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I am an extrovert who is also a small business owner.
Between my nature and the nature of my business, I spend a lot of time being in close contact with people (individual coaching, public speaking, and teaching workshops). And I love it.
But I am also diligent and not caught in the irresponsible YOLO wave so practicing social distancing in accordance with the CDC’s recommendations and adhering to behavior that benefits society-at-large. But that means I am working 100 percent remotely and my business is taking a hit in these times—I have had to cancel all my upcoming workshops and speaking engagements for the unforeseeable future.
The coronavirus engulfed us all so suddenly and furiously. I remember leading a meditation and Ayurveda session at SEEMA Summit for International Women’s Day on March 7th to almost going under what feels like a lockdown a few days later. At SEEMA Summit, we celebrated how far women have come as small business owners and in leadership roles, and all that we can achieve by supporting each other. A few days later, after the Summit, I saw posts about business owners shuddering, earning zero revenues, and indefinitely closing doors.
As small business owners, a big part of the business growth and revenues come from being out there in the field, engaging with potential clients and customers, and making those connections. Whether your company organizes events, caters work lunches, provides coaching services, or whatever else it might be—all of a sudden, so many of us find ourselves without clients and buried under financial ambiguity. While staying home and remote working are the morally appropriate decisions, so many of us are feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
Honestly, I have always worked, which means I am used to getting out of the house at a certain time and there is a routine in place for work, workout, wellness, and personal life. Working from home is fun every once in a while (the luxury of pajamas and Thai takeout). But it definitely isn’t fun for me when going to work isn’t an option at all.
I miss the human interaction. We must practice social distancing and work remotely if the option is available. That’s how we can flatten the curve and curb COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean that I am not engulfed by a wave of solitude every now and then.
We cannot ignore the importance of self-care for small business owners amidst the crisis at-hand. If you don’t step up your self-care regime during this pandemic, your financial, emotional, and mental health recovery will become challenging when the storm is over.
Here are a few suggestions on how to navigate these difficult times:
Disconnect from social media.
People consume social media differently. One can’t deny that at this time, there is mass hysteria and misinformation about coronavirus. Most of us are working remotely and navigating new working and familial arrangements without having had much time to prepare for it.
Social media can feel like both a source of information and respite. But it’s a slippery slope if you don’t know when to stop browsing the internet. Notice that there are two groups of people: one, who think the world is coming to an end tomorrow; and, the ones who think they are invincible and socialize and travel for fun in these times, despite the risks of spreading the virus.
It’s okay to think about your needs, disengage, and walk away from social media every now and then.
Stay honest about how you feel.
I am an optimist and all for the school of gratitude. I believe that if you have food on your table, a roof over your head, good health, and a loved one (family, friend, or pet) with you in these times, you should count your blessings. But by the same token, like many others, my business and I are showing receding income and don’t know if and when I will recover.
Last year this time, I had slowly started to rebuild my life, health, and business after a devastating episode with sudden onslaught of chronic illness. How and why am I in the same boat again? Yes, the thought has crossed my mind. It’s confusing when I feel grateful for what I have today versus last year, but heartbroken over what I have lost that I built last year. It’s okay to feel frustrated, grateful, and disappointed in the same breath. It’s okay to not be okay.
Talk to friends and family—ones you trust and don’t need to pretend in front of—about your inner conflicts and anxiety. Know that you aren’t alone and that you don’t have to be brave all the time.
Innovate how you connect.
With all the Holi parties (Holi, the festival of colors, is my New Year according to the Hindu calendar), birthday celebrations, workshops, speaking gigs, meetings, and networking events canceled, socialization is at its lowest. I know many of my colleagues are in similar boats—they were scheduled to speak at or organize conferences while others were in the process of launching a new product/service.
In these times, rethink connectivity and closeness. A few of the professional, entrepreneurial groups that I am part of, we schedule daily Zoom video check-in calls. You get to see people in real-time, albeit online, and talk about work challenges, anxiety around the safety of loved ones, grocery pursuits, and paucity of toilet paper rolls amongst other things. We laugh, we cry, we meditate, we remind each other that amidst all the mayhem, we have a community that grounds us and cares. I am grateful to these groups for holding space.
Also, I have made it a point to speak with one cousin/cousin-in-law and two friends on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be long conversations but just a gentle reminder that nobody is alone, including ourselves.
Be gentle with yourself.
I have read so many articles in which gurus suggest that we utilize this time of the pandemic to write that book you always talked about or finish that artwork you started a decade ago or knit that blanket you promised your kid. Hold on! We literally just got hit by lightning and have no idea how things will unfold tomorrow.
It’s okay to feel unmotivated about following your passions when your basic life seems out of sorts. This too shall pass, and you will get whatever needs to be done. But the expectation that you maximize on every minute is a bit exhausting. Yes, I am in support of planning for the future so when things start to calm down and we return to normalcy, you will have a plan in place. But it doesn’t have to be right at this moment. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t kill yourself under the productivity pressure.
Schedule time to move your body.
Working from home under the pressure of an epidemic can create unnecessary food cravings because of anxiety and displaced routines. I have heard several friends confess that they are eating more meals now, aka partaking in emotional eating, because that feels like the only thing under control.
With the gyms, weight training studios, swimming pools, and yoga studios on a mandated shutdown, we need this rule at this time to stop the virus from spreading—we need to redefine workouts and our well-being.
Exercising helps us make healthy food choices. It adds to a good night’s sleep and impacts our mood positively. It boosts immunity, which we all need now more than ever. Exercise has a profound impact on our mental health too. It lowers stress and anxiety, helps tap into creativity, releases happy hormones, and helps with relaxation. Be it practicing yoga at home or going for long walks in unpopulated places (so you are safe and do not endanger others), make time to move your body on a daily basis.
Help out another business owner.
As cliché as it may sound, we rise by helping others. I am not asking anything for myself. Imagine if we all helped out one person, and they paid it forward, how incredible would that be? For the next few weeks, can you please make it an intentional choice to support small business owners? Even if it’s a muffin or scone you buy from your local bakery or leave an extra tip when you order takeout from your favorite restaurant or if you go grocery shopping, purchase from your local store and thank the cashier at check-out.
Gift your doorman or cleaning lady or dog walker a gift card for a few coffees. Ask your local yoga studios or fitness spaces if they can offer online classes, so their teachers can get paid. Recommend other small businesses to your clients, friends, family, and networks.
I am sure there are a million ways to keep the economy going. This pandemic has hit all of us financially. And the only way to get out of it, without being reckless with our health or finances, is by supporting one another.
Start to meditate.
When things are uncertain and feel out of control, it’s natural that our stress levels rise. I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed, I fantasize about cupcakes. Sugar is my go-to dark place. But sugar also lowers immunity, so I need to manage the stress.
Research tells us that meditation is magical for our emotional health. It is an antidote to stress, fear, and anxiety. Start with five minutes a day. Observe your breath. Don’t manipulate it. It’s as simple as that.
“One of the marks of successful people is they are action oriented. One of the marks of average people is they are talk oriented.” ~ Brian Tracy