Entrepreneurial Life Is Stressful Enough - I Chose Happiness (and said goodbye to Twitter)
I learned a great deal about stress, anxiety and mental health when I launched my own business last year. By the time I realized how much I had been negatively impacted by the uncertainty of my new day-to-day existence, I was in a very dark spiral of crushing self-doubt.
From that standpoint, I made the decision to pursue happiness each and every day. To reclaim and reinforce my formerly optimistic outlook, I focus on these four approaches to reducing anxiety on a daily basis.
Focus on the positive
It became too easy to get caught up in the unknown. I lost my view of all the great opportunities that were before me. I remembered that years ago I had leveraged a gratitude journal to great effect and I thought that was a surefire way to regain my perspective. I bought a beautiful journal to capture expressions of gratitude. My goal is to make an entry every night before I go to sleep and revisit those expressions in my mind before stepping out of bed the following morning. This bookends my night. While sleeping, I am less prone to anxiousness and my mornings start off with a huge "thank you" as soon as I awake.
Reduce the negative
Social media is an extremely important lifeline for an entrepreneur. We need it to connect with our audience, expand our reach and let the world know we exist. Yet, when it comes to my mental state, I recognized that social media was often a trigger for stress. Certain platforms fed my passion or provided me with the positive challenges I needed (LinkedIn, Instagram) while others stoked my anxiety (looking at you Twitter). I decided to funnel my attention and brand-building on the platforms that fuel my inspiration (and where I can do so for others). I avoid platforms that increase stress and aim to only post content that will be helpful to others.
Enjoy the great outdoors
Exercise is known to boost endorphins and elevate mood. Everyone benefits from some form of movement. For some people it may be strength training, doing Tai Chi or playing basketball. For me, it is getting out of the house: walking, hiking or riding my bike. Not only had I ventured out on my own in business, I had also undergone surgery which saw me housebound for 14 weeks. Being trapped inside compounded the negative hit to my mental health. As soon as I was able to get outside again, I make it a habit to walk every single day. The result is improved mental clarity and all of the benefits that come with fresh air and exercise. Spending a half hour or more walking through my rural community is pure joy, even in the middle of winter. Knowing how positive the outcome will be is all the encouragement I need to get outside even when the sun is not shining.
Still the mind
Meditation and reading are two techniques I use to calm my brain. I've not graduated to self-directed meditation, so I rely on apps such as Insight Timer to provide guided sessions which I use on a daily basis. As little as 5 minutes of guided practice reduces stress. I do try to meditate at the same time each day but also try to remain aware enough so I can take a self-imposed "time out" to quiet my mind if sense anxiety building up.
Reading, whether for the escape to a fictional adventure or to enhance my learning has always been my go-to for quiet time. Now, when so much of my day is spent online or in front of a digital display, opening a book to unwind is gratifying. With no distractions, my mind focuses on the written words before me. Taking the opportunity to decompress makes me more productive and focused when working and creates a useful transition between staring at a computer screen and winding down for the evening.
Pursuing a happier mindset is my choice. Had I not put in place these practices to reduce anxiety and keep stress at bay, that positivity would be harder to achieve and maintain. Making my own way in the world is uncertain enough, I need to take control of my mental health to guarantee that I am enjoying the ride.