When Anxiety Overtakes Productivity

Business owners often suffer from sleepless nights.

There’s that feeling in your chest that won’t go away. It’s that thing in your brain that jolts you upright at 3 a.m and catapults you toward your office. It’s a constriction of the airflow that’s due to at least 50 items – one of these might be in your top 10 category of Anxiety Producers:

  1. Lack of cash flow
  2. Lack of employee support
  3. Increase of minimum wage (i.e. inability to pay for more helpers)
  4. Taxes
  5. Expansion or planning issues
  6. Networking overload (social or otherwise)
  7. Lack of exercise
  8. Legal battles
  9. Constant Interruptions
  10. Real estate/office space headaches

The proper response to outdated post-2008 phrases like “Don’t be afraid of change” might be “Change made me bankrupt.”

Stress Leads to Anxiety

Most of us know that stress has hundreds of causes, and just as many resulting health issues. It particularly grabs you when you’re being clever and responsible, and upbraids you for not doing enough. It sends you constant Outlook-calendar updates – “have you done this yet? Didn’t you say this was important? Why aren’t you on top of that? When will you ever….” and so on.

Anxiety Leads to Frustration

There’s a dog barking outside my window right now. I’m typing this post in bed because (a) I woke up bolt upright at 4:40 am today, (b) I want comfort, and (c) my back is sick of my chair. I could be really, really frustrated at the dog whose owners have not taken it for a walk; that’s probably 90% of why it’s waking up everyone around it, yelling about a potential problem. “Hey! Hey! Hey!” No one is listening, because no one is around to hear who cares, and that creates even more frustration in the dog, who should be in a park happily chasing squirrels.

My system works exactly like the barking dog. If I don’t take myself out for exercise (tongue lolling, sometimes), if I don’t practice that new/old habit of meditation and mindfulness – in fact, if I just keep on frantically trying to pound away at lists of stuff without any real resolution or progress….my system will issue constant alerts and provide no rest.

Frustration Leads to Hopelessness

If you live too long in the Constantly Going arena, your whole system will shut down. You’ll wake up one morning, worn out from all the constant change and updates and panic attacks and overcommitted clients who make their problems into your problems. And you’ll think, “What is the point of this? I make less than I should, I haven’t seen a new film or painted a tree in years, and I hardly know the names of my kids (or spouse). This is stupid and hopeless and I should just get a job.”

Hopelessness Leads to Depression

Many business owners will not touch this topic with a ten-foot pole, even though it is now part of the commercial air that we breathe. We avoid thinking about it, even though we’ve all seen that Face at a networking meeting. Someone showed up who should have been drinking a glass of red wine and watching The Princess Bride at home. They are hanging on to their job/purpose by their fingernails, but the debt is piling up and they don’t know why they even bothered to show up and mingle with people who Have It All Together. All of these emotions are chasing themselves across that person’s face. You wish they’d go home, because they’re bringing down the tone when all they need is a counselor – some sanitized wisdom or therapy behind closed doors. This person has probably cried on the shoulders of all their friends, who are now tired of the “I don’t know what to do” subject, and everyone wants the problem to just go away.

And bring on the booze, because that’s an acceptable way to deal with the feeling of persistent hopelessness.

The use of uppers, downers, alcohol, and other semi-legal or completely illegal substances is quite prevalent in the business world. Apparently, a Google executive and father of five kids named Forrest Timothy Hayes died of a drug overdose in 2014. He happened to be on his yacht, with a call girl, taking heroin.

The Mercury News article seems to blame the frantic start-up culture in Silicon Valley, but really -who are we kidding? Our entire modern culture thrives on the Who Sacrificed the Most game to get ahead, meanwhile mouthing platitudes about work-life balance. It’s really no wonder that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2013. 76% of those suicides were linked to alcohol, antidepressants, or alcohol.

What To Do?

First things first – reject the pressure to overdo. “Just Say No” can apply to clients and their ridiculously short deadlines that leads to purposeless, badly done busywork. Is their deadline going to be a contributing factor to you ending up in an emergency room, divorce court, or jail? More business is not worth it.

Second – especially if you have decreed a Catch-up Day, place an actual “Gone Fishing” or “Away” auto-reply email. If your clients start barking about you not being available, that’s a clear sign that they haven’t been trained in the polite art of asking rather than demanding service.

Third – try marking a few things off the list, then taking a walk. Mark a few more things off the list, then go make a cup of tea, and sit in an outside area with your skin drinking in Vitamin D. If that’s not possible, look out the window to the pretty snow. If that’s not possible, quietly mark down on the list, “Move desk near window with an actual view.” If you’re staring at brick or a parking lot, that’s probably destroying both your hope and your creativity.

Fourth – get help. Real help. Talk to a pastor, talk to a mentor, your parents, or some authority figure with some wisdom like Compassionate Counselors in Phoenix. Somebody who’s been through the ringer and done more than just survived the AA meetings; someone who really knows that “this too shall pass”, and knows when to pass up on so-called ‘great opportunities’. Sometimes, those are a bona fide way to get yourself splashed onto headlines for a very wrong reason, because you didn’t take the time to


Because doing more for the sake of getting more done so that you can….Do More…….is purposeless and pointless. In all your getting, get wisdom. Get understanding. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, and it’s not required morally or ethically, you could probably think about getting rid of it.


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