What To Do In A Storm

Many people are suffering under the weight of this global crisis. Here are some things you can do to reduce the stress and anxiety

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

Many people are suffering under the weight of this global crisis. Here are some things you can do to reduce the stress and anxiety

Because of the global crisis, you may have lost your business or job overnight and feel anxious and helpless about the future. I have been where you are, and I truly empathise. Although positive perspectives tend not to hold much water under these conditions, I want to briefly share a personal story from 2008 to 9 and offer some advice that might help.

In 2008, things fell apart on a global scale. 18 months previous, as I spent substantial personal capital on a business venture (everything I had and more), I thought to myself, this could all go tits up here.

And I was right.

But even as the prospect of losing everything was on my mind, I went ahead anyway. That was the beginning of the worst, but most important period in my professional and personal life. However, if you suggested to me at the time that this was a possibility, it’s likely you would have got a firm punch in the face.

I was naïve, arrogant, afraid and stupid. All the things young business owners inevitably are at this early stage of business. Today, the conditions of the crash are still vivid in my mind and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

The business limped along for another two years, but by 2010 I had to close the doors. It was something I had worked hard on from 25 years of age, and it was everything to me — it was me. As such, I took the failure personally.

Despite going back into business immediately, nothing much changed, and within four years, a second business failed. The economy was still in the shit and my idea of myself was no better. Debt collectors and banks were on my doorstep, and financial pressure was immense.

One Saturday I took a chance and brought my kids for a breakfast at a local café. I figured I might just have enough in my account to pay for it. As I handed my card to the waitress, I thought this could be really embarrassing… but the card was excepted — just about. I had pence to spare. This pattern continued for several years.

Then one night as I walked down George’s Street in Dublin after college, I watched people in restaurants and bars enjoying themselves. I thought, for fuck’s sake — I should be able to do that.

After a long period of self-reproach and self-imposed isolation, something shifted for the better.

“Little secrets tremors…turned to quake…
The smallest oceans still get…big, big waves…”

— Eddie Vedder

I know at this moment things are pretty shit for many people and I’d like to offer an easy way out — but there isn’t one. The sharp and deep effect of the virus on the economy and on the lives of people has been unprecedented, and the reality is that it may take years for things to recover.

For me, the shit lasted from 2008 to 2015 or perhaps even longer, so I fully understand what you may be going through.

The fundamental advice I want to offer is that in the absence of clarity, and certainty, you have little option but to tie yourself firmly to the mast and ride it out.

If you’ve lost your job or business in the last few weeks, here’s what tying yourself to the mast looks like in real terms;

  1. Put the safety and survival of yourself and your immediate family first. Secure your home — talk to your bank and get a stay on your mortgage. Most governments have put in place measures that ensure you won’t be turfed out. This safety net wasn’t in place back in 2008, and many people lost everything. So immediately you are in a better place. Your home is your safe place so make that a priority.

  2. Sell everything you don’t need. When I lost my business, I took all the equipment, tools, machinery etc. and I sold it. I took what I could for it and ensured I had money in my pocket, even if it was small. The worst that can happen in the short term is that you can’t pay for food and shelter so do what you have to here.

  3. Give the debt collectors the middle finger. Maybe this time it will be slightly different and these bastards won’t be chasing anyone, but if they do, tell them to fuck off. It’s what I did (amongst other actions from a legal perspective) to keep them off my back. Eventually they gave up. Your credit rating may end up in the manure, but so be it. You’ll survive.

  4. Keep to a daily routine. This is vital for your psychological and physiological survival. When things went to shit in 2009, I withdrew from many things. I threw myself into writing, which I have continued. Running too and developed a proficiency for endurance running. The discipline and routine of running helped me stay sane and, of course, fit.

  5. Find a quiet place and spend time there. Lick your wounds for a while. The trauma of losing a business or a career can be deep, and you’ll need time to reflect. I’m not suggesting you take too long here because there is a risk of prolonging the difficulty. Rather, you should just let things sit for as long as necessary without forcing it. I have found that the way out shows itself after a while.

  6. Practice acceptance and silence. Get quiet in this private space and allow a non-judgemental mindset to develop. You need not do anything here, just allow conditions to be as they are — this is acceptance and is the first step in managing the crisis. Give yourself a break, be kind to yourself, and stress and anxiety can then dissipate.

Nobody will come riding in on a white horse to save you. You need to take action yourself. This need not be a “doing action”, it can be a “non-doing action”. In other words, follow steps 5 and 6 to diffuse the tension. Things might get shittier for a while — they did for me, but eventually things will turn.

I think what’s different about today’s crisis is that pretty much everyone is in the same boat. In 2008/09, there were those who escaped the drama. Now, allowances are being made, and it at least seems to be the case that no one is taking ruthless steps against anyone else.

Do what you can to keep self and family together — this is most critical. Look after basic needs such as food, shelter, warmth etc. Read, but not social media. There’s far too many armchair experts, drama queens, do-gooders, and speculators for these sources to be credible.

Besides, they just heighten the tension and anxiety you may already be experiencing. Instead, stay informed through trusted channels.

Someday, despite the current negative conditions, you’ll look back on all this with appreciation and say, wow, that was a ride.

Times are difficult. I’ve been there before and perhaps I can help you navigate. If you think you could benefit from a non-judgemental and independent perspective, then get in touch here.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I also write on The Creative Mind. If you like this content, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters