In times of unprecedented turmoil, the chaos, anxiety, confusion and grief that we are experiencing are opportunities to stretch.

I thought all was lost when my husband, Steve, died suddenly of cancer, leaving me and our six-year-old daughter to cope. In this new world of physical distancing and skyrocketing coronavirus death rates, what can the uncertainty teach us both personally and professionally?

On social media, entrepreneurs and business owners are describing the exact feelings I had during some of the darkest moments after my husband’s death. Many, like me, are feeling distracted, foggy, or confused. They’re longing for their lives to return to normal and their businesses to run the way they once did. Constant scrambling to change day-to-day routines, sometimes on a moment’s notice, is exhausting. Many are worried about the well=being of their employees, as well as their newly homebound spouses and children. Hearts are breaking over jobs lost, businesses shuttered, and world events postponed. These are all forms of grief.

This is tough, but if you consider these five key tips, it might be a bit easier to endure this unprecedented time.

1. Put Planning on Hold

Today is all we have. It’s all we’ve ever had. When Steve died, I stopped all my planning. I assumed I would die in 5 months just like he did. So what did it matter? I couldn’t plan for more than an hour. Now, we are all feeling it because we can’t even fathom what will happen in the next week. Suddenly, the entire world feels very uncertain and out of our control. Our future feels completely unknown. Our perspective has shifted from the future to the present. And that’s okay. Take a break from planning for a moment. Today is the day we have been given. Live in it.

2. Acknowledge the Physiological Impact of Grief

Fogginess is a common symptom of grief. After Steve died, my brain went into overload processing all my emotions – confusion, anger, anxiety, despair and more. As I tried to bear with my situation, my brain simply stopped computing. Our brains are trying to sort out what the present and future holds. Grief makes it very hard to focus on anything else, thus affecting concentration, cognition and even memory. It won’t feel like this forever. Now is the time to recognize that what you are going through is difficult. Sometimes I put my hand over my heart to feel the life beat within me and remind myself that I am grieving for a very good reason.

3. Embrace the Distraction

This pandemic is causing mass distraction because it is impacting every single person. This distraction is global, even universal. Many of us are very concerned about elderly or immunocompromised family members. Parents are feeling crushed by the increased needs of their children at home, who are also feeling anxiety and fear. We can’t seem to tear ourselves away from the news, social media or the need to hear our loved ones’ voices. Many are concerned about their professional futures and the businesses they have built. All of this, and more, are distracting from our work – work we love. Identifying your distraction gives you the grace to safely feel the emotion. We can’t ignore it or stick our heads in the sand. We have to embrace our daily reality – a reality full of distractions – in order to move forward. 

4. Become an Overachiever in Sleep

Lethargy and a lack of energy is very common during grief and uncertain times. Many of us are stuck at home feeling worried, depressed and aimless. The emotional toll of the pandemic cannot be stressed enough. Everyone is feeling a total lack of control over their own lives. Physical distancing requirements have canceled many of the ways we soothe our anxiety – concerts, hugs, dinner parties, religious events, and gatherings. We miss our friends and family. As the body attempts to reconcile all of these rapid changes with what it has known, it’s on overload. Your body does not need to clean the basement or reorganize the pantry right now. Put the vacuum down! Your body needs sleep. This is not a luxury. This is a requirement for well-being. When I sleep well, I can handle the day ahead. When I don’t, I fall apart before it can even start. Overachieve now in sleep.

5. Cut Everything You Do in Half. Simplify.

Life as we know it has changed. Significantly. These changes are rapid and unrelenting. A non-stop firehose of change management. We are supposed to continue working, many now from a new location: home. Some of us are taking on the role of teacher to our children. We have people in our space who are not usually there. And we’re supposed to be doing those projects we always wanted to do on top of it?! It’s TOO MUCH. Stop anything non-essential and focus solely on mission-critical projects, both at work and home. Immediately identify what you are saying YES to and what you are saying NO to. Simplify. Right now.

This is a hard time. As business owners, it’s a moment to stretch our coping and leadership skills and to pivot our strategies in order to not just survive, but also thrive on the other side.

Leslie Barber is the Founder of Grief Warrior, a company that brings recognition, respect and reconnection to the grieving. Grief Warrior offers corporate workshops and trainings on grief, 1:1 and group coaching, and heartfelt sympathy gifts for the grieving. Leslie has spent the last two decades either running her own business (NutraBella, Leslie Barber & Co., Grief Warrior) or supporting other entrepreneurs with running theirs while at Intuit QuickBooks.

Home stock photo by Halfpoint/Shutterstock