What Small Business Owners Need Now: Calm
Unprecedented. Ok I said it. The most overused, yet accurate word to describe the challenges we are all facing in the times of Covid-19. I’ve been reaching out to small business owners–clients and colleagues–and what I’m hearing is a lot of anxiety, overwhelm, paralysis, and fear.
The one thing I’ve learned in studying branding for small businesses is that a foundation of thinking, communicating and acting with emotional intelligence is the “difference maker” of a business’s resilience, thriving in adverse times. And boy do we need resilience right now.
But before we can even get to breaking down the specifics of resilience, we need to be in a state of mind where we’re thinking straight. Knowing this, and spending a few weeks in a denial-breakdown-panic myself, lead me to realize that I already had the tools to stop the anxiety loop and get back to calm. When small business owners think, communicate and act from a place of calm they are much more likely to avoid knee-jerk reactions with unregulated emotion. Maybe you know someone like this? I do. Me.
Why listen to me? I don’t have it all figured out when it comes to being calm. I’ve lived with General Anxiety Disorder for as long as I can remember. I’ve spent the last 13 years in therapy, I have two coaches, take medication, and implement any alternative therapies that seem to help. (I have a rock in my pocket right now.) Through the years more and more of my business, marketing, and brand strategy consulting to help business owners started to merge with what I have learned and implemented in my life to battle anxiety. So, take advantage of my expertise in this area. I have been traveling on this path for a long time and I hope my journey can help you.
Let’s get down to business.
Most of the business owners I’ve been speaking with via strategy sessions, Zoom coffee meetings, or over social media are saying that they need help with:
Clients and customers continuing to buy their services and products.
Finding new clients and customers digitally.
- I am so overwhelmed, defeated and hopeless I can’t even think straight.
It’s tempting to jump right in and suggest marketing tactics like increasing SEO or starting a blog or joining private Facebook groups. While all of those options may be relevant and good, they will be so much more effective at leading to achieving your goals if business owners first created a state of calm, then evaluated strategies and implement tactics. I promise, taking the time to first find calm will be the way you retain current clients, attract new business, and feel like you can manage anything the future has in store.
The Path to Calm
It may seem counter intuitive, but take it from me and my lifelong battle with General Anxiety Disorder, our breath is the only way we have to biologically slow our autonomic nervous system that includes our stress response. Therefore the purpose and benefit behind pausing is to intentionally bring your thoughts and back into your frontal lobe so that you can recognize your feelings and make decisions on how you are going to act. The alternative is automatically reverting back to your survival mode, fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
I find it helpful to actually schedule these “Pause Breaks” throughout my day. I have reminders on my Apple watch to breathe as well as notifications from various meditation apps to remind me to pause throughout the day. Find what works for you.
2. Feel Calm
Now that you’ve paused and taken a breath. You might start to realize that finding that calm feeling can be fleeting. This is why a Calm Practice, similar to a Yoga Practice, can be helpful–especially during times of great adversity like the one we’re experiencing right now. What does a Calm Practice look like? For me, it’s scheduled meditating, journaling, reading, walking, yoga, therapy, and coaching. I have to stay vigilant in “normal” times, but even more so now. The benefits of feeling more calm versus feeling more anxiety are:
- Perspective. Think and act from a place of truth.
- Ability to manage emotions. Experience your feelings as they’re happening and feel more in control.
- Anxiety is contagious. So is calm. You can be a Calm Leader and help everyone around you.
Where to learn more about a Calm Practice:
Brené Brown’s recent podcast: Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. April 2. 2020 episode: Brené on Anxiety, Calm + Over/Under-Functioning
Happy Not Perfect App
3. Think and Act Calm
“Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.” ⏤Buddha
We’ve come full circle to the feeling of urgency to do something to bring in more clients and customers and ultimately increase revenue however possible right now. (All while trying not to feel like a profiteer during a pandemic–but that’s another blog topic.) Consider the following real-life scenario that highlights what business owners need right now is calm:
Mike is an insurance agent with 10 years of experience in the industry. Mike was all set for 2020 to be his best year ever. He’s been steadily building his business with carefully cultivated in-person community engagement activities, networking, and relationship building. And then the coronavirus COVID-19 quite literally shut down in-person everything. Mike feels a rush of panic, dread and anxiety that he can’t shake. He needs to keep his current clients and continue growing his business. He doesn’t have any social media presence. One of his trusted networking colleagues is a digital media specialist and is offering an all day workshop for business owners who want to start using social media for their business for $99.
ANXIETY REACTION MODE
Sub-conscious, reactionary thinking: I need to be making money instead of spending money. I don’t have $99 to spend on something that is free. I could learn it myself probably. But I haven’t ever done social media because, what will people think of me? My whole business is based on an in-person strategy. It will never work for me. I wonder how I can get around this whole quarantine thing. I guess I’ll just wait for it to be over. Another two weeks can’t hurt my business that much.
Mike decides not to take the workshop and instead, is going to keep doing what works when the quarantine is over and things go back to normal which leads to:
Scarcity. Fear. Devaluation. Lack of trust. Insecurity. Head in the sand. Hoping for the best. Waiting. Putting power in things he can’t control. Staying comfortable.
CALM RESPONSE MODE
Conscious, calm response thinking: I need to be making money, but I am feeling so overwhelmed and anxious I can’t think straight. I’m going to stop, do an eight minute calming meditation and take a walk around the block…………Ok, I’m still feeling some anxiety, but I’m able to think more clearly and have some perspective now. I need to make money, but the only way I’m going to be able to do that is if I change something about how I go about attracting and communicating with clients.
I don’t want to admit it, but social media might really be a good option to achieve that. I’ve been avoiding it for a long time, but there’s no time like now to learn something new. I trust my friend who is a specialist in digital marketing and I feel good about supporting their small business. $99 is a reasonable price to get me started on a whole new platform with limitless potential to help me survive now and thrive in whatever the future has in store. Let’s do this.
Mike decides to take the workshop and realizes that connecting on social media is kind of fun–and almost all of his clients are genuinely connecting with him. He’s full of optimism for the future and even more confident that he can handle anything the world throws at him and consequently:
Abundance. Taking calculated action. Courage. Pride. Community. Connection. Getting out of his comfort zone. Taking responsibility to change what he can.