Owning and running a business is an emotional rollercoaster.
The highs are very exciting but the lows can be brutal.
Sometimes you might feel like you can’t handle the stress any more.
- A contractor suddenly quits and you’re now on the hook for their deliverables. You end up canceling everything and working for 24 hours straight to get things out the door. You need a breather but you have to turn around and go on with the next business day.
- You’ve got a day of back-to-back meetings so you’ve had no time to eat. In addition, a project is running behind and the deadline is close of business today.
- You get a call from school that your kid is sick and you have to pick them up right away. As a result, you have to cancel your day–including that important prospective new client meeting. You’re scrambling to cover your responsibilities and respond to emails and phones calls and not really able to be present with your sick child.
- A core client moves to a competitor. Now you’re looking at a decrease in revenue for the month. Available cash is running out and you’re afraid you won’t be able to make payroll. Not only are you up at night with worries but your inner critic is running wild.
- You cry at the drop of a hat. You’re snapping at contractors, friends and family. You’re sleep-deprived. You can’t focus. You don’t enjoy anything. It’s been ages since you’ve felt happy.
You say to yourself:
“What’s wrong with me? I used to be able to handle stress.”
“I can’t cope with this pressure any more.”
“I can’t handle life as an entrepreneur any more.”
What do you do when you think you can’t handle life as an entrepreneur any more?
The first thing is to recognize and acknowledge that you’re in distress.
Often when we’ve flipped our lids due to stress, we have difficulty thinking straight.
The thoughts that tell you you can’t handle running a business any more seem persuasive but with more emotional bandwidth we can see them for what they are: expressions of distress.
Distress thoughts are not holistic solutions to our problems.
Once you have recognized and acknowledged that this moment is emotionally intense, I strongly recommend you get support.
Support matters because when emotions are high, you can’t take in new information, think creatively or solve problems.
After your emotions have received some care, you can see if there is anything you can do to address the situation that led to these thoughts like, “I can’t handle all this stress. I have to burn this business down.”
I invite you to take an honest look at your situation. Like they say in the 12-step programs: conduct a searching and fearless inventory of yourself.
Questions to ask when you think you can’t handle life as an entrepreneur any more
How much of this is out of my control?
When you’re thinking, “I can’t handle life as an entrepreneur anymore,” it can be helpful to identify what isn’t in your control.
Once you are aware of what is happening that is out of your control, you can acknowledge the impact of these things: it’s hard to feel helpless or powerless.
There are several factors that can affect your mental health as an entrepreneur that are to a large degree out of your control.
- Vuca: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity
- The hustle and systems of oppression
- Barriers to support
- Linking self-worth to success
- Pre-existing mental or physical conditions that are exacerbated by stress
It can help to review this list and see how many of these factors are at play.
That way, instead of thinking, “I can’t handle life as an entrepreneur any more,” and asking yourself, “What’s wrong with me??” you have a more supportive option.
You can say to yourself something like: “No wonder I’m struggling. Look at what I have to deal with!”
None of this is your fault.
What has this got to do with business?
When you comfort yourself in your distress, your CEO-self comes back online.
With your CEO-self back online, you can do the things you need to do.
You can take in and synthesize information, make decisions, focus, prioritize and engage in problem-solving and other creative business endeavors.
You can engage all your executive functioning skills you need to run a successful business.
How much of this is in my control?
Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
When you’re thinking, “I can’t handle feeling like this any more!” identifying where you have choice can help you feel more empowered .
A major reason many people cite for being self-employed or owning their own business is freedom and flexibility.
Yet we can find ourselves unwittingly reproducing the oppressive structures of the corporate world in our own business.
Toxic productivity and extractive capitalism have infiltrated much of entrepreneurship. As Tara McMullin has noted, we self-employed folks can still treat ourselves as resources to be exploited for profit–it’s we who profit but it’s still an exploitative relationship.
Taking back the control and creating our own reality within our businesses, as much as it is possible, can go a long way to helping us shift out of the desperation and trapped feeling of, “I can’t handle entrepreneurship anymore.”
Here are some of the things that are within our control.
Conditions of work
Sometimes urgent things take over. But in general, we get to determine our conditions of work.
Keeping in mind that I have a choice alleviates a lot of pressure and anxiety. I hope it might help you.
We can be afraid that saying no to things–meetings, clients, etc.–will mean harm to us, others, or our businesses.
When you’re not used to it, saying no feels risky.
The truth is that you’ve taken many risks in your business.
Just like you’ve taken other risks, you can take this one and see what happens.
Overdelivering / overworking / overdoing
The success of your business is, at its root, a survival issue, so no wonder you feel like you have to take all the clients and do all the things to please them!
Learning to care for your anxiety without it running the show can make a big difference not only in your mental health but in your capacity to keep going.
When something “goes wrong” we have a tendency to berate and criticize ourselves, but self-criticism is harmful.
In many cases it can lead to depression, social anxiety and a sense of worthlessness.
Being kind to yourself helps your CEO-self come back online so you can run your business successfully.
When you’re under a great deal of stress, negative thinking can overtake you.
Toxic positivity can be a risk here.
The point is not to squelch the fears with positive thinking but to train your mind to see both the negative and the positive.
The biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs and business owners is having to go it alone.
Simply being alone is enough to evoke an intensified stress response, making it hard for you to function at your best.
This is why support is key. You’re already strong, and you’re even stronger with support.
With support, your CEO-self comes back online and you can do the things you need to do (like take in and synthesize information, make decisions, focus, prioritize and engage in problem-solving and other creative business endeavours) to run a successful business.
I can help you with the support you need to get your CEO-self back online.
One of the ways you can know if we’re a right fit is to connect with me, live. in real time.
Why not book a free call to learn more about working together? (I’m not a coach so this isn’t a sales call. It’s a chance for you to interview me and see if we’d be a good fit.)