- Worry is negative thinking.
- Worry can be useful but often isn’t and can frequently lead to a state of rumination.
- The “tone” of your worry is important.
- Excessive worry can lead to multiple health problems.
- Challenge a frightened inner dialogue by thinking about the story of your life, and your multiple personal successes.
Given political contention, epidemics, climate change, and our daily challenges it’s natural for an entrepreneur to experience worry. The question is how much is too much? Is worry useful? How can we tell when it’s not?
First, remember worry is the negative thinking an entrepreneur does when we faced with a real or anticipated threat. It is the mental component, physical heart racing, shallow breathing, and sweaty palms that makeup anxiety. Instances of worry could be, “ What if I lose my best client?”, “What if we aren’t able to scale?, or, What if something happens to me?”
Considering the risks inherent in the life of an entrepreneur, a certain degree of worry may be useful, perhaps prompting us to plan ahead, ask for help, or change behavior patterns. But experts tell us that excessive worry is a toxic condition which at best only makes it ten times more difficult to make necessary decisions, and at worst leads to an increased chance of multiple health problems.
Whether useful or not, one important thing to note however is the “tone” of worry. Is your worry primarily concerned with danger or loss, or is it pervasive cyclical hopelessness and failure? The latter type could be rumination and is often a noted symptom of the depressed entrepreneur.
What Causes Excessive Worry
The common misconception is excessive worry actually accomplishes something positive:
We tell ourselves, we want to be ready when the other shoe drops.”
The Impact of Excessive Worry
For an entrepreneur, ]excessive worry is not only an ineffective strategy; it often creates a vicious cycle of analysis paralysis, poor problem solving, and fear. This cycle often escalates into more worry.
Physically, excessive worry is costly. It trips the release of stress hormones, leading to a disruption of sleeping and eating patterns, compromises the immune system, and often leads to hypertension or worse.
The truth is, the time we spend ”anticipating the worst” debilitates rather than prepares us for what may or may not happen.
Five Ways to Reduce Toxic Worry
The good news is worry doesn’t have to become a toxic time and focus sucking vortex. Here are six strategies that wind down toxic worry:
Reconsider and Refocus
Ask yourself, “Are you worried about “ What if” or “What is?” Most excessive worry is about ‘What if’ – something that we have no proof will ever happen. Try keeping your focus and energy on ‘what is’ which is much more realistic and more likely to positively impact your life.
As an Entrepreneur it’s important to remember how many times your mind has preached doom and gloom, and the countless times you have risen to the challenge and prevailed.
Move From Thought to Action
If you are acting out too much, step back and start thinking. If it feels like we are thinking too much, it makes sense to start acting. In many cases, the well-known method shoot-shoot-aim technique can be a powerful cure. While it seems counter-intuitive this is the powerful method outlined in Michael Masterson’s landmark book, Ready Fire Aim.
Also, remember no matter how small, if you are in rumination the very move to action can have an impact on disrupting the worry cycle.
Try this. Instead of worrying yourself “ sick” about the call to your doctor to get test results – make the call.
Instead of laying in bed worrying about what you need to do the next day – get up, write a list and then “sleep on it.”
Instead of worrying about losing your job, resolve to take a step toward higher-level training, or additional work opportunities.
If nothing else, when there seems nothing to do but worry, choose to practice guided meditation, exercise, or prayer.
Share and Air
One of the most powerful antidotes to excessive worry is a connection to and sharing with others.
The very act of sharing lowers anxiety because it turns internal fears into verbalized expression. Nothing breaks the worry train like externalizing. In addition “ airing” it out, can lead to a more realistic perspective.
Another advantage of sharing is the human tendency to become less vigilant and to worry less when we know someone else knows our concern.
This is what is happening when spouses and children tell partners and parents their worries; they are often asking for someone to hold them. It lightens the emotional load.
Sharing also helps because adding a different perspective or additional information makes it much more difficult to stay locked into a loop of excessive worry.
The fact is, few people benefit from the suggestion “ Stop worrying!”
According to multiple studies postponing worry, however, has proven incredibly helpful to many.
Making a conscious decision when to worry puts you in charge, giving you a psychological edge. Being in control gives you space and time to do something else or think of something else. This lowers your anxiety and typically means a more realistic appraisal when you do think about it.
The unfortunate truth is, many people worry at night when they should be sleeping. Do your best to avoid falling into this trap. Nothing productive is going to come from this late-night sleepless “thinking”. That is when you are at your most exhausted, defenses down, late at night, and nothing seems possible. Many find that postponing worry until morning is invaluable. A powerful tip is to write it down. Moving your worries from mind to paper is powerful.
In the light of day, many find that both the cause for worry, much less the need for solutions has dramatically changed.
Set up a “worry time”
In the face of worry that just won’t stop, Edna Foa recommends a plan of systematic postponement. For best results set a designated “ worry time”. This puts the power in your hands.
Just don’t forget once you choose to postpone your worry, “to do” something else. Very often time spent in other activities begins to occupy your attention and reduce your anxiety. It is sometimes a surprise to the worrier that they have become so engrossed in a new positive activity — they forgot to worry.
Changing Our Inner Dialogue
The fact is, in many cases, the voice of a vulnerable or traumatized self is fuel for worry, and in that instance, it can be challenging to access or remember your personal strengths and coping skills.
In this instance try consciously challenging a frightened inner dialogue by thinking about the story of your life.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to remember how many times your mind has preached doom and gloom, and the countless times you have risen to the challenge and prevailed.
Connecting with a stronger surviving self can reinforce a positive perspective and change the dialogue.
Consider the power of these internal statements on reducing excessive worry:
“I can always change my mind if it doesn’t work.”
“ I could go on worrying but this is not my problem.”
“ I usually find a way to cope – even if it gets difficult.”
“I don’t need the answer now.”
“When I need to deal with it – I will.”
While there is always going to be a reason, allowing worry to obscure the possible and the positive is never going to lead to us to entrepreneurial success.