Navigate Your Fears With These 4 Mental Strategies
Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. -- Anonymous
Making the leap from employee to entrepreneur is no easy feat. Just the logistics behind such an endeavor can be overwhelming -- raising capital, hiring employees, not to mention developing a product that people actually need.
While the physical aspects of owning your own business can be daunting, so too are the mental and emotional burdens: the consistency of focus, undue stress, work-life balance (or the lack thereof) and the constant pressure of change.
Often, when people hear I was a Navy SEAL, they think there was a lot of physical demands associated with training, and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, there was a lot of mental and emotional fortitude required, as well: strength that doesn’t exist until called upon by the circumstance. You know what? Entrepreneurship is no different.
Nobody can possibly understand the physical, mental and emotional tolls taken on the body when starting a new business. It’s just one of those roles that necessitate experience, but if you don’t manage yourself properly, you can quickly spiral down a path of overwhelm and lost motivation.
Here are four ways to manage the mental and emotional challenges associated with the daily grind of entrepreneurship:
Yes, breathing is important just for everyday life. More so, though, breathing is an effective tool to manage your heart rate and reduce stress. While breathing exercises won’t address the element of fear, they will tackle the physical and mental symptoms felt by fear such as an elevated heart rate and scattered attention.
When fear or nerves become overwhelming, try to inhale for four seconds, hold at the top of your lungs for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold at the bottom for four seconds. This controlled breathing delivers a steady stream of oxygen to the brain and replaces the focus of fear on something more productive (counting).
Sometimes called anchors, cues can be visual, audible or physical as they’re used to recall behavioral patterns and/or the emotion associated with them. They can also be used to create new emotion.
For instance, if the fear of water keeps you 20 feet back from the edge of the kiddie pool, choose an uncommon word you don’t hear too often and repeat that word over and over to yourself while focusing on areas of your life where you've felt confident. The goal is that whenever you begin to question yourself, cue up that feeling of self-confidence you created for yourself.
If you are one of the more rational types then perhaps you’d like something else. If the fear of judgment by others is holding you back from starting that new gym membership, ask yourself, “why? What am I scared of?”
Answer your own question but repeat it again and again until you’ve narrowed down the source of your fear. More often than not, you’ll unearth a new insight that makes you wonder why that fear existed in the first place.
4. Tactical muscle relaxation (TMR)
Unlike the above exercises that are more passive than active, TMR is done by actively engaging the muscles followed by immediate relaxation. What this does is train the muscles to tense and relax such that over time, they learn to release tension. TMR also requires greater focus towards the muscle area of interest, thus creating greater self-awareness when fear or stress arises.
Fear is healthy. It reminds you you’re alive. But left unattended, fear can quickly snowball into a debilitating infliction that disrupts your daily success.