Many of us are feeling much more anxious than usual as lockdown continues to disrupt our lives and our businesses.
Anxiety can make it hard for us to concentrate, be creative, and adversely affect our ability to adapt to the changing business conditions, to make the most of any opportunities, and to plan creatively for the future.
As small business owners we have the advantage of flexibility. Our greatest assets are likely to be our intellectual property, the personal and bespoke nature of our web of relationships with suppliers and customers, the close-knit team we work with.
Each of these assets can be utilised to help us survive and in due course to thrive again, to help us reconfigure our resources to meet current conditions.
Many small businesses are demonstrating an enviable fleetness of foot as they get to grips with digital modes of communication and delivery that previously held little attraction, in record time.
However, we can only be at our best in this challenging situation if we stay positive, creative and hopeful. At the same time, we need to protect our health. Maintaining our morale has beneficial effects in both these areas.
First, managing anxiety takes mental strength and energy, we need to actively recharge if we are not to become depleted. Secondly the state of our morale influences the state of our immune system (which is not to say that anyone who becomes ill wasn’t positive enough). So if we pro-actively attend to our morale, we are also pro-actively attending to our health.
Here are eight tips for managing anxiety, recharging, boosting your health and keeping your spirits up;
Turns out Grandma’s advice to count your blessings has a basis in science. Positive psychology has discovered that taking time at the end of each day to identified three good things that have happened during the day has proven beneficial effects on mood, optimism and consequently pro-activity.
In addition, over time this practice trains the brain to look for the good things that are going on, even amongst the gloom. Each time we notice something to be happy about, grateful for or appreciative of, we give our brain a little positivity boost, which helps protect it from descending into downward spirals of despair.
You can find lots of similar proven exercises in Vanessa Keys excellent book: 10 keys to happier living. Based on science, written for everyone, it is full of ideas for boosting your mood.
You may think there’s not much to laugh about at the moment. Which means we have to work harder to find things that make us laugh.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine. It breaks the cycle of gloom and lifts us up to a place where we can start to function properly again. It’s another thing that boosts our immune system. It’s a great coping process, restoring us, shifting us.
It is not disrespectful to take time off from worrying to laugh, rather it is likely to make us more efficacious, more able to help others once we have restored our own state. Laughter reduces threats to size.
Yes you need to keep abreast of developments that might affect your business, but beyond that try to limit your exposure to bad news.
It’s human to get sucked into the blow-by-blow accounts offered by rolling, worldwide news, but it is unlikely to do your sense of wellbeing any good. To be able to focus on other things we need to detach from the stream of anxiety inducing coverage.
You can’t influence things other than by taking the sensible precautions we’ve all been told about. So, take positive control and limit your daily diet.
We need to feel optimism rather than anxious if we want to function well. There are lots of resources out there to help. Two of those based on science are a boxed card game called Happiness at Work, the other is a set of Positive Action Cards.
Both of these contain lots of proven ways of changing your mood in the moment and in the face of particular difficulties. Some of the ideas could be used with your team to help boost resilience.
Anxiety and uncertainty are unsettling, they can make it hard to concentrate. Yet if we are able to get into something that demands our full concentration, we get to take a holiday from our worries.
Find projects, activities, hobbies or work that pull you in, so you become fully absorbed, if only for an hour or so a day. When we are in this state of complete absorption time warps, with both minutes seeming like hours, and hours like minutes.
If you achieve this state, for however long, you will emerge a little refreshed, a little restored, a little more resilient in the face of the next demand.
We know that we deal better with difficult things when we are feeling good. If you are worried, so no doubt are your team members.
There are a number of books on the market now that explain how aspects of positive psychology can be applied to the workplace. They will give you ideas about how to boost morale, creativity and resilience.
Books such as Positive Psychology at Work, Profit from the Positive or Happiness at Work, all explain the evidence behind the ideas for practice. Now is a good time to get to grips with this science. It will help you now and in the future.
There is a card set called Positive Transformation Cards. They are resilience building cards, full of uplifting quotes and insightful questions. You could use them with your team to boost resilience during these difficult times.
We often think that if we can’t say something definite, or positive, then we have nothing to say. But social contact is not just about information. It’s important to our mental and curiously also our physical health.
It is a slightly double-edged sword; people can be the source of stress as well as succour so you may have to be pro-active in creating the kind of social conversations that count.
Purposely set out to have conversations that are restorative, for you and the other person. Getting to laugh together is always good. Think of ways you can engage with your business network that leave everyone feeling better for the call. Good social contact is a stress buffer.
It’s important to be optimistic. We need to believe in a future. It’s hard at the moment since so many future plans have been sent awry. Find something with a longer-term focus that is within your control. Something that will take a while to complete.
It’s not a magic spell, it doesn’t guarantee you will be there, but such activity can help draw us out of an ongoing nightmare present. It enables us to be pro-active not just re-active. It allows us to create a path through the uncertain future by focussing on something within our control. This can be very settling.
Uncertainty can act to paralyse us. By pro-actively starting a project we can break out of that paralysis.
It is tempting to use those around us as our sounding boards when we are seeking ways forward. But your family and colleagues will have their own stresses and struggles right now, and you might not get the sympathetic ear you are looking for.
You may want to look for a professional coach, and many coaches are happy to work virtually. You may feel that is an expense too far right now, in which case you could look at self-coaching.
To self-coach what you really need are some good questions. There are resources that provide these, for example the Good Question Card pack or the Coaching Cubes. Both of these supply lots of questions that you can use to help shift your mood, boost your creativity and generate ways forward.
In conclusion, the key during these challenging times is to take care of yourself and those around you, to look after your mental and physical health, and to ensure your morale and that of your team gets a boost every day.
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.
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