COVID-19 has brought an array of biopsychosocial and economic challenges to the world. As many leaders around the world are narrating it:
“We are at war with an invisible enemy.”
All it takes to get a reality shock is to watch a now dated 2011 film called Contagion to understand just how scary this new reality has become.
In South Africa, as in many places around the globe, the only defence we have at this time is to go into official government-sanctioned lockdown. This has led to the economy coming to a halt, where only essential services as per the Disaster Management Act (57/2002) are allowed to operate. Large corporations and small businesses alike are faced with a new reality of being unable to operate. Collectively we all feel the pain.
Small businesses and their owners, often with less cash reserve and bailout potential, are having a particularly hard time. As a small business owner, we are quite familiar with the feeling that you are on your own. That we are solely responsible for making it work: at all times!
This reality can often be quite stressful for us as business owners. It can often seriously take a toll on our wellbeing. And, unfortunately, this time is not going to be any different.
However, there are some strategies that we can follow to ensure our mental health and overall wellness. The age-old saying that your health is your wealth will now be illuminated to us, like many other things, at this time.
The first thing to acknowledge and normalise for yourself in that this particular time has never been seen before where business-unusual is having to become business-normal. The last time we saw this was around 1918 with the Spanish Flu which killed more than 50 million people globally- many of us would not have lived through that for current experience savviness. Here are some quick tips that I have practised personally and shared professionally, at this time.
✔️ Stay calm: This is the moment to avoid falling into an irrational panic. When we panic we engage our irrational brain-which can very easily lead to use making poor judgement calls.
✔️ Practice stringent hygiene: We have to start with the basics of keeping our hands and surfaces that we touch, clean and sanitised at all times. This message needs to modelled and strictly enforced for any employees or customers in your value chain.
✔️ Practice good self-care: When we are confronted by consistent stress - as we are at this time -we can find ourselves becoming run-down and burnt-out. This will impair our ability to function and most importantly will weaken our immune systems. Thus potentially, making us more vulnerable to becoming sick at this time. At this time we need all our wits and good clear minds for innovative thinking to re-engineer our businesses and to being COVID-Proof.
✔️ Practice social distancing at all costs: If you have a front-line face to face business you really have to resort to exhausting all options for online trading. Where this is not possible or allowed within the lockdown rules; you have to keep yourself, your staff and customers safe. It is difficult to be effective in an environment where you safety is threatened. This makes for an unsafe psychological environment, which puts you, your staff and your customers unsafe.
✔️ Stay connected: While social or physical distance must be the order of the day; staying socially connected is an absolute must at this time. We know clinically that people who have good social support when facing any biopsychosocial challenge will recover better and faster than those without adequate social support. Use your virtual platforms to stay connected to family, friends, colleagues and your customers. Share your experiences and vulnerabilities with them openly and honestly and hold space for them to do the same with you. This creates potential for human intimacy as never seen before. The sentiment goes that people who survive trauma together form deep bonds which they may not have been able to do while it was life as usual.
✔️ Find and maintain balance: It is quite easy for us to get sucked into the abyss of working 25-hour days. This is not desirable at this time-or ever! Work out a schedule for yourself that prioritises your health and the health of your business. Make time for medical appointments. Seek professional mental health help if you are struggling with anxiety, depression, obsessive- compulsive disorder or any other mental health challenge. Psychologists and psychiatrists are also part of the essential worker team and we are here to support you.
I hope these tips help to bolster you in keeping yourself and your small business alive and afloat at this time. Be safe and stay well.
Bradley R. Daniels
MA CMHW (New York University) BA Hons (Applied Psychology) BA (Law)- Wits University
Clinical PsychologistHuman Performance & Employee Wellness Coach
I am a HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) registered Clinical Psychologist in private practice. I have many years of corporate wellness experience in my role as a Human Resources Practitioner in FMCG environment in my younger career; and over the last 10 years as a psychologist, working in the employee wellness space. My experience for working with crisis situations was deepened by working with MSF (Médecin Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders) during the Ebola outbreak. I supported returning field workers during their time of quarantine. I also worked for the Department of Correctional Services where I provided mental health care to those incarcerated. Here, I worked with other dangerous diseases such as TB patients, cancer and AIDS in conditions of confinement. My specialist training at New York University (NYU) in mental health counselling and wellness lends itself perfectly to supporting clients with holistic wellness at times of crisis or negative health incidents. I am passionate to work in the fields of Cross-Cultural Psychology and with diverse populations-as mastered working at The Institute for Human Identity(ihi) in NYC and International House-NYC. My skills for working precisely and efficiently under pressure has been sharpened working at the African continent’s biggest academic hospital Chris Hani Baragwanath (Adult Psychiatry Unit).
All these joint experiences AND my own reality as a Small Business, have enhanced my competency to be able to support Your Small Business at this difficult time in the clutches of COVID-19.