If you’re a blogger, business owner, or some combination of the two, you’ve undoubtedly felt the pressures of increasing workloads and imminent deadlines.
But how does one handle these day-to-day stresses in the face of mental health issues like anxiety or depression? Or, as can often be the case, what should one do if work is the cause of anxiety and depression?
Being Diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression
These are situations that I know all too well.
In 2008, during my first semester of college, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Six years later, after having a meltdown in the emergency room, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
What does anxiety feel like?
If you’ve never experienced anxiety, imagine thinking all of the worst things that could possibly happen, thinking about these things all at once, not being able to stop thinking about them, and also not being to do anything about them either.
What does depression feel like?
If you’ve never experienced depression, imagine sitting at the bottom of a hole filled with wet cement, wanting to get out, but not having enough energy to do so, and so you’re just stuck there.
NOTE: if you’ve experienced anxiety and/or depression, I’m truly sorry. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. Although I’m not a mental health care professional, I’ve created some free tools that can help you shift your mindset and make positive changes if you’re still struggling. I would also advise you to seek professional help.
Dealing with Anxiety and Depression
Now, to get an idea of where I was a few years ago, imagine having both anxiety and depression AT THE SAME TIME. If that doesn’t sound like fun, that’s because it isn’t.
I spent much of my early adulthood hiding my symptoms from my classmates and teachers, and later from my employers and co-workers. Each day was a “fake it till you make it” routine, until finally, in 2015, I went into business for myself as a freelancer.
Additionally, while I’d been blogging off and on since 2012, in 2017, I started blogging consistently. Then, in 2018, I turned my blog into a business with the help of my brother, Kendall.
It’s important to note that being self-employed and/or working from home does NOT make anxiety and depression go away. If anything, it challenges one to create even stronger boundaries and self-care practices.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about dealing with anxiety and depression as an entrepreneur.
1. Anxiety and depression can be sneaky.
Okay, truth time… have you ever found yourself doing any of the following things?
- Having to take medication or other substances to make it through the day?
- Snapping at a spouse, co-worker, or random stranger because you’re stressed out?
- Canceling plans at the last minute (or not responding to invites at all), but you’re too busy/tired/[insert excuse here]?
- Procrastinating because you have WAY too much stuff to do and you don’t even know where to start?
- Panicking every time you hear a ping, ting, ring, or another notification sound on your laptop, phone, or other work-related devices.
If you said yes to any of the previous questions, chances are you’re dealing with some level of anxiety or depression. But, in today’s go-getter society, we’ve grown accustomed to being busy ALL. THE. TIME. Being anxious and depressed has, unfortunately, become the norm.
Keep reading to learn how you can break the cycle of anxiety and depression in the workplace, even if you’re self-employed and work from home.
2. It’s okay to not be okay.
As entrepreneurs, we’ve developed some incredible strengths and coping skills that inadvertently mask our symptoms. With a smile on our face, it can be difficult for others to detect that there’s even anything wrong.
After all, we’re the boss, right? Aren’t we supposed to have it all together?
The problem with pretending to be strong all the time is that it isolates us. Worrying about what other people might think can prevent us from getting the help we need.
While I’m not saying you should “bare it all” to your employees (you still need to be professional, after all), it’s okay to not be okay every once in a while. Nobody can give 100% all of the time. After all, we’re only human.
You can have a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad month or year. That doesn’t make a you a bad person.
3. It’s not okay to stay that way.
It’s okay to have a bad day (or week, or month, or whatever), but it’s not okay to stay that way. You owe it to yourself to start feeling better.
I’m not saying that you can simply “wish away” your negative feelings, but I do believe that you can make positive changes to make anxiety and depression less likely, or at the very least, easier to manage.
Here are some very practical ways to manage anxiety and depression as a blogger or business owner:
Start your day with quiet time.
Take at least 15 minutes to reflect, meditate, or simply sit in silence at the beginning of each day. This will start your day on a peaceful note and help reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re pressed for time in the mornings, start waking up earlier.
This can also be a good time to read, engage in a hobby, or do something nice for yourself. This is NOT the time to check emails or do work. Remember, we’re trying to reduce stress and anxiety, not increase it.
Plan your day for success.
After your quiet time, organize your schedule by prioritizing the most important things first.
I’ll never forget Gary Keller’s advice from his best-selling book, The One Thing: “What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Once you’ve figured out the “ONE thing,” or things that correspond to the ONE thing, create time blocks on your calendar to ensure you’re scheduling time for yourself to complete each task. Focus on the essentials only. You don’t have to do #allthethings (really).
Clear your plate.
Don’t be afraid to say no to, or delegate, anything that doesn’t align with your core mission and vision (i.e., your ONE thing).
As much as you may like control, remember that not everything has to be personally done by YOU. Surround yourself with equally talented people that you can pass things off to as needed.
When it seems like you have too much to do, ask yourself:
- Does this absolutely need to be done right now, or even today?
- What are the consequences if I don’t do this right now/today?
- Can I deal with these consequences?
Often, when we pause and reflect, we find that most things aren’t as urgent as they seem. It’s also important to remember that someone else’s urgency is NOT your emergency.
Have grace with standards, protect your schedule, and enforce your boundaries as needed.
Take breaks as needed.
Take frequent breaks. It might seem counterintuitive, but taking a break can actually increase productivity. Additionally, adequate rest can help reduce stress and anxiety and alleviate depression.
Breaks can include planned times such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks in between. DO NOT eat at your computer. Take time to enjoy your meal and refresh your mindset.
Breaks can also be taken on an “as needed” or ad hoc basis. In this case, it may be helpful to be aware of your most common triggers. For me, nothing spikes my anxiety quite like a client asking for something important at the last minute. For you, it might be getting an email or text message from work early in the morning or late at night.
Whenever you feel that flutter of anxiety or sudden plunge into depression, try this:
This very simple mantra can serve as a reminder not to panic. You can get things done and still take care of yourself.
Not every workday is going to be all sunshine and rainbows. Stress is inevitable. Suffering is not. Surround yourself with positive people, develop healthy habits to manage your anxiety and depression, and seek professional help if you need it. You can still be productive, even with anxiety or depression. You just have to be willing to make some positive changes.
About the Author:
***UPDATE (as of 02/11/2020): Nicole Starbuck’s blog, Jumpstart Positivity is Unavailable.
Nicole Starbuck is a mental health blogger and recovering perfectionist changing the world one thought at a time. She’s the co-founder of Jumpstart Positivity, an online community empowering people through positive thinking and impactful change.
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