How I run two successful businesses with an anxiety disorder

December 4, 2018

navigating entrepreneurship

Sweet friend, over the years I’ve been apart of the creative community, I’ve been blown away by all the amazing, empowering conversations that have popped up around mental health. One conversation that keeps coming to the forefront on Instagram and face-to-face conversations at conferences is the topic of anxiety among creative entrepreneurs.

As someone who has wrestled with anxiety for the majority of my life and who was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in my early twenties, I can completely relate. Anxiety is something I’ve definitely had to come face-to-face with in order to not only be a better business owner, but ultimately become the best version of myself.

But here’s the thing. Having an anxiety disorder has not held me back in any way shape or form. Having an anxiety disorder has not hindered me when it comes to hitting big audacious business goals, launching my second business, or doing any of the big beautiful things I’ve dreamed of for years. But I’ve had to learn how to best take my anxiety disorder into consideration as part of my day-to-day life both personally and professionally.

If you are living with an anxiety disorder, maybe you’ve been aware of it for years or maybe it’s a new part of yourself you are just getting to know. I want to encourage you that if I can do it so can you.

Today, I want to talk through some of the ways that I run two successful businesses with an anxiety disorder. The way I’ve taught myself to flip the script as what some people see as a hindrance, and how I’ve really learned to embrace that part of myself as really just a beautiful, complex layer to who I am as a person.

Today, I want to talk through some of the ways that I run two successful businesses with an anxiety disorder. The way I’ve taught myself to flip the script as what some people see as a hindrance, and how I’ve really learned to embrace that part of myself as really just a beautiful, complex layer to who I am as a person. | b is for bonnie design #anxietydisorder #creativeentreprenuer #branddesigner

THE BIG MINDSET SHIFT THAT NEEDED TO HAPPEN

When I was first becoming familiar with my anxiety disorder, I was at a point in my life where I realistically was overwhelmed by all the things I had on my plate.

I personally had a lot of things going on in my day-to-day life. And on top, of that I was trying to figure out how in the world to make anxiety a part of my business in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was weak or missing out on “normal” experiences that other business owners without anxiety might have.

And I found that first and foremost, if I was going to navigate life—not just business, but life—as someone with anxiety. I had to choose to do it differently.

For me, that meant flipping the script in my mind and honestly changing my mindset and my approach when it came to anxiety as a whole.

So instead of allowing anxiety to be an excuse or something to blame my failures on, I choose to be brave and courageous with myself. I choose to not allow anxiety to hold me back.

I keep talking about anxiety in my life as another complex layer to who I am. And when I think of that in my mind, that looks like a beautiful multi-faceted gem. Every angle and every cut is different. None of them are the same. None are necessarily stronger, more beautiful or more worthy than the other. But when we put every angle and cut together, it creates a beautiful one-of-a-kind stone that shines brilliantly.

I like to think of this one-of-a-kind, multi-faceted gem when it comes to my own sense of self and mental health.

And I believe if you are able to grasp this mindset shift too, it will help create a lot of hope, possibility and positivity out of your anxiety disorder.

Yes, living with anxiety can be complicated. Yes, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, But it doesn’t have to be something that holds you back or surrounds you with constant negativity.

HOW I WORK DIFFERENTLY IN LIGHT OF MY ANXIETY

Now that we have shifted our mindset when it comes to working with anxiety and we are starting to leverage it into our approach as a small business owner, I want you to think of anxiety as your secret super power. Let’s instead use it as a way to work differently.

Personally in light of my anxiety, I choose to work differently in a way that builds a huge amount of grace into my day-to-day schedule.

I’ve learned through therapy and self-awareness what triggers my anxiety the most, what I can do to ease it,  and the things that make my it worse.

And I’ve found some common themes that allow me to best care for myself in my day-to-day routine. For example, I know that if I am diving into a busy work day where I have back-to-back meetings with no breathing room, I will end my work day in a bundle of anxiety and nerves and be a monster human to be around.

So in light of that, I choose to schedule my meetings with some breathing room in-between and I give myself a huge amount of grace. For me, that looks like creating a schedule that is flexible.

If I’m being honest, that’s actually a little ironic to say I create a schedule that is flexible. Personally, I experience a small degree of anxiety in any situation when I have a little uncertainty and there is not a set schedule, But as funny as it sounds, I’ve really learned in order to care for myself best, I have to have a certain degree of flexibility in my work day so that I can really have the time to care for myself the best way possible.

For example, if a lot is going on in my personal life and I know today is going to be a day where I’m going to struggle with heavy anxiety, I might be on the edge of an anxiety attack. Then I know that it’s better for me, my clients, and my team if I take a half- or full-day off.

If at the very least, I need to take a few steps back and give myself plenty of space, time and kindness to recover and work through it.

The very last thing I want to do is push myself when I’m already feeling anxious because that added stress will push me over the edge and I will be of no use to myself, my clients or anyone around me.

HOW I MANAGE ANXIETY DAILY

A few things I use in my day-to-day to practically manage my anxiety on a regular basis are simple, everyday not-so-special things that might not sound flashy on the surface, but if you build them into a part of your routine they can be game-changers. You’ll find they bring a lot of peace and dependability which provide so much stability to an anxious person.

EXERCISE

The first thing I do on a daily basis is I exercise, Even if it’s just walking my dog down the street. A simple act of moving and getting those endorphins going can do wonders when it comes to how I’m feeling.

If anything when I’m having an especially anxious day, working out can really get me outside of my head. By doing something that is physically demanding my attention on a specific movement in order to navigate the spin class or barre class correctly, that challenges me to get out of my head, outside of myself, and to stop overthinking things. At the end of every workout I promise you I feel so much lighter and better.

If I’m having a bad day or in a funk, exercise is one of my go-to remedies. And building that as part of my regular routine has helped me become a happier and healthier person. Not physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

SLEEP

The second thing I really prioritize is sleep. I am at my most anxious and anxiety attack prone when I’m sleep deprived. Creating a schedule and protective boundaries around bedtime has been a game changer for me.

I create a dependable night time routine where I’m disconnecting from any kind of stimulating screen time like TV, computer or my phone. I disconnect from stressful conversations about work or family life or any of those kinds of things. I don’t read anything that is really stimulating or engaging and instead I’m focus on slowing my body down. Slowing my rhythm down and calming my mind.

This is a great time—if I hadn’t had a chance to do it yet—to meditate. I spend some time with myself to calm my body, my breathing, my mind and then I can be in a more restful state before going to bed.

So carving out time every single day, especially in busy seasons of work, when I know I can count on a minimum of 8 hours of sleep has been a huge game changer for me.

CBD OIL

The third thing that has been powerful in my life is CBD oil—an oil that’s received a lot of attention recently and has blown up on the health and wellness scene for good reason.

CBD oil is a derivative of hemp plants and is a fantastic way to manage things like stress, anxiety, inflammation in your body, pain and so many other health benefits. It’s something you’re able to take as a lotion or cream or you can orally apply the oil directly under your tongue or add to food and beverages.

Personally I like to take my CBD oil orally or I’ll mix it in with my coffee every morning. It’s something that’s a regular part of my routine and it helps to calm my body down and feel like a better version of myself.

THERAPY

And finally the other thing that’s helped me manage anxiety on a regular basis is therapy. Finding an incredible, trustworthy therapist I can meet with on a regular basis is such a blessing in my life. It’s created a safe and open space where I can be truly vulnerable and where I learn how to become the most emotionally resilient and mature version of myself.

I think that therapy is such a fantastic experience for anyone at any season of their life. And actually one thing I tell to so many of my mentoring clients is if you want to become the best version of yourself—not only in your business—but also for your family and yourself, go to therapy.

It doesn’t have to be a conversation or relationship where you’re walking through difficult family issues or trama. Although it’s absolutely vital if you’ve walked through any of those emotional experiences in your life where you’ve gone through traumatic experiences or had toxic relationships in your life. Those are really important conversations to have with a mental health professional who can help you navigate them, heal from them and then move forward in that way.

Before I started going to therapy, my anxiety was at an all-time high and out of control. It was something I felt was managing me and I wasn’t managing it.

But since I’ve been able to talk through things that trigger my anxiety and get to the root that causes it, I now understand how to really control my anxiety disorder and not let it control me.

Thanks to therapy, my anxiety has dramatically diminished. I will even go months sometimes without having anything remotely like an anxiety attack which for me is huge progress.

THERAPY ALTERNATIVES

Another form of therapy I’ve heard works wonders, but that I haven’t tried personally is called EMDR therapy. If you’ve experienced trauma or wrestle with an actual anxiety disorder I would highly recommend looking into EMDR therapy in your area or a good old fashion talk therapy with a counselor or therapist you trust.

Something I want to note about finding a counselor or therapist you can connect with is it will feel a lot like dating. Just because you go to the first therapist you find through a friend or Google search, doesn’t mean that has to be your therapist for life. Therapy is a very personal and vulnerable experience and if you don’t feel seen, heard or respected by that person. Or you don’t feel comfortable, then you have all the permission in the world to “date around” and find a therapist who is the best fit for you.

ANXIETY DOESN’T HAVE TO HOLD YOU BACK

So friend, whether you are a veteran in your journey with anxiety or this is a new part of yourself you are discovering, I want to encourage you that this does not have to hold you back or be a negative thing in your life.

Over the years, I’ve learned some great ways to manage my own anxiety disorder. I’m a very high-functioning person and I do believe that one of the most beautiful aspects of my anxiety is that although it can be crippling in the midst of an anxiety attack, it’s something that can also keep me incredibly driven. If I’m being completely honest I think a lot of the reason to why I have reached my level of success with my two businesses has been in part because of my anxiety disorder.

Like I said, I don’t believe anxiety has to be something that holds you back or make you feel like something is wrong with you. It’s simply a complex intricate part of who you are and if you’re open to it and willing to do the work to dive into the depths of yourself, it can be a beautiful part of your story and honestly, a catalyst on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself.

So sweet friend, if you struggle with anxiety, what are some ways you learn to manage it within your day-to-day routine? Do you feel it’s something that as a small business owner you feel has held you back or do you feel it’s another aspect of rising to the challenge and being the best business owner that you can be?

Let us know in the comments below!

Today, I want to talk through some of the ways that I run two successful businesses with an anxiety disorder. The way I’ve taught myself to flip the script as what some people see as a hindrance, and how I’ve really learned to embrace that part of myself as really just a beautiful, complex layer to who I am as a person. | b is for bonnie design #anxietydisorder #creativeentreprenuer #branddesigner

  1. Tangi

    December 10th, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    This was such an incredible article! I developed postpartum anxiety over two years ago, but I suspect I’ve always had anxiety and just learned to function around it. I just started a business this year and lost what could have been a “career-making” client because of the fear of venturing out. Now that I have ventured out a little bit, my business isn’t doing so well but I’m much more confident in my abilities. This article let me know that there are others out there who have the same issue I do and gave some great tips on how to navigate around and with them. Thank you so much for this.

  2. Bonnie Bakhtiari

    December 11th, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Oh friend you are so not alone! Thank you for sharing your story as well. I’m so glad that this helped you see you aren’t alone in this and maybe even gave you some ways to help with your anxiety as a business owner. Cheering you on sweet friend.

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I'm Bonnie -- a designer, brand designer + strategist, writer, wife, and pet parent to the most rambunctious golden retriever this side of the Mason-Dixon! I'm passionate about building authentic brands, encouraging small business owners to chase their dreams, and spreading joy through design. It's a delight to have you here, lovely! Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a comfy chair and stay a while, won't you?

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