I happen to be the biggest worrier I know. I was aware of the problems this trait might pose before I started my own business. However, I plunged in head first, determined to take whatever life and business had to offer. Unsurprisingly, the world of self-employment tested my limits immediately, and can still knock me around now. In fact, I had little choice to accept that dealing with fear and worry was just as much a part of business as dealing with taxes. Tweet this
I might be a little on the extreme side, but I don’t think I’m unusual.
Many people, self-employed or otherwise, at one time or another, fall into a type of thinking known as “Magnification” or “Catastrophizing”:
Focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable when it is really just uncomfortable.
This is one of the ten thought “distortions” taught in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Sometimes there are serious risks, but what many people do is minimize the risks – sometimes ignoring real issues that should be cause for concern. A preferable alternative for those who don’t automatically minimize perceived risk, is to cut off the worrying, then take deliberate steps to eliminate as much real risk as possible.
What is real risk? It’s not what will possibly happen. That is virtually anything. Real risk concerns itself with what will probably happen. You can take specific action to deal with real risk.
You see ominous grey clouds.
- What’s possible? Hippos falling from the sky (anything is possible and you can’t prevent anything)
- What’s probable? Rain falling from the sky (take an umbrella to stay dry)
My tendency is to take anything that arouses fear and anxiety and think about it until driven to distraction. Sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing this until it’s too late. After I have spent thirty minutes drilling down into how the loss of one client is the beginning of an inevitable fall into poverty and homelessness, it takes a while to get motivated again. Something like this can kill an entire day. You might think that a fear of homelessness would cause me to work harder, but it actually causes me to freeze up entirely – dear caught in the headlights.
I have a strategy to deal with this type of anxiety and worry.
Are you ready for what it’s called?
It’s called “nothing”.
Or at least it looks like nothing. Actually, what I do is give my brain a “timeout”, just like the kind my kids sometimes get. I basically say to myself, “Okay brain, you don’t handle this worry stuff very well, and there is a whole bunch of it at the moment. So instead of your usual flailing about, go on ahead and just take a seat on the bench for a little while.”
You may have been expecting me to add “Of course, I don’t say this out loud”, but sometimes I do say it out loud. The point is that I want to stop the dizzying thoughts that are bombarding me. Saying that little command out loud isn’t just another thought. It activates my sense of hearing. That means I to think about the sound of my words, even if the thought is “I can’t believe I have to do this ridiculous stuff”.
It’s abrupt and it forces me change course.
If I did nothing else, it wouldn’t work. When you give your brain (really just the part that does the worrying) a timeout, then you have to do something else. In my case, I do something physical. Sometimes I do yard work. Sometimes I clean around the house or take on a project that I have been meaning to do, but just didn’t get to yet. For instance, I resurfaced the driveway this weekend instead of worrying. The attention I must give to the physical task at hand is what replaces the worry. This gives me a break before I take on the next mental task – what to actually do about what I stopped my brain from worrying about.
When dealing with real risk, instead of either magnifying it (and getting scared to death) or minimizing it (and acting foolishly), seek to eliminate the unknown. Learn as much about what is real as possible. This means getting very specific about what you are afraid of. Then devise strategies to prepare for the actual amount of risk you face. The enemy of fear is knowledge. Tweet this
It’s good for mental health and success in business.
This is the time to make plans and think strategically. You don’t want to make plans while you are actively worrying about something. That’s the worst time for problem-solving. Instead of solving the problem, you are more likely to do whatever it takes to make the problem go away. That’s why I give my brain a timeout and do something else for a while.
One of the things I decided to do was “make a flow chart based on copywriting book”. This addressed one of my concerns. Another action item was “Email Mary”. These are simple things that can be done and they were both better than worrying, and neither would have occurred to me, or seemed useful, had I not given myself a mental timeout.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? Tell me in the comments section.