By the third day of my shelter-at-home commitment, I found myself uncharacteristically sleeping in until 8 a.m. I wasn't refreshed by the extra hours of sleep; instead, I felt guilty. Guilt for allowing sadness and fear to get the best of me, to the degree that I had overslept. Guilt because I felt drained and had no motivation to resume my work on a new group coaching course or my marketing efforts. I felt paralyzed by grief for the world and by the shame I had associated with the consequences of my feelings.

Fortunately, what I've learned as a coach has equipped me with the tools to manage strong emotional responses in a healthy manner. And now, in what seems like a blink of an eye, I am helping entrepreneurs delve into complex thoughts and emotions related to a crisis that few anticipated.

You, too, could be experiencing a depth of emotion that you have never faced until now. As such, it's tricky to understand and accept your feelings. You may develop the tendency to push them down or deny yourself the right to experience them. Denial may help you to feel better in the moment, but in the long run, it doesn't work well.

Do you hear yourself saying things like this?

"I shouldn't be this upset about my situation. So many people have it far worse than I do."

"I feel guilty because I can't keep my mind focused on business."

"Why can't I get my act together? I've got things to do."

Questions like these imply you should feel guilty or ashamed of your feelings. There's also guilt associated with not being in control or having planned better for an uncertain future. 

Most entrepreneurs don't like unknowns, and we don't function well with the loss of control. But to regain any semblance of control, you need to reconcile your emotions and any guilt associated with them. This process is not a one-time action step; it's the ongoing personal development that will benefit you for the rest of your life. 

Emotions don't make you weak, they make you human.

Entrepreneurs are not faint-hearted. Naturally, you want to be strong, but don't misinterpret what that means. Strong people don't diminish or deny their emotions--they develop healthy ways to deal with them. 

Give yourself permission to take some downtime as you grieve and process your feelings. Minimize your guilt as much as possible by knowing that you are doing the best you can considering the circumstances before you. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge you have a right to your feelings. Everyone does.

Be firm with guilt and shame emotions.

A kind, accepting approach to your sadness, fear, and grief is healthy for you and will help you heal. Conversely, you don't want to nurture guilt and shame. 

There are many demands being placed on you at this time, yet you only have the capacity of a single human being. Any negative soundtracks in your head are nothing but lies. Now is the time to count your successes and reinforce your confidence. Kick guilt and shame to the curb and own your other emotions and your right to process them in a healthy manner.

Find balance in your thoughts.

When anxious thoughts take over, our minds reveal the worst-case scenarios of the future. This unhealthy anticipatory grief can become all-consuming. You may try to push away these visions and thoughts, but the brain doesn't work that way. Your reptilian brain is on the lookout for danger and produces all-encompassing negative thoughts in an attempt to protect you. 

The key to managing your anticipatory grief is to create balance in your thinking. If you imagine a tragic outcome, bring your focus to a less disastrous result. Yes, some entrepreneurs will lose their businesses, but think about how many times entrepreneurs recreate themselves. Focus on your ideas to strengthen your business during this time. And yes, everyone is faced with the frightening thought of contracting Covid-19, yet most develop few, if any, symptoms. We are all doing the best we can. Move your negative vision up the ladder to the next best thought, one rung at a time.

Bring yourself back to the present.

One of my favorite mantras is, "In this moment, I am safe and well." If anxiety takes hold, bring yourself back into the present so your thoughts don't run wild. 

  • Feel the contact of your back to the chair and your feet to the floor.
  • Take slow, deep breaths, counting to four on the inhale and seven on the exhale. 
  • Force a smile and straighten your posture.
  • Count the paperclips or pens and pencils in your desk drawer.

Follow these suggestions and your strategic, creative mind will kick back into gear. And remember, nothing puts guilt and fear to rest like lending a helping hand to others.