You've heard people say, "Life is hard," or "Nothing is ever easy,". We all come upon times when life is extremely challenging, and for entrepreneurs those times can come a little more often. Yet, viewing life as always being difficult and expecting the worse will only lead you down the path to greater despair. Maintaining a positive view on life and a healthy response to life challenges will help you to avoid poor decisions that may make things worse than they already are. Managing your emotions in a healthy manner will also keep your stress level from going off the charts.
Listed below are some powerful coping techniques for when things get tough. I hope you don't need them anytime soon, but when and if you do, I'm confident they will help. I've used one of my long-ago personal challenges to paint the picture:
Years ago, I lost all but my home in a bad business deal. I had been recently widowed and had two wonderful children to raise. During a year-long battle with the bank, I lived in daily fear of losing my home, in addition to everything else. Until finally, I decided to take back my control. Maybe I couldn't save my home, but I could save myself, I realized.
Here are some of the thought processes I used to work through that extraordinarily difficult time.
1. Resolve the unknown.
When I received the first letter from the bank saying that the hefty balance on my home equity loan was due, I freaked out. I put my head in the sand for weeks, telling myself that they would automatically renew the loan. After all, but for a period of three months, my payments had always been on time. The letters continued to come and my anxiety increased on a daily basis, until I was forced to talk to someone at the bank. I learned then that they had an agent exploring all of the angles and that, while without my husband's income I did not qualify for the renewal of the loan, they would do their best to work something out. Knowing this did not resolve my fear, but it gave me the much-needed breathing space to work through it.
Go ahead, give yourself some time to freak out, but put a deadline on it. Don't wallow in the fear, instead learn all of the facts about the situation so you can deal with it based on reality.
2. Stick with the real truth.
In my head, I saw the bank as an evil entity, having no mercy for a hard-working, widowed mom who had come upon hard times. I told myself that they were determined to take our home away from us. The truth was, the bank was working with me to find a solution to the problem. I was "in the system" so the threatening letters kept coming, but behind the scenes was a woman exploring the options.
Try not to paint a picture that makes the situation worse than it is. Most of the time, the potential outcome isn't nearly as bad as our fear leads us to believe.
3. Acknowledge that you are safe.
I had worked myself up to the degree that I woke up in fear every, single morning. Until finally, I created a mantra: "In this moment, all is well and I am safe." It was true, and remaining in the moment kept me feeling safe throughout the day.
Fear is based on feeling a loss of safety. Consistently remind yourself that, in this very moment, all is well.
4. Don't avoid your emotions.
Pretending that you don't feel awful--or stuffing your emotions--may feel like an effective stopgap measure. In reality, it only postpones, and perhaps escalates and exacerbates a painful flood of emotions in the future. Meanwhile, you'll be edgy, and will make mistakes, often making the problem bigger.
Accept that, of course you are afraid and worried. You have every right to feel this way. Once you do this, you'll feel some relief and can advance your problem-solving capabilities.
5. Accept what you cannot control.
I had done everything possible to convince the bank I could make the payments if they extended the equity line. That was all I could do--the rest was in their hands. What I did have control over is the way I responded to the crisis; I would not allow the bank to take over my home and my head.
It's not giving up when you acknowledge there is nothing more you can do in the physical sense. Instead, it allows you to focus on other opportunities and to take care of yourself--because self-care has never been more important.
6. Explore the worse-case scenario.
Lamenting over the worse possible outcome isn't productive or helpful; acknowledging it and working with your perspective on it is powerful. During my crisis, I assessed the situation and turned the bad into good. Worse-case scenario? We lose our home. Would we become homeless? No. My mom was still alive at the time and had a beautiful home in southern Illinois. Did I want to move in with my mother in a rural location? No. Yet, as I wrote and thought about the good in this possible solution, I became less afraid and more accepting. Think of the money I could save without a house to support. And, later in life I would value the precious time spent with mom once she was gone. It never came to this, but finding the good in the bad was like a magic cure for my fear.
It takes courage to face an unwanted outcome, so you may have to work up to it. Write about it, make lists, talk to friends or a therapist or life coach. When your fear is bigger than you, it makes all things impossible.
These may seem like simple steps, but by expanding your mind, there's nothing you can't deal with in life. Face your fears, deal in facts, ask for help, and take action. Your world will be a much better place.