:Mindset / Mental health

Mindfulness for overcoming stress as an online business owner

"Kai" Tai Kevin Qiu "Kai" Tai Kevin Qiu

The following is a guest post from Teachable creator, “Kai” Tai Kevin Qui. Kai is a MD-turned Boundaries Coach operating an online business—Boundaries to Freedom. He’s passionate about boundaries, mindfulness, spirituality, mental health, and healing trauma. In addition to teaching his course, Kai is a content creator on social media and digital nomad in the making. In honor of Teachable’s Creator Month, in which we celebrate and share the expertise of creators everywhere, Kai shares his tips for practicing mindfulness as a business owner and learning how to set boundaries the right way.

My mind is completely blank—all the hours of studying, rehearsing, and practicing are gone. My thoughts are freaking out—doubtful thoughts, worrying thoughts, and self-defeating thoughts filling my head. I’m sweating under my shirt, my heart is racing, my throat is constricting, and tension is building up across my jaws and neck. I didn’t take in a single word that my crying patient sitting across from me told me between sobs. I’m staring at her blankly. 

And time was up. My turn at interviewing the actor patient was over. I thanked the patient, got out of the hot seat, and I slumped into the spectator seats feeling utterly useless. Once again…my anxiety, stress, and overwhelm got the best of me. I choked. 

What was happening

The memory that I described above was six years ago. Since then I have healed immensely and found a way to navigate through my anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. My experience of going through five years of medical school forced me to address my lifelong problems with anxiety. Thanks to three years of therapy, reading lots of self-help books, discovering mindfulness and meditation, I was able to change my relationship with stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. 

Even though I am no longer in the high-demand and high-stress field of medicine and now I am running an online business—the experience of stress and overwhelm still shows itself often. So I lean into my mindfulness practice and my newly acquired boundary skills to help move through the stress and overwhelm.

My inner critic and judge still shows up after not closing a sale or a client requests a refund. However, the difference is that I’m more mindful and aware of the voice and I don’t believe word for word what they’re saying. You may be wondering, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness in a nutshell

Practicing mindfulness means being present. It is shining the spotlight of our attention to what’s happening, moment by moment, on the inside and the outside without judgment. It’s honing our awareness to what’s here. Rather than getting caught up in reactivity and chaos—lost in our worrying thoughts about the future, self-defeating thoughts about the past, made up fantasies, and conversations that likely never come true. 

Practicing mindfulness goes against our cultural norm. It asks to slow down, turn inwards, and notice simply the sensations we’re experiencing. Furthermore, it is about directing our attention rather than being reactive, distracted, and letting blinking notifications push and pull our attention.

Making it work 

For a new online business owner, being able to control my attention is a godsend. I work from home and my work is primarily done on my laptop and smartphone. There are truly a million things I could be doing in each given moment and every time I open up my laptop or wake up my phone. Additionally, there are so many emotionally-enticing distractions (shout out to the social engineers and psychology-trained peeps at Facebook) that can carry my attention away from work. 

The stress and the overwhelm involved with running an online business can also be a lot. There’s so much information to learn about. For instance, social media marketing, email marketing, content creation, entrepreneur mindset, sales, etc. and so many sources to learn from. Therefore, being able to notice and meet my strong emotions where they are in each given moment and in each given day is crucial. Importantly, it allows me to navigate through them rather than become consumed by them.

Harnessing mindfulness

So going back to the description of mindfulness: being able to notice and pay attention to what’s happening on the inside—our thoughts, our emotions, and our bodily sensations—gives us the opportunity to respond rather than react. But how do we train our minds to become more mindful and attentive? Through the regular practice of meditation.

I’ve been practicing meditation for nine years now after learning about it in my third year Positive Psychology course in university. I view the regular practice of meditation just as important and necessary as brushing and flossing my teeth, going outside in nature, drinking water, and sleeping.

We discovered the benefits of aerobic exercise for our bodies in the 1950s then we went absolutely bonkers about physical exercise. Now, we are discovering the benefits of mindfulness and meditation and the benefits mentally, emotionally, physiologically, and physically so maybe it’ll be the next craze.

Rather than telling you and describing to you the practice of meditation (like describing to someone how to ride bike rather than getting them onto a bike, pushing them down a hill, and encouraging them, “Peddle!”) here’s a short guided mindfulness meditation for you to try.

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Listen to yourself

Did you notice any shifts that occurred in your mind? In your body? In your emotional state? You might’ve experienced a change even after just one short practice, but sustained and deeper benefits arise from regular practicing. So here’s where having healthy boundaries comes in if you want to practice mindfulness to help overcome the stress, distractions, overwhelm, and self-doubt that arises from being an online business owner.

Boundaries are the limits that we must make for ourselves. Importantly,  we’re not emotionless robots that can work 24/7 around the clock. Additionally, they are essential in order for us to feel comfortable, safe, and optimal. Boundaries are communicated through words and also require us to take action otherwise it’s empty words with empty promises a.k.a. no accountability. You can set personal boundaries and set boundaries in all of your relationships ranging from family relationships to romantic relationships to work relationships.

Ask the right questions

Focusing on having healthy boundaries as an online business owner starts with asking the right questions. For example, ask:

  • “What are my responsibilities, my needs, my wants?”
  • “What are my expectations so that I can be functioning at an optimal level giving value to my clients and taking care of myself?”

Some examples of boundaries that I have for work and my meditation practice include:

  • Practice meditation first thing in the morning; no smartphone within the first hour waking up
  • Finish the evening with meditation or reading with no technology 30 minutes before sleeping
  • Communicate with clients through emails and they know I will get back to them within 48 hours 
  • Sundays are rest days; quiet down social media use after 5pm
  • Coaching calls start with a short guided meditation practice
  • No work-related tasks after 6pm
  • Plan tomorrow today; finish the day with a game plan for the next day

Make it a habit

Practicing mindfulness and meditation nine years ago truly changed my life. I wouldn’t have been able to survive through medical school without my practice. Now, applying mindfulness is an everyday thing. Plus, meditation, and boundary-setting every day is foundational in being able to run my online business through the stress and worries that appear constantly. Being an online business owner can be chaotic, stressful, and overwhelming. May mindfulness, meditation, and setting healthy boundaries bring you calm through the storm. 

Author: Kai Tai Kevin Qiu , Kai is a MD-turned Boundaries Coach operating an online business—Boundaries to Freedom. He's a Content Creator on TikTok and Instagram, a Digital Nomad in-the-making, and also teaches yin yoga and meditation. He's passionate about boundaries, mindfulness, spirituality, mental health, and healing trauma. His mission in this life is to love and express himself truthfully and wholeheartedly and to connect with and serve others so that he might inspire them to be themselves shining brightly, love unapologetically, and grow into their potential starting today.