There is little more exciting than launching our own business. From sharing the first conceptions of the idea with friends; to spending hour upon hour, finishing up that massive business plan; to picking out a name and getting that first business license, the process has a lot in common with pregnancy and childbirth. And, like raising a child, caring for our business-baby is a long term investment.
A Growing Trend
As a female entrepreneur, you are definitely not alone. As of 2017, there were over 11 million businesses owned by women, generating an employment growth rate that outperformed other businesses by at least 14%. Minority women make up almost half of this number of entrepreneurs, with new businesses being created at a rate of 71%. Reports indicate that women-owned businesses generate nearly two billion dollars in revenue, annually.
A Unique Opportunity for Stress
Some of the stresses involved with the process of creating and running a business are universal. Entrepreneurs characteristically take on several roles, at once, to make the dream a reality. We can find ourselves acting as the accountant during one phone call, and then switch into marketing like a pro, during the next. Balancing production factors and employee needs, while staying mindful of the ever-present bottom line, can become quite the act.
For many women, this juggling act is right up our alley. Females are often credited with being able to switch quickly between tasks, while maintaining a calm and poise that the males of the species can find enviable. Just because we can do it, though, doesn't mean that it always comes easily. The following is a list of some common stressors that plague all entrepreneurs:
- Lack of vision and clarity of roles
- Managing of conflicting demands
- Work overload
The stress generated by these factors can diminish the joy of our creation. Not only can it take a toll on our mental health, it can also impair our physical health. Symptoms of stress include headaches; insomnia; depression; frequent colds; and digestive issues. Females, in particular, are found to be susceptible to the stress that comes from taking on too much responsibility.
As an entrepreneur, there are no real days off. There is no one to cover for our unique role, should we feel the need to call in sick. It is of upmost importance, then, that we do what we can to keep ourselves mentally and physically healthy. Not only do we deserve that, our business depends on it. The following are some tips for reducing your entrepreneurial stress, and for keeping yourself in top business shape.
Keep Your Goal In Sight
The concept of being an entrepreneur has traditionally garnered the image of the “self-made man," who – through hard work and ingenuity – has managed to economically dominate the competition. There are many stories of men who sacrificed their home lives in order to make a name for themselves in the professional world. Success simply meant making money.
While modern women have that option, as well, we also have the luxury of freedom to not put that pressure on ourselves. Deciding what is important to you is the crux of a successful entrepreneurship. Are you seeking to be the next big thing? Are you launching your business as a means to pay the bills, while having more family time? Are you putting the business into practice as your creative outlet?
Whatever the spark that drives you, make sure to keep it in the forefront in your mind as you conduct your daily business. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to the achievements of others, and keep your eye on your prize.
Successful time management results in more flexibility. More flexibility is one of the most cited desires of an entrepreneur. If you aren't one who is blessed with the ability to discern the vital from the trivial, there are many resources available to assist you in building the skill of prioritization. Key points include starting the day with a brainstorming list, which can be rearranged and whittled down before beginning your work day.
Prioritizing can mean more than tasks and time. It can also apply to values. The multiple roles of the entrepreneur can lead to conflicting demands, which can bring stress to the unprepared. Pay heed to your business vision statement when deciding how to approach a situation involving values.
Does it suit your style to market your product emphatically, with the hope of it resulting in a better bottom line?
Or, will you sleep better after providing your clientele with a conservative estimate?
Learn to Delegate
Having the feminine ability to perform many, simultaneous, roles can result in the temptation to do everything, ourselves. This can quickly lead to mental and emotional fatigue, and can leave us without enough energy for the important tasks. Learning to delegate tasks effectively can result in more time and freedom. For some of us, though, letting go of the reins is a Herculean feat.
When learning to delegate, make sure that your needs are communicated clearly and simply. Like sending a hapless partner to the store for groceries, the likelihood of the surrogate returning with the wrong item is high. Unless the specifics of the request are made apparent, prepare yourself to graciously accept a bit of disappointment with the result.
Make Time for You
The term, “self-care," has become a buzzword, but the concept has been practiced by women, for ages. There is more to a box of chocolates or a bubble bath than meets the eye. While some recharging methods are healthier than others, both laypersons and experts agree that they are a vital aspect of healthy functioning.
With the extra time gained through staying focused on your goals; prioritizing and planning ahead; and delegating tasks, make sure to invest in nurturing your own mental and physical wellness.
As women, particularly, many of us have been conditioned to give of selflessly of our resources. While giving our energy to others is certainly worthwhile, there is a danger of giving too much. Without a set of tools for recharging our batteries, we risk being drained to the point of becoming ineffective.
Symptoms of stress appear when we have depleted our personal energy store. Develop the practice of not waiting for disaster to strike before indulging. Making a weekly – or daily – date with yourself can mean avoiding discomforts such as lack of focus; irritability; and anxiety. Spending time in some form of meditation or cardiovascular activity can not only reduce stress symptoms, but can also contribute to gaining new insights and solutions to your entrepreneurial challenges.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."