An online business owner's struggle with anxiety

An online business owner's struggle with anxiety. Learn how this virtual assistant runs a successful business while maintaining her mental health.

I Think, Therefore, I Have Anxiety
Guest Post by Michele Morano 

Now is a better time than any to write about being a business owner with severe anxiety, because right at this moment, I am having an anxiety attack and I have work to get done.

My symptoms vary depending on how intense the attack is. Some of my symptoms are chest tightness and heaviness, heavy sweating, dizziness, blurred vision. I can experience one symptom, a few or all of them at once. 

Log cabin in the woods. Deep blue. Ranunculus.

These are the words that I say to myself repeatedly, as my eyes are closed. In seconds, I transport myself to a simple cabin nestled among Redwoods or a deep blue ocean whose waves crash beautifully on the shoreline. I think of my favorite flower, blooming in slow motion as deep pinks and light purples envelope each petal.

A lot of the time, this practice works instantly. Other times, I get distracted because my anxiety will creep in and overtake my meditation. Then my anxiety triples in size because I’m now stressing over the time I’m “wasting” meditating to calm me calm, when I know I could be working. The meditation now becomes counterproductive. 

It’s not wasted time, though. It’s the process. The moves I have to make to ensure this anxiety attack passes. 

I was diagnosed with High Functioning Anxiety a little over a month ago.

A diagnosis, for me, was a double-edged sword. To finally have a diagnosis was a relief, to be diagnosed with a mental health issue was not. I remember sitting across from my therapist, responding with “Great!” which was immediately followed by a waterfall of tears. I was embarrassed, I felt ashamed and I would say to myself “I have something wrong with me.” I gave myself an anxiety attack while thinking about having an anxiety condition during the car ride home. Talk about counter-productivity. 

If you’re reading this and have anxiety, you get what I’m saying. If you’re reading this, have anxiety and have your own business, you will also get it when I say the two mixed together can be chaotic beyond measure. 

I’m a Virtual Assistant and I work with female entrepreneurs. My sole purpose for these badass ladies is to organize their day, their weeks, their months. Schedule their social media, clean up their business emails, make sure they’re on top of their bills, their taxes, their LLC renewals, create their graphics. And as much as I adore what I do, it’s hard work. There are days I can’t accomplish anything because my anxiety is too much. Any particular trigger? Not necessarily. There are days that I accomplish everything on my list and then some. Does my anxiety make my job harder sometimes than it already is? Yes. Does that make me a terrible business owner? No.

I used to deal with my crowded head and anxiety in the past with suppression. I would push all my stress, all of the anxiety deep down and attempt to forget about it, but it never went away. In fact, it grew. The cycle worsened and before you knew it, I was up all night and crashing all day letting my mental wellbeing, my client work, my personal relationships all fall by the wayside. Suppression is a recipe for disaster. 

My body, my mind needed rest. A lot of rest.  So how do you find balance? How do you rest when you have responsibilities and commitments, especially as a business owner? My answer isn’t a simple “do this and do that” because we’re all different and what works for me, may not work for you. I will tell you this: simplify. Simplify as much as you possibly can. Get rid of the clutter both emotionally and materialistically. You would be surprised how much we hold on to just for the sake of holding onto something. When my room and mind was devoid of things that held no meaning, no value or no use I remember instantly feeling lighter. Like I took the biggest deep breath, the biggest exhale and I was jolted into self-motivation and empowerment. 

Quick anxiety survival tips for your personal life: Go to sleep at a decent hour. Eat breakfast. Invest in an aromatherapy diffuser. Move your body. Stay away from people who don’t feed your fire. Read books. Have “me time”. Breathe.

When it comes to your business, you have to view it the same way you would your personal life, when anxiety is concerned. Listen to your gut and communicate. If your gut is telling you “Hey, um, you need to slow down because I’m about to lose my shit.” Slow down. If you have clients and/or co-workers, keep them in the loop. Does this mean you owe every single person your entire life story, absolutely not. Do you owe them authenticity? Absolutely. There is no shame in your anxiety game.  When you’re open and honest with the people who you’re involved within your business, it’ll make everything a lot easier for everyone. They will be understanding, they will be supportive, they will still have faith in you and if you come across people in your life that aren’t any of those things, then they obviously aren’t the types of people you want in your life. 

Quick anxiety survival tips for your professional life: Don’t have two planners. Use your planner. Look at your planner every day - multiple times a day. Your planner is your business bff. There are seven days in a week, not one, pace yourself. Go outside and detach yourself from your office space for a bit. Classical music is best for concentration and completing tasks. 

You’re going to have your setbacks and your bad days but that goes for all of us. What’s most important to remember is your setbacks, your bad days and your mental health woes do not define who you are. The same amount of time you put into your business, you put twice as much into your mental health. How does the saying go? You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first? Well, make sure your cup is filled with good experiences, self-love, patience, gratefulness, and wonderment. Oh, and your meditation words.

Log cabin in the woods. Deep blue. Ranunculus. 


Guest Author: Michele Morano

Michele is a Virtual Assistant and Visual Merchandiser for small business. She attended The Art Institute of Philadelphia studying both Fine Art Photography and Art History; and is currently studying Home Staging at The New York Institute of Art and Design. She loves Chuck Palahniuk novels, baking and Led Zeppelin. She lives near the Jersey Shore.