On Friday, I hosted what I thought would be a small casual video chat for any business owner looking for support. Entrepreneurs from all over the country logged on whom I had never met before. The purpose was to walk owners through the COVID-19 Business Resource Center from Alice, the free business advice platform where I'm president and chairwoman.
However, the conversation ended up being more about how everyone was feeling, instead of business tactics to get them through the shutdowns. What I heard was that even the smallest decisions seemed gigantic, life-changing, and indeed, anxiety inducing:
What would my customers think about me as an owner if I shut down temporarily?
Will my employees be OK if they are furloughed?
If I am co-managing my business and homeschooling my children, will both suffer? (This is one of mine.)
Am I a failure if I apply for all this financial assistance?
This kind of anxiety I can relate to. You know the movie, "A Beautiful Mind"? My anxiety feels like the characters in the movie who aren't really there, following me and whispering into my ear. While I've found a way to manage my own acute anxiety -- and often refer to it as the superpower that drives me to be an effective leader and business owner -- the coronavirus crisis has caused it to become a very real problem that often stays with me all day and keeps me up at night.
My husband is on the frontlines of a global pandemic. I'm homeschooling two kids, and dropping off groceries for three elderly parents, and all of this is on top of not being able to do my normal exercise routine. I also can't help but think about the business owners going through extreme struggles right now. I can't stop worrying about all of you.
As I continue to manage both my company and personal life, here are some ways I have found support when things get overwhelming:
1. Stay connected.
Even if you're surrounded by people at home, there's no replacement for your squad. Whether it's cracking open some beers with your usual friend group via Zoom or a long video call with that pal you've been meaning to catch up with, social engagement is paramount. According to Medical News Today, that face-to-face human contact triggers a cocktail of neurotransmitters that help eliminate anxiety.
Staying connected can also help your business. Talk to other business owners, your investors, and advisors as much as you can, and you may not feel so alone.
2. Talk to a professional.
If you already been seeing a therapist on a regular basis, great, you're ahead of the game. But if not, it might be difficult to start a relationship with one now. My team is constantly collecting resources that can help business owners get the mental help you need.
For example, Crisis Text Line is giving specific help to people struggling due to the pandemic. Genoa Healthcare is offering free psychiatric services remotely. Support groups are another a great way to connect with other professionals who are going through a tough time.
3. Create a new routine.
If you are like me and thrive on routine, create a new one. Get up, get dressed, and get to work. But also end work at a reasonable hour. Live by your calendar. Schedule your tasks, meetings, breaks, and when your day should end. Don't work through the night like I do. (My goal this week is to stop doing that.)
Finally, have both a healthy and fun outlet. I am working out on my driveway everyday at noon. I also have a drink on the porch with my hubby each night. Meditation and relaxation apps might also be able help you take the edge off.
4. Know this will end.
This last one is the most important, but it's also the one I struggle with the most. I'm not the first person to say this March felt like it lasted a year. I can barely remember a time before I was stuck at home. That's why it's so very important that I do remind myself that this situation will not last forever.
The world isn't ending, it's just pausing for a few moments. It's a time to surround ourselves with the people and things that matter most to us. And that, in its way, is beautiful.