Staying positive in uncertain times

Mar 31, 2020

How are you doing? Really.

I felt compelled to write about something that probably resonates for you right now – the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our families, communities, and businesses.

As the news seems to get worse by the day (scratch that, hour), it can be hard to find one’s center during uncertain times. Fear, denial, and not knowing what the future holds leads to a whole sh*t ton of anxiety. I know I’ve been feeling it, and I’m willing to bet you’re experiencing at least a little of it, too.

So, what’s a freelancer to do?

I don’t have the answer, but I do have a few good toolsborn from 20 years of small business experience, weathering the fallout of 9/11, the 2008 recession, and more industry shifts than you can shake a stick at.

If you’re feeling anxiety, know that you’re not alone. Here are three tried and tested strategies I use to stay sane and ride out any crisis.

1) Know what keeps you balanced and happy

One of the blessings of having been knocked around by life a few times is that we start to build a toolbox of things that work for us. For some, writing in a journal might help them process what’s going on, while others find writing about their emotions only heightens their anxiety. Your toolbox will be unique to you, so take a few minutes to list the things that always calm you down. My five are:

  1. Going for a run
  2. Being in nature
  3. Being around and connecting with people
  4. My morning journaling practice
  5. Getting enough sleep, my supplements, and eating regularly and well (oh, and coffee!)

When you find yourself in the grip of anxiety, pick a tool and put it to work. A week ago, on the heels of the announcement of European travel ban, I woke up feeling anxious. So, I had a cup of bulletproof coffee (you guys—if you haven’t tried it, do!) put on my sneakers and went for a run. Much better!

2) Use your mind for good, not evil

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” Eckhart Tolle

I’ve always been fascinated by how the human mind works, and I learned some time ago that my own mind can be my greatest asset or my biggest handicap, depending upon the moment. Your mind is an amazing tool if you’re the one in charge of how it’s being used. Turns out it’s a complete jerk if you let it run the show.

So, how do you train your monkey mind? First of all, recognize it’s a moment-by-moment practice; the goal is not really control, but rather catching yourself in the moment of being completely carried away by your thoughts and choosing a different thought. Here are a few resources that help me notice and choose my thoughts:

  • This Tara Brach podcast: Practical Dharma for Stressful Times
  • This meditation app
  • This Instagram post     from Elizabeth Gilbert reminding us to be kind and compassionate to ALL responses to the virus (even when it includes panic buying of toilet paper)
  • Have faith that it will all be OK. As my mindset heroine Florence Scoval Shinn counsels, “We must substitute faith for fear, for fear is only inverted faith.”
3) Do what you can and let go of what you can’t control

Easier said than done, I know, but one of my best strategies for staying out of the emotional weeds is to work on what I can. Here are a few ways you might do that:

  • Step up and lead your staff and clients
        You don’t need to have all the answers (no one does), but your clients, staff, and collaborators need to hear from you about how you can support them during a tough time.
  • Use your entrepreneurial mind to transform challenge into opportunity
        Can you create a protocol for your staff or collaborators to work remotely? Can you help your clients turn in-person events into online events? Can you help them identify opportunities they may not ordinarily be looking for? Can you pitch in and help gets something done?
  • Work on your business
        You can either run to Target and buy up even more toilet paper, or you can finish you website copy already. You know what you need to do!

I’m sending you much love and I’m here to support you.

Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Sign up for her free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth, above.