Your question: Why is my business giving me anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Not enough is said about how stressful work can be. The reality is that one of the most universal causes of anxiety is work pressures, both for employees and business owners. In such hectic and changing times, it is common for being in charge of a business to be a stressful and anxiety-producing job.

There is even a term to explain this problem: burnout syndrome. This is characterized by a deep emotional discomfort generated by the pressure and demands of the job. The causes can range from overly demanding jobs and poor working conditions to conflicts between employees and bosses (1).

Therefore, it is completely common to feel anxiety about your business. It is a real problem and you are not exaggerating by feeling anxious about all the conflicts related to your business. In a 2021 survey more than 50% of entrepreneurs interviewed claimed to experience emotional problems because of their business and more than 20% expressed dealing with anxiety because of work pressures (2).

I believe that in order to find solutions to any problem it is necessary to know it in depth. Therefore, before I propose psychological strategies to help you deal with the feeling of anxiety caused by your business, I would like to give you some reasons why your business might be causing you anxiety problems.

You have the strength and ability to cope with this problem, and it is always worth seeing a psychologist if you feel you need extra help to cope with anxiety and prevent it from taking over your life.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

Psychology (3) has studied anxiety as a complex phenomenon, which has specific characteristics that affect people in different areas. Some characteristics of anxiety are:

Cognitive symptoms: fear of losing control; fear of death; fear of “going crazy”; fear of negative evaluation by others; frightening thoughts.

Physiological symptoms: increased heart rate, palpitations; shortness of breath, rapid breathing; chest pain or pressure; choking sensation; dizziness.

Affective symptoms: nervous, tense, wound up; frightened; sadness; irritability.

Why does your business cause you anxiety?

Anxiety is generally a multi-causal phenomenon, which means that it is very likely that a person’s anxiety does not have a single origin, but a group of several factors that provoke and aggravate their anxious symptoms. Some elements that may be causing you anxiety related to your business and work in general are:

Debts and financial problems.

Being a business owner or entrepreneur is a stressful activity for many reasons. One of the most common is financial problems. Bosses and entrepreneurs are primarily responsible for dealing with the money management of a business, whether it is large, medium or small. This can generate a lot of anxiety because of the burden of responsibility to pay all debts on time.

Work demands

The day-to-day demands of work are themselves anxiety-generating. Regardless of the type of business, from a food establishment to a clothing store, from an art department to a private university, there are constant pressures that bosses, owners, entrepreneurs or managers must deal with every day. For example, the constant pressure of serving customers and responding to their demands can significantly affect you as an entrepreneur.

Conflicts with employees

Another common complication that arises in the workplace is the dynamics between employees and managers. It can be difficult to deal with employees, either because they don’t meet your expectations or because they simply have poor job performance and attitude. This can create anxiety for you as the consideration of firing or replacing employees is a stressful process, especially in small businesses.

What can you do?

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you need to understand that the pressure you put on your shoulders to control all aspects of your business needs to be reduced. When you overload yourself and anxiety builds up, you can’t expect good things for your business. So dedicating yourself to your mental health and regulating your anxiety is also dedicating yourself to taking care of your business.

If your anxiety persists and intensifies, you may want to take the time to see a psychologist. Some strategies to deal with the feeling of anxiety caused by your business are:

Find the source of your anxiety

It is necessary that based on the main causes of anxiety in your business, you determine what are the elements that are causing anxiety in your life. To do this, you can keep a diary or log in which you write down during the day the episodes of anxiety you experience. This will allow you to find patterns that will reveal what are the main reasons for your anxiety. For example, if the anxiety occurs exclusively when you are keeping the accounts of your business, the reason for your anxiety is related to the economic aspect of your business and therefore, you need additional help in that aspect.

Relay tasks to others

At a certain point it is necessary for entrepreneurs, bosses or business owners to hire more people. It is possible that part of your anxiety is that you have to take responsibility for a lot of things on your own. Therefore, you need to either assign more tasks to the staff you already have (avoiding overloading them with responsibilities) or find more people to help you manage the work of your business.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

Avoid taking work home

Something very important that every worker, whether employee, owner or freelancer, should apply in their life is not to take work to their personal life. This means that once you are done with your workday for the day, try to disconnect from your work responsibilities and dedicate that time to yourself, either to spend time with your family or to dedicate it to doing something you enjoy alone.

In my experience…

The anxiety of business owners or managers is common because the pressures of the job market are constant and ever-changing. Therefore, this feeling is completely normal and it is not your fault to experience it. You have the full ability to address these issues and cope with your anxiety symptoms by decreasing them through coping strategies and seeking professional help when you feel it is getting out of control.

You also need to remember that as the head of a business, how you treat your employees is key to the overall functioning. Therefore, your anxiety should not be an excuse to treat your employees poorly or overload them with tasks.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this medium proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health.

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