Briefly, I have had my personal experiences with mental health and anxiety and this blog post is of personal opinion and observation, it is in no way intended to provide advice on managing mental health issues or anxiety but merely to provide perspectives that could be adopted in our current world of small business and uncertainty.
Following the year that is 2020 – it’s still November – we all know the trials the world has faced with the eruption of COVID-19 and none of us are certain of what is to come.
Across the board, mental health and anxiety cases are on the rise. Or at least, our awareness and recognition of them are – and perhaps tentatively, our acceptance.
Perhaps it’s always been at this level, and as the world becomes more used to the concepts and presence of mental health issues, is more accepting in allowing it out of the closet and into our societal norm.
It’s a hot topic really – ‘Normal’ or the ‘New Normal‘. And people wanting to go ‘back to normal’. Well, what was it to begin with? Just something we were used to, day in day out, routine, patterns, comfort zones, certainty and predictability. And I am as guilty as the next person in my enthusiastic defence of the square in which I live!
It’s because we no longer have a degree of normalcy in our days that so many of us are struggling with the unknown of what tomorrow will bring, or take away. We have no control over the unknown or of the world around us and therefore, no assurance of the outcome or result.
Our Anxiety stems from that uncertainty. From NOT knowing what an outcome is going to be, how we will be affected physically or emotionally. Ultimately – What will change and how uncomfortable are we going to be? How much is this going to hurt? Will it be worth it? Will I be safe?
Don’t get me wrong, Anxiety and Fear rightly have their place on the emotional scale and are our brain’s way of protecting us from danger – but from true danger in the form of predators and life-threatening situations – which are generally not encountered on a day to day basis.
Unfortunately, our primal brains are still in the stone age and have not yet caught up to our evolved level of society and living standards. They still think there is a very real chance there is a four-legged man-eating mammal around the corner and that we’re going to run out of food in the winter.
Our brains are also drama queens. It’s part of our wiring as human beings that our brains are on the lookout for threats 24/7 – so it can trigger the required behavioural responses needed to ensure our survival (flight or fight). Any situation where we are uncomfortable could be perceived as a threat – which can trigger us to engage in undesired behaviours (knee-jerk reactions).
Anxiety sucks us into a vortex of what if’s and when’s that are often rehearsed situations planned out in our brains for events that are days or weeks or months in advance.
We spin countless scenarios in our minds until we can’t switch off, leaving us emotionally and physically drained yet also highly strung and a nervous wreck. This triggers chemical responses in our bodies which if left unchecked, can lead to issues such as chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue. Not fun.
And when we are in the throes of our Anxiety, we can often respond to others with a short temper or with those knee jerk reactions, creating negative experiences and damaging valuable relationships beyond repair because we react with primal, instinctive and highly emotional responses.
Anxious about losing a big deal in business? Is the Company running out of money? There is a possibility that employees will feel the brunt of emotional outbreaks from owners who find their financials in crises and are seeking someone to blame.
Kids and partners may feel the brunt of our emotional turmoil or be on the receiving end of our tempers when we are triggered by anxiety – because we’re normally riding high on pure emotion and cannot think logically.
In Business, fear of what is going to happen next and whether it’s going to be good or bad and how uncomfortable we’re going to be is what can cripple us in taking risks and jumping into the deep end of what opportunity may hold.
Being a small business owner requires a certain degree of risk-taking in order to succeed. It also requires stakeholders to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
How do we grow our businesses if we don’t take risks? If we don’t jump in the deep end to grab an opportunity and run with it?
Often, the enthusiasm and passion we experience when we start our businesses fizzles out as we grow comfortable and complacent with our status quo. Our ‘Square’ has been created and know every inch of it like the backs of our hands.
This is why humans don’t like stepping outside the ‘Square they live in’ – the Square is what they know. It’s safe there. But it’s also stagnant. There is no opportunity for growth in the square, personally or otherwise.
And whether we like it or not, the world will slowly pass us by until we HAVE to act, unwillingly and resentfully. Technology will force our hands, competition will overtake us and our bubbles will be threatened by things outside our control.
We don’t like change, simple.
Because change brings uncertainty and has the potential to cause chaos, fear and disruption to the worlds we have created for ourselves. It has the potential to break our comfort bubbles and cause us great discomfort.
But change also holds a wealth of possibilities and opportunities for growth. Growth in our own skillsets, knowledge and personal development. Growth in our revenue, business size, profits and stability.
Change can help us enhance economic growth, create more connected and nourished communities, healthier and happier relationships, lower unemployment rates and result in less violence, drug use and crime.
So how do we, as Small Business Owners in the wake of the year of COVID, proceed in a world that is forecast to be full of uncertainty?
Be curious. Open your mind to the possibilities of the outcomes and instead of worrying about what you think will happen, wonder instead about the possibilities and opportunities that may come your way as a result.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. We learn to push the boundaries of our squares, inch by inch and at each step come to the realisation (man-eating cats aside) that we are safe and that yes, sometimes our monkey brains overreact, just a little.
We learn from our mistakes and rather than condemn ourselves for our failures, we pat ourselves on the back, say good job for having a go, and try again, knowing this time what NOT to do because we’ve just learned what doesn’t work.
By adopting a growth mindset and learning to be curious about a potential outcome, we can help to drown out the voices of our inner critics, suppress our imposter syndrome and experience the thrill of taking risks in unknown territory in business as we know it today – and without knowing what it will be tomorrow.
Life as a small business owner holds no guarantees and SHOULD be lived with the expectation of our ability to adapt to change, we should anticipate and look forward to where our journies will take us – experience life as a small business owner – don’t just endure it.
If you or a loved one are struggling with your Mental Health, please reach out and ask for help. You’re not alone and should never feel alone in your life or your business.
Beyond Blue Support Services 1300 22 4636