The past few months have been some of the most stressful of my entire life. As the CEO of ThirdLove, there have been a few times in the history of our business where I've felt huge amounts of stress. In the past, raising our Series A round was extremely stressful. We had a hard time back then, and I remember not knowing whether the company was going to survive. 

But something like this-- a global pandemic-- is completely different and has actually been a huge learning opportunity for myself and our leadership team on how to best communicate with each other, and the rest of the company, about how we're feeling, and what we're doing. It is apparent that I'm not the only one feeling stressed -- our leadership team feels it, as do our managers, and individual contributors. 

Some of the stress is professional, some is personal, and some is collective. What all of this has taught me is that stress usually presents itself in one of two scenarios. Either you know you need to do a lot of really hard things, and are feeling the build-up of emotion while you decide when and how to do them, or you don't know what you need to do and are struggling to see a path forward. Stress tends to alleviate itself after you've identified a plan, acted on the plan, and moved yourself to the other side.

Here's a few tips to better manage your stress in each realm:

1. Professionally

Any business owner today is thinking hard about what needs to happen for their business to survive the next few months, year, and beyond. 

For us, we had to be really thoughtful about how we were going to run our business profitably--which forced us to make some really hard decisions. We had to lay people off. We had to pull back on marketing. And we had to delay or cancel many strategic processes and initiatives. And none of these decisions or conversations are fun. All of them are hard in their own way. There's no worse feeling than having to let someone go who is a fantastic person and who you really wish you could keep. 

But in order to move forward, you have to look deeply at your business, develop a plan and then act on it. And now that we've had those tough conversations, and made those hard decisions, we can now look ahead and concentrate on how we continue to optimize and build the business and brand in the months and years ahead.

Some of the ways I encourage team members to manage their stress during these difficult times:

  • Take a personal day if needed, and come back rested with a clear head

  • Participate in company events that encourage self-care (here at ThirdLove, we have started holding Mindful Monday sessions where we do a guided meditation or breathing exercises together as a team)

  • Over-communicate with those around you on how you're feeling, so that you can be honest about what's currently on your plate and other people can help out as needed

2. Personally

Solving for the stressors in your professional life is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to alleviate stress in a personal way, so that you can continue to be a good leader and manager.

For me, and many others within the company, this meant navigating all the aspects of our lives that were disrupted by working from home. It's exhausting to be on Zoom or a Google Hangout, because you don't realize how much time you spend in a meeting or talking to people in the office as it feels different in person. 

A few things I've been focusing on have been making sure I'm working out regularly, taking a walk or stretching break in the middle of the day to get some fresh air and sun, and focusing each day on something I'm grateful for. I'm also spending time in all my 1:1s asking how people are holding up -- and over-communicating about how I'm personally feeling with those around me. 

3. Collectively

Once you've decided on a path forward for your business, and once you've made strides in taking care of yourself, your focus needs to shift to those around you.

We've kept our weekly all-hands meetings going, to make sure everyone stays informed about what's going on. We've been finding ways to connect with each other and give each other the support we all need right now.

We've started many new slack channels: #kudos to give "shouts out" to team members for a job well done, #random-sf for sharing jokes and ideas for cooking, crafting and more, and #homeschooing for parental hacks and ideas. On Fridays, we do virtual happy hours, themed happy hours.

We all have to keep in mind that being stressed, anxious and worried is natural given this unusual situation we are all in. Take care of your well-being, over-communicate with your team, and find new ways to laugh, brainstorm and connect.