Managing stress levels in a crisis

Home Columns Managing stress levels in a crisis

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The COVID-19 pandemic did much more than disrupt global economies and businesses all over the world. The pandemic has also taken a tremendous personal toll on humanity. We are all personally dealing with the ramifications on some level, and we are doing our best to grapple with the uncertainty it has caused. Many business owners are wrapped up with whether they will get their stimulus money, or how long they can last if they get it. All this uncertainty is likely to cause a great deal of stress.

In the midst of this crisis, however, it’s critical—for the sake of our collective sanity—to manage our emotions and personal well-being with the same thought and care that we apply to our businesses and livelihoods. I realize that’s much easier said than done, but in a time when so many factors are outside of our control, what we can do is be more mindful of our reactions to what’s happening around us.

Most of my usual columns are designed to provide retail store owners and salespeople with valuable tips to better run their business, improve close rates or market to existing and potential customers. But what we’re all experiencing right now is far from usual. And it requires a different response.

To that end, for this column I decided to focus on talking about ways we can reduce stress as we deal with the challenges at hand. The stress many of us are feeling nowadays is particularly dangerous. It has been proven that excessive stress can actually lower your immune system and make your body more susceptible to both the virus and other diseases. We must be vigilant about taking care of ourselves, so we get through this in the best possible health. The healthier we are, the better our decision making.

Here’s a practice that helps me manage my stress levels. It’s called “mindfulness meditation,” a mental training exercise that teaches you to decelerate your mind and let go of the negativity. The idea is to slow down your racing mind and quiet your head so you can think more clearly. The simplest way to practice mindfulness meditation is to take a time out, go to a quiet, comfortable place, close your eyes and focus on taking deep breaths. You will notice your heart rate slowing down as you continue to breathe. Your mind may continue wandering, but try not to pay attention. Instead, try to think about nothing but your breathing. Practicing this twice a day; five to 10 minutes will help you feel more settled. It’s also important that you stay hydrated, eat right and get sufficient rest. All these steps will boost your immune system.

Another tip is to train your mind to compartmentalize different issues. For example, are you experiencing anxieties or fears of contracting the virus? Or, are you concerned about what will happen in your business? This is an important distinction that should be dealt with separately so you don’t become overwhelmed. Try to separate the two issues and come up with a plan for both. Keep in mind your business solution is based on information prior to the virus and may change once your business is open. It is certain that people will be more cautious about being in your store, so you must demonstrate that your store is sanitary, and emphasize the fact your employees are taking stringent precautions to keep customers safe.

Above all else, don’t feel that you need to shoulder the burden of all this by yourself. Remember, we all have a vested interest in beating this virus, and the only way we’re going to emerge from this is if we support one another.
Stay strong, stay healthy.

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