Transcript: Braving Anxiety as an Entrepreneur

Susanne Rieker: I woke up again shaking. It‘s the weirdest feeling, like there is a washing machine in tumbler mode close by or an earth quake happening. I hate it! It makes me feel all wrong, right in the morning.

Also, and I don‘t know why but this is really difficult to talk about, my hair is falling out and while it’s not painful it’ not what we want to happen on our head!

This was me last year…  Well, according to Google both of these symptoms can be contributed to anxiety, so let’s talk about what anxiety means for entrepreneurs and how I overcame it with a self-care plan!

I actually had both of these symptoms, morning tremors and alopecia areata, once before, in 2006, in an extremely stressful period of my life.

I was working 70 hours a week in an advertising agency in London and then I got fired. So that was a hard time and I attributed it to stress.

And it disappeared by itself within a few months after I got my life back to normal, I thought for good.

But then it came back around 2 years ago…

I was living the digital nomad dream in Bali. I went to yoga at least 4 times a week, ate the yummiest healthy food, drank no alcohol, slept 8 hours every night…

I was feeling good, really! Nothing like back in my advertising days.

Still, right out of nowhere my hair stylist told me that there was a bald patch at the back of my head.

I was so shocked! Why did this happen again? And then I had those morning tremors as well and finally made the connection, that those symptoms were related.

When you have something like this happen to you, you are forced to take a good, hard look at your life.

And fact is, I was anxious.

The thing is, building a business by yourself is freakin hard!

Working long hours creating content because you’ve got too much on your to do list.

Pretending you’re comfortable in front of the camera doing a live video because everybody tells you you have to do “lives” to “beat the algorithm”.

Getting outside of your comfort zone, all the time.

Sacrificing everything your body needs because you have to be consistent and you don’t even know anymore what to do when you’re not looking at a computer.

I’ve also had some personal issues.

My mother is seriously sick, and this is very hard on me because I want to be there for her and at the same time I want to travel and live in Bali.

She has ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and it‘s heart breaking to see the disease progress and making her more and more immobile. There‘s no cure and no knowing how long she will live and what the next years will bring. I never talked about this before, but I want this podcast to be a platform where I can share what’s happening in my business and my life, and this of course is a big part that affects me.

So that’s why I’m spending more time in Germany now and also got my own apartment in Hamburg again. But I’m feeling a lot of resistance against this. So much resistance.

And then there‘s the whole building a personal brand and business stuff of course.

I worry about things like do I have the right message, shouldn‘t my conversion rates be higher, will I earn enough money this month to cover all my expenses?

Probably I also worked too much in the last years, without ever taking a break, trying to juggle freelancing and building my business. I feel like I put soo much into my business in the last years. So much energy, time, money.

And of course I worry sometimes. Will it pay off? Will my income increase?

Will I be able to save again for my retirement?

And earn enough money to live in another place than cheapish South East Asia?

My head says yes, of course you will be successful. You have all the trainings, you follow the steps, your content is great and you get amazing feedback from your students.

But my heart… or better, my old ego self, I imagine a little she-devil sitting on my left shoulder, she is whispering things like:

You‘re not good enough. You‘re doing everything wrong. This is never going to work. This is as far as you‘ll get.

Maybe, probably, you know this voice. We all have that, right?

Well, as I said before, because I got those symptoms, I looked at my life, my business, and what I had to change.

So here’s what I did to stop feeling anxious and finding bliss again in my business:

#1 I set boundaries

I’m ambitious. I have a strong vision where I want to go with my business. And I’m working incredible hard to get there, and I like doing that. I love it!

But I was struggling a lot with finding a balance. When I was working long hours, I felt bad because I didn’t enjoy Bali enough, and there are also a lot of events that I didn’t join and so I didn’t make new friends. The thing in Bali is that people are coming and going all the time, so you have to meet new people all the time, which is great of course but also a commitment.

And then when I was working less, I felt bad because I was afraid that I didn’t put enough time into building my business. I saw other entrepreneurs talking about how they worked through the night and hustles like crazy to get where they are, and I thought I should do that too.

I didn’t want to be working like in an office, putting in 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday, 9 to 6pm with one hour for lunch. I left that world behind, I wanted more freedom and flexibility to go to a yoga class in the day or visit a workshop.

But this super flexible approach didn’t work for me, too, because I felt bad when I was working AND when I didn’t work. Crazy, right?

So, I decided, actually with the help of a life coach that I worked with for a short time, that I would feel good if I worked between 30 and 35 hours a week. And this is focused work time, not scrolling Instagram or researching Airbnb’s for my next trip. It wouldn’t matter when I work, it could be evening or a rainy Sunday. Only the total hours per week mattered.

And when you think 30 to 35 hours doesn’t sound a lot, the actual time I spend on my computer right now is more, here I really only count focused work time. There’s no scrolling on social media, no reading the news, and then 6 hours per day actually is a lot and I find that I can’t really focus for longer.

To track this, because obviously you need a system to track your hours, I came up with a super simple solution.

I use Asana, a free task management tool, to schedule all my tasks and to-dos. I love it and use it every day.

I then also signed up with Everhour, not free but very affordable, I think I pay around a 100$ per year, which allows me to track my time.

Everhour integrates with Asana, so now I simply press a button in Asana when I start working on a task and then again when I stop.

Actually, while this sounds super simple, it was really hard at the beginning. I lost focus and started something else, or I forgot about starting the timer or stopping it.

It taught me to be much more mindful about my work, which was a surprising but very welcome side effect.

And now I can also see where I spent my time which is really helpful as well to plan better.

I highly, highly recommend this to everyone, use Asana or Everhour or any other system and start tracking where you spend your time, and, even more important, start focusing on one task at a time…

I try not to work on Sundays and to stay away from my screen and social media, but this is very much work in progress, I think I could get a lot better with this. I have serious attachment issues when it comes to my phone and MacBook.

#2 I schedule time for self-care

I now plan my week in advance and not only schedule my business to-dos, but also yoga classes I want to go to and things like massages. And I schedule a lot of time for that right now, yoga nearly every day and a massage at least once per week, and also one or two workshops per week to meet new people and learn something new. This could be yoga or life coaching workshops or business-related workshops, I’m spoiled for choice here in Bali.

When it’s in my calendar it get’s done, it’s as easy as that.

I also got more consistent with my meditation practice. I don’t put it in my calendar, but I’m back to meditating for 20 to 30 minutes every morning and sometimes evening, or I do a few yin yoga poses in the evening to wind down.

In Bali I get lots of massages because they are really affordable here. In Germany that’s not an option, so I got myself a foot massager machine, which looks really weird, but I love it! You have to try it to believe it, but 30 minutes with my feet in that thing and I feel like a new person.

What else. Long walks help me to wind down after a long day in front of the computer, or going for a run, or meeting a friend for a drink or early dinner.

I try to do something each day that ends my workday, and I try not to open my computer again beside for Netflix after that.

#3 I focus on MY thing and don’t look left and right all the time.

A big thing has been blocking out all the “shoulds” coming from the online world. Or looking at other people and how they are doing things and then thinking I should do this too.

The problem especially with social media is that you see everyone else doing ALL the things, so you think you should do them, too. And when you do, you feel overwhelmed and stressed, which never helps.

Instead I focus on my business and my goals. What I planned for the month ahead, and I don’t change it or, even worse, add more stuff to do to it just because it seems cool and someone else is doing it.

I also stopped listening to too many different marketing experts. I have one expert that I’m following, Amy Porterfield, I bought her courses and am a member in her mastermind membership program.

I listen to other people’s podcasts, but I’m not doing their free challenges or webinars or buying their products, unless it’s a specific topic that I want to learn about, like Podcasting which I learned from Jenna Kutcher’s course or memberships which I learned from Tribe by Stu McLaren. I’m very selective here and it helps me to focus.

So where am I with all those changes?

I still have one bald patch but my hair is growing back.

I don’t wake up trembling anymore.

I still feel a little bit unease when I think about the future and what will happen, where will I live and all that, but not as much anymore.

I feel more trust. Trust in the universe, that it will all work out as it should.

I also realized that I need to be more patient. I have moments where I think I need to decide right now where I’m going to live, France or Portugal or Bali, but it will all work out. I don’t need to decide this now. Patience. I’m moving at the right pace. This makes me feel grounded, and calm.

I’m so grateful for everything I have. For where I am right now. I don’t dwell on my issues. They showed up to teach me something about myself, but they don’t control my life.

So, I realize that my battle with anxiety is really not as bad as other people may have it. It could be way worse.

But still, I wanted to share my story.

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, or anything around mental health issues, I want you to know you are not alone. We may not talk about it, but we are out there. You are not alone.

Everyone has their own story and it shows up in so many different ways.

Those issues can be uncomfortable to talk about, but we need to have those conversations and I’m hoping you will learn some tools in this episode to help you face them and also be more vocal about what you’re going through as well.

We have to stop this shame and embarrassment around it.

Because, also, you can still be successful in spite of, or in addition to, your anxiety or health challenges you are going through.

Even with everything going on, I tripled my income from online courses last year and I’m on the road to my first 6-figure year.

So you can still thrive.

Self care, self love, and self acceptance are things I’ll constantly be working on…and I invite you on this journey with me. Perhaps we can pull together and ensure we take care of each other.

Alright, thanks for being here. I know this was an episode that was a little bit different but it’s a topic we need to talk about. I’d love for you to share your thoughts and feelings, feel free to send me a message on Facebook or Instagram or email me at hello@susannerieker.com.

Alright, have a wonderful day. Bye for now.