As a small business owner, you’re used to constant challenges and small setbacks where your business is concerned. Normally, it’s your personal life that helps balance any emotional demands you may experience as an entrepreneur. But taking care of yourself? Too often, this goes by the wayside as you chase the next project.
Then along came COVID19, and the world as we knew it changed.
Suddenly, taking care of yourself — your emotional well being and your mental health — has become the focus, not just as business owners but in our roles as parents, siblings and friends.
I’m here to share some strategies that can help you to take care of yourself in these times of extreme stress.
Step 1: Name it and own it
Taking care of yourself while feeling like you are living in a dystopian world is HARRRRRD. There. I said it out loud — the horrible, ugly, awful truth.
Admitting to yourself out loud that you are having trouble coping and that things have been more than just ‘trying’ is the first step.
Cry, wallow, moan. Get your true feelings out in the open. It’s normal to feel great and on top of things one day and then to feel like things are overwhelming and rotten the next.
It’s OK to feel unsure, sad or lonely. In fact, things HAVE been damned awful to deal with. We are social animals and isolation is not normal for us. By naming it and owning it, you can start to feel some relief.
Step 2: Take a break from the news (with kittens)
Technology gives us live updates on the number of COVID19 cases in our area, along with real-time notifications of fresh outbreaks. This calls for a different kind of self care:
- Do yourself a favor and turn that part of your tech off.
- Put your news alerts on snooze.
- Give yourself the gift of a break from the bad news cycle.
As long as you are following public health advice when you venture out for groceries, you don't need news updates every single hour of the day. Your brain and emotions will thank you.
In fact, if you start looking at pictures of kittens and puppies instead of the news, your sense of well-being will improve. Promise.
Step 3: Use music to soothe your inner beast
Depression is no joke. Take it from someone who has been there, clinically. Keeping mentally healthy requires forethought and deliberate planning.
Music is a beautiful example of that. It can lift your mood and is connected to memory in a very strong and positive way.
Choose to listen to radio stations or streaming sites that have calm or uplifting music.
Your sound of choice could be:
- Classical music
- Yacht rock from the 70s
- Loud and bopping hip hop from the 90s
Whatever clears your mind and gets your foot tapping, tune in.
Step 4: Go for the Disney ending
Think back to childhood when you used to watch the same movie over and over again. Or have the same story book read to you night after night.
Ever wonder why you enjoyed that so much?
The answer is simple: experiencing a story with a defined sense of right and wrong, that has a completely predictable ending gives us comfort and stability. Age doesn’t matter — we all need the same soothing from time to time.
Find some tried-and-true movies, TV shows or books that you know are going to give you the happily-ever-after experience. Your soul needs to feel that ‘everything will be alright,’ because things WILL be alright! We just need to give it time (and a few Disney flicks).
Step 5: Schedule a social life
Cooking, homeschooling, working and cleaning leaves very little time or energy for keeping social connections healthy.
Take control by scheduling just one 15-minute phone call a week.
Talk to a person you haven’t been able to see due to isolating. Forget video calls that require you to get dressed, and don't worry about the other million people you haven’t made contact with yet. Start small. I guarantee the person you call will be delighted to hear from you.
You will begin to see your mental health momentum build as you reach out to others to re-establish regular social interactions.
Step 6: Move the furniture (and your body)
Don't be afraid to rearrange the furniture so you can set up a study zone for the kids, or move a big armchair to the back of your apartment to have a quiet ‘away space’ to listen to music.
Set up your furniture so you can look out a window at the trees or traffic.
Having a connection to nature and other live humans is more important for your mental health than it is to have a perfectly curated home.
To that end, moving your body is equally important for mental wellness, so be sure to:
- Do anything that gets your body moving
It doesn’t have to be strenuous, and if you can do it outdoors, even better.
Step 7: Know when you need a professional
Sometimes, even with all of the tips and tricks to help us deal with uncertainty, loss and grief (yes, we are grieving over the loss of our regular routines), there will be times when it’s clear we need help from people who are professionally trained to deal with mental wellness and health.
Taking care of yourself can also look like making an appointment with your family doctor to talk about the stressors the pandemic has brought into our lives. Prolonged changes in sleeping habits, eating habits and loss of enjoyment in regular activities are all signs that it’s time to call in the pros.
Taking care of yourself is more important than ever
COVID19 has changed the ‘where’ and ‘how’ we experience personal, physical and emotional stress.
It’s no longer just the challenge of starting and running a small business that delivers our daily dose of stress.
Now our home lives and personal lives — once our balm to work life — have become their own NEW source of stress.
To get an idea of how you are coping and whether what you are experiencing is within normal ranges for times of extreme stress, visit Wellness Together Canada for a screening checklist.
Above all, keep your chin up. The sun will rise again.