When the Shock Starts to Wear Off
I emotionally and mentally put the calendar on pause this year. I have been waiting for the news that COVID-19 has been contained and we are free to go about our business in the normal manner. Logically, I know that is not happening anytime soon, but I realized emotionally I was waiting on this news, keeping me mentally in May or June. How can the summer possibly have gone by that fast, all while I am struggling to make sense of the new rules in dealing with the world! After many therapy sessions this summer, I learned that this is my way of dealing with trauma. I pressed an emotional pause, creating a layer of denial, while still moving forward with what needs to be done in my day-to-day. Add to that many of the other post-disaster/trauma symptoms and I have been living two lives at the same time. The one in denial of this disaster and the other that has dug in and takes care of business.
As the shock wears off, the adrenaline dissipates, and the constant stress becomes normal, I am left with the reality that I have to learn to co-exist with COVID-19 in our world. I am facing the PTSD of the initial shut down and finding new ways to manage. The American Psychiatric Association lists the common reaction in adults after a disaster I am working through most of them.
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Sadness, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, or anger
- Having no feelings at all or feeling numb
- A lack of energy or feeling exhausted all the time
- Lack of appetite or, the opposite, eating all the time
- Trouble concentrating or feeling confused
- Social isolation, reduced or restricted activities
- Thinking no one else is having the same reactions as you
- Headaches, stomachaches, or other body pains
- Misusing alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or prescription medications to cope
It is helpful to know that I am not alone in this struggle. Reaching out to my colleagues, girlfriends, family, has been a balm to my stress. Watching these conversations, we seem to be asking the same thing over and over again, “How do we co-exist with this pandemic while finding any semblance of stability?” The sand of knowledge about this pandemic is shifty and the conspiracies around it are sinkholes that make stability a rare commodity these days.
A Decision Must be Made
If Not Now When?
When I was a baby witch and fledgling entrepreneur, there was a statement that made sense, yet at the same time, I couldn’t grasp. “Be the source of what you seek.” To me, it sounded like writing checks you couldn’t cash, yet I understood that if you wanted a change in your environment, you have to invite it in through your thoughts, words, and deeds. When I am in crisis, I come back to the message of “Be the Source of what you seek,” and look for ways I am either blocking the change I desire or ignoring the actions I can take to make it happen. During the reopening of our store, I had become the source of stability. If I didn’t seek that out, mimic that behavior and act as if, I would not have been able to see that I wasn’t the only source of stability at our business. My business partner/sister was my rock, my fulfillment manager held us together, and my customer care manager kept all our customers calm. We were a team working in concert by muscle memory alone. Together we created the seed for stability, then had to decide what to do with it – shrink for protection or thrive and grow.
“Empowered Belief” is our contribution to the world and we either believe in our ability to represent this or we need a new “why?” for being in business. As the leader of the merry band of magic makers, I needed to start making magic. I had to become empowered in co-existing with COVID-19 and empower myself and my team in the belief that we can actually thrive during this time of stress. Terror and empowerment are a freight train of magic and I was going to use it to become the source. Beginning with our commitment to a living wage for all entry-level employees, I lead our team on a few scary, emotion-filled decisions:
1 – Raise everyone’s wages
2 – Add more staff to lighten the load while we are coping with stress
3 – Start each conversation with compassion
4 – NO new projects
I have almost three decades of emotional history of living month to month with our financial business health. Almost three decades of barely making it and managing one financial crisis after another. This is normal stuff for small businesses, and I wanted to change that paradigm for our company. I decided to lead my team out of that mental habit and into a new, prosperous idea. If not now when? Seriously, the year 2020 had been a game of 52 pickups and the cards are scattered all over the globe. The ramification of these decisions could have huge consequences. If it all goes wrong, what am I to do then? If it all goes wrong… I start over!
We are starting over right now, and I decided we can start over as many times as it takes to get it right. Years of bootstrapping has taught me how to survive and I am not stopping now. I am walking into these big decisions with my eyes wide open and experience in my back pocket. I know we can be facing financial loss, through a higher payroll, loss of sales, and being emotionally drained by finding compassion for the needs of my staff and customers.
Empowered belief reminds me to look for all the potentials and to make a plan to explore them. Anticipating the worst-case scenarios put me in a prepared emotional state, but one thing I forgot to do was to prepare for success.
To Succeed or Not Succeed
I think one of the biggest triggers of failure is success. Seriously, when you start to succeed you start to feel like the job is done, now you can coast. The opposite is true. When you start to succeed, then the really hard work begins. The adrenaline of starting a plan, making big decisions, and overcoming a massive trauma starts to wear off, leaving nothing but the grunt to work to keep it going. When you fail, you get a pause and a recovery moment. Success doesn’t allow for a pause or it quickly turns into failure.
Being the source is usually a game-changer and wow did it work here! The day we decided to create the $15 an hour plan, our sales skyrocketed. So much so, the plan to hire more people to lighten the load became – hire more people because we need more candles! Going from no production for 10 weeks, light production for three and then ZOOM, record-setting sales, was a scary amount of success. How do we increase production in a small space where we need to keep our team six feet apart? How do we ship triple the amount of products in a space that needs to be taken up by production expansion? How do we get new staff trained and up to speed? My stable team was up to their eyeballs in orders, trying to hold onto the little sanity they had, and everyone was about to break for a new reason – success.
Pendulum swings are hard to manage. There is no recovery or ramp-up time. You are just in it. This is when math becomes my best friend to calculate what is possible. Since I am the source, what resources can we make miracles with? Which of my empowered, magical candles do I need to light for these solutions? “All of them” was my first inclination, but we sold those, so I went for a Blessed Herbal Problem Solving. I thought my magic was a sad frizzle when no configuration of current capacity caught us up to our orders in less than 24 months. There are good problems, but I still wasn’t sleeping.
My Problem-Solving candle was working, just in a different way than I anticipated. It took us to a new building, doubled the size of where we were and was only two blocks away from our previous location. My empowered belief looked at the possibilities, did the math and showed us how to make the jump. We had to make the move, it was a no-brainer. Now I had a brand new stressor – moving a thriving business without losing a day of production . . . while in a pandemic. This is the stress of success and I am already at my wits end. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “You can’t have it all, all at once… Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time, things were rough.” When I try to do everything at once, the first thing to go is my emotional health, yet good emotional health is what gets me through these tough moments. With having the common reactions to a disaster like not sleeping and disassociating time passage, my emotional health must take a starring role in my daily routine. Powering through is no longer a viable recovery tactic.
Focusing on My Emotional Recovery
In my daily planner, I jot down my emotional state every day. Looking back six months, I have been on a rollercoaster; gratitude, survivor guilt, excitement, fear, joy, grief. Loneliness, isolation, and abandonment feelings are in full force as I stay masked, distant, and home. Zoom fatigue is real, coupled with decision fatigue and societal fears. If you are feeling this too, I am hugging you right now because this has sucked.
Mental Health America’s article, “Coping with Disaster” nailed it with helpful tips to aid in your emotional recovery:
- Talk about it.
- Spend time with friends and family.
- Take care of yourself.
- Limit exposure to images of the disaster.
- Find time for activities you enjoy.
- Take one thing at a time.
- Do something positive.
- Avoid drugs and excessive drinking.
- Ask for help when you need it.
I personally added:
- Dedicated quiet time every day.
- Intermittent fasting.
- Safe dedicated Hugging friend.
- Clearing out my closets.
- If I indulge, I wait for the best stuff.
- Sister zoom calls.
Light of Hope to Become Exactly Who You Need
Who I have evolved into over the past six months is exactly who I need today. I am more vulnerable in my conversations, more open with my needs and more willing to listen and support. I am slower in my reactions and more conservative in my risks. I protect my mind from clutter and conspiracy. I am more passionate about equality and humane actions and I love more fiercely.
I am taking my turn at carrying the light of hope for humanity. I see a lighter, more compassionate time in our future and keep reminding myself and everyone around me that there is more love within our world than hate. Love is quieter, so I will boost the voice of this every opportunity I can.
This story does not have an end, neither does yours. In honor of the notorious RBG I wish for you all to remember one more quote from her, “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” We each have the ability to turn any adversity into opportunity. I wish every moment of pain is a precursor to immense joy.