October 5, 2020
Today I am coming atcha with a recipe. Wait! Before you roll your eyes and close this tab, I promise I won’t give you the history of where I first learned about it and when I first made it and who was across the street on their front porch speculating about the colorful language coming from my kitchen. Unfortunately, it isn’t that kind of recipe. I’m talking more about what happens when you take a few pounds of intense stress, a full bag prolonged stress (yep, two kinds of stress, apparently stress is like bacon or chocolate: you can never have enough!), several cups of anxiety, and mix it all together. Let it simmer for a few months and you have a giant pot of disaster stress and no place to store the leftovers.
If you are like me, you probably have all of those ingredients on hand (and not enough chocolate), and you have since right after all of this started. COVID stress and anxiety isn’t like anything most of us have ever experienced (let’s take a minute and be grateful for that, shall we?). The unfortunate good news is, experts say we are right on track as far as the stages of disaster stress: most of us are past the pull together in support stage and have moved on to the disillusionment stage.
This stage is definitely not full of complex flavors and vibrant spices. It is characterized by less optimism, a worn thin heroic spirit, and negative reactions and anger. Does not sound tasty, and not a dish I want to share. But I am definitely feeling it. On both a personal and professional level.
It is all so hard to manage, and toss in a side of owning a business, and it becomes almost overwhelming. It’s a veritable buffet of stressors. Will my business survive? How do I help my employees manage? How do I protect my employees, my customers, myself, my family? Ugh, I am getting a little post-buffet nausea just thinking about it. Unfortunately I can’t just take a couple of Tums and move on, but here are some ways to help you manage some of it.
The best thing you can do for your employees is to provide a safe workplace. Beyond that, be there for them. Check in. Create opportunities for confidential, one-on-one conversations. Listen to their concerns about COVID at work, be empathetic and offer assurance.
As a business owner, try to remember that this is (unfortunately) a marathon, not a sprint. Without you, there is no business, so the most important thing you can do is stay safe. Experts say we are likely in for about another year of this, so, if you haven’t, start looking at ways you can adapt and use digital tools to serve your customers. And get the word out to them! Let them know how you are doing and what you are doing to keep your business safe so they will feel comfortable coming to your storefront.
And as for you, you are the key component of this entire dish, bringing together your employees and your customers in a safe, healthy way, so it is super important that you take care of you (I will spare you a cooking analogy about proper basting and reaching the perfect internal temperature because that is just weird). So how can you best help yourself get through this?
Experts say that the keys are daily routine, exposure to positive news, and staying connected to friends and family. The first is probably there, you either go to work and do what needs to be done or you are home following a strict schedule of Zooms and Meets and Bamboozles or whatever else your kids need to be on every five minutes for school. The news, on the other hand, is harder to avoid. But if it is overwhelming you, take a break. Get it in small doses instead of scrolling aimlessly through social media for hours on end.
Finally, and most importantly, stay connected, even if it is over Zoom or Google Meets. Face-to-face time is like a vitamin for your mental health, and emotions are contagious. So finding people that it makes you happy talking to can do a world of good.
So what’s for dessert!? Well, I don’t have any specific recommendations, but I do know there are a lot of great small businesses out there, open, ready to serve you a little bit of happiness and a cupcake or slice of pie. Get a piece for me!
And check in with me, if you need to, I am here for you! I probably shouldn’t suggest social media after telling you that taking a break can improve your mental health, but I do still promise to provide those recommended small portions of news with a heaping helping of positive posts (and my smiling face!), so follow me on Facebook or Instagram for all of the latest.
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