Guest article by Lisa Townsend of Change Your Badge
There is no avoiding the fact (I’ve tried, believe me) that the start of 2021 continues to bring massive uncertainty and imbalance into the lives of many entrepreneurs. I’ve had lots of concerned friends and family ask me the dreaded question ‘How is business?’ (answers on the back of a postcard please) yet very few ever ask ‘How are you feeling?’.
It’s not surprising because not many of us choose to take the time to get curious about our emotions. In fact, despite being emotional beings most of the time we’d rather poke our eye out with a sharp stick than start a conversation about feelings. And it is practically a taboo subject in our professional lives and in business. But I think that without these conversations the result is that we never really develop any tools for accepting and managing our feelings alongside our work.
And in my experience, we definitely need them.
When something hard happens I react emotionally, Brene Brown describes it as being emotionally hooked. I start to feel very wobbly, my mind goes into overdrive, and I feel like I’m behaving irrationally. I hate the feeling of being out of control.
My immediate reaction is to get rid of the feeling and one of the easiest ways for me to do this is to numb it out. For me, that looks like doing more work, saying yes to things when I am already maxed out, working longer hours and working when I’m tired. My tiny brain becomes overloaded and this starts to affect my decision making. I can’t focus, I can end up jumping from task to task not doing anything well and eventually my work grinds to a halt. I end up worn out, grumpy, and resentful towards those who won’t act on my advice.
Nowadays I know better than to try and ignore the warning signs from my emotions, especially when it comes to running my business. Let’s face it, the challenges of being self-employed guarantee a whole rollercoaster of challenges and emotional hooks so getting curious about your feelings could be the most important skill you gain for you and your business in 2021.
If you are feeling like you’ve lost your focus and don’t know how to get it back, then getting curious about how you are feeling might be just the starting place for you to get back on track. I’ve learnt that tending to my feelings first makes me feel better, helps me act more kindly towards myself and also enables me to refocus and get the job done.
So what can you do?
Here are my go-to tools for getting curious about your feelings.
Notice – get awareness on how your emotions are showing up for you. You can use these questions to check in with yourself when you feel an emotion well up or you can imagine the last time you felt your emotions taking control. It can be very helpful to write down or journal what you notice. If you’d like a more structured way of doing this feel free to check out my worksheet on overwhelm.
What can I feel? – name the emotions you are having and the sensations you can feel in your body.
What do I think? – where are your thoughts taking you at this moment, are they rooted in the past, present or future?
What do I do? – in what way do you want to react right now?
Be self-compassionate – remind yourself that emotions are part of the human experience! We all have them and learning to accept them with kindness and compassion instead of numbing out or taking them out on others is a skill. Running your own business can be a lonely place at times so connecting up with other kind, emotional, non robot individuals could help remind you of this.
Whatever technique you choose to try, the more emotional awareness you develop the better able you will be to spot your hooks. Tending to those first will put you in a stronger position to deal with the challenges that running your own business brings and you’ll have a technique you can use again and again for when you lose your focus.
Lisa Townsend, Change Your Badge helps women entrepreneurs with their focus, planning and overwhelm. She lives in a tiny village on the wilds of the Cornish moorland with her family and dog Bertie. One of her favourite ways to manage overwhelm is to make a massive mind-map with crayons.