How to…for the Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur

This is article was written by Racheal Cook and can be found at: Are you a sensitive entrepreneur?

Racheal Cook {RYT MBA} wants to live in a world where heart-centered entrepreneurs have the mentorship and tools they need to bring their world-changing ideas to life. As the Founder of The Yogipreneur, she’s been behind the scenes helping Yoga Alliance, International Association of Wellness Professionals, lululemon athletica, and over 500 inspiring yogis create profitable businesses they are proud of. Her work has been featured on Smart Passive Income, The Rise to the Top, Juicy Geniuses, Abundant Yogi LIVE, and Lady Business Radio. Turn your yoga passion into a profitable business at TheYogipreneur.com

Are you a sensitive entrepreneur? How to…Live More. Stress Less

Just toughen up.

Get a thicker skin.

Don’t be so emotional.

These are all the things I thought for YEARS — drilled into me by a Navy Dad + traditional boys-club MBA — that I had to do in order to succeed in life and in business.

Except all those years of repressing my true self built up to a breaking point where I landed myself in and out of the ER more than 10 times in 10 weeks with panic attacks, adrenal fatigue, and soul-crushing anxiety.

Even though I mention this catalyst for changing my life briefly in my bio, I rarely have talked much about living with anxiety day-to-day {especially as a mom + entrepreneur}.
Recently I talked on The Transformational Power of Yoga Telesummit about this scary time in my life — and how the practice of yoga + the yoga community helped me to move more in alignment with my highest self in both my life and my business. A question came in about how I manage anxiety today — followed by emails with even more questions about living with anxiety.

Then I read this amazing blog post on Adventures in Anxiety by my friend Michelle Nickolaisen that described pretty much to a T how my anxiety manifests {minus the descriptions of anxious energy flowing through me so fast that it feels like I mainlined Red Bulls…}.
The kicker was a girls night out dinner with one of my besties — who is right now where I was in 2008. Desperately trying to figure out how to make her life work for her again instead of feeling completely swept up in the non-stop pace of work + teaching yoga + volunteering + saying YES to way too much.
And I realized that sharing how I live and work with my anxiety on a day-to-day basis might help other sensitive entrepreneurs find some balance in life + biz.

Adventures of a Sensitive Entrepreneur
Before I dive into how I live with my anxiety — know that there is a spectrum of anxiety that runs from “I’m just a natural worrier” to “I can’t eat/sleep/function without my heart racing”. I’m in no way a doctor — so if you are experiencing extreme anxiety {especially the kind that is keeping you from functioning} please go talk to a doctor, a therapist, a life coach ASAP.
Just a few short years ago, my anxiety was so severe that I took a medical leave of absence from my financial consulting practice. That’s right — I was on paid disability. I was TERRIFIED of getting in the car and having a panic attack on the way to meet a client. I was bursting out into tears — actually gasping for air sobbing — over the smallest things.
Even the sound of my blackberry ringing triggered waves of panic through my body.

10 trips to the ER later — I realized that this was something WAYYY deeper than a prescription for Xanax could cure. Every doctor I saw recommended a cocktail of anxiety + depression meds that made me feel like I was walking around in a complete fog. I knew I didn’t want to live my life completely numbed out.
Pressing the PAUSE button saved me from a lifetime of struggling with extreme anxiety.
I took three months to figure out what the hell was happening to me. It didn’t make any sense to me — how had I made it 25 years without any issues like this to now feel completely crippled by my own anxiety?

After three months of yoga retreats + holistic healthcare + life coaching + dealing with the emotional trauma I’d carried from challenging childhood {another story for another day}, I was starting to find myself again. Years of forcing myself to be “perfect” and live up to insane self-imposed expectations had left me completely depleted. I was so busy taking care of everyone else in my life — but no one {including myself} was watching out for me.

I realized I would be setting myself up for failure if I went back to the life that was perfectly positioned to keep me in anxiety hell.

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes.
The first thing I realized during my three month break — my entire life was perfect on paper but wasn’t perfect for me. Even though I had DONE EVERYTHING RIGHT {MBA. Check. 6-Figure Career. Check. Nice New Car. Check. Handsome hubby. Check. Size 4. Check.} I was pretty damn miserable. I was literally starving myself — physically, emotionally, and creatively — to be someone I thought was worthy of everyone’s love.

VisionBoard

What did I actually want out of my life? How did I want to feel? Who did I want to spend time with?

I dug into those questions and came out with some pretty amazing answers.

I created the first vision board ever based on what I wanted to FEEL or EXPERIENCE {not a list of material things I wanted}. Love. Friendship. Family. Creativity. FUN!!!
And I knew that going back to the way things had been was going to keep me from ever feeling or experiencing the life I really wanted.

Secrets for Successful Sensitive Entrepreneurs
Fast forward 5 years — these days I’ve found a sweet spot for living with my anxiety. I actually have come to appreciate and honor this part of myself. Attempting to dull it or numb it out is NOT that answer {for me}. I’ve come to realize that I’m simply more sensitive to certain energies and must live + work in a way that allows me to be my best self without apology.
My anxiety is my personal internal monitoring system that lets me know when my life is out of balance, when I’m not living in alignment with my values + desires, or when I’m saying YES to things that aren’t in my best interest — and now I have lots of tools to manage my triggers + help me course correct:

My Peeps.
Surrounding yourself with people who accept + respect you unconditionally is crucial for sensitive entrepreneurs. After years of trying to fit into a super-masculine environment, it was a RELIEF to be told that who I am is perfect — that I didn’t need to force myself to be someone I’m not to succeed.
This is actually the biggest reason I started The Yogipreneur! I felt so at home within this community of people who were committed to personal growth and transformation — I knew THIS was the community I would THRIVE in. And it is.

As a sensitive entrepreneur, it is CRUCIAL that you focus your energy on people you adore working with.
For many entrepreneurs, the pressure to succeed can lead to taking on clients who you KNOW in your heart aren’t the type of people you really want to work with… but you take them on anyways because you’ve gotta make the moola, right?
Lemme tell you — working with clients who you don’t even LIKE leads to way more stress than it’s worth. If it’s not the right fit, you will quickly begin to feel like your clients are sucking your energy dry and resentment will set in.

Once I got crystal clear about they kinds of clients I wanted to work with, everything shifted. I LOVE talking with my clients and helping them make huge leaps in their life & biz.
And honestly – if you are in the business of TRANSFORMATION, your clients will ONLY get the best results when they have the RIGHT mentor/coach/teacher. If it’s not you – don’t take them on. Do them a favor and let them find their guide.
If you’re not sure how to find those perfect-for-you peeps who you ADORE working with — we spend an entire week diving deep into this inside Conscious Business Design.

Protecting My Energy.
*Woo Woo Alert*
In the past few months, I’ve had two different hand analysis readings that told me something I’ve known for a while — my biggest life lesson is managing the fine line between empowering + helping others vs. enabling + becoming a martyr for them.
I much prefer to stay on the side of EMPOWERING others.
Being a martyr sucks.

Being a martyr meant saying YES even when my intuition said NO. It meant giving up evenings with my family for a 7PM meeting time. It meant a lot of stress in an effort to give the client what they want.
This fine line is made stronger by super clear BOUNDARIES. While it might be uncomfortable at first, just like any muscle you get stronger at boundary setting with lots of practice.
As an entrepreneur, you can quickly set boundaries by giving super clear expectations UP FRONT. Let people know exactly what they are getting in the descriptions of your programs {especially how much access to you they can expect, payment requirements + arrangements, and scheduling policies}.
One of the BEST things you can do for your client relationships is TEACH them how to communicate with you. If you don’t want people emailing + messaging you on social media + texting + skyping + voicemail {which drives me insane + I don’t respond well to} — tell them what to do when they need support + what to expect from there.

Each time you run into a situation where you are finding yourself annoyed or anxious about clients — ask yourself if there is a boundary you should put clearly in place to prevent the situation from happening again. It’s amazing how much easier things become when you lay out your expectations clearly.

Get Support.
I know some incredible mama-preneurs who have grown incredible businesses while raising young kids — and after talking to many of them, I’ve come to realize there is only ONE truth about being a successful mama-preneur.
You’ve got to figure out what works for YOU and YOUR FAMILY.
There are some people who can take care of business and their kids at the same time.
I’m not one of those people.
It’s not that I didn’t try. When my twins were born in 2010, I tried. I would get them on the same schedule and when nap time rolled around, I would sit down to work.
Then a baby was up and I was annoyed.
I quickly realized that I can’t run my business around nap times. It was never a long enough stretch to really get anything done. And I found myself frustrated at my kids {dammit why can’t my kids take a 2 hour nap!} + exhausted from not giving myself a break.

Then I gave myself permission to hire a babysitter to come a few mornings a week so I could work. BLISS. I felt great knowing that my kids were having fun and I got a solid block of time to work.
At the time — it was a big expense to get support and the expense was one of the reasons I talked myself out of it. But when I found myself frustrated all the time, with my family + with my biz, I realized it wasn’t an expense. It was an investment. One that quickly paid for itself several times over.
Now that I’ve got three littles — the same challenge has come up again. And I’ve got even MORE support. I’ve got a babysitter for a couple hours every morning. The twins go to preschool every day. I have 2 dedicated assistants and an operations manager taking care of most of the business to-do list so I can focus on the big-picture items.

Don’t wait until you’re tearing your hair out to get support. Even just a few hours a week can bring a huge amount of RELIEF to you and give your biz the room it needs to grow.

Set Up Your Environment.
There was a point where my anxiety manifested itself in an OCD-like attention to organization + cleanliness.
Then I got married.
Then I had kids.
Now I’ve found a *mostly* happy place where my house is *mostly* organized and clean.
But when things start piling up and every room in my house is covered in toys/clothes/etc — I start to freak out.
And when you work primarily from home, it’s essential that your environment doesn’t cause you to call your husband crying over the piles of laundry on the sofa.
I’m pretty realistic these days about what my house is going to look like. There are going to be toys everywhere. Laundry will always pile up. Things won’t get put away exactly where they are supposed to go.
And most weeks, my hubby and I stay *mostly* on top of it all.

BUT there is ONE rule that helps me deal with all of the above — my workspace is SACRED.
My home office space is MINE. ONLY.
No kids. No hubby. No piles of random stuff.
There is something subconscious that happens for me when I sit down at my desk with my cup of coffee and checklist of things to do for my biz. I forget about everything else.
If you find yourself sitting to work but completely frustrated and distracted by a million other things — create a space that is ONLY for work. Keep it clean & organized. It will be so much easier to get focused when you don’t feel pulled to deal with other stuff.

Reduce Mental Clutter.
If you’re feeling stressed, there is a good chance FOMO is running your life.
FOMO {Fear Of Missing Out} is why some people wake up and immediately check their email.
FOMO is why some people leave the TV on all day — even when they aren’t watching it.
FOMO is why some people race out of the bathroom to grab the phone {seriously – I’ve seen it happen}!
If you feel like your life + biz is constantly putting out fires + dealing with other people’s emergencies + trying to take in as much info as possible — you’ll want to listen up.
You aren’t missing anything.

We have more info coming at us every minute than any other generation before. It’s INSANE. And for some reason, we keep letting more come at us.
I started realizing FOMO was ruling my life + biz when I was going through an entire day without doing ANYTHING to move my business forward. All I was doing was putting out fires.
Any productivity expert will tell you to get the biggest task off your to-do list before answering your emails for the day.
I’ll add to that — if you have anxiety, you’ll feel much more in control of your life & business if you aren’t ruled by your email inbox.
These days, I get a TON done each day {even if I only work a couple hours each day} because I don’t answer emails + voicemails first.
I answer them LAST. And only if my team can’t handle answering them {the handle about 80% of the emails for me}.

Because I spend the majority of my time working on the IMPORTANT things in my biz, we rarely have to deal with emergencies. They are few & far between.
There are lots of other tweaks that help me feel calm + make my business run smoothly >>> but really, it comes down to identifying the things that stress you out, that trigger those feelings of panic + overwhelm, and not just putting a band-aid on them but designing your life + business to help you THRIVE.

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