“I’m having a wicked case of entrepreneurial anxiety and panic attacks,” a workshop client said to me recently.
“Business is going well, but I’m having a hard time shutting off and being present with family. But I also feel guilty whenever I’m not working. Please help!”
If that sounds like you, don’t worry, I understand how you feel.
In 2006, not only did I have entrepreneurial anxiety, but I suffered full-blown panic attacks from poor lifestyle choices.
Before we get into my action items to overcome anxiety, I insist that you visit your doctor. (And if you know of a family member, friend, or team member with similar struggles, have them do the same, please.)
Here’s why this is important…
The first step in my recovery was going to the emergency room. I remember the day clearly. It was Monday, May 15, 2006, and I thought I was having a heart attack. Like anyone would do, I rushed to the emergency room.
Three hours and multiple tests later, the doctor assured me that I was fine. There was nothing physically wrong with me. I wasn’t having a heart attack; I was having an anxiety attack.
That knowledge eased my hypochondriac mind. It allowed me to focus on the mental aspects of recovery. That’s why you must get the same “all clear” from your doctor.
When you do, you can follow the rest of the steps to overcome anxiety and take back control of your life.
Step 1: Set daily alarms for important items
Struggling to get to bed on time? If you do, then you probably wake up late and start the day feeling like you are behind. That only gets worse as tasks compound throughout the day, which makes your anxiety skyrocket.
The solution is to get to bed on time.
That’s easier said than done, however. To help with this common problem, I created a solution that has worked for me for years. I call it the reverse alarm.
Here’s how it works: Set an alarm on your phone or clock for 1 hour before your designated bedtime. When it chimes, shut down your electronics, get ready for tomorrow, spend time with your family, draw a bath, read a book, and go to sleep.
You can do something similar to keep your work hours in check.
If you’re struggling to leave work on time, set a “quitting time” alarm for 15 minutes before you need to leave the office. When it chimes, finish that final email, do your brain dump, and create your to-do list for tomorrow. Then put on your favorite “transition song*,” play it loudly, and put it on repeat as you drive home and mentally prepare to switch off for a few hours with your family and friends.
Here are a couple of other hacks my clients have used to close out the work day on time: Turn your work phone to “Do Not Disturb” when your reverse alarm hits; close your office door to signify you’re not starting any new work conversations; shut down the email client on your computer; and set your phone to silent. Give your mind time to let go of the frenzy of work and refocus on the evening’s priorities.
(*A transition song is an idea I gave to one of my clients. It worked so well for him that I want everyone to use it. Think of a song that works as a trigger for you to switch off or a tune that reminds you of a special time with your family. Play that song on the way home from work so you forget about your work to-dos and transform into “super mom,” “super dad,” or “super spouse.”)
Step 2: Set self-care appointments
When was the last time you missed a flight? Never, right? You always make it. That proves that you can be punctual and make time for things that matter.
Put your workouts, massages, meditations, etc. on your calendar just like your next flight to a conference.
In other words, mark the important self-care to-dos (I call them “big rocks”) on your weekly calendar first, then respect the time you’ve made for what matters. If it helps, mark these in permanent ink so you can’t erase them.
Then follow through with the scheduled promises you made to yourself. Don’t miss an appointment. No excuses. No exceptions.
Step 3: Set significant consequences
This is the missing link that has made your high-performance anxiety attacks inescapable.
When you skipped your workouts or lunch breaks in the past, you didn’t have significant short-term consequences.
Sure, your body or mind suffered in the long run, but in the moment, you simply shrugged and said, “So what?”
Without significant consequences, our subconscious minds surrender to the path of least resistance. That leads us down the slippery slope towards bad habits, stress, and anxiety.
It’s time for you to attach significant consequences to important actions.
This step allowed me to quit cursing in just six days. Each dirty word cost me $20. Day one cost me $120, day two was only $80, and day three was down to $40. Soon, my mind-mouth connection was re-wired to stop swearing. It’s that simple.
So for you…
Did you cancel a lunch meeting with a friend? Send an expensive bottle of wine to them as a make-up gift.
Did you skip your workout? That means no Netflix for you for a week.
In other words: Pick a poison pill for your poor performance.
Identify a significant consequence for your failure to act and you’ll find the ability to get back on track and re-wire your habits—fast.
Together, these 3 steps will help you clear your calendar and focus on what matters every day.
Get started now, learn your lessons today, and correct course before you get too far off the path to success.
Or, as the Kaizen approach to life says, “Make it a point to get a little better every single day.” With that commitment and action, your entrepreneurial and career anxiety will disappear.
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