Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
November 25, 2022

Advice For the Anxious Entrepreneur: How to Deal With Startup Anxiety

The idea of the anxious entrepreneur is nothing new. It’s a tough world out there for business owners. You have to wear a lot of hats as an entrepreneur. The mistakes you make can have really large impacts on your mental, emotional, and financial health. 

If you’ve been running a startup for a while, this article is for you. You may be well acquainted with the anxiety that tends to accompany the job. And you probably understand the rollercoaster of riding the highs with glee – and then feeling worn way too thin during the lows. Living with constant anxiety and stress feels like shit, and can cause worse mental health problems for you down the line. 

As a therapist for millennials, I work with a lot of clients who are entrepreneurs or work for startup companies. But startups often come with a different set of goals and expectations for the owner. So I’m going to share why you should pay attention to your startup anxiety – and what you can do about it.

startup anxiety

Why is Anxiety So Common Among People Who Run Startups?

Running a startup is different from running a small business. It’s intense in both pace and impact. With a startup, you’re focused on getting as many investors and growing your capital as quickly as possible. The pace can feel breakneck, resulting in a lot of anxiety and high pressure to succeed.

In a startup, you also want to create a massive change within your market. Sometimes this is about introducing a whole new product that’s never been used before, and other times it’s about doing things differently from the status quo. In other worse, you want to create an entirely new culture, which by definition requires a lot of risk-taking. 

Startup stress isn’t only about the intensity of this kind of business practice, though. The model of a “successful” business owner is someone who’s bold, courageous, and takes significant risks in order to grow their company. There’s often no room in this definition for someone who also experiences anxiety, depression, or burnout. 

These experiences can signify weakness in such a fast-paced, sink-or-swim business world. As a result, many people avoid tending to their own mental health. They don’t want to be perceived as weak or not cut out for the job. 

Not to mention that someone who’s running a startup can feel like there’s very little room to fail without failing big. There may not be much wiggle room for trial and error, figuring out what works as you go, and changing things up as needed. These things all happen within a startup, of course, but they tend to have more severe consequences when working at a faster pace and under more pressure. 

the anxious entrepreneur

How Startup Stress Can Lead to Burnout

As you can see, startup anxiety is common and understandable. And stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stress causes us to find solutions to immediate problems, which can be very helpful from a business management perspective.

But stress originated as a way to get us to act in the moment – and then be able to relax. Humans weren’t meant to navigate stress on such a long-term, chronic level. When you’ve been running a startup for months or years, the stress of it can start to wreak havoc on your mental health.  

Being part of a startup typically requires a lot of sacrifice and energy in the short term. My concern here is that many people within the startup world don’t take much time to tend to their relationships and health.

They may not prioritize things like eating well, exercise, pleasurable activities, and their community. They don’t feel like they have the time. Any spare minutes are usually spent on growing their business. Extra energy beyond that might be hard to come by.

Additionally, all-or-nothing thinking, also known as black-and-white thinking, tends to be central to the anxious entrepreneur. This is a type of thought pattern that frames everything in extremes. For example, an entrepreneur might believe their success hinges on signing a single investor. If that investor isn’t interested, the entrepreneur may feel like they’ve failed.

All of these factors, combined with startup stress and pressure, can lead to burnout and have long-lasting effects on mental health. This is why it’s so important not to ignore your symptoms of burnout. Instead, being proactive and realistic about poor mental health can help stop burnout in its tracks. 

How to Handle Startup Stress

Self-awareness goes a long way in dealing with startup anxiety. Understanding and acknowledging that you’re having a difficult time is a crucial first step toward managing your anxiety.

Acknowledge your anxiety, numbness, or symptoms of burnout. This will not make you weak. Instead, it will allow you to start to explore how you might start to do things differently in your life to prioritize your health and a sustainable work-life balance. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that being able to admit when something needs to change is strong as hell.  

You may also want to set new goals for your health to cultivate a more sustainable work-life balance. This looks different for everyone. You can start by asking yourself what in your life needs more care. Have your relationships gone by the wayside? Do you need to foster healthy and satisfying hobbies? Maybe you are lonely and need to feel more a part of your community or work on building more friendships. Whatever the case may be, figure out what needs attention and then take small action steps toward that thing. 

Additionally, try stress-management techniques like journaling or working with a therapist. Gaining insight into your underlying thoughts and beliefs can help you change them – and ultimately make you happier and healthier.

A Therapist Can Help You Navigate Your Startup Anxiety

If you aren’t sure how to manage your startup anxiety on your own, I can help. Together, we can come up with anxiety-management skills, set goals to improve your health, and help you cope with the roots of your stress.

During our work together, you’ll learn to navigate your business stress without abandoning yourself in the process. You’ll feel supported and equipped to handle whatever comes your way, so you can step confidently into the world in your entrepreneurial journey.

I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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