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Managing the Full Plate: Navigating Anxiety and Stress as a Busy Entrepreneur and Parent

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

In a world where balancing personal and professional life often feels like a tightrope walk, I find myself juggling multiple roles — a mother of two, a wife of 21 years, and a business owner. While accomplishing these roles, there are moments when I feel as though I'm not meeting my own expectations in each area. It's a common experience where the pressure to excel in every aspect can sometimes lead to feelings of falling short, despite the effort and dedication I put in.

While these roles are enriching and incredibly fulfilling, they also bring their share of anxiety and stress, especially when self-care seems like a luxury I can't afford. This dichotomy often leaves me navigating a complex emotional landscape. On one hand, there's the deep satisfaction and sense of purpose derived from nurturing my family, building a loving home, and guiding my business to new heights. On the other hand, there's the constant hum of anxiety and the weight of stress that comes with the relentless demands of these roles.

In the whirlwind of daily responsibilities and commitments, carving out time for self-care can feel not just indulgent, but almost impractical. The irony is, in the quest to be everything for everyone, the first thing that gets sidelined is my own well-being. This neglect, though often subtle and unnoticed in the daily rush, can accumulate, leading to a sense of burnout, where even the most cherished aspects of my life start to feel overwhelming. It's a reminder that in the pursuit of fulfilling various roles, the balance of self-care is not just important, it's essential for sustaining the energy and passion needed to thrive in each of these areas.

The Illusion of Perfection

From the outside, my life might appear perfectly organized and under control. But the reality is often far from it. I'd bet everything that I'm not the only one who can, and should, admit this freely.

The facade of a well-orchestrated life, with neatly lined-up ducks, is just that – a facade. Behind the scenes, there's often a flurry of unending tasks, unexpected challenges, and the normal chaos that comes with raising children and running a business. This contrast between appearance and reality is not unique to me; it's a common thread in many people's lives, particularly those juggling multiple demanding roles.

It's easy to fall into the trap of wanting to keep everything flawless — a perfect parent who attends every school event, an ideal partner who always has the right words of support, and a successful entrepreneur whose business runs like a well-oiled machine. This pursuit of perfection is a relentless chase, one that can lead to a constant state of anxiety and stress. The pressure to maintain this level of flawlessness in every aspect of life is immense, often resulting in a fear of making mistakes, and a reluctance to show vulnerability.

However, striving for perfection in every aspect can create an unsustainable cycle. The quest for the unattainable often leaves little room for error, and even less for self-compassion. It's a high-wire act where one misstep can feel like a catastrophic failure. This mindset can cloud judgment, skew perspectives, and ironically, hinder the very success and harmony it seeks to create.

This approach, while well-intentioned, can become a breeding ground for chronic stress and anxiety. The constant pressure to perform at an unrealistically high level in every role can lead to burnout, a state where even the simplest tasks feel daunting. It can also strain relationships, as the quest for perfection might lead to unrealistic expectations of oneself and, inadvertently, of others around.

In the long run, it becomes evident that embracing imperfection is not only more realistic but also more humane. Learning to accept that it's okay to have off days, to not have all the answers, or to need help, is vital. This acceptance creates space for growth, learning, and, most importantly, for self-care and compassion. It's about shifting focus from being perfect to being present and doing the best one can in each moment.

Perfection: The Enemy of Good

I've learned that perfection should not be the goal. Instead, aiming for 'good enough' is more realistic and healthy. This paradigm shift has been both liberating and enlightening, but that's only when I actually live by this, which is certainly easier said than done.

Embracing 'good enough' means accepting that while I strive to excel in my roles as a parent, wife, and entrepreneur, there will be days when the balance isn't perfect, when the to-do list isn't fully checked off, or when my patience runs thinner than I'd like. It's understanding that it's okay not to be perfect in every role, every day. This mindset allows for a healthier approach to daily life, one where mistakes are not seen as failures, but as opportunities for growth and learning.

By embracing imperfection, I give myself the space to breathe, to be more present, and to enjoy the journey without the constant weight of self-imposed pressure. It's a space where mistakes are not just inevitable, but valuable. Each misstep becomes a lesson, a chance to reflect, adapt, and improve. This approach fosters resilience and a growth mindset, both critical in navigating the complexities of life.

Moreover, this attitude has a ripple effect on those around me. As a parent, showing my children that perfection is not the expectation sets a powerful example. It teaches them to value effort, resilience, and the learning process rather than just the outcome. In my professional life, it encourages a culture of openness and continuous improvement, rather than a fear-based environment fixated on faultlessness.

While excellence remains a worthy pursuit, reframing my goals around 'good enough' has been a transformative experience. It's a journey of balancing ambition with acceptance, effort with empathy, and striving with serenity. This balance is the key to managing the complex, multifaceted roles I play, and it's a lesson I continue to embrace and learn from every day.

Prioritizing Self-Care

One of the biggest challenges I've faced is learning not to let everything and everyone trump my self-care. As a parent and a business owner, the instinct to prioritize everything else before my own needs has been a tough habit to break. And, I haven't come even close to mastering this.

There's a constant stream of demands — from the immediate needs of my children to the pressing matters of my business. In the midst of this, finding time for myself can seem not just difficult, but at times, almost impossible. It's a common struggle, where personal needs are often seen as secondary, or even as a luxury that can be postponed indefinitely.

However, I've come to realize that consistently pushing my needs to the back burner doesn't just lead to a temporary dip in energy or mood; it fundamentally amplifies stress and anxiety. Neglecting self-care creates a cycle where the less I attend to my well-being, the more depleted I become, and the less effective I am in all my roles. This neglect isn't always obvious, as its effects can be gradual, but it invariably leads to a state where I'm running on empty, unable to give my best to my family or my business.

Embracing the truth that taking care of myself is not selfish, but essential, has been a turning point. It's a recognition that self-care is not just about indulgence or relaxation; it's about maintaining the mental, emotional, and physical energy that I need to be effective in every aspect of my life. It's about giving myself permission to prioritize my well-being, understanding that by doing so, I'm actually in a better position to care for those around me and meet my professional obligations.

My road to prioritizing self-care has also involved setting boundaries — learning to say no, or not now, to requests and demands that can wait, so that my immediate needs are not constantly overlooked. It's a challenging but necessary part of ensuring that self-care doesn't become an afterthought.

Practical Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that it's okay not to have everything under control at all times. Set achievable goals and be kind to yourself when things don’t go as planned.

  2. Time Management: Allocate specific times for work, family, and most importantly, for yourself. Even a few minutes of 'me time' can be rejuvenating.

  3. Delegate and Ask for Help: You don’t have to do everything alone. Delegate tasks at work and home. It’s okay to ask for support from family, friends, or colleagues.

  4. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation, yoga, or simply deep breathing exercises can significantly reduce stress levels.

  5. Stay Connected: Don’t isolate yourself. Maintaining social connections is vital for mental health. A quick chat with a friend can sometimes be the best stress-buster.

  6. Professional Help: If anxiety and stress become overwhelming, seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Embracing the Chaos

Life is unpredictable and often chaotic, especially when you're wearing multiple hats. Embracing this chaos, rather than fighting it, can lead to a more peaceful state of mind. It's about finding joy in the imperfections and understanding that it's okay not to have it all figured out.

As a mother, wife, and entrepreneur, I’ve learned that managing anxiety and stress is an ongoing process. It’s about finding balance, setting realistic expectations, and most importantly, making time for self-care. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is not just beneficial for you, but for everyone around you. Let's not let perfection be the enemy of good.

Let's embrace the chaos, one step at a time.

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