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Welcome back, Rebels! Today, we are focusing on this super sexy topic: managing launch stress and anxiety.
I've erred in my ways – we’ve somehow made it this far and we’ve never talked about your mental health during a launch.
Stress and anxiety are a natural part of the launch process. It’s really important that you have the tools in your toolbox to deal with this, especially if you're already an anxiety-prone person (like I am!).
It's a reality for all of us, and that’s why it’s so important to identify what triggers stress and anxiety during a launch and really understand how we can deal and manage it . This is why I’ve brought the incredible Justine Sones on as today’s guest to help us understand how we can deal with managing launch stress.
Justine is a writer and stress management coach. During her career as a massage therapist, Justine's practice was dedicated to exploring the roles that stress, pain and relaxation play in healing the physical body. She came to realize, though, that the support her clients needed required more than a massage and she made it her mission to help them, which she built into her online service-based business.
She now spends her time writing about feelings and coaching other over-functioning humans develop healthy boundaries and practice sustainable self-care as they navigate the messy intersections of partnering, parenting, ‘preneuring, and pandemic-ing.
Today on the podcast, she’s going to talk about the mental health aspects of launching, setting boundaries, and managing launch stress and anxiety as it comes.
How to start considering your mental health during a product launch
Okay, so you’ve decided to launch your digital product 90 days from now. I asked Justine, what do you need to know going in with regards to the stress and anxiety that comes with that process?
Justine says that the most important thing is to know that the stress is going to bring about what she likes to call “big feelings” which aren’t necessarily good or bad. When it comes to your feelings, you shouldn’t be labeling them because that can lead to self judgement and a lot of other issues!
When it comes to launching, you want to know in advance that by putting yourself out there you’re going to feel vulnerable, you’re going to have expectations, and that’s going to inherently bring about these big feelings – disappointment, fear of potential rejection, overwhelm, and more.
Instead of either looking at those as “bad” or using your feelings as proof that you're not good at what you're doing, you can instead anticipate them and then create the space to process those feelings. This will help you move through them and keep going with the launch instead of getting really hung up on them, wallowing, or just trying to pretend that they don't exist at all.
Working through “big” launch feelings
Once you acknowledge and begin to anticipate those big launch feelings, you need to start making a plan about how you’re going to work through them.
One of the biggest things for Justine’s self-care routine is having an active feelings practice. That means identifying:
- What the feelings are, and;
- What you can do to create resolution around those feelings in your body.
What does this mean?
The body is wired for cycles. We receive a stimulus, we have a reaction, we want to process it and be able to come down to a resting level of stasis.
When it comes to managing your stress and anxiety, if you know there’s something coming up in your life that has the potential to trigger big feelings, those big feelings need to move and be expelled. This is where you have to figure out what you need to process and expel those feelings.
A self-care or feelings practice that tends to those big feelings needs to provide the right response to each feeling. For example, if the feeling is anger, soaking in a bath (literally stewing in it) is probably the last thing you want to do. But blasting Taylor Swift and going for a drive might be a better tailored response to create a resolution in that feeling so you can move on from it.
What happens if you don’t process those big feelings?
If you don't have that practice and just try to bottle it down, then the triggers will keep coming and the feelings will stack until you can't ignore them anymore.
They’ll also probably be a lot harder to manage if they’re all piling up than if you had worked through them in the beginning!
Managing Launch Stress – all of the different triggers, feelings and responses during a launch
A feelings practice process is multifold – you have to first identify what that feeling is, and then you need to figure out what specific release is needed so that you can move that energy. Another piece of this is identifying different triggers that may cause an emotional response (and there are MANY triggers during a launch).
What’s important to remember is that you can break down your different feelings as individual feelings and work to address them, but you also need to recognize that they all function together as parts of a whole.
Justine looks at this – the parts and the whole – as compartmentalizing.
She recognizes that around her launch, there's going to be the areas in her business and areas in her home life that could act as potential triggers to her personal stress response. By identifying these things that she can “control” she can work to reduce potential triggers during her launch week.
For example – if she knows that clutter in her house is a trigger for her anxiety and stress, then bringing in a cleaner two times a week during the course of the launch might be a really beneficial thing.
To use a business example, if looking at the numbers at the end of the day to see how ad spend is performing is a triggering thing because it makes you start to think about the numbers not matching your expectations, then maybe outsourcing that data tracking would be something that would be beneficial.
Take a look at where your potential triggers lie in your life or business, and consider if there are proactive ways to address them:
- Can you outsource them?
- Can you just take them off your plate completely?
- Can you address them in advance so you don’t have to think about it during launch week?
If a proactive approach isn’t possible, or unavoidable triggers pop up, you can also think through what kind of reactive approach you can take:
- Think through what parts of your launch causes stress and anxiety so you’ll know in advance when something may affect you
- Build a plan of action in your launch plan for those unavoidable triggers to give yourself the support you need
For example, if getting on live video is very anxiety-inducing for you (and you decide it’s necessary for your launch), then come up with a solution for reactive support, like creating a buffer of time afterwards for decompression.
Don’t forget that while you may only be thinking about your business and launch while planning for stress and anxiety, your personal life does matter and home triggers should be considered equally in your planning.
Start creating a plan for your home life during the launch week. Some questions you may want to ask are:
- What meals am I going to be eating?
- When am I making those meals?
- When am I eating those meals?
- What outfits am I going to be wearing each day?
- Who's watching my kids?
- When are they watching them?
All of these things are stress inducers and there's anxiety around them – if you're stressed about work and you're stressed about home, you're just a ball of negative energy and that's not good for you or your launch!
Dealing with feeling out of control and finding community support
Loss of control feels very different when you’re living it than when you’re objectively thinking about it.
Justine says that the way she supports herself while feeling like things are out of her control is by surrounding herself with people who understand and can serve as a healthy mirror of that experience when she starts to get lost in the overwhelm of things being out of her control.
What’s key here is balancing your self-dialogue, or the internal mental conversation that you may be having with yourself to manage your stress and anxiety, with community support and bringing other people in to help you.
When it comes to getting out of those mental and emotional ruts, having that external support is a really important piece to help provide an outside perspective.
What’s important here is making sure that you have a network of people that are both supportive and understand what you’re going through. The best way to do this is by identifying the people in your life who are going to both be there for you and also get this work (which may be very different from other parts of your life).
How can you get the best support from your community?
The only way you can ask for support from others is by understanding what you need, and to do this you need to be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling. Make sure you’re asking yourself what you need and how you can meet that need.
While you may have people in your life who care about you, if they don’t understand what you’re going through, what you need and how to support you, they might not be the best choice to help you process your stress and anxiety. Identifying who understands what you’re going through, and can therefore be a safe space to help you process, is really important.
Justine recommends those names of people who understand what it’s like to be an online business owner down beforehand and keeping them close during your launch. This way, when you’re facing loss of control you can reach out to the people who you know can help you through that process.
The importance of boundaries and how to set them
Setting boundaries before a launch is hugely important, but boundaries may mean more than you think. So what are boundaries?
When Justine talks about boundaries, she defines them as a limit that we put in place to protect our integrity. They can show up in different ways:
- Physical boundaries – for example, the way that our skin protects us from blunt force trauma
- Emotional boundaries – for example, the feelings that we get warning us to back away from something
These boundaries exist in every dynamic and they can fit into how you run your business and manage the different things that trigger your stress. If you find that something is causing your stress, first identify what specific things are triggering you and then determine what limits or boundaries you need to put in place to protect yourself from that.
For example, if social media starts to cause stress and anxiety, figure out what specific aspects of that are triggering for you (is it endless scrolling? Reading comments? Waiting for likes/reactions to your posts? Managing your content or ads? Etc.) and then set some boundaries. This may mean limiting your time on social media, not allowing yourself to read comments, or outsourcing this aspect of your social media – whatever addresses your specific trigger.
Forgetting to set those boundaries can be really catastrophic for your mental health and for ultimately the success of your business, so plan in advance to sit down and do that work, even if it may be hard to think through things that are stress-inducing and triggering for you.
Resolving stress and completing the stress cycle
Stress stacks, and if you don’t do your part to create a boundary or space for recovery after stressful events it can lead to you blowing up or breaking down the line.
When it comes to resolving stress, sometimes it’s easiest to take the path of least resistance, which may not meet the core need for tending and resolution of the stress cycle.
Take social media as an example – getting a like on Instagram may be a quick hit of dopamine and positive reinforcement, but it won’t resolve the deeper, more ingrained stress that you’re feeling around social media.
Identifying activities that bring resolution to the feeling, which create a new neural pathway to complete the stress cycle, may be a lot harder but also are so much more beneficial in the long run. Examples of this might be going outside, taking a walk, or doing something fulfilling.
Changing your thought process when catastrophizing about your launch
Another very common feeling during a launch is catastrophizing, or imagining the worst outcomes possible.
When your brain goes into catastrophizing mode it’s trying to protect you. One element of it is if you’re imagining the worst possible thing that could happen, you can make a plan for it. While it may be a defense mechanism it’s also an energy leak – this doesn’t help you to manage your anxiety and process your launch feelings.
Justine says that when she feels this way, the first thing she does is gently recognize that her brain is trying to protect her, even though it’s unhelpful in that moment, and then refocus her energy on whatever she needs to be mindful about at that point in her launch.
Another way she approaches catastrophizing is by examining the underlying feelings and core fears that she may have in that moment, which is leading to her emotional, catastrophizing response. When she’s able to identify that, she can think through whether or not that fear is something that she really needs to worry about or if it’s just a perceived threat.
For example, one train of thought might be start with the thought my launch isn't going to go well >> that means that everyone's going to hate me >> they're going to stop following me on social media >> my business is going to fail >> I'm not going to be able to pay my bills >> my family's going to end up on the street.
This last thought, my family’s going to end up on the street, is what the body is actually responding to, so if we can meet ourselves there and just follow that thread and think through those fears (will people stop being my friend? Am I actually going to be on the street? Probably not) to answer those anxious thoughts.
Once we answer them, this is where that mental boundary comes in. If you find yourself starting to spiral, practice putting these thoughts aside and getting back to a place of focus on what you need to think about in the moment.
These anxious and catastrophic thoughts will probably continue to come – sometimes there’s no way to avoid them. But you can retrain your mind to recognize when you’re thinking this way and then move onto the next thought, or process, or way of managing that stress.
It’s an important distinction, you may never be able to stop yourself from having these thoughts, but you can reframe the way you react and process them.
Is it possible to have a truly stress-free launch?
Honestly? Probably not. Justine says that she hasn’t seen it yet because being completely, 100% stress free is an unrealistic expectation, no matter what.
Stress is a really healthy response. We need stress to survive, and in many cases it’s a good thing. Everyone has stress and everyone will need to deal with managing launch stress.
What’s unhealthy is unmanaged stress. Stress that doesn’t resolve can lead to chronic health conditions and negative outcomes.
“I don't know that there's ever a perfectly stress-free launch. I think that there's cases where the stress arises and shows up, you manage it and you move on. You can kind of step away from that really big mountains and peaks and valleys graph of stress experiences into more of a waves, knowing that you're just riding them.”
Learn more from Justine
Sign up for Justine’s email list, the Friday Feels, to get a biweekly email about self-care, setting boundaries and adulting.
Pick up Justine’s freebie the 4 Rs: a simple framework to help you set boundaries, practice sustainable Self-care, and do more of what matters.