How to immediately deal with anxiety

Being an entrepreneur means working with ambiguity in multiple areas: future of your business, its strategy, co-founders’ roles and relationships. Uncertainty is like a shadow in entrepreneur’s life. It is not uncommon to worry and experience anxiety.

In an article “How to handle your entrepreneur anxiety” Solome Tibetu, the founder of Cognific, offers a few tips. I agree with her that practicing mindfulness is the first and most important step. I have had two anxiety attack periods myself this year. It was not a pleasant experience, but it gave me a chance to find out what works.


Anxiety makes you feel unfocused and energetically depleted. It is hard to work, socialize, or even physically move. Dragging yourself to yoga may seem like a big task, but 90 minutes of a gentle yoga combined with deep yogic breathing does miracles. Not only you are turning on your parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response), but you are also moving with care and attention to your body.

Preoccupying with everyday tasks, and worrying about the future is a sure way to experiencing negative feelings. Spending some time in nature, resting in the sun, and breathing deeply and mindfully reminds us that there is more to life that work. We can zoom out and see the bigger picture. We can enjoy the beauty of nature and let go of worries for a moment. You do not have to go far. A nice park or a beach may be good space to breathe out anxiety.

Pamper Yourself
It may be tempting to forget about your health and engage in negative behavior. However, it is exactly the opposite that the can help you deal with anxiety. Get a massage, treat yourself for a nice meal. Do anything that will make you feel cared for.


“The first thing that you want to do when you start a company is to create a network and surround yourself with people who are interested in what you do and who want to help you with starting a company and get you through this.” Harold Yu, partner and Deputy Head of Orrick’s Emerging Companies Group, advises emerging companies, public companies, venture capital firms and investment banks.

What is really depression?

I stumbled upon Jonathan Malkin’s website where he interviewed Dr. Michael Freeman, a psychiatrist at UCSF whose research focus are entrepreneurs and their mental health. It is great read.

When dealing with depression, I find it important to remember that depression as a secondary emotion. Under the veil of depression you can find two emotions – anger or sadness. Specifically, I believe that depression is a suppressed anger. If it were not enough, let me add that anger is a secondary emotion itself. Fear, hurt or shame may be the feeling that fuel anger.


When I begin to feel depressed, I ask myself, “Do I feel lonely and sad, or angry? If loneliness/sadness is the answer, I practice self-love. I take care of myself physically and emotionally. I get a massage, order a nice meal, and go see a dear friend.
If anger is the answer, then I investigate further. I ask myself, “What am I afraid of?” “Do I feel hurt because I feel mistreated or disrespected?” “What is my confidence level at this moment?” I take appropriate action after I truly feel that I answered honestly and accurately.

For example:
Fear: “Is my fear justified?”
No: I probably need to increase my confidence.
Yes: What actions can I take to remove the obstacles that caused my fear?

Hurt: I need to talk to the person who hurt me. But before I do so, I take time for myself, get my thoughts together and then I approach the person without any judgements or intentions to hurt back. I simply tell them what they did and it affected me.
If you approach people in a non-threatening and caring way but stay honest to yourself, they usually listen and apologize if not correct their actions immediately.

The Power of Breath


Before I start writing about any other topic, I want to write a few paragraphs about deep and mindful breathing. Unfortunately, it is the most understated tool that we can take advantage of to make our lives and work simply better.

If you are not proactive and prepared, it takes seconds to get stressed out. It takes your body 24-48 hours before it flushes stress hormones and comes to its balanced state. One of the most fundamental  tools that you can use in your everyday life is your breath. It is a powerful tool that is always available and it is free.

Mindful and deep breathing triggers relaxation response in the body. From my experience it is better to practice mindful and deep breathing on a regular basis AND before you become stressed out.

How does deep and mindful breathing afect the state of your mind?

Autonomic nervous system (ns) consists of:
Sympathetic ns: works during perceived stressful situation, adrenal glands release stress hormones into the body, heart rate and blood pressure go up, breathing is shallow and short.
Parasympathetic ns: works to induce a relaxation response, blood pressure and heart rate decrease, breath is relaxed
Enteric ns: works in your intestinal system, aka “brain in the gut”, this is why you are experiencing intestinal disstress when faced with stress or your digestion works properly if you are relaxed.

The hypothalamus is a region of the forebrain, coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary, controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems, and involved in sleep and emotional activity. It links the nervous system to the endocrine system, which secretes the hormones that regulate all activities throughout the body.

Breathing deeply and mindfully activates the hypothalamus to inhibit stress-producing hormones. As a result, parasymphatetic ns becomes activated, and the relaxation response kicks in.

Do you choose to be proactive or reactionary?

Last week I went to an event “Digital Health Confidential” hosted by Orrick Law Firm. Patrick Chung , a partner at said that we are reactionary to health matters. I personally suspect that this reactionary approach is what drives our health, productivity, and performance to the ground.

Why wait for a disaster to happen when we can prevent it? Why wait until we are stressed, depleted, and exhausted when we can actually do something about it? I am afraid that we forget to do the math that clearly tells us that being proactive is in fact less costly than being reactive.


Prepare yourself.
Know about the situation and prepare yourself. Knowing what to expect, makes it easier to cope. If you cannot prepare, remember that you will be in an unknown situation be OK to feel uncomfortable.

Like it or not, it is the soft skills that will help you get through. Bravery is not necessary.

A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. The more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

Learn to deal with your emotions. You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or afraid. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity.

Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, accept that change is a part of life, and believe in a higher purpose. I like to focus on the journey and the learning process, not the results.

If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. Fear makes you feel like things are out of their control. I personally like to tell myself “Everything is exactly the way it should be. Everything is going to be OK.”


Catch it before it catches you

Stress is viewed as a negative experience. “However, stress can be helpful and good when it motivates people to accomplish more. Increased stress results in increased productivity – up to a point, after which things go rapidly downhill. However, that point or peak differs for each of us, so you need to be sensitive to the early warning symptoms and signs that suggest a stress overload is starting to push you over the hump. Such signals also differ for each of us and can be so subtle that they are often ignored until it is too late.” ** Unfotunately, we keep pushing until we feel exhausted, get sick, or have a breakdown.


Studying macrobiotic diet taught me that when we are in a state of extreme yang, we seek a state of an yin to find balance. However, because we go from one extreme to another, we keep missing the balanced state of mind and body. Stress is an extreme yang and it may not surprise you that alcohol is an extreme yin.  When we completely ignore the early signs of fatigue, we throw ourselves over the hump and then look for extreme ways such as alcohol consumption, spending, extreme sports, or mindless ‘yoga’ to reduce stress.  We think we experience a moment of release and relaxation, but it is a moment of exhaustion that does not allow us to push any further. And the next day we are dealing with the same shit: coffee in the morning, stress at work, extreme physical activity, exhaustion, acohol, mindless eating, and restless night.

There is a better way of living than this rollercoaster. Living a stress-free life is impossible. I would argue that trying to avoid stress at all costs makes our lives boring. Learn to recognize the early signs of negative stress aka distress. Catch it before it catches you.

1.  Develop the sensitivity to the early warning symptoms and signs that tell you that you getting close to the hump.

2. Don’t suppress it, don’t struggle with it. Remember that you are human and being stressed out is a normal occurance.

3. Deal with the causes of stress right away. How? Read on.

** The American Institute of Stress