Stress in Building a Business

Becoming an entrepreneur and starting your own business is no easy feat. I have watched many budding entrepreneurs ask for feedback and validation from family and friends, only to be disappointed by their responses. Once the entrepreneur even utters the syllables of “I have this great new business Idea and I think I want to leave my job” your weird uncle clamours how stupid you are: “Why would you leave a steady 9-5 pm, it pays the bills!” while your best friend shouts: “Your insane, there is no way that would work!”

From the get-go, just sharing your business ideas with your family and friends can be stressful! Shifting away from a conventional day job to a less conventional job like starting your very own niche website or building your first mobile product is both scary and stressful. 

Stress of an Entrepreneur

I have had the excitement and stress of watching my own business and side hustles succeed and fail over the years. I have also had the opportunity to meet a handful of entrepreneurs who have hit the ball out of the park. I want to use this post to share both my experiences with the stress associated with starting a business but to also break down what makes an entrepreneur successful and how to break through the tough times and naysayers. 

Part-time I am a personal trainer to several individuals who have built incredible businesses and lifestyles. Despite the freedom to take off whenever they want, buy fancy cars and do cool things, it didn’t come without a price.

That cost is typically paid with stress, all of which include excessive worrying and many sleepless nights. I have watched some of these entrepreneurs struggle for months and even years. At no point did their cool start-up resemble what I often see showcased by pop media companies or instagram influencers. There wasn’t a posh office with a ping pong table, beer tap nor did they ever work a flexible 15 hour work week. The more I think about it, every single one of them fought their way to success (examples include sleeping under desks, saying no to a salary and working every holiday of the calendar year). 

As a personal trainer and entrepreneur I feel fortunate to learn from these successful individuals. This includes their wisdom and their mistakes, but also an insight to what life is really like when starting your own business.  

When observing each one of my clients you will find them all to be smart and innovative. And this makes sense right? Intelligence and creativity creates products like the iPhone and Uber.  Kindof. I hate to say it but a high IQ and outside the box thinking isn’t enough. We are now experiencing global competition and everyone is smart and creative. With that being said I think entrepreneurs need an X-factor to achieve success. 

So you may be asking, what then is this X-factor?!

Resilency (the X-factor)

After years of thinking, exploring and observing entrepreneurship I believe that the common denominator (outside of the more obvious answers like hard work, good products and luck) between successful entrepreneurs is resilency. Resilency is your ability to stay on your feet when you are getting emotionally beat up, or your ability to get up after you have been mentally knocked down.

Most of us know now that starting your own business is scary and risky. Most of the time you will have zero guardrails and no road map. You are learning as you go and the only thing that is certain is that there are no guarantees.

With such uncertainty how do you turn your dream into a reality? In my opinion, there is no golden answer, but I do think there are a few things that I can share with you that may aid you during your entrepreneurial journey. 

First, make sure all of your ducks are in a row before you potentially leave your job and start your business. Preparing your finances (having a nest egg), relationships (the people who will be directly affected by your new decision) and business model will help align expectations and help alleviate some of the early stressors.  

Secondly, don’t forget about the biggest elephant in the room, your brain. I have always felt that psychology has never received the credit it deserves when it comes to performance, training or starting businesses.

My advice to you, is that once you decide to start your own business collect as many mental tools as you can to increase your resilency to the demands of your new business while learning new and better ways to cope with stress.

The intentions here are not to be pessimistic but rather the opposite. As a coach I have literally seen athletes get flatlined because they were ill prepared for their sporting event. Entrepreneurship is no different than competitive sports. My job is to help prepare individuals for competition and you have to be ready for anything and everything if you want to increase your chances of survival and success.

Let’s take a step back before we start talking about stress relieving tools. By definition stress is your body’s response to a new event. You can imagine then that you will naturally have a lot of stress as you start your first business (because there will be many firsts).

Stress Management Strategies

Now, let’s discuss two strategies to help you relieve stress and increase your resilency when starting your own business.

  1. Sharpen stress fighting skills with better stress management strategies
  2. Reduce your risk of burnout and increase your resilency by restructuring your negative thoughts and behaviors toward optimism. 

When I talk about stress fighting skills I am specifically talking about coping skills. Coping skills are the various techniques we can use to help manage stress in the heat of stressful moments. A few examples of coping skills are:

  1. Deep breathing techniques
  2. Self-analysis (the HALT Method)

If you want to learn more about deep breathing check out this blog post. In short, deep breathing helps you physically relax by stopping or reducing the stress response. If you feel your heart rate and blood pressure increase because of a new stressor try taking a handful of deep breaths. With each deep breath you should feel your body relax, your heart rate slow and your blood pressure decrease. You will have more measured thinking when you are in a relaxed state versus a panic state. You want to be proactive, not reactive when building your business.

Self-analysis or the HALT Method is a great way to have an internal dialogue to question incoming negative and harmful thoughts and behaviors. If you just find out that your biggest client is no longer going to use your services you may feel your blood start to boil. Then, ask yourself am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? This awareness will help you realize that what you may want to do (scream at your employees) isn’t the smartest choice and in the end will ultimately not make the matter any better. In other words, it helps you see the humanity in your decisions and the decisions that other people make and helps you make more actionable, logical choices. 

Conclusion – Stress in Building a Business

Moving on, we are going to  conclude this post by discussing how we can help restructure the negative voices we hear when we feel overwhelmed, frustrated and stressed. These negative voices are known as cognitive distortions. Many of us are our own worst critics and it is not to our benefit. If you don’t land a sale you have been working on for 2 months or a big sponsorship falls through you aren’t a loser and you definitely don’t stink at everything. 

To gain more awareness around your own self defeating cognitive distortions and to help build resilency, combat each negative with a positive. If you find yourself spiraling out of control and are really beating yourself up turn each irrational statement into a rational one. Examples are: “I never do anything right.” That statement is known as Overgeneralization and may be rebutted by telling yourself a logical statement like: That simply isn’t true, yes, that meeting didn’t go as planned but we still have other opportunities in the pipeline.”

I hope that this post helps give you a more realistic point of view of what it is like to actually start your own business. I also hope that it serves as a way to arm yourself against the common stressful pitfalls of starting a business. Yes, starting a business can and most likely will be very stressful. However, with the right tools you can without a question tackle these stressors, solve really cool problems and help contribute to the world… and it is one of the most fulfilling things you can do. Best of luck with your new ventures!

Andrew Laux - Kopely - Head Shot

Guest Post - About the Author

Andrew Laux is a fitness and wellness entrepreneur and Founder of Kopely. Andrew has his undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, worked as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, Director of Operations for boutique fitness gyms, owner of his own mobile training company, and as a consultant for a health and fitness start-up in NYC. Andrew is now spending his time building Kopely, a mobile app that is trying to solve the problem of increasing rates of stress and anxiety.

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