Tag: anxiety

Embrace the Chaos

Anxiety is something I live with every single day. For me, it is something that is inherently a part of my everyday life and comes in ebbs and flows and lately, it has been flowing. As much as I would rather not discuss this topic, it needs to be. So many are living with some form of mental illness or traumatic episode in silence and in that silence, the illness takes hold. It can become suffocating, overwhelming, all consuming and above all else, lonely.

An entrepreneur’s life can also be lonely, even if you have a team of people with you. You are in control of every aspect of your business from making sure the lights stay on to making sure work is completed. Many work well past the hours of “normal operation” to ensure everything that needs to be addressed has been because people rely on us to get it done, from our clients and customers to our family and loved ones. Sometimes it’s early mornings and late nights. It’s never having a set schedule but being flexible enough to make the important things fit into a schedule. Owning a business means these are your monkeys and this is your zoo and yes, at times, they are throwing “stuff” at you.

So, why would someone who struggles with mental and emotional health decide to embrace the chaos and start a business? Because it is fulfilling on so many levels. Yes, it can be scary, frustrating, and physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. I read an article a while ago that discussed the relationship between being an entrepreneur and personal development. While I cannot find the link to the article, there is a rather clear line between the two. Personal development and growth are closely tied with the success of your business.

Looking back over the past three years, I can see now that I’ve been making huge steps in my personal and professional growth. By focusing on myself and my overall health, I was also allowing my business to grow and become successful. I have big goals for Symbiotic Marketing, but I cannot reach those goals if I allow myself to fall into negative habits. That means going out and meeting with people when I want nothing more than to curl up in my comfy chair and binge Investigation Discovery all day and going to networking groups and meetings when I don’t know a single person there. It also means I need to make healthy choices for myself every day, getting exercise, eating healthy foods, and making time for me without feeling guilty about it.

I’m telling you about this because I know I am not alone. Many business owners struggle with some form of mental illness or trauma that continues to follow them years after the event. I know this because assisting others with marketing endeavors can become very personal. Marketing is closely tied to emotions and behaviors and the more I am able to learn about my clients and their businesses, the more I can do to help them reach their goals.  More than anything, I want you to know that you are not alone. While being an entrepreneur can be lonely, it doesn’t have to be. You’ve already done the scariest thing by following your dream. Embrace the chaos and together, let’s see how far that dream can go.

Fear

My first year in business, I drew inspiration on my office window, literally with liquid chalk markers. I still have these drawings on my window today and continue to look at them for inspiration. One of the two is simple but I’m still amazed that I wrote it and how it continues to mean so much to me. It says simply, “Be unapologetically you.”

As many of you may have noticed, I went dark for a bit and had not posted anything in about a month. While dealing with some personal things, my head went into what I call, the bad place. Anxiety reared and depression followed. I know these feelings all too well. I lived with them side by side for so long, they were almost comforting friends. That is until the OCD tendencies started to seep in.

It’s funny how something that can give so much short-term comfort, such as cleaning the kitchen feeds and builds on my anxiety and depression. As I shifted my focus from how clean the kitchen was, I noticed other areas that needed attention as well. The empty box in the dining room for books I’d like to donate that haven’t made their way from the bookshelf yet. The hutch that hadn’t been dusted since June. The bits of destroyed dog toys littering the living room floor. The pleasure of a job well done was quickly squelched by shifting my focus. I could feel the old habits seeping in, the things I tell myself that I would never allow to pass by my lips if I were speaking to another.

During this time, I made it a point to go out and socialize. I went to every networking event, special occasion, and learning series that I could attend. Some of the people that I socialized with knew details of what I was going through but not all and it was what came up in discussions that I found particularly interesting. While out in social environments and not hiding my vulnerability, others were more likely to share theirs as well.

Listening to others share, I found that many decisions were made from fear: fear of the unknown, fear of others, fear of change. This made me look back on my own life and saw that many of my decisions were made from fear as well. Meaningless little decisions to decisions I am still feeling the repercussions of today. But the big ones, the decisions that mean more to me today than what they meant when I made them, those were made from a place of love. Love for others and love for myself.

In that moment of realization, I decided to make it a point to have more of my decisions based in love rather than fear. While I may not know the long-term results of having more decisions based on love than fear, I know where my fear gets me. Feeling lost, worthless, and overwhelmed. During this difficult time, I decided to do the opposite of what I would normally do and put myself first. Some days are easier than others, and that’s to be expected but what is important is that I am making decisions based in love rather than fear and through that, I am finding that I am able to be unapologetically myself.

The Wall

Have you ever felt the pain and anxiety of waiting for docs to open on your computer because you just had to write something out? That fear of waiting for the computer to turn on and load would lead to forgetting some portion of what you wanted to write? Maybe it’s just me, sitting here watching the computer load for what seemed like an eternity. What’s so important that I felt the absolute need to get it out? My business plan.

But before I get into that, I want to tell you what brought this feeling up. The other day, I attempted to play Halo with my son. I say attempted because I was raised during the time that gaming systems were thought to make children complacent and lazy. And I certainly was not allowed to have one. So, I did what every child who wanted a gaming system who wasn’t allowed to did, I visited friends that had one and played on theirs. Unfortunately, I lived in a very small town and there weren’t a lot of children my age. Needless to say, I am not a gamer.

In my attempted to play with my son, he taught me how to get into vehicles and how to operate them, but I had one glaring setback. I didn’t know what the buttons on the controller did, what they were called, or where they were. I spent most of my time looking at the sky or the ground while trying to move myself forward.

Once I started to figure it out, he traversed ahead of me, telling me to follow him and I followed the little arrow designating his character until I simply couldn’t any more. My character wouldn’t move and I couldn’t figure out why.

I couldn’t move because I was facing a wall, but I didn’t realize I was facing a wall. I was looking ahead to get to him and not looking at where I was going. Now you may be asking, how does this relate to my business plan? Because I haven’t updated my business plan in over a year. I know I need to, I know I should, but I haven’t done it yet.

I talk about business plans with clients, and the importance of writing one. I compare it to a road map, you know your starting point and your destination, and over short distances, you can get away without planning too much if at all. But longer trips, that takes planning. Several years ago, my husband and I took our first big road trip. We decided on a whim to drive west to see the Rocky Mountains. We knew we wanted to drive and figured it would be fun to camp along the way. In that journey, we had to plan. Where were we going to stay? How long could we drive at a time? How long would we go on this journey? How much should we budget? In that plan, we researched, discussed, and prepared for our journey.

Not long after this trip, I wrote my first business plan and I found the similarities striking. I was setting forth a plan for the business I was going to create. It was fun and exciting, thinking of the business I wanted to start and why. I enjoyed some of the research I did and created handwritten notes to keep myself on track. But then it became real, and fear started to set in. As I typed, I realized that my business plan didn’t really look like a business plan, more of thoughts typed into a computer and thus easier to organize, but not a true business plan that I could take to a bank for funding.

I sought out assistance from SCORE and SBDC to assist with different parts of the plan, specifically the financial portion which I knew would be the weight of the plan and the determining factor of whether or not this was a viable business. One year later, I sat down to revise the business plan to plot out the future of my business, and at that time, not a lot had changed. My goals at startup had not yet been met, but I was still trying. As the year progressed, I decided to change services offered and how the rate plans were organized based on what I was hearing from clients and business owners. While this was well received, I did not update my business plan. And here I am a year later, with handwritten notes and figures, fearing to type it all out again.

My business plan is my wall. I know where I want to go and am figuring out what buttons do what and where they are. And yet, I am stuck standing at this wall trying to figure out why I can’t move forward. I’m going to run some figures, update that spreadsheet and start typing out my findings. I am going to find my way around that wall.

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