March 29

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Causes of Stress Among Women Entrepreneurs

Stress is an inherent fact of doing business for women entrepreneurs.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: the long days, the conflicting demands, the back-to-back meetings… no time off, no down time, no time to eat or even pee.

From my experience supporting women entrepreneurs, I have identified five of the main causes of stress among women entrepreneurs:

Decision-making fatigue is real for women entrepreneurs

Decision fatigue is real. It’s the mental exhaustion you feel from making decision after decision after decision. This is because it takes enormous effort to make a decision.

Every decision requires cognitive processing power to take in, sort and synthesize new information, then come up with solutions, decide on one and take action.

Furthermore, we entrepreneurs are often called to do this on the fly, with the available information changing moment-to-moment. The frequency at which we have to do this, and the condensed time frames circumstances often require, place heavy demands on our minds, bodies and spirits.

Conflicting demands on your time

As a woman entrepreneur, it often seems as though there isn’t enough time in the day. Running a small business requires you to wear many hats: CEO, CFO, marketing, HR (employee or contractor management)… and let’s not forget customer service.

Finding time to work on the business when you’re drowning working in the business is stressful.

Each of these domains has their own endless to-do list, and tasks can easily pile up. The weight of these tasks and the pressure to get them done (so you don’t literally go broke and starve) places significant demands on your nervous system, and thus on your mind, body and spirit.

And then, for some us, there’s also the mom and/or spouse guilt.

Mom guilt (or spouse guilt) for women entrepreneurs balancing work & family

Mom guilt is the guilt created by the pervasive negative self-talk that arises from unrealistic social standards: “I’m not doing enough as a mother.” “I’m not doing school / sports / crafts /parenting right.” “What if this messes up my kid in the future? What if I’m making the wrong decision?”

Because you’re a woman entrepreneur, you can add to “regular” mom guilt the apparently conflicting demands between mothering, spousing and running a business.

If you have a spouse or partner, there can be conflicts balancing work as an entrepreneur and your relationship.

Now you’ve got, “I’m a bad mother/spouse because my time and attention is always split between them and the business.”

As I’m sure you know from experience, these kinds of worried or self-critical thoughts cause their own stress in the mind and body.

Getting (and keeping) clients

The flow of clients and revenue into your business is what makes or breaks it. Furthermore, getting clients is not an exact science. Results are not directly tied to your efforts and there are many skills to master, of which sales is only one. There is never one thing that, if we just did it, will guarantee a client.

Once you have a full roster of clients, there is the emotional and cognitive work associated with continuing to serve and wow them… and also to set and maintain good boundaries.

At least one client is bound to involve headaches… the one who keeps you up at night with worry or floods your inbox with complaints or demands. There are always hiccups in any relationship, and this is as true with client relationships as with any others. When relationships are strained, and difficult conversations are on the horizon, this is stressful.

The unknown and anxiety from entrepreneur VUCA

VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity: features of the life of an entrepreneur, and of life under COVID.  For us, it’s a double whammy.

The human brain and nervous system crave predictability. When you know more or less what to expect, you relax a little. There is less thinking required and less creative problem-solving to do. You have a sense of being in control and you can just get on with things.

On the other hand, chaos, unpredictability and the unknown are often the norm for women entrepreneurs. From day to day, we often can’t predict what will come up. Research has identified the unknown as a significant stressor.

These days, for women entrepreneurs, pandemic conditions pile onto the stresses of the natural unpredictability of life, the world and business. We don’t know how the virus will behave, what or when restrictions will be added or eased, and how that will affect our families, friends and businesses. It’s impossible to plan long term.

These stressors are very common among women entrepreneurs; there’s nothing wrong with you

The constant impact of these 5 stressors (and in reality, as you know, there are far more than just these 5) wears on your nervous system, your mind, body and spirit.

If not addressed, the effects of these stressors will cause you to break down and burn out.

I invite you to consider that when (not if, because given these working conditions, it’s inevitable) you start to feel like you’re breaking down or burning out, this is actually a kind of good news.

It means there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, it means there’s actually something right: your organism is working as it should to give you signals that it needs care.

The key to mitigating the effects of stress is to strive for a balance between stressors and “it’s OK messages.”

In order for your nervous system to recover and stabilize, you need to

  • discharge the stress-energy that’s built up in the body,
  • soothe your mind, and
  • nourish your spirit.

I invite you to consider how you are already doing these things in the course of your day.

Stress relief and resilience is built on small, repeated actions that soothe, discharge and nourish you.

Consider how you can do more of the small things you are already doing.

Click here to read and learn more about how you, as a woman entrepreneur, can apply the stress relief principles of discharge, soothe and nourish to mitigate the effects of stress and become more resilient.

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Tags

anxiety, Managing stress, mindset, stress, women entrepreneur


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