Have you ever noticed that when life gets really hard, it’s almost impossible to manage your business?
I’m not talking about a bad day or a bad week, I’m talking about bad things that happen, that wreck your entire world in just a moment. When these types of things happen, it’s incredibly challenging to maintain momentum and keep the motivation you need to stay engaged…the clarity that you had is gone. As a result of that, things start to feel chaotic and overwhelming. Once things start spinning out of control, you may find yourself beginning to completely disconnect.
Things may fall through the cracks and your ability to mentally and emotionally engage with a client, or even your desire to continue running a business, completely falls flat.
This often happens with burnout. Maybe you have not been getting enough rest.
Putting too many expectations on yourself.
Perhaps there is fear about how your clients view your work.
Apart from burnout symptoms, there are other similar symptoms that are NOT a result of burnout!
That’s what I’m talking about here today.
Tragedy… Trauma… Loss…. Deep heartache.
Have you ever felt any of these?
There are a wide variety of life-changing circumstances that may come and leave you feeling paralyzed. It’s nothing like burnout. Burnout is something that can be addressed. Burnout may be habitual, but a good dose of discipline and brain rewiring can massively improve unhealthy cycles of burnout. But tragedy, loss or death? These inevitable difficulties in life are devastating to handle as they are, without adding the usual stresses of business into the mix. How can we cope and continue on with our regular responsibilities during these circumstances?
If you are dealing with life circumstances that are more debilitating than burnout, such as the death of a loved one, your emotional and mental ability to cope is so low. When the fog over you and within you is leaving you in a mess, what do you do?
There’s probably a lot that we could discuss here. It’s important to have a support system, find resources and community, etc, but when it comes to handling your business, what are the first steps?
Today I’m going to outline a few key steps to help you cross the bridge- from the feeling of being incapacitated to empowered.
STEP ONE: Step back for just a moment.
It’s that simple. You’re going to need some time off. But before any extended time off, you need some moments to process your emotions and your feelings. Everything else can wait. This moment, here and now, may be all that you can handle. If you need to cancel a meeting, do so right away, cordially.
Once you have given yourself some moments to get beyond any shock, conduct a short assessment of what you need, facilitate a time to look inwardly, and determine what is needed for you. Ask yourself, what would be most beneficial to you at this time? I would suggest that before you plan an extended period of time off, set aside a brief one to two hours just to think about where you are at so that you can actually establish a plan for what it is that you need.
The answer you’re looking for in this moment will help you realize how to communicate now to those around you. The outcome you determine and communicate does not have to be set in stone, but it’s just a gauge for you to feel comfortable with a plan of stability in a time of complete instability. As you begin to do that, you may naturally begin to think about what your business will need in the short term as you give yourself a break.
STEP TWO: Send a red flare.
Communicate to all of your clients and all of your team members. Reach out for any needed support.
Let them know that there is something you are dealing with that may cause your business to move slower. It’s ok to communicate in a way that you are comfortable (you are not obligated to share all of the details), but if you anticipate the change of pace will also affect them, it’s very important to communicate proactively.
Nothing has changed for them, they still have the same expectations about what’s required and what they can expect from you. But you also shouldn’t feel bad communicating that something has changed for you.
And it can be as simple as this:
“There has been a death in the family. I’m assessing how I might need to temporarily restructure as I grieve this loss, while continuing to accommodate your business(/our team’s) needs.”
By sending some sort of message that communicates to your clients or potential helpers, they’re immediately going to understand that there may be a change or a need to fill.
Communication is crucial, which is why it is the first step that you will take following a moment to step back from any initial shock. Communication at this stage can often feel too hurried, and sometimes people avoid it altogether when they are hurting, but that will only create more trouble for you to deal with in an already difficult time.
Most often, clients and team members will understand and support you (probably more than you might have expected). If you find that they don’t support you, assure yourself that the decision you are making to press pause is an investment into yourself and your business. Communicating to others about what is going on with you is a way to honor yourself and your business right now.
STEP THREE: Delegate projects and tasks.
This step coincides with the previous step if you have a small team or if you have someone that can help support you during this time in your business. You need to delegate immediate projects and tasks that you need off your plate so you can have a bit of time off, whether that’s a few days or a week.
It could be as simple as asking your client for an extended deadline on one or two projects as you go to a funeral or as you take a few days to grieve or be with family. Or it could be as involved as bringing on someone in your place to serve the client in a short term situation. Perhaps if you’ve been working solo, you find a replacement and determine that the priority right now is healing, and there will be opportunities for new clientele in the future.
This step of delegation does not have to be rushed, but it will allow you the mental/emotional energy required to really disconnect in a healthy way, without shafting responsibility, leaving the client high and dry, and feeling even more terrible than you might already feel. This step may feel hard when you are feeling heavy, but just remember that it will afford you the time and support you need in the next few weeks or months.
If you can’t delegate, communicate.
If you don’t have a team or any helpers to handle the projects, then all that you need to do is communicate the support will not be there for a period of time. Your responsibility is to communicate what you are able to facilitate, and if it’s not possible, it’s just not possible. That’s ok. If it comes down to it, your clients can fill in the gaps if they need to. They handled life before you, and they can handle life after you. Your job is to communicate what you CAN do during this time.
STEP FOUR: Plan periodic time for reflection, or extended time off.
You may need to take off more time to be able to set your mind and your emotions on what it is that you’re experiencing and have the time that you need to heal. This time is about resting and getting what you need on a personal level, all business takes the backseat. The amount of time you need is completely up to you, and there is no wrong or right amount of time. However, if you do not take an extended time off, beyond a few days, I would suggest scheduling time with yourself to check in and be sure you are ok. Would it help to talk to a friend, or to meet with a counselor? Depending on the type of trauma you are experiencing, it’s possible that you are reevaluating several aspects of life and asking yourself hard questions that will impact how you move forward.
During these life-altering events, we often realize that what matters or what is important to us is redefined. Don’t be afraid to approach those new feelings with courage to head in a new direction. As you give yourself the time to heal, allow yourself the freedom to explore new dreams and create new goals. Life changes after tragedy, it’s ok if you do too.
One of my all time favorite movie quotes is from You’ve Got Mail and it says,
“Closing the store is the brave thing to do….You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. Oh, I know it doesn’t feel like that. You feel like a big fat failure now. But you’re not. You are marching into the unknown armed with…Nothing.”
STEP FIVE: Re-Implement and Find Purpose
As as you step back into what you’re doing, you want to be sure that you have a fresh start and feel confident moving back into everything that you’re doing with total peace of mind. This step has no real, defined parameters, because it’s dependent upon you. There’s no known timeframe or concrete, pre-determined outcome. This step is a simple intention to give yourself permission to redefine what the goal is in all of what you do.
Basically what you are doing is resetting yourself for continued success, not a drudgery of obligation and not a drudgery of survival, which is so common to people who are experiencing trauma or loss. You will re-engage into your goals, purpose, and passion that will keep you fueled and moving forward. As I mentioned, we change after tragedy and that’s ok. It’s good to reevaluate where you are and what your goals are so that you can recommit with passion.
If you do not commit yourself to this type of purposeful engagement, you will shrink back into survival and into a victim mentality, feeling:
The bottom line is that the overarching perspective, what you’re intending to do, is stay in a place of purpose. Sometimes it takes time, and it’s necessary to give yourself the kind of time it takes to “bounce back” or redefine what the future looks like. This battle may continue for a while, but it will be worthwhile. In a lot of ways, your business reflects you, and the continued investment into healing yourself and getting clarity for the future will directly impact your business. It’s good to enjoy the journey, even when it feels out of control. It’s the process that creates greatness, new compassion and innovative ways to impact others through your mission.
If you haven’t been told already, I am so deeply sorry for your loss, the trauma, or the heartache that you are experiencing. It will get better and you will be better from it, not because of it, but from it.