This week my Motivational Monday note is titled, "Navigating Fear & Uncertainty" - a topic incredibly relevant to each of us today as we live within this new COVID-19 reality. They say this week is going to be a tough one. So now, more than ever, it's important to discuss the F word.
I'll start by sharing a recent personal experience with fear. Last Thursday and Friday, I found myself in a full blown panic attack. While I generally try to stay calm and optimistic, I became completely overwhelmed as I scrambled to navigate the ever-changing CARES Act to support our closed down retail stores and by the possibility of actually losing those businesses I have worked so hard to build, grow and maintain. I went to a very dark place - one I had not been to for a while - I was greeted by all of my old, familiar "friends" who were SO happy to see me, so happy to chime in and tell me that "I was a failure, I'll be left with nothing...and my particular favorite - you'll never be good enough for anyone (because the very obvious leap from a business failing is that you will never find a husband, ladies, amiright?!)."
It took a few phone calls with friends and loved ones who I know would receive this anxiety with compassion, perspective and without judgement for me to take some deep breaths and reflect on what was actually the root of this anxiety. And what I found that root to be was Fear & Uncertainty.
The fear of the unknown, of the uncertainty of when this pandemic will end, how it will affect the health of myself and loved ones, will my businesses survive? What will I do if they don't?
As I reflected on this over the weekend, I wanted to share some insights from myself, friends and my girl, Brene Brown. Most of us are struggling with some version of anxiety right now, it's almost impossible not to - so I just want you to know, you are not alone and I hope what I cover below will help you even the slightest the next time she comes knocking at your door.
Harriet Lerner says, "Anxiety is extremely contagious." Yes, 100% - it's been scientifically proven to be. We are witnessing this on a daily basis between friends, colleagues, the media; and we are noticing how we are catching, reacting and spreading it. You can easily see how quickly it passes from person to person. But, I left out four very important words to Harriet Lerner's quote, those being "anxiety is extremely contagious, but so is calm." Now just like anxiety, calm has been proven to be contagious, so we know - factually - that there is another alternative to living in this space of exhausting anxiety. THANK GOD. So as we have the opportunity to react to the external anxieties around us, coming at us constantly - I challenge you to practice reacting with calm and thus, pass it on.
Okay, Taylor. That's great in theory, but how do I react calmly when: My business is falling apart, I'm running out of money, I lost my job, I've been quarantined inside for days on end, insert the grim reality of COVID-19 here. Totally get it, I'm right there with you! But you can start by taking a deep breath and focusing on what you can control. Most of the time, an anxious fear driving response comes from not having all the data, the uncertainty of the future or what's presenting us, or in other words - the feeling that we lack control.
We rarely make good decisions when they come from a place of fear, and this is the time to make solid, rational decisions. So, how do we do this? Here is what works for me:
- First, take a slow, deep breath and pause. Ask yourself, "Do I have all of the information I need to make a concrete decision? The answer is most likely NO, since our anxiety is stemming from the fear of uncertainty.
- So next, we need to do some digging + research. If you are able to physically write down this exercise, that would be best! If you're responding in person to someone, can you politely and calmly say "I'm not sure, can I get back to you on this?" or "I need some time to think about it, can I get back to you?" or "Can you tell me more, give me more information?"
- Write down the anxious thoughts you're having, listen (this is the only time I'll ever tell you to listen) to that negative voice in your head and just jot down what it's saying to get you so riled up.
- Look at your thoughts. Would it really matter to you if that thought came true? If it doesn't matter, then there is no use getting anxious about it to begin with. But, if they do really matter to us, then identify what you can and cannot control within each of those thoughts/statements. Here's an example:
- Thought: I'm going to lose my business.
- In Control: Looking for NEW opportunities aligned with our business, applying for loans and grants to get necessary funding to make it through the next 8-12 weeks, pivoting to focus on online sales, sharing product imagery on instagram to increase e-commerce shopping, going through our expenses to lean out spending, asking for deferment/forgiveness on certain bills, looking for alternative funding, identifying skill sets I have and what a potential new career path would be, etc.
- Not Control: When this pandemic will end, when my stores will be able to reopen, how much funding will I receive from the government, If it will be enough to get through this, when people will start to travel and shop again, etc.
- Take your "Not Control" list and just tear it up. You have zero control over these things, don't let them take up space in your brain. Tear those bad boys up, light 'em up, do what you have to do to get rid of them! Perhaps as the days/weeks go on, new data might emerge that will better help you answer or take action on the thoughts. But that is for another day my friend. Let's focus on the present.
- Final step: look at your "In Control" list - there you have plenty of actionable items to help you manage your fears! See, you're driving the bus here, you're the one in control!
- Conclusion: we always have control over how we react to uncertainty.
- Something else I would recommend! Identify tools/behaviors/activities you can do that will help you pause and reflect before or while you're spiraling. That might be as simple as, taking 5 deep breaths, going for a run, meditating, listening to your favorite song and dancing, doing 10 jumping jacks - whatever it is, identify because these are tools to have in your back pocket any time you start to spiral!
- Do I have enough data to freak out? We rarely have enough data to freak out
- Will freaking out help even if I have enough data? The answer to this is ALWAYS NO
I'll leave you with the wise words of my current Mancrush Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo: