The information provided in this article should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health providers regarding a medical condition.


Here’s the thing, if you’re a creative entrepreneur or small business owner, you looked at the many career path options in front of you and you chose the hard one. It’s also the fulfilling one, the one that can give you as much or as little freedom as you like, and the one that allows you to stick to your personal and business values instead of conforming to someone else’s.

But business owners may be more prone to anxiety and mental health problems than their cubicle counterparts according to research. In one study from 2015, as many as 72% of the entrepreneurs included in the sample group expressed concerns over their mental health. And another found that almost 60% of small business owners reported struggling with anxiety recently.*

So if you think you may be experiencing anxiety, you are more than likely right, at least according to the statistics. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of anxiety and how one boss learned to manage hers.

*One important note, this study was conducted post-Covid during a time when entrepreneurs are under more stress than ever before.


  • Headaches

  • Muscle pain or tension

  • Insomnia or otherwise disrupted sleep patterns

  • Stomach troubles, including pain, nausea, or indigestion

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath

  • Increased heart rate

  • Increased sweating

  • Trembling or shaking


  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense

  • Excessive worrying

  • Inability to control thoughts or ruminating (reliving bad experiences)

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • A sense of dread and fear

  • Sadness or depression


  • Avoiding trying new things

  • Isolating from friends and family members

  • Seeking reassurance from others more than normal

  • Inability to perform and complete tasks at work, school, or home

  • Irritability

  • Easily startled


They say that anxiety affects 18% of the American population. “They” are the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (put that on a business card), and where they get their statistics… I don’t know. But being the savvy social scientist that I am, I would venture to estimate that accounting for misdiagnosis, misinformation, and demographic nuance, that number is more realistically between 25-30%.

“You don’t have ADHD. You have anxiety,” my doctor said. He was patting my hand with an understandably wild-eyed look. He was trying to comfort me, awkwardly, as I had just had a spectacularly unexpected breakdown in his office. An office I’d entered intending to discuss prescription treatment of the ADHD I’d been convinced, for the better part of five years, that I’d had. I couldn’t focus. Like, ever. I couldn’t remember simple things like paying bills, taking out the trash, or checking the mail—basic life tasks.

When it came to running my business, I was completely hopeless. I missed deadlines and straight-up forgot client tasks I’d assigned to myself. Throw all of that in on top of the fact that I was a full-time student and a full-time mom.

It turns out that anxiety is a real-world thing. A thing that makes your brain shut down when you’re confronted with overwhelm and expectations.


Anxiety is pretty common among entrepreneurs and freelancers. And why not? The conditions are ideal. Click To Tweet

Anxiety is pretty common among entrepreneurs and freelancers. And why not? The conditions are ideal. There is a ton (or two) of pressure: pressure from clients to excel, pressure from ourselves to continue to grow, and pressure from the creative community to be more creative, innovative, and original. A creative entrepreneur under that kind of pressure is like a three-story Venetian villa—a masterpiece teetering on the brink of a slow, watery death.

Fear not creatives, there is hope. If you’re looking for general tips on coping with anxiety, let me direct you to our good friend Google. There are hundreds, thousands, of articles that can help. But what can we do, specifically, to make our lives as anxious, creative entrepreneurs easier?


1 – Keep a List

I make a habit of writing down everything I need to

do the next day, the night before. Because, if I don’t, I’ll wake up overwhelmed, refuse to get up, and sleep until 10 o’clock.

A list will save you time and a mild heart attack every morning so you don’t have to sit at your desk for 45 minutes and wonder what steps you need to take to make sure your thing—your business—doesn’t blow wide open and expose you as a fraud.

Anxiety will straight up tell you that you can’t do the thing. Every time.' -@WhiteBayouCo Click To Tweet

Because that’s another thing: anxiety will straight up tell you that you can’t do the thing– every time. When you’re focused on putting one foot in front of the other, you don’t have time to worry about whether or not you can do this. You’re already doing it.


Instead of making only daily to-do lists, start your week by writing down everything you need to do that week, then use that list to create blocks of time to accomplish each task or related tasks on your calendar. This method of time and task management is called Time Blocking and is something we use at Being Boss to prevent and manage work-related stress.

2 – Accountability

Get some. One of the major side effects of anxiety is difficulty paying attention or following through on a task that makes you anxious. If you need to do business from a co-working space three hours a week or make your partner hide the remote and Toblerones until you’ve finished a project, then do it.

Hold productivity races where you and another boss get together and race against a clock to complete your to-do list. Loser gets dinner. A lot of anxiety can be neutralized by talking through it. But that doesn’t work if the only one listening is the cat.


Coworking is now easier to access than ever thanks to the ability to get together virtually, eliminating the need to commute, find a space to meet up, or do any pre-visit cleaning! And members of the free Being Boss Community can join any of our virtual coworking sessions anytime. If you’re already a member, check out the events page to RSVP for an upcoming coworking session. If not, you can join for free right now.

3 – Automation

Processes are a pain to set up, but they are a crucial floatation device for every entrepreneur who struggles with anxiety. Every time someone picks a time to set a meeting with me through my scheduler, I save at least four emails because I’m not trying to manually sync my schedule with them.

Automate everything you find to be redundant. Your creative genius is too valuable to be wasted. Click To Tweet

Automate everything you find to be redundant, from monthly invoices (and late payment notifications) and scheduling, to the purchase of standard or simple service packages or products. Your creative genius is too valuable to be wasted as you manually gather the same ten onboarding questions from every client.

4 – Outsourcing

If you can’t automate it, outsource it. If you HATE posting to Instagram, but your target customers are most on that platform, outsource to a social media management company. If the thought of organizing your inbox breaks you out in hives, outsource the job to a VA. Or, maybe you’re a whiz with your business but your dirty kitchen is a constant distraction from work. Outsource to a cleaning service.

If it distracts you, outsource it. Click To Tweet

It’s an investment, sure. But consider these things the way you would consider hiring a CPA. You could do your bookkeeping yourself. You might even do okay. But there’s a greater chance that it won’t be done right and you will think about it in the shower, before you fall asleep, and when you are supposed to be creating your genius work. Get in the same mindset with your inbox and your dishes. If it distracts you, outsource it.

The bottom line is that there is no magic, comprehensive list that will make you immune from anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t need an excuse to make your life difficult but it will gladly use one. Tools like these—lists, accountability, automation, and outsourcing—can help you eliminate unnecessary stress.



While you’re doing your time blocking for the week, scheduling meetings, or other non-work responsibilities, go ahead and put some breaks in there too. If you find yourself working long hours without getting up and stretching, drinking water, eating (remember lunch?), or generally stepping away from work, it’s time to schedule some downtime. And taking breaks has been shown to make you more productive so you can get more done and have less lingering work to worry over.

To start, try setting a timer or an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a 5-minute break every 25-30 minutes. Or try out the Pomodoro method of working with a series of varied-length work sessions and breaks.


It’s okay to not do every single thing yourself. Much like outsourcing, asking another team member, your business partner, or family and friends for help with some of your tasks can eliminate distractions and lighten the load, helping you to focus on what’s really important.

The person you might need the most help from is a medical professional like a therapist or counselor. Give yourself permission to seek out support for your mental health, even if you haven’t done it before. There are tons of qualified pros out there that want to help you, so let them! We make time to go to the doctor when we’re physically sick, so why not make time when we’re struggling mentally too?


Boundaries are SO important. If you’ve been around Being Boss for any length of time, you’ve heard us talk about boundaries. Because a lack of boundaries can really wear you down and leave you feeling even more stressed. The boundaries you need will look different from everyone else’s so it’s up to you to identify and set them.

One boundary we think every boss can benefit from is creating separation between your work and life. Why? As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get into the habit of making everything about work. Mostly because we love it and a lot of us feel like being a business owner is at the very core of our being and personalities. But it’s important to take your CEO hat off and enjoy the rest of your life.

Try not checking your work email or taking phone calls after business hours. If you don’t have business hours, stop right now and make them. Leave your laptop at the office so you’re not tempted to work from home. Ask your team to help by not contacting you after work or on the weekends and don’t contact them either.

If you work from home, it can be even harder to separate the two. One thing that helps is to create a designated workspace in your home and only use it for and during work. No more working from bed or the couch. When you’re done for the day, step away from your workspace and don’t use that space until your next work day.


Whenever you achieve a goal, book a new client, or successfully complete a project, let yourself feel it. Pause and acknowledge your accomplishment before you dive into the next thing on your list. If you had help, make sure you thank everyone else who was a part of your win. Over time this might help to quiet or stop that nagging voice that says you can’t do it. And any time it manages to pipe back up, you can say, “Oh, yeah? Well, check out everything I have done. If I can do these things, I can do this too.”


In addition to celebrating your achievements, you can also accept that no matter what you do, you will occasionally make mistakes and that making mistakes is O.K. When a mistake happens, acknowledge it, be honest with clients or teammates if it affects them too, learn from them what you can, and then move on. Obsessing over mistakes, trying to cover them up, or shaming yourself or others will only make you feel worse. To err is human as they say. So get back up and keep trying.


Bri Gore is an anthropologist turned social media manager who blends unique cultural observations with design and proven growth strategies to help established, driven brands develop loyal communities. Find out more about Bri at