Many entrepreneurs struggle with anxiety on different levels. I work with a high-performance coach. He also happens to be a psychologist who has managed psychiatric wards. According to him, there are 3 different states of Anxiety: Top Level, Middle Level and Low Level. What happens all too often is that we swing between the 2 extremities.
What I’m going to share with you now is life-changing. I’m going to discuss how to recognise when you are in an anxious state, what state you are in, and how to cope through it. Anxiety does not have to cripple your life and business. You can learn to balance it and use it in a positive way so that you can still be a successful entrepreneur!
Top-level Anxiety (The Red zone)
This is the highest level of anxiety when your Cortisol (stress hormone) levels are high. There are various physical symptoms for different people. Some people feel it in their stomach and some experience symptoms in their chest. Common indications are that the heart races, the chest feels like it’s closing, it may be very hard to breathe, there is a tense feeling, like a “knot” in the stomach. This is where you feel like you are in a heightened place and it’s not a good place to be in.
If there is something threatening your life, for example, a tiger running after you, your Cortisol levels would naturally rise. And your instincts would have you fleeing that danger as fast as you can. Anytime there is a real danger, the body needs this high Cortisol level to force you to protect yourself and get out of that situation. So Cortisol is a good thing, as long as it is temporary. As soon as our bodies keep the Cortisol levels too high for too long, that becomes harmful and that is when the body can experience burnout, adrenal fatigue and a compromised immune response. When you find that you are in this phase of anxiety you want to be bringing yourself down to the optimal level of anxiety.
What to do:
Breathing: Remember to breathe. Try deep Circular breathing, breathe in for 6 sec, hold for 6 seconds, and breathe out for 6 seconds. You can try and go for longer and even experiment with different breathing techniques to see what feels comfortable for you.
Meditation: Meditation has a positive effect on your stress levels, even if for a few minutes. An easy place to listen to a guided meditation on an app like Insight Timer. Try a 15 min meditation and see how that works for you if you find that you take quicker to calm down you may just need one that is 5 or 10 minutes. Be sure to turn on the “Do not disturb” function on your phone. An alternative is to use an old – fashioned iPod with some meditations on there as I do, then there is absolutely no temptation to check your phone. Try adding an essential oil like Lavender to calm you and use it as an olfactory trigger for when you are going to be calming yourself down.
Get proper sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of good sleep, insomnia can raise Cortisol levels for many hours. If it isn’t possible to implement this yet, try to just get some rest and breaks, or just lie down when you feel high anxiety. Remember that any sleep you get before midnight is equivalent to 2 hours of sleep after midnight.
Unplug: You want to have solid routines and procedures so that you are not constantly available to everyone at the drop of a hat. We’re so anxious because of being distracted and feeling like we’re being pulled in a million directions and running around like a headless chicken!
- Turn your notifications off on your computer and phone. Go into settings > apps > notifications and you need to turn them off one by one. Do that right now. It’s life-changing. This includes your Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and even your emails! The only time my phone makes a noise is when I’m receiving an actual phone call (rare these days) and my Google calendar notifications on my phone and computer because it’s telling me to move to the next task.
- Start calendar blocking. I highly recommend using Google calendar and syncing the calendars on your computer and phone. Block out times for all of you various activities including gym, the school run, client calls, various work-related tasks and even dinner, bath time and bedtime. Allocate specific times when you will check your emails and stick to those.
- iPhones have a feature called Automatic Downtime so the apps shut off at a certain time and I can’t access them unless I enter a password.
- On an iPhone, you can also set limits on the amount of time you are spending on certain apps
- You can also use the “Do not disturb” function in the evening so that you don’t get random calls late at night
- Keep your clients, family & friends and team members in different places or “buckets” is what I like to call them, I keep contact with potential clients via Facebook Messenger, my Private Coaching clients on Voxer, My team tasks on Asana and only if we need to communicate something urgent – Telegram, and finally, only my friends, family and the school chat on Whatsapp.
The Middle Phase (or the Green zone)
The middle phase is the optimal state of anxiety. This is the phase in which you are driven. You are hitting deadlines. You are taking the required actions for your business and you are writing, creating and doing the work that needs to be done!
What happens is that we swing between the high anxiety when our Cortisol levels are high and we are heading for adrenal burnout and then we have a crash down to low – level anxiety.
If you are a person who suffers from anxiety, this is the phase where you want to aim to be!
Low – Level Anxiety (or The Blue Zone)
Low anxiety is where you don’t feel like doing anything. You feel like you want to just lie down and bury yourself under the covers, watch Netflix and binge on all the chocolates and greasy food. This is when you are not feeling motivated, not being productive at all. You know you have tasks that need to be done, but you are procrastinating by scrolling on social media. Sometimes it may feel so bad that you just want to throw in the towel! This is definitely not an optimal space to be in either. You want to up your energy to get to the middle level.
What to do:
Laugh: Network, socialise, chat to a friend or watch a comedy. A study shows that laughing decreases Cortisol levels by nearly 50%!
Eat a balanced diet: Eat wholesome unprocessed foods instead of reaching for those binge – foods! Eat more leafy greens, colourful vegetables and low – sugar fruit, bananas, avocadoes, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, tuna, salmon and whole grains to lower your cortisol levels.
I recently got gifted a NutriBullet blender and I’ve been making healthy green smoothies daily. I highly recommend the app by Simple Green Smoothies, they also have a great YouTube channel and Instagram account. Don’t forget to drink enough water throughout the day too!
Move your body: For those of us who love our businesses, it is so easy to get caught up in working and avoid engaging in grounding practices that help with anxiety.
Research says that if you take half an hour out to do exercise that’s uninterrupted it will actually increase your productivity. You’ll be able to come up with the creative ideas that you need for your business and create good content, instead of feeling like you’re busy working all the time but not getting anything done.
Do something that you enjoy, whether it is walking on the beach, surfing, hit the gym, do some yoga, run cycle or ride a horse! Get that body moving and your blood pumping. I’ve recently joined the gym after a 3.5-year hiatus. I’m already starting to feel the benefits in terms of my mental health and energy levels. When you’re feeling low it can be hard to picture yourself working out or doing a yoga class, but it really does help.
Many of us love to multitask, we take our phones on our walk to take some pics, or listen to a motivational podcast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that in general. BUT, if you are experiencing Top-level anxiety, my high-performance coach suggests ditching the tech and rather focus on getting in touch with your body, being present in nature and avoid too many distractions. When you go for your walks, try to go barefoot – it is very grounding, look around and appreciate everything you see.
Read more about “earthing” in this article The Surprising Health Benefits of Going Barefoot in Mind Body Green.
Breathe mindfully and use this time as a walking meditation.
In her book, ‘Girl stop apologising”, in the section called; “Building Foundations for Success”, one of the behaviours Rachel Hollis talks about adopting, is “Moving your body every day”:
“Studies have been done on the highest performers, the people who are the greatest athletes, the greatest businesswomen, the greatest in the world. Out of the highest-performing people, it’s something like 97 percent—I swear, you can look this up—who work out at least five days a week. It’s not because those people were given some special workout genes that you don’t have. It’s because those people know that energy begets energy. You want to achieve your goal? Get moving for those thirty minutes every day, and make sure your body is ready to act on the vision you have for your life.”
There’s no quick fix to cure anxiety
As you can see there’s no quick fix to cure Anxiety. These are lifestyle changes you need to adopt (whether you’re on medication for it or not – but that’s an entire topic on its own). Currently, I’m not on any Schedule 5 medication for this (no judgement if you are) and I’ve made the conscious decision to take steps to improve my mental health over time using the tips I’ve given you above. Talk-therapy is also massively helpful.
Please reach out to somebody if you’re feeling overwhelmed by Anxiety.
Do not suffer in silence!
If this post resonated with you please share it on social media as I really feel this is a message that needs to be spread.
Chanelle is a business coach/consultant and personal branding specialist with over 20 years of experience. She's been featured in Forbes, Thrive Global, Stylist Magazine and COACH Magazine. She runs a global training business and works with women helping them launch, grow and scale their online businesses and create a freedom-based life through entrepreneurship.