By: Sabrina Starling, PhD, PCC, BCC
As tornadoes have impacted multiple communities recently, a number of small businesses have been affected. In the aftermath of these storms, we focus on the clean-up and become aware of the trauma that we and/or our children, friends, neighbors, team members, and colleagues may be experiencing. If we did not directly experience physical damage to our home or place of business, we may experience survivor guilt. It’s not helpful to compare the severity of loss to decide whether or not we should be struggling to cope. If you’re struggling, acknowledge that. Feelings of anxiety are particularly common after an event like this that disrupts our feelings of safety.
Compounding stressors are also a factor. Many small businesses are dealing with major disruptions to operations. The scramble to keep operations going may be all too familiar, particularly for small business owners who experienced a massive disruption to business just three short years ago as COVID changed our daily reality.
Through my research with over 200 small business owners, I’ve discovered 9 out of 10 of us are experiencing symptoms of burnout. There are multiple stressors involved in running a business: cash flow, hiring, employee challenges, and mistakes that impact clients, just to name a few. We juggle complexity on a daily basis and it’s no wonder so many of us are experiencing symptoms of burnout. When a crisis, such as a catastrophic tornado, happens on top of other stressors, our ability to cope can be stretched.
As we come together to help one another, listen, offer compassion, and provide resources, we are creating pathways for healing. Research shows that helping others promotes feelings of well-being. Seeking out social support, and connecting with friends and loved ones, is one of the best ways to cope with stress.
Exercise can alleviate the physical symptoms of stress. In my research on burnout, I’ve learned that vigorous physical activity at the end of a busy day can be a great way to quiet our minds for restful sleep in the evening. Getting sufficient sleep, at least 8 hours per night, allows our brains to enter REM and deep sleep. REM sleep helps us process emotions and painful experiences.
In the days and weeks ahead, it’s easy to lose sight of self-care. This is not the time to do that. Now, more than ever is the time to listen to your body and your feelings. Be patient with yourself if uncomfortable feelings pop up as you drive through town and come upon areas that are damaged, if you find storms suddenly make you nervous, or if you experience survivor guilt. Your experience is valid.
Remember to check in with those who’ve suffered loss, not just in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but in the weeks and months ahead. Many who’ve lost homes or businesses will be dealing with the aftermath for quite some time. Most importantly, listen to yourself, and others, with a nonjudgmental ear. Ask, “How can I help?”
Here are some powerful questions for small business owners to build their resilience during a crisis:
What support do I need?
What might I learn from this?
What am I willing to do differently that will make us stronger in the long run? If this, or something similar happens in the future, what systems do I need to put in place so that we recover from it more quickly? What opportunities are being created out of this crisis?
Sabrina Starling, PhD, PCC, BCC, The Business Psychologist, is the bestselling author of The How to Hire the Best Series and The 4 Week Vacation®, as well as the founder of Tap the Potential LLC and host of the Profit by Design podcast. She
and her team at www.tapthepotential.com are on a mission to support entrepreneurs in taking their lives back from their businesses.