Hard Talks: How to Manage a Business When You’re Feeling Down

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On an afternoon last week, I was sitting in the backyard of our Airbnb, feeling completely unmotivated to work and worrying incessantly about the pandemic, for the world, for people, for small businesses… you’re familiar with the list.

To boost my spirits, I was listening to The Life Coach School podcast, which I highly recommend for its many nuggets of wisdom. In a recent episode, the host, Brooke Castillo, briefly mentioned grief. It was one word within a podcast about Handling Chaos, and it stuck with me.

As I sat there in melancholy (wondering WHY I couldn’t muster up the energy to get some work done), that single word echoed through my head with startling clarity.

I am grieving. So many of us are grieving right now.

Signs that You Might Be Grieving

Normally, I would keep this to myself. I’m a private person and tend to internalize rather than share my feelings, especially not publicly. But when a client recently confided her feelings to me and they exactly mirrored my own, I realized I wasn’t alone.

I realized that being vulnerable right now could probably help a lot of people, maybe even you.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen (and tried to give) a ton of positive encouragement lately. On social media. In newsletters. In correspondences with clients, friends, and family. All those uplifting words and advice and solidarity. And I LOVE that. I think it’s so, SO beautiful that we’re all rising up to support each other.

But most of us probably don’t feel happy and encouraging all the time. Who is addressing the darker days that pop up from time to time or more consistently? Who wants to talk about it when so many people have it worse?

And yet, these emotions are still real. Those days when you might be feeling…

  • Paralyzed with doubt, fear, and insecurity

  • Unmotivated to work on our businesses or lethargic all day (even if we exercise!)

  • A loss of joy in activities, vibrancy in colors, or satisfaction with meals

  • Wracked with guilt because you should be grateful for all that you do have, but you just don’t feel it in your heart right now

I’m no psychologist, but if you’ve been feeling any or all of these emotions or physical conditions lately, it’s possible that you’re grieving too. If you are, I want you to know that you’re not alone. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, wrong with you.

  • You are NOT being selfish.
  • You are NOT being superficial.
  • You are NOT a bad person.
  • You have NOTHING to feel guilty about it.

You are human, my friend.

Resist the Impulse to “Fix” Your Feelings

If you have NOT been feeling any grief lately, that’s great. You can skip on ahead to the next sections about regaining control and finding a new daily groove, which can apply to any situation.

If you ARE experiencing grief, I’ll tell you what helped me… and it’s probably not what you think.

When we’re feeling “bad,” there’s an automatic response in us to right the situation. We might say to ourselves, “Okay, I’m feeling sad, what’s the positive in the situation? What can I be grateful for? How can I not feel this way?” 

But more often than not, trying to change how we feel doesn’t result in success. And in fact, that lack of success digs us deeper into the hole, because now we’re adding the feelings of failure and guilt for not being able to remedy the situation. (Again, not a psychologist, speaking from personal experience here.)

Instead, I invite you to try something that I’ve given a whirl recently and found to be uniquely freeing: Acceptance.

By “acceptance,” I don’t mean that you should force yourself to accept the situation we’re experiencing right now. (That’ll come naturally over time, if it hasn’t yet.) What I mean is…

If you’re feeling unmotivated or sad, let yourself feel those emotions.

For example, I spent two consecutive days last week feeling sad, unmotivated, and simultaneously guilty about it. On the first day, I tried to get some work done. Was it high quality work? No, which meant I had to pencil it into my calendar later to redo it anyway.

On the second day, I spent the morning in much of the same fashion. It wasn’t until after lunch that I finally said to myself, “You know what, getting quality work done today isn’t likely to happen. My brain is not in the right mental space. I can either feel bad about that and try to force it, or I can just accept it and spend some time relaxing.” 

I tried something different and went with the second option, and not only did I enjoy the rest of the afternoon — I read a book, spent some time in nature, went for a swim, cooked dinner — but I actually woke up the next day feeling refreshed and ready to work on projects again!

Moral of the story: Let yourself feel how you feel and know that it’s temporary.

Express What You’re Feeling & Grieving Right Now

Part of accepting our feelings is expressing them. For those of us who have been taught not to “complain,” let’s toss that lesson out the window for the moment. Getting your feelings off your chest is not complaining. It’s healthy.

There are several ways you can do this:

  • Journaling (or download our printable workbook at the end of this post)

  • Talking to a friend or family member who agrees to listen to (not try to fix) your emotions

  • Talking to a business or life coach

  • Working with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or psychologist

I will even invite you to express your feelings with me if you’d like. You can leave a comment or send me a private email. No judgment, just acceptance.

3 Exercises to help you Find a New Groove

By now, you might be thinking, “Well, Jaquilyn, accepting my emotions is all well and good, but I can’t just stop working on my business. I can’t just stop parenting my kids while they’re home from school.”

Fair enough.

Which is why I have 3 exercises for you that can help you find a new groove. However, as I mentioned before, I highly suggest approaching these exercises from a place of ACCEPTANCE, not a place of shame, guilt, or feeling like something needs to be fixed.

We are not trying to get you back to “normal.” We’re are simply trying to find some structure where we can and make the rest of your life a bit easier. I’ll run through each of these here, and you can also find them in the free workbook I’m including at the end of this post.

1. Ration Your Energy

My first suggestion is energy rationing, which is not unlike toilet paper rationing. 😉

I was recently inspired by this great article about being productive when you’re just not feeling it. The trick, as the article says, is to identify the tasks that require high energy (motivation, creativity, and focus) and ones you can complete at low energy (routine tasks that need less concentration and brainpower).

Each morning, when you wake up and start your day, you’re likely operating at the high or low energy level. Naturally, you’ll want to sync up your day’s work with the tasks best suited for your given energy level. In other words, don’t force yourself to do intense creative work on a low-energy day, and vice versa.

I don’t know about you, but I have tried (and failed) to do high-energy work on WAY too many low-energy days in my life. And let’s just say it was nearly always a waste of time. Now, I know to be a bit more flexible with my calendar and to save those low-energy tasks specifically for the moments when I need a mental break.

This approach can apply to all areas of your life: family, work, personal, you name it. Here are some examples:

Low-Energy Task Ideas

  • Quick meals

  • Yoga or a walk

  • Easy family activities, like movie night

  • Easy homeschool work, like learning apps

  • Meditation or prayer

High-Energy Task Ideas

  • More involved meal preparation (enjoy it!)

  • Jogging, cycling or cardio

  • More thoughtful family activities, like game night

  • More involved homeschooling

  • Creative dreaming for your life and business

2. Control What You Can Control (& Let the Rest Go)

Many of us are grieving a loss of control right now, which is why it can often be therapeutic to seize control in the ways we can. However, this can be a slippery slope. Trying to control your partner or your children, for example, won’t a merry home make.

To keep the peace, it’s best to sit down and actually put a NAME to what you truly can and can’t control. I suggest pouring yourself a soothing cup of tea (or something a little stronger won’t go amiss) and grabbing something to write with.

You could start with categories, such as Business, Family Life, and Personal. Create a T-diagram (or use the one in our downloadable workbook) with “Control This” on one side and “Not That” on the other. Under each, make a list and get specific. For example, under Business, you could write:

Control This:

  • Serving my clients and community to the best of my ability

  • Being visible and available to potential clients and my community

  • Being creative with flexible or virtual service offerings

  • Preparing now to welcome new clients when the current challenges pass

  • Working on a positive mindset through journaling, prayer, meditation, or coaching

  • Never admitting defeat!

Not That:

  • The financial situation of others who may need to cancel their work with me

  • The ability to meet with clients in-person

  • The timeline of existing projects

  • Etc.

Even if you never look at this list again, your subconscious mind will have an idea for what is and isn’t worth its energy.

That said, you could probably get major mental peace from re-reading this list often. Set it by your bed or on the bathroom counter, and read it when you wake up. It will help you feel empowered in the right places.

3. Focus on Someone Else

I mentioned this in my last post, in my latest newsletter, and on social media — because I truly believe in it. On the days when I just can’t find motivation but I still HAVE to get stuff done, I remind myself that there are people who need me.

I don’t know why but sometimes it’s just easier to get motivated on another’s behalf than for yourself.

Case in point: I just spent almost my entire Sunday pulling together this post for you, because I want SO MUCH for you to feel understood and supported in these unprecedented times. Maybe the topic of grief is taboo or too dark when we should be spreading light, but if my words help even one person, it has been time well spent.

So, who do you get motivated for? Your clients? Your children? Your spouse? All of the above? Why?

Write your answers down, keep them visible, and let them inspire you when you need that extra boost of love and motivation. It works. 🙂

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I hope these many anecdotes, tidbits, and simple strategies help you grieve if you need to grieve, ration your energy when appropriate, and feel just a little more at peace each day. It’s in moments of crisis that we really realize that every aspect of our lives is intimately connected. And at the heart of them all is: YOU.

So be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. And know that whatever you’re doing or feeling right now, it’s okay. You are enough.

Much love,

Jaquilyn

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Such a beautifully written post.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Praying for your safety!
    xo

  2. Jill R says:

    Thank you SO much for this! It came at the perfect time.

    • Jaquilyn K. says:

      I am thrilled you found it helpful, and thank you so much for leaving a note to tell me! Spreading even a little joy or relief right now feels so rewarding. Hope you’re staying safe out there. Xo