Feb 11, 2020
So I wanted to switch things up a bit today and talk to you guys about something that I keep seeing pop up over and over again. It’s a topic that I witness inside the free Simplify your Sales FB group, and also inside my paid Mastermind Your Marketing group as well.
It’s a very real thing and it absolutely has an effect on your ability to work on your shop + business.
If you’ve never struggle with anxiety, you don’t know just how crippling it can be and this episode might not even make sense to you. That’s okay-- no hard feelings.
However, if you struggle with anxiety, I want you to know that I’m here for you and I HEAR you. I want you to know that you’re not in this alone and that it’s something I’ve struggled with as well and it’s only in the past few months that I’ve really managed to contain it in regards to getting things done in my business. Not 100%, but it’s not my everyday normal anymore.
Now, that definitely didn’t happen overnight, it was a deliberate effort on my part.
Understanding that anxiety can be a fuel and not just an excuse. I’ve been blessed-- which I know is a weird and crazy thing to say-- with anxiety and the reason I say it can be a blessing is that even with it’s challenges, it allows me to never fully feel satisfied with what I have. Not in an ungrateful way, but in a way that I COULD do more and I COULD build something bigger. It motivates me to not get complacent in my business and has helped me accomplish AMAZING things. So yes, it’s a HARD thing— a DANG HARD THING— but there are hidden “blessings” that come from having it and using it to fuel your business.
So today I wanted to talk to you about some things that can help with managing your anxiety as an entrepreneur. Because while anxiety can be a great motivator, it can also be paralyzing if it gets out of control. And when it’s to that point, NOTHING feels possible. I’m going to share a bit about my personal experience as well— which feels VERY vulnerable— but I want you to see where I’m coming from and my experience with it and hopefully find some strength from MY story as you relate it to your own.
And just as a disclaimer, I’m NOT a professional-- these are just things to help you get a glimpse at what I do that has worked for me.
Where my anxiety came from
Okay, so like I said, before we dive into some of my tips on managing anxiety, I wanted to share a little bit of personal detail about MY story and what triggered anxiety to start for me. I know some people have dealt with it their entire lives and I am amazed by you.
So just to set the record straight, I haven’t always struggled with anxiety-- I’m definitely blessed in that way. I always go back to when my first daughter was born in 2013 as kind of this “catalyst” for when I started my Etsy shop-- which is true-- but it’s also the period when I experienced anxiety for the first time in the form of a panic attack. 2013 was a BIG year for me in many, many ways.
I--literally-- thought I was dying the first time I felt major anxiety. I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest in a frantic fury and that the oxygen was running out of the room. I remember curling up in a ball underneath a desk at my in-laws house one day a few weeks after my daughter had been born and rocking back and forth madly because I was convinced that I was going to crawl out of my own skin at any moment and I was trying to hold it all together-- quite literally.
Now not every moment of every day was panic-attack worthy, but it very quickly became my “new normal” that I would wake up in the morning with a dreaded pit in my stomach that would physically ACHE because I was so anxious about how I was going to get through the day. The idea of waking up with the baby at 6:30 am in the morning and knowing I had to go 12+ hours throughout the day with her in tow BY MYSELF [we had just moved to a new townhouse] and not knowing what the day would hold: would she nap? Eat well? Scream all afternoon? I literally had no idea basically convinced me that this was my new “normal” and that pit wasn’t going to go away.
Now, Juliet did eventually become a bit more predictable and stopped crying every minute of everyday— I mean, it took 6 months— but it happened. But funny thing: the anxious pit in my stomach didn’t go away.
Even if the day very rarely turned out EXACTLY how I had planned it in my head and on my to-do list, I was still a twisted mess of anxiousness throughout it all.
So with that post-partum anxiety, I also got post partum depression which was it’s own problem. That took about 18 months to go away-- at the time we didn’t have the medical insurance to get me help, and combined with a variety of other less-than-ideal factors and just general cluelessness that PPD was a real thing that needed to be treated, it lasted far longer than it should have.
If you are listening to this podcast and even THINK you might be struggling with post partum depression, please get professional help! Life does NOT have to feel this way permanently— and the sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll start to feel better. I know right now it doesn’t feel like you will. I’ve been there. I didn’t believe I could ever get better. But you can. AND YOU WILL.
Coming back to my journey with anxiety….At around 18 months post partum, I remember smiling-- truly smiling-- for the first time in a year and a half. We had just decided to plan our first family trip to Disneyland and I actually felt some degree of happy about it which was absolutely FOREIGN to me at the time.
My days got less and less dark as I was pulled out of the PPD. And someday I’ll talk more about how that happened.
But the anxiety? It stayed. And it’s still something I struggle with on a regular basis.
But it’s not my everyday normal. Before it would throw me into a full blown panic attack by breakfast, but nowadays it’s much more manageable and even after having my second child back in November 2018, it didn’t spiral out of control again-- for which I feel incredibly blessed.
A large part of that is because of skills I’ve learned that have helped me cope with it. Note that I’m not saying “thrived with it” because I still wouldn’t wish this upon myself or anyone I know, but these things have made it manageable as a mom, a successful business owner, and a human being in general.
I still struggle with anxiety. Point blank. It’s something that pops up a few times a day, but it’s not debilitating anymore.
However. It definitely HAS affected my work and ability to get things done in my businesses-- which I think if you’re still listening to this episode-- is something that you may be able to relate to and maybe even currently struggling with.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.
I want to share what I’VE found to help me as I work through it and get things done with my business. I’m not touting some “cure-all” or a way to manage anxiety in EVERY aspect of your life, but in regards to running an online business, I’m always looking for people who have gone through similar things to me and how they’ve dealt with it, so I hope you can use this episode in the same way.
Now, if you’ve been around for a while, you know that I started my Etsy shop, LittleHighbury, with a newborn in tow. Don’t ask me HOW— I still am unsure. But I needed an escape from motherhood, and running an online shop somehow happened and it became a much-needed distraction.
Now, less you think I hit the ground running, it’s important to understand that I wasn’t able to work on it all the time— in fact, I enlisted my mom and husband to do a lot of work for me— because my post partum depression would ebb and flow. Some days were easier than others. Most days were REALLY hard. In order to make it work, when I felt good, I worked on the business— answering convos, designing fabrics, etc.
When I was REALLY struggling, I gave myself a bit of grace and asked for help to fill orders. It wasn’t ideal by any means, but it’s how I got things done. My husband is truly a rockstar and kept the business afloat more than once.
Things got A LOT easier when the PPD disappeared, but like I mentioned earlier, the anxiety stayed. And I still found it challenging on some days to actually get the work done— just the IDEA of working on my business caused my anxiety to spike.
But as LittleHighbury grew, it quickly became apparent that I would need to figure out something or some coping mechanism that allowed me to still get orders filled and completed— even if I was having an “off” day. The consistency in sales was incredible, but it also meant that I couldn’t just “disappear” for days at a time because things HAD to get done.
It’s the same thing with morgannield.com. I still get those massively anxious days, usually on days when I need to go live for a coaching call or a webinar. And the 3 tips I’m going to share with you are HOW I’m able to still get things done in the business even when all I feel like doing is curling up in a ball under the covers.
So again, the tips I’m sharing today are related to your Etsy shop business and how to cope with anxiety and still get things done. I realize this is just a TINY sliver of the anxiety you may be struggling with in your overall life, but I DO know that a lot of Etsy shop owners struggle with major anxiety whenever they think about working on their business, so that’s what I wanted to talk about today :)
Okay, let’s dive into some of the tips I’ve found that help me.
Okay— Tip #1 - Work through it - just get ONE thing done
If you get anxiety about your never-ending to-do list, it can feel near IMPOSSIBLE to even look at your to-do list, let alone actually accomplish something off of it.
Trust me when I say I’m talking from SO much experience here.
When you’re stuck in the depths of anxiety, the idea of running a business can seem laughable at that point. Like, how are you supposed to accomplish ANYTHING when you feel this way?
And I get that-- I really do.
And again-- I’m no doctor or therapist, so take this for what it’s worth-- but I’ve found that a lot of times if I’m feeling anxious about my business in particular, it’s because I’m not actually making any progress in it.
Now, I don’t just mean that in terms of sales. I mean that I’m not ACTIVELY doing anything to grow my business. I know that there are things I SHOULD be doing to grow my business, but I’m afraid to start tackling some new task because it seems incredibly daunting or it’s not something I’ve ever done before or maybe I’m just feeling unmotivated.
That particular branch of anxiety is stemming from FEAR. And I’ve found that most business anxiety comes from that-- you’re worried about taking the leap or making the wrong “step” and that’s causing you to not make ANY progress (which, in turn, feeds your anxiety)
And sometimes just the ANTICIPATION of knowing it needs to get done is all it takes to send me into a wave of anxiety that is crippling as I spiral into the “I’m a failure, this is impossible, etc.” depths.
And guess what? When I feel like that, I don’t ever make that progress or get that thing done.
And so the process repeats itself again and again. Vicious cycle.
So my advice to you is this (and I know it’s harder than it sounds). Just do ONE THING.
Pick ONE thing to do today to grow your business.
It doesn’t have to be the hardest thing on your list or the most tedious. It just needs to be ONE thing.
And a lot of the time, I’ve found that if I can do that one thing and just get started, my anxiety becomes more manageable. I’m not saying it completely disappears, but I recognize my own strength that I CAN work through it.
And usually I want to keep going after that ONE thing.
As I was creating this podcast episode, this was actually INCREDIBLE prevelant. I have been putting writing this episode off because I was worried about what people would think-- since it’s not strictly “Etsy marketing advice.” And it felt daunting to lay it out on the line and talk so candidly about my struggles.
But as I was writing this episode, it felt AMAZING. I had to push myself MAJORLY to start, but once I did, the words came effortlessly.
Now this is obviously not going to work 100% of the time and your personal situation may be completely different. But getting started and just DOING SOMETHING and taking action instead of treading close to a panic attack about all the things that need to get done with my business has been an incredible help for my anxiety.
And after I finish that one thing-- if I’m still struggling, I can check out. I don’t have to log in 5 more hours. If I need some self care (like a nap), that’s totally okay. Assuming someone is watching the baby, of course!
But this way I KNOW I’ve done at least something to grow my business today-- and it makes the anxiety easier to cope with for tomorrow because I don’t have that added guilt of feeling like a failure + that my anxiety is in control and not me.
So on the days where you need to get things done but you don’t feel like you can do any of it, just pick ONE thing and do it. And then reassess— see how you feel— and make a decision after that.
Tip #2 - Figure out systems that can allow you to take a break if you need it.
Now, this doesn’t “solve” anxiety by any means. But it does take the pressure off, which is definitely something that anxiety feeds off of.
One of the most common problems I hear is that people are afraid that if they take a break from the business-- or stop working for a hot second-- that all their success--even if it’s just a little-- will disappear overnight.
I have two things to say to that:
1- Make sure you’re not relying solely on SEO for your sales. This is where a lot of that anxiety can stem from since you have 0 control of the Etsy algorithm and whatever tests and changes they decide to make on a whim. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t worry about SEO at all-- you absolutely should have that set up so you have a strong foundation and can take advantage of the benefits of the built in traffic that Etsy naturally has.
And if you’re struggling to get that started or have been “working” on it for over 6 months and still aren’t done, I’d HIGHLY encourage you to check out my SEO One + Done course that will whip your SEO into shape for Etsy, Google, and Pinterest in just 14 days. So you can move on and cross SEO off your never-ending to-do list for good. Hallelujah!
Okay, and then thing #2 - Figure out how you can work “ahead” to take the pressure off when you really need it.
You’re not always going to be able to plow through things and get them done when you’re feeling particularly crippled by anxiety-- I know I’ve seen it in my own life-- and it’s AMAZING to have a sort of “buffer” to back you up when YOU need to step away from your business.
When you have those “good” days that you aren’t feeling the drag of anxiety, I want you to take advantage of them and work ahead in your business.
This may look like:
Bottom line? You are allowed to take breaks, especially on those days that you are struggling.
Set up the systems and things in place so that you can feel okay when you DO take those breaks.
And going right along with that...
Tip #3 - Give yourself grace
This is probably THE most important piece of advice I can give to you today and is CRITICAL for working when you have anxiety.
You’ve got to give yourself grace.
This is a lesson I learned the VERY hard way back in February 2018.
At that time I was running LittleHighbury, making consistent five-figure months, and I was also running morgannield.com-- the site I run today.
I had a hyper-active and very needy 4 year old at home, and I was lucky enough to have a surprise pregnancy that left me with a term only a few people know about-- hyperemesis gravidarum.
This is the Princess Kate sickness— the one she got with all 3 of her children. The one where you puke all day everyday for 9 months of your life while you’re carrying a child. You get to know the local hospital staff REALLY well, you get IV’s brought to you on a regular basis, and you become SUPER familiar with the toilet bowls in your house. You also realize that you don’t clean them nearly enough, but at that point, the smell of the cleaner makes you puke more so you let it slide.
So I was throwing up about 20+ times/day, taking care of my 4 year old who was only in preschool about 8 hours/week, and running two businesses.
Now, I wrote a very emotional blog post all about this that I’ll link to in the show notes which you can find over at morgannield.com/blog/episode4, but basically in February 2018 I had a mental breakdown-- I couldn’t stop sobbing (or puking) and my anxiety about everything was THROUGH THE ROOF. I literally thought I was going to die at any minute. I was trying to launch my Mastermind Your Marketing program for the 3rd time and also fill 20+ orders/day with LittleHighbury.
In between puke sessions.
Any NORMAL person would say that I was crazy-- and I totally was-- but at the time I was convinced that I had to keep doing both businesses or I would be a failure.
Now, I know most of you listening are Etsy shop owners and have never “launched” a digital course, but I’m here to say: IT’S A LOT OF WORK. What looks effortless on the outside is literally just that tip of the iceberg to a whole lotta crazy going on beneath the surface.
My husband found me in the bathroom after an especially grueling puke session and basically told me I had to stop. You know, in between the heaving and sobbing that I couldn’t control.
I couldn’t do both businesses AND be pregnant AND care for our 4 year old daughter anymore.
I couldn’t see it, but of course he was right.
So I (he, WE) made the decision to close up LittleHighbury right then and there.
And I had to GIVE MYSELF GRACE that at that exact moment in time, I couldn’t do it all.
And that was okay.
The world didn’t implode, our bank account didn’t dry up, the zombie apocalypse never happened-- (although if that does ever happen, I’m *pretty* sure I want to be one of the first to go. Kind of a “peace out, cub scout” sort of thing. And for the love of all that is holy, will someone PLEASE explain to me why you would ever want to survive a world where you’re constantly in fear of your life with zombies chasing you. I genuinely don’t understand that!)
Okay, so like I was saying before I popped onto my zombie soapbox-- none of those things happened.
But I was able to focus LESS on being busy and more on taking care of myself.
Not completing 20+ orders/day freed up A LOT of time that I was able to nap, watch movies, and recharge after an awful day when I felt like crap.
Now, those aren’t the most productive, amazing things ever.
But they were the grace I needed to get through that point in time.
And they ended up leading me to having my BIGGEST launch EVER because I was able to focus more on that instead of trying to split my time between managing two businesses.
So give yourself grace.
If you’ve got 4 kids under 4 and the little one kept you up all night teething, it’s okay that you didn’t add the 10 new products-- or even 1 new product-- to your shop that you “promised” yourself you would do today.
If you’ve had a family emergency and been putting out fires all day for everyone, it’s okay that you didn’t photograph your entire new product line today.
If you feel such a pit in your stomach for no reason at all that you can’t even get out of a bed, much less run a business, that’s okay.
You’ve GOT to take care of #1 first and foremost. And that #1 is YOU.
Your business isn’t going anywhere and it’s not going to go belly-up because you took a nap this afternoon that you really needed instead of answering 5 million Etsy convos.
Give yourself grace and give yourself permission to step away, take care of YOU and what YOU need, and then come back to the business.
I promise it’ll still be waiting for you :)
Holy cow. Okay, so I thought I’d maybe have a couple things to say about anxiety + running my business but apparently I had a TON to share. In a way, this episode has been therapeutic to me, and I hope you found some value in it. If nothing else, know that you are NOT alone. I still absolutely have days where I don’t want to show up or be running a business because my anxiety is sky high and I literally don’t feel like I can check my email without spiraling into major overwhelm and panic. Mondays, in general, are HARD for me.
It happens. It’s part of being a human who struggles with anxiety. And if that’s you as well, I’m here for you. You absolutely CAN run a business while struggling through anxiety. It’s not something I ever thought I would have to deal with, but I do and it’s here and to some extent? It’s a blessing as weird as that sounds. It means I need to be more thoughtful and deliberate about the things I DO work on and how I plan + run my business. Because some days I just can’t show up.
You are NOT your anxiety. It’s a part of you that you have to learn how to work with, but it isn’t “YOU” -- you are more than your anxiety and you’ve got this.
Alright guys, be sure to check the show notes for any resources I mentioned in the podcast + I’ll see you next week!