How this Entrepreneur Learned to Cope With Anxiety
I suffer from general anxiety disorder. It really sucks. When I was younger, I just thought it was all in my mind. I also felt insecure talking about it to anyone. It felt taboo.
As I got older, I even masked it more to show that I had control over situations. I wanted to make sure people didn't “look down” on me. I thought that if I revealed my anxiety, it would make me seem weak and incapable of doing the things I needed to do to build a successful business.
I’ve created co-working business Alley from scratch, raised millions of dollars, and I do a ton of public speaking. I’ve been interviewed by most major TV networks, and I work with the State Department, traveling to different parts of the world to inspire the curation of entrepreneurial communities. Not to brag, but I’m pretty accomplished. And, yes, I suffer from anxiety.
I’m opening up to you about this to make those who are suffering from anxiety know that you are not alone and can accomplish anything you put your heart and mind into. I’m also talking about this to show the rest of the world that anxiety issues are real, and to encourage people to be more accepting of those who suffer from its effects.
In my world, I have a million things going on at the same time and have developed my own way of dealing with my anxiety that helps me get through very challenging business obstacles. This is my entrepreneur's guide to dealing with anxiety and I hope you find it valuable.
Put love into it.
I know we always talk about being passionate about what we are working on, but this is different. This tactic is much more granular. I try to put love into every project I’m working on, regardless of the size. Doing this gets me super-involved with the task and gives my brain something to focus on. I’m not sitting around being stuck in my head. I am truly focusing on what I am doing by embracing the project itself and using my head and my heart to do the best job that I can do. Love creates the best work product for my team, partners, and community.
Life's a stage and you are the star.
I got this tip from a girlfriend. She is an amazing actress. She would encourage me to develop a character that I can become in certain situations. Just like in television, you cannot break character. Even if I feel anxiety coming on, I can get into character and focus on the task at hand. The rest of the world can’t see inside your brain, so this works great in interviews and business meetings. The character I chose is basically the best version of me: someone who believes in himself and wants to show compassion to those around him and is not ego driven. That is who I feel I am, so that is my character. Pick your character.
Talk about it.
One of the most therapeutic things I do for my anxiety is simply talking about it. I tell my friends; I talk about it with my family. My investors even know I suffer from it! If your friends are judgmental, then I would question why you’re friends with them in the first place. You need good people around you to grow. I feel this is true in business and in life. Some of the most successful people I know are surrounded by great people. This makes total sense. If you’re in a world where you are being judged and those closest to you are putting you down, it’s very likely that you will feel the effects and be much less productive and not happy. Surrounding myself with good people has been a game-changer for me. Cut out the negative people right now!
Grind it out.
I’m a hustler. I have been self-employed for pretty much my whole adult life, and I grind it out. I’m scrappy and I do what it takes to get the job done. Dealing with my anxiety is very much like that. It’s part of who I am, and I cannot change that. I have learned to accept it as being part of me, and I deal with it by doing what I know best. I grind it out, I face it head on and I fight through it. This may not seem possible for some of you, but practice it. Your mind is your employee and it needs to work for you, not the other way around.
Go to your doctor.
One of the best things I’ve done is go to my doctor and talk about it. Everyone's body is different and consulting your doctor about a solution that can help you through it is very effective. My doctor worked with me on a solution, and I’m in the process of testing it right now. It’s not perfect. Like everything else, there’s no silver bullet. However, I’m hopeful that I will find something that makes it easier for me to focus. You should never feel ashamed to talk to a specialist about something you’re going through. These people went to school to specifically deal with situations like this, and you should take advantage of that knowledge.
Understand that you are awesome. Chances are, you’re working or thinking about working on something special and you should go for it. Anxiety is just another obstacle to deal with and we all must deal with a ton of obstacles to get to our goals. I’m going to continue to grind it out and work through my anxiety the same as I work through any other issue. I’m going to hustle and get it done because that is what we entrepreneurs do.
Jason Saltzman is a seasoned entrepreneur with a background in sales and marketing. Through his role as CEO of Alley and as a TechStars mentor, he advises hundreds of startups, offering real-life practical application and creative marketing advice.