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. -@WhiteBayouCo 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 in a 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.
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.
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.' -@WhiteBayouCo 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.' -@WhiteBayouCo 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.
What other ways do you manage the anxiety that comes with being a creative entrepreneur?
- Kathleen got a little vulnerable and opened up about her own anxiety on Episode #40: Feeling Boss
- Rebecca Egbert talked about the importance of mental health for postpartum women in Episode #33: Self Care for Mom Bosses with Special Guest Rebecca Egbert