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ASK THE THERAPISTS: I’m addicted to being an entrepreneur, but the stress is killing me

An entrepreneur asks for advice on taking the stress down a notch, or 10.
An entrepreneur asks for advice on taking the stress down a notch, or 10. - 123RF Stock Photo

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 25 years and it always seems that no matter how well I do, I’m constantly fearing my demise. As I get older, I find my energy isn’t what it used to be and I’m slower to come back from hardship. I’m afraid that as my body breaks down from the stress that I’m going to come down with an illness. I don’t know any other life, but I also don’t know how much longer I can sustain this.

How do I deal with the ups and downs of business life and maintain a balance?

Blair

Hello fellow entrepreneur. I hear your challenges and can relate, as we too face these challenges every day. The world of entrepreneurship takes a lot of courage and fortitude, which you must have since you’ve been at it for 25 years. When we come to a crossroads, which it sounds like you’re facing, the first thing we need to do is assess where we are and ask ourselves how much quality of life we are gleaning from our present situation.

I suggest you make a list of the pros and cons and if the cons outweigh the pros, it may be time to change your business model or career path. This can be a frightening prospect, because it may force you to step into the unknown, but that’s also where new possibilities live. It’s easy to slide into doom thinking, like the Chicken Little scenario, and start reciting the famous quote, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Stay positive and feel free to borrow our motto, which is “This or something better.”

Successful businesses need to constantly adapt to the ever-changing market. Take the food industry for example, where hamburgers were once the popular choice, the plant-based burger may be the way of the future. Perhaps it’s time to tweak or update your business model.

For all my business decisions, I seek counsel from people who have more expertise in my areas of weakness. This enables me to consider a breadth of options which allows me to make decisions based on sound business practices. Organizations such as the Business Development Corporation, Chamber of Commerce, CEED and The Center for Women in Business are great places to find support and sound business advice.

In closing, if your business model is sound and you’re not increasing your debt load, then don’t give up. There are countless stories of people who have had tremendous success just when they were about to give up or change directions.

Jenny

Here’s how most people deal with a challenge in our world: we get all worked up with worry and anxiety, stuck in our heads and consumed in thought. We ruminate about the many worst-case scenarios and seek unprofessional advice from people around us, many of whom may not be effective problem solvers. We also seek life’s answers externally through portals such as Google, which may provide us with unreliable or questionable information. Sure, they can lead us to a decision of sorts, but it’s not always the best one. Wouldn’t you rather make a massive life choice, such as a career change, from a place of calm and clear understanding?

Instead of awful-izing about your waning energy or a drop in the marketplace, you could take this as a rich opportunity to tune into your centre, the deepest part of yourself. This is where the most aligned solutions reside. I invite you to close the screen, turn off the phone and try tuning into your inner voice, just for a little while. It may be difficult to imagine approaching life’s challenges by choosing not to think, but when you do, you can enter a state of clarity and discover the answers you seek.

An easy way of finding this place is to sit comfortably, exhaling with a sigh a few times and invite your breath to slow down. After some time, your system may drop into a relaxed state where you can quiet your fear-based thinking and access your inner wisdom.

Additionally, it is common for entrepreneurs, especially small business owners who are often exposed to prolonged stress, to experience burnout around mid-life. If you’re feeling chronically depleted, easily overwhelmed and find it challenging to complete daily tasks, you might be at risk. This is a concerning state because you can’t typically recover with a few good nights’ sleep or a couple of days off work. It requires a long-term approach to healing with stress management strategies.

Here are a few suggestions for helping you get back on your feet and feel inspired again:

Take a break

I know it’s hard, but the chances are good that someone else can do your work adequately enough for a few weeks.

Practice mindfulness and relaxation

Burnout can lead us to life’s greatest gift, the present moment. Let go and just be.

Manage your expectations

Are you biting off more than you can chew each day? You’re not expected to be a superhero, so try letting yourself be human for a while.

Finally, take this time to contemplate the feelings you want to have in your life. For me, as a mom-preneur, I thrive when I feel inspired, valued and supported. Turn your focus away from the dread and doom and spend more time in your desired feeling states.

All the best!

Blair Abbass and Jenny Kierstead are certified therapists, award winning educators and partners in life and business. They are the co-founders of Breathing Space Yoga Studio/Teacher Training, Yoga in Schools and Girl on Fire. They have been married for 17 years, but who’s counting.

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