Retailers and wholesalers are in the business of making customers happy, day in and day out. It’s no wonder many are finding themselves overwhelmed, burned out and stressed. In late February, an entrepreneur in New Zealand posted on Facebook how hard it was to run a business. Within two weeks, Jordan Moore’s post traveled the world as almost 10,000 people — many of them retailers and wholesalers — shared it along with their thoughts on how running an independent business has taken a toll on their mental health.
“What they don’t tell you is that it can cause severe stress and anxiety, and drains you mentally to the point of depression in even the most laid back people,” Moore posted.
“People will talk about you, compare you to others, use you, they will view you as a service and not a person anymore,” he continued.
Mandisa Jones, LSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Ashé Counseling & Coaching. With offices in Chicago, Austin and New Orleans, many of her clients are entrepreneurs, artists or professionals who are extremely busy.
“When you’re running a small business, there is always something to be anxious about,” Jones says. As a small business owner herself, she understands the stresses and uncertainties involved, especially during COVID-19 when many stores, restaurants and gyms couldn’t open. Today, those same businesses are still battling supply chain issues, higher transportation and shipping costs, and customers concerned about their health and well-being.
Rather than focusing on what we can’t control, focus on what you can control, Jones advises her clients and small business owners. Look at opportunities to support your business instead of worrying about things you don’t have the ability to get a handle on.
“Focus on that and even get creative,” Jones recommends.
For example, can you redesign your retail space, update your website or branding materials, or create a library of images so you can post on social media? Entrepreneurs are creative and resourceful, so think about things like repainting the store, changing the color scheme or rearranging the furniture. These are all creative ways to engage and helps distract us from things we cannot control while also making us feel better and improving our business as a whole.
Brendan Cournane, a personal and professional development coach and founder of Coach Brendan, often works with clients who are burned out or stressed. When life gets too hectic or stressful, he recommends you revert to four elements of a mindfulness practice:
“Pausing for a few minutes and exercising box breathing will help center the individual,” Cournane says.
To practice box breathing, Cournane recommends standing with both legs flat on the ground, feet spread about shoulder width, weight evenly distributed. Close your eyes, or if uncomfortable closing your eyes, shift your gaze downward with a focal point about 20 feet in front. Place a hand on your diaphragm, slightly above your stomach. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Then, inhale for a count of four, pause for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, pause for a count of four.
“Repeat this for four more cycles, and with each cycle, imagine the flow of oxygen through the body, entering through the nose, circulating throughout the body and exhaling through the mouth,” he adds. “Meditation can be practiced as well, using a metta poem, repeating the words: ‘May I be safe, May I be happy, May I be healthy.’” he notes.
For exercise, Cournane appreciates the power of a short walk. If you’re short on time, walk just 10 to 15 feet. “The goal is to feel your foot on the ground with each step, as well as the fluidity of motion while concentrating on lifting the leg, reaching out while extending, and reconnecting with the ground with each step,” he explains. And even if the world seems to have gone off the rails and you’re really overwhelmed, Cournane reminds us there is always something for which we can be grateful. He asks us to pause, take a deep breath and think of three to five things. “I find this to be extremely helpful when I am angry or resentful towards someone else,” he admits.
“There is a psychological theory called ‘reciprocal inhibition’ which states that the mind cannot simultaneously hold two conflicting thoughts,” Cournane says. “By focusing on things for which to be grateful, the mind pushes out feelings of anger or resentment.”
Making customers and clients happy doesn’t have to come at the expense of our mental health. That cost is too high. While there will always be uncertainty when running a small business, practicing some ways to channel calm can not only benefit us but our customers, family, and community too.