Turning Stress into Strength

As retailers across New Zealand closed their stores two weeks ago, there were many unanswered questions, and a great sense of uncertainty. The rollercoaster of emotions may have left you feeling overwhelmed.

Last week we heard a number of retailers voicing their concerns:

  • Uncertainty of when the businesses will re-open
  • Which staff can they afford to keep on, and the wellbeing of their team
  • How long they will wait for the wage subsidy to be processed
  • Confusion about how the rules apply to them

At a logical level, we know that now is not the time to panic. Easier said than done – right?  So why is this simple concept so incredibly difficult to implement? 

Humans are intrinsically programmed to stay alive, and suddenly we are faced with the reality that our very survival is under threat. This includes the survival of our businesses, our families, our livelihoods and all those connected to us. Worst of all – it seems to have crept us on us like a thief in the night!

So, what’s with the constant nauseous feelings in our stomachs, or the tension in our necks and shoulders? Perhaps you’re not sleeping well or have noticed a change in appetite. All these are signs that we are experiencing a fight or flight response – survival mode.

When faced with a threat like Covid-19, which potentially affects every aspect of our lives, our brains spring into action to protect us. The brain sets off an alarm system, to alert our bodies of impending danger. A chain reaction causes the release of stress hormones, that increases our heart rates, spikes blood pressure and increases sugars in the bloodstream. This complex alarm system also affects the brain regions that control mood and motivation, and temporarily stunts problem solving abilities.

What can you do?

  • Stop, take a breath, connect with your body and calm your mind. You will be far more solutions-focused in a calm state.
  • There are some great online mindfulness resources than can really help reinvigorate problem solving abilities.
  • Once you are calm, dig deep, and brainstorm the positives in the situation – even if you struggle to see them, they will be there.
  • Focus on the things that are within your control.
  • Use the time to work on the business:
    • Do the much-needed planning you’ve been putting off for so long.
    • Develop a contingency plan for a variety of scenarios that might play out in future.
    • Know where you make your money, and put more time into the most profitable parts of your business that have the greatest potential for profit.
    • Look at having an online shop after the lockdown period – if you don’t already have one.
  • Keep in regular contact with your team, and show them some love. Kindness and communication goes a long way – never underestimate its power.
  • Identify what you can do to take teamwork to the next level (in a virtual sense).
  • Be mindful of the way you’re leading your team — are you being the strong leader you want to be?
  • Keep active, it helps to rid the body of the excessive amounts of adrenaline and cortisol, which makes us feel stressed. 

Anything positive you do will help to alleviate the stress, so break it down, make a list and tick things off as you go.  Ticking items off a checklist releases small amounts of dopamine (a “feelgood hormone”) that then fuels us to get more done!

You’ve got this!

By Natalie Frauenstein
Retail Operations Specialist
Retail NZ

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