Managing Stress in Uncertain Times
For the many business owners we support, we seek to provide concrete, actionable steps to help you assess your business' health, develop future-focused systems and processes, and create organizational structures that help you make decisions quickly amidst change.
Yet we'd be remiss not to acknowledge that this economic downturn is unlike others we have experienced in the past. Entrepreneur Brad Feld defined it as three crises - health (COVID-19), financial, and mental health. Many of our business owners are struggling with difficult decisions they had to make, frustration over newly developed government assistance programs, and the fear of not knowing what is next.

What we can say for certain is that the qualities that drew you to entrepreneurship - creativity, passion, resilience, and problem-solving - are many of the same traits you can lean on now as you focus on what you can control . In this message, we want to share additional tools to help you through this time.
Focusing on What Can You Control to Decrease Stress
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has curated an extensive resource guide for COVID-19. This resource guide includes many broader resources (grief support, social services, health care) as well as a variety of tips for managing stress:
  • Understand that your feelings will change day to day and may manifest themselves in many ways. A Harvard Business Review article that has resonated with many over the last few weeks articulates the crisis as a cycle of grief. You'll see different stages of this cycle as you manage difficult situations like caring for loved ones who are ill, laying off staff members, or worrying about your business or personal finances.
  • Understand your personal stress continuum. This widely used model can help you notice your own stress behaviors. By understanding whether these behaviors fall in the green, yellow, orange, or red zones, you can better identify what actions you may need to cope.
  • Be mindful about how you consume news
  • Keep focus limited to trusted sources, such as the information provided on the dedicated CDC website.
  • Limit the length of time you focus on news, and consider what medium is best for you (reading may be less stressful than watching TV, for example).
  • Avoiding scrolling social media, where panic and misinformation can spread quickly.
  • Practice mindfulness and stay in the moment when possible; this helps you focus on meaningful details rather than catastrophizing. There are many apps and websites available to help with breathing, meditation and mindfulness practices. Additionally, donor support has enabled the UW-Madison Center for Healthy Minds to make its Healthy Minds Program available for free. This program translates neuroscience research into everyday tools based on the four pillars of the science of training the mind.
  • Carve out time for activities you enjoy. Engaging in activities that have a clear beginning, middle, and end can help you feel a sense of accomplishment – physical tasks like creating art, cooking, gardening, or organizing can also serve as a form of mindfulness.
  • Follow daily routines as much as possible, including keeping consistent hours, eating nutritious food, practicing good hygiene, prioritizing sleep, and taking ultradian rhythm breaks throughout the day.
  • Keep active through exercise and movement, which helps keep you healthy and serves as stress relief outlet.
  • Keep connected. Maintaining social networks can help maintain a sense of normalcy. This can take many forms, including:
  • Offering help to friends or neighbors as you are able. Many online Neighbors Helping Neighbors (and similar) groups have been organized for this purpose.
  • Connect with family, friends, or employees via phone or video chat. Set boundaries around how much you talk about COVID-19 in comparison with topics you’d typically discuss.
  • Seek professional help when needed. Just as you might reach out to us for business advice, it is just as important to reach out to certified mental health professionals when you need them. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has a variety of resources that can help you make a connection if you do not have an established therapist. 
The Wisconsin SBDC Network is a proud part of the  Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship  in the  University of Wisconsin System . It is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the  U.S. Small Business Administration.