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Please Remain Calm: Entrepreneurs on How They Keep Anxiety at Bay

In these agitated times, where news about the coronavirus pandemic is coming in on all channels, how do you keep your mind from spinning out of control? What are the things that help you appease your anxiety?

coronavirus anxiety

To gather some insight, I reached out to 16 entrepreneurs whose lives – just like ours – have been turned upside down by the current health crisis. While some of them are relying on tried-and-tested practices, such as exercising and meditating, others have found surprising ways to cope with stress.

Raising chicks, planting a garden, or cooking something fresh every night may be just the ideas you needed to make the following months less taxing on your wellbeing.

“I’m taking one ‘phone-free’ day per week.”

“My business survives by selling wine on-site in a beautiful setting, and we can’t do that right now. So how do we reach people and stay in business, and keep everyone employed? Our strategy has shifted from sales to just spreading positive energy and smiles. When I firmly had that in mind, I was able to focus and come up with tactics to make that goal a reality.  

The first few days after our tasting rooms were closed, my mind wouldn’t stop. I didn’t sleep for three days. I quickly realized that I couldn’t be creative, energetic, motivational, and positive when I couldn’t sleep.

So I created an itinerary for my day: 6 a.m. – workout, 8 a.m. – first call of the morning, 9 a.m. – breakfast, read the news, 9:30 – respond to emails, on so on. I found that I could control this, so it helped me find some balance between chaos and order.

Also, I’m taking one ‘phone-free’ day per week. I check it at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., but the rest of the time, step away from the news, the texts, the calls, and the panic.

I love to cook, so I’ve been making sure to make something fun and different each night. This week we’ve had Moroccan, Mexican, Indian, French, and Italian! It lets my mind wander to good places.

Daily meditations via Headspace are a must.

Also, a walk around with my partner and the dogs helps me recap my day and process the changes, stresses, and thoughts.”

— Laura Booras, CEO of Riverbench Vineyard & Winery

“Working out has always helped me relax.”

“For years I’ve been exercising with a trainer three times a week. Since going to the gym isn’t an option now, I’ve been working out outside, in a remote area near my house. Sometimes, even taking my dog for a walk dissipates the anxiety that’s getting to all of us.

Apart from that, being able to continue to work has been very motivating. I don’t go to the office anymore, but my schedule hasn’t changed much. I made sure all our employees are safe and working from home, and we stay connected. Focusing on our projects and striving to help other companies right now gives me further purpose and a sense of calm.”

Liviu Tanase, CEO and Founder of ZeroBounce

“Focus on the good things you have in your life right now.”

“I talk to friends and family regularly. Also, I found online tools to help with managing anxiety and stress during times like this.

When you notice your anxious mind starts to take over by worrying about one thing, that leads to the next worry and onwards – stop, and take a breath. Then tackle each one of those worries into realizing your current situation and what the solutions are, and what is true now rather than worrying about the unknown. 

Focus on the good things you have in your life right now. Find time to appreciate the simple things, whether that be reading, cooking, learning something new or just doing nothing and disconnecting from the internet. It’s important to take breaks from the media frenzy bombarding us with coronavirus.

Take care to be compassionate and community-driven and supportive to your friends, family, and colleagues. What we all need now is support, a positive mindset, and tools to stay calm.”

Andrea Loubier, CEO of Mailbird

“When I go for a run, my lungs expand and so does my mind.”

“I double-down on daily rituals that rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit. For me, that starts with adequate sleep, at least 7.5 hours each night, plus a midday nap of 20 to 30 minutes. That may sound like a luxury, but it’s not.

Leaders need clear minds and steady nerves. Fatigue saps the ability to focus, be creative, and make reasoned decisions. I guard against that with generous doses of rest.

Exercise is also vital for me. The mind-body connection is well known, and I harness it to improve my critical thinking. When I go for a run, my lungs expand and so does my mind. My mood lightens. Problems seem less overwhelming, and solutions begin to appear. I lead with greater confidence and clarity after a good night’s sleep and a bracing workout.”

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Michael Hyatt & Co.

“I include mindfulness breaks throughout the day.”

“I’ve been relying heavily on mindfulness skills to get me through the day. Most people are familiar with meditation as a mindfulness practice (which has been super helpful), but other mindfulness skills such as ‘radical acceptance’ have also been incredibly grounding.

By letting go of how I feel things ‘should be’, and making peace with how things are, I’ve been able to alleviate so much stress.

When I’m creating my work schedule at the beginning of each day, I intentionally include mindfulness breaks throughout the day, to check in with myself on how I’m doing, and re-orient myself if needed.”

— Blair Nicole Housley, CEO & Founder of Media Moguls PR

“I was in bed for a week with COVID-19!”

“This has been one of the craziest times for a startup founder, especially since I was in bed for a week with COVID-19!

With all of the craziness going on, though, it has been an absolute must to keep me and my team calm and productive.

The one thing we’ve done to stay calm is to focus on our mission. Every day I remind myself and my team why we are here busting our butts to build this business. When we remember that, all the chaos in the background just becomes noise.”

Shadi Bakour, CEO and Co-founder of PATHWATER

“I’ll throw on some good music and paint.”

“I’ve been meditating before starting work, even if just for five minutes, to help me breathe and zone out.

Utilizing IG and YouTube Live workout classes that let me ‘visit’ my favorite fitness studios in my living room has been so much fun and a good release.

Stepping outside for a few minutes to walk my dog around the block, while socially distancing, is a great time to get some sun and fresh air.

In the evenings, I watch something that I can escape into – right now I’m loving “Locke & Key” on Netflix. Or I’ll throw on some good music and paint. I’m using a paint-by-numbers kit to paint the idyllic Santorini scene right now.”

Danika Daly, CEO and Founder of Danika Daly PR

“I listen to a guided meditation before bed.”

“I have resigned myself to the heightened stress, and by doing so have focused on the moments when I can find my place of calm. Movement, nature, and music have been my go-to tricks.

During the workday, I’ve tried to stay hyper-organized and achieve my goals while managing our amazing team.

When I’m transitioning from morning meetings to the afternoon, I often use my favorite dance music to shift my mindset, move my body for a couple of minutes, and reset for the next half of my day.

In the evening, a walk or some sort of exercise outside has allowed me to decompress to be ready for dinner hours with my family.

Finally, I listen to a guided meditation before bed to calm my mind and allow myself a good night of sleep.”

Erin Papworth, CEO and Co-founder of Nav.it

“I focus on creating a daily routine.”

“Structure helps in times of stressful chaos, especially when forced to work from home.

Mindfulness is equally important, and I practice that through daily meditation. To be our sharpest, we have to allow ourselves moments to disconnect and recharge.

Being quarantined, and in some cases in lock-down, can jeopardize your energy and drive, so I’ve been committing to daily exercise to get the endorphins going. If possible, outside – nature is good for the soul.

Lastly, we have to provide ourselves outlets for counseling or find someone we can open up to. Executive coaches, counselors, therapists, and mentors are all great options.”

Nishant Reddy, CEO of A Golden State

“I’ve been leaving my phone at home.”

“I’ve actually found myself craving isolation more than ever before. With so much news and information coming at me from every direction, it can be overwhelming. It’s hard to get away from the constant firehose of negative updates and somber, pessimistic news.

To combat that, I’ve been taking more walks with my family while leaving my phone at home. It’s a momentary respite from all the technology and gives me a precious break to focus on what’s in front of me and what matters most.

At the end of the walks, I find myself a little more centered and calmer. I feel recharged to jump back into the fray and help guide my team and company through this ordeal.”

Abhi Lokesh, CEO and Co-founder of Fracture

“I’ve been connecting with myself, my family, my community, and nature.”

“Here’s what I have adopted into my life in the past few days and weeks:

  • Raising baby chicks.

My partner and I are raising chicks together with our neighbors, and so it’s not only a hefty dose of cuteness, but it also makes us feel closer as friends. We check in on them together, watch them grow and change, and look forward to the abundance of fresh eggs we’ll soon have!

  • Planting an orchard and vegetable garden to grow our own produce.

This is a long-term project my partner and I have been undertaking on our property. While we won’t have any yield for another handful of months, working outside feels nourishing and important. It reminds us that there is a season for everything and that this too shall pass.

  • Making fires in the woodstove every night.

Instead of turning on the TV, we’ve been making fires in the living room every night after dinner, and it means we end up having long conversations with each other rather than just zoning out. Fires are also universally comforting, cozy, and grounding in a very primal way.

  • Cooking soups and stews for freezing

Now that I’m not commuting, I feel relaxed yet energized enough to make lots of nutritious, slow meals like soups and stews. They’re only healthy but also comforting.”

Molly Hayward, founder & Chief Brand Officer of Cora

“I’ve been coming up with a new bedtime story to tell my daughter every night.”

“Recently, I’ve been coming up with a new bedtime story to tell my young daughter every night, which proves to be a useful mental diversion and a wonderful bonding experience.

Taking daily breaks away from the Internet also helps to vent off the stress of the uncertainties.

Whenever new measures are announced, I try to read both the media coverage and the actual format regulations so I get a more informed view of where editorial and governmental concerns meet, and where they diverge. This helps in choosing what media to pay closer attention to, and what to filter out.”

Diego Brian Gosis, Partner at GST LLP

“I announce out loud the end of my workday.”

“It’s overwhelming to look at my to-do list, so I set a few goals each day that are clear and achievable. Every morning, I jot down thoughts which ladder up to larger goals.

I’m also adamant about scheduling anything that takes time, so if I want to get it done, I put it on my calendar. These habits give me clarity, keep me focused, and help me feel like I accomplished something by the end of the day. 

To separate work and home life, I announce out loud the end of my workday. Yes, it feels weird. This draws a divide between work and leisure and makes me catch myself before I get sucked into work.

Finally, I try to create mini-escapes: it can be as simple as brewing coffee, writing a postcard to a friend, or reading something other than the news.”

Jon Staff, CEO & Founder at Getaway

“I’ve stayed calm by connecting with nature.”

“My house here in Pennsylvania is near a farm and a stream, so being outside and around nature has helped clear my mind.

To reduce anxiety, I make sure to get my steps in and move around throughout the day so I don’t go stir crazy. I also don’t watch TV, which helps a lot. I’ll catch up on news outlets at the start and end of the days, but avoiding endless TV scrolls has helped prevent anxiety.”

Brian Kelly, CEO and Founder of The Points Guy 

“Constant communication with my team has been a major source of calm.”

Jacob (right) with co-founder Anthony Collias

“Travel is one of the worst-affected areas, so being a startup in travel is hard. Our priority is to preserve cash and keep morale high while the revenue is drying up. 

Constant and open communication with my team has been a major source of calm during this period. We’ve all agreed to drop to four-day weeks. This saves 20% of salary costs and avoids us losing anyone since we’ve worked so hard to assemble this team.

As a founder, it’s hard to not be mentally swamped by concerns for your business during times like these. And the lack of habitual distractions such as watching football on TV makes it harder still!

Now, more than ever, I’ve found that approaching work with focus and purpose is helping me keep my eye on the task at hand and worries at bay.”

Jacob Weddedburn-Day, CEO of Stasher

“Give yourself permission to drop the ball.”

“These are unusual times. Many of us want to be perfect in order to feel in control. But we have control over certain things – like staying inside – and less control over other things, like how our governments respond. Know the difference and give yourself – and your loved ones – permission to drop the ball.

As an entrepreneur, keeping a strong mental health practice makes me more effective. Instead of putting a pause on my teletherapy, I’ve arranged my schedule to make sure I keep it as part of my weekly priorities.

Lastly, self-quarantine has given my kids the chance to sleep in, and it reminds me that there can be silver linings during this period. We add in some snuggles, and it gives me a reason to be grateful. I want to remember that after all this is over.”

Sehreen NoorAli, Co-CEO of Visible Health

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