Sometimes it creeps up on you over a matter of days or weeks. Or sometimes it explodes suddenly, like when one of your employees acts out, or that letter from the IRS arrives.
Either way, we all fall into emotional funks that get in the way of running our business. Sometimes even when your business is being a psychotherapist!
But people in my profession do have one advantage over most people: namely, we teach our clients ways to take care of themselves and feel better in the moment – and we use these tools ourselves.
Sometimes they may be all you need to snap out of a funk. Other times they can help you cope while you do the longer-term work of resolving a tough life issue. Here are some of my favorite ones:
We often describe things as being “as natural as breathing” – except when it comes to our breathing itself. When you are tense, you are often taking short, shallow breaths from your upper chest, which upsets your balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide and makes you feel out of control.
Learn to become aware of your breathing, and learn to do the relaxed, natural “belly breathing” that is our natural state at rest.
Yeah, right, you are saying – easy for him to say. But I don’t mean just calming down and thinking happy thoughts. When I say “relax,” I mean learning how to tense and release individual muscle groups, using a technique known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) – a strategy that, with practice, can put you into a deep state of peace and calm.
PMR has many of the same benefits as a sedative or a martini, with no side effects in many cases.
There are some great audio resources online that can teach you PMR, including this one from the University of Texas’ Mind-Body Lab.
Talk it out.
To me, the single biggest problem with being a small business owner is isolation – especially when it is combined with the toxic belief that we can’t ever let on when something is wrong.
Venting your feelings to another person, getting support, and knowing you aren’t alone can give us perspective, make us feel better, and often move us towards solutions.
A fundamental principle of therapy is that distress increases when you feel like a helpless victim of circumstance, and decreases when you feel you have more control. (A simple example is one trick doctors use to get kids to calm down about getting a shot – ask them which arm they want it in.)
Find ways to take action about your situation, and don’t settle for what to do next – choose it.
Finally, another important coping tool is knowing when your situation goes beyond self-care, and it is time to consult a mental health professional. If your level of distress interferes with eating, sleeping or functioning at work for more than a week or two, there is no shame in getting a professional involved.
Rather, it is a sign of good judgment that will help you feel better sooner. Take good care of yourself emotionally, and you will see tangible benefits for your mood AND your bottom line.