Anxiety is my greatest asset when running my business…it can be yours too! 

Those of you familiar with Dexter will know that he refers to his killing demon as his ‘Dark Passenger’.

Now before you go running for cover thinking that I’m about to justify my psychosis with you, you can take a breath because that’s not the comparison I’m trying to make!

But, for a long time, I viewed my anxiety in the same heavy way.

It was an unwelcome intruder that I carried with me all the time; there was no escape.

And there was no doubt it was dark.

These days, my passenger is still there. But it’s not dark anymore, and I prefer to think of this persistent little stowaway as more of a guiding light.

When most people have a vision of someone with anxiety, they think of a basket-case who’s crazy in the coconut. Someone who can’t get through each day without gale force meltdowns which have their nearest and dearest walking on eggshells.

And they’d be forgiven for thinking that because that’s the stigma that’s out there in society. With thanks to mainstream perceptions that have withstood the test of time; many people around you have the view that anxiety is a weakness, and sufferers just don’t cope with life.

But I’m here to challenge that.

I’m here to turn the pre-conceived notion that anxiety is the worst thing that can happen to you, on its head. Because, in my experience, nasty as the symptoms can be; once you know how to manage it, anxiety can often be one of the best things to happen to you. I know many sufferers, myself included, that wouldn’t give back a day of tribulation for all the positives this condition has eventually bought them.

Ok, I’ll be honest. Some days I do have my moments of cray that have everyone around me keeping a clear distance (although those that genuinely love me tend to stroke my back and hold my hand while I breathe deeply, rather than run away)! But, for the most part, and I sincerely mean up to 90% of the time, my anxiety is today, one of my biggest strengths, especially as far as running a business is concerned.

Don’t believe me?

Here are ten reasons that my journey with anxiety is now a guiding light that helps me run a successful every single day.

  1. I don’t take the knocks personally.

I’ve learnt that when someone doesn’t like you, that’s in no way a reflection of who you are and it’s just a part of life.

People don’t always gel, and that’s OK.

That’s not to say that I don’t care what people think because I do, very much so; but I know that I can’t change someone’s opinion of me and I’ve learnt to let go of those feelings of rejection very quickly, and move on.

In business, the knocks come thick and fast, but I don’t hold onto them for a single second. Don’t like my product? I wish you well and hope you find someone you do work well with.

Letting go of the things I can’t control has been a huge life lesson that came from my ongoing journey with anxiety, and it’s one of the most useful tools for me as far as running a business goes.

2. I’ve been overcoming fear every day for years.

When you run a business, you face a certain amount of fear most days; will I pay my bills this week? Will I be bankrupt this time next month? Will I have to go and get a job on Wednesday? Will someone sue me? What if they don’t like my work? Am I about to lose it all? And the list of exhausting things to be scared about goes on, and on, and on…

While this sounds stressful (and it is), those feelings aren’t new to me because I’ve been dealing with fear every day for years! While anxiety might not instil rational fears, try telling that to my brain when it’s in the throes of a special moment!

Now when I make big decisions, I feel the fear that I’m familiar with and I’m actually quite comfortable with it. Nothing terrible has happened to me so far, so why should today be any different? ‘Take the leap’ my brain says, ‘you’re used to it’; so I do.

3. I can read people

I’m super sensitive to the people around me, and I’ve learnt only to have people in my circle who understand me and have my best interests at heart (and me theirs).

If that means just one person in my life today, then so be it.

In business, you come across so many people with different personalities and motives, and I can pick those whose intentions aren’t pure at a thousand paces. It won’t always be my choice whether I do or don’t deal with those people, but it will always be my choice whether I have my guard up until I’m comfortable that the relationship is on even territory.

4. I look after myself

I eat well, I exercise regularly, and I get enough sleep. This level of self-care which is absolutely essential for me to perform at my best allows me to keep a clear head (ironically), make the best decisions and always function well.

Not only that, I can safely say that I will always produce work that’s of the highest standard because every day I do what I need to in order to keep my brain fresh.

5. It can’t get worse than it was

If you’ve received a diagnosis for your anxiety, the chances are you’ve been through some extremely tough times. When you come out of the other side of the darkness, you realise how strong you’ve become and that if you can get through that, my friend, you can get through anything!

And that’s the outlook you need to have when business gets tough. Which it will…

6. I know how to talk

When I initially confronted my anxiety, I learnt how to talk. I journaled, I spoke to a counsellor, I spoke to friends, and everything that had been locked inside me for years came out.

And it never stopped.

Once I learnt how to talk, I then learnt never to stop, and my clients and suppliers will always know where they stand with me because of this.

This keeps my business aligned with me and my values, which I believe is the key to success, and nothing will ever change that.

7. I know how to relax

Yep, I feel bad. There’s a stigma that first-time business owners must live on 40 minutes sleep a night and go, go, go for at least the first five years of their new venture. Now, don’t get me wrong; I work hard, and I work a lot, but I also know that the downtime is super important too.

And funnily enough, it’s in that downtime which I force myself to take that the ideas come and the planning and preparation for the next thing flow.

8. I know how to multitask

When you’re trying to hold down a job, and you have a mind that races at a million miles an hour while dealing with the inevitable life-threatening diagnosis that you’re gearing yourself up for receiving that day; you learn how to do a few things at once!

Those days become about survival, but because of those trying times, I’m happy to say that I can now balance accounts while providing a service and juggling all the other tasks I need to in a day – and no one would be any the wiser.

9. I already know the worst-case scenario, and I can deal with it

There are many worst-case situations that my mind had created long before I jumped into my business, and none of them are that bad.

Of course, they’re not ideal, and I’ll do whatever I can to avoid them; but I know that the worst thing that my mind thinks can happen, one day might, and I’ll be able to cope.

That’s not to say I’m not a positive person because I am. Because on the flip side of this, I also know the best thing that can happen, and that’s what makes me hungry to achieve.

10. I don’t compare myself to anyone

It’s exhausting enough trying to be yourself when you have anxiety, let alone comparing yourself and trying to emulate someone else!

For this reason, I know my business will always be authentic which is the real key to success. While I learn from those around me, to outright copy someone else’s success is just too tiring for me to even think about!

Now, I’m not saying that anxiety sufferers should give up their jobs and go and start a new venture. Trust me; I know that some days even brushing your hair is enough of an achievement. But what I am saying is that if I can come from where I was – unable to socialise, barely able to get out bed some days and overly reliant on alcohol to cope –  and use everything I learnt along the way to create a business, then so can most people.

There is no doubt that business-ownership is stressful, but having learnt how to manage stress and with a brain that does its own thing half the time, I am now determined to use anxiety as a blessing and not a curse. I hope that whatever you’re going through today; one day you will know that you can too.

Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson

Founder - Anxiety Buddy

Jo was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2014 and knows what it’s like to live with the crippling disorder and suffer in silence, She also knows how much easier anxiety is to manage when you connect with others and have a strong support network around you. Jo is committed to normalising anxiety and helping others understand their anxiety to reduce the impact it has on everyday life.