience to run this business? Do I have a strong passion for this line of business? Do I have an already established network of potential clients or partners to tap into? Do I believe in this vision? Is there another angle to this business? Should I shut this business down?
These questions help entrepreneurs grow in this business venture. Specifically, anxiety is a great opportunity to make changes that will benefit us in the long run.
Anxiety can have a negative effect
Anxiety can affect the way we perceive the world around us – we see danger where there is no danger. When we fret, things that are not threatening seem to become threatening and we emotionally overreact to small things. Anxiety can affect your business and personal relationships, your productivity and efficiency.
I mentioned anxiety can help you become more vigilant in business decisions, but it can also influence you in making poor decisions. When you experience a more negative impression of your surroundings it impacts your emotional well-being, making you feel more distressed and decisions are more short-term focused and with less risk.
Emotional intelligence is an essential quality to have as an entrepreneur. But when you are operating under anxiety, your emotional intelligence is significantly reduced. The scale of your emotional reactions tends to be much more than the scale of the problem in front of you. The power of emotion overwhelms rationality.
How can you lessen anxiety?
The next time you find yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed, take a walk. Walk your anxiety away!
Instead of sitting in your (home) office and worrying about things, be active. Anxiety is a thinking problem and the more you think the worse it gets.
I find that interacting with nature as much as possible helps to refresh the mind and improve outlook on life. When you free your energy and attention, you can focus on something outside of you.
Image credit: By bark on flickr. com.