30 Tips On How To Deal With Anxiety About Your Store’s Future

store owner looking out window

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It started with a simple question, “How do I overcome anxiety?” It came from a retailer dealing with all the stresses of the supply chain, fewer employees, and inflation worries.

Remember, you are the ones who build community, who help people connect, the ones who provide stability. You must realize your place in your neighborhood so getting a handle on anxiety is key.

Is there a difference between fear and anxiety? Yes. Fear is usually specific: You’re afraid of a vicious dog. Anxiety comes afterward when you fear all dogs in all circumstances. Anxiety is more generalized, which is why it can be difficult to deal with. And an anxious thought like that doesn't have to end in a panic attack.

Yes, you made it through the worst of this pandemic, but many retailers are still anxious about the future.

What triggers anxiety?

Most of us reach a breaking point caused by too much news, too much uncertainty in a relationship, a stressful situation with family, or the stress of not having enough money to make payroll or to pay our bills.

Does generalized anxiety go away if you ignore it? I wish I could say yes, but that just doesn’t work. It’s as if you’re trying to tell yourself a lie.

You can’t make the trigger disappear by pretending it's not there. That’s how you end up with a heart attack or lose your business.

From my experience, if you see anxiety for what it is, a feeling of helplessness, you can use that and its accompanying fear to gain leverage on yourself.

What is leverage?

Leverage is seeing the results of inaction and then taking steps so you won’t fulfill that nightmare.  For your business, it might be having to project what it would feel like to tell your parents who founded the business that you have to close.

Once you have leverage on yourself and accept you are feeling anxious, you don’t yearn for the past or fear the future. You stay in the flow of the moment as Oprah Winfrey says 

Why are retailers so anxious? They had to completely rearrange their daily routines and continually adapt and quickly change how they trained their employees, cleaned their stores, and operated their businesses. All that uncertainty takes a huge toll on the strongest of spirits.

I know for me anxiety could often start with a surprising fact or expense. From there, my brain can go on overload, asking, “And if that happened, what bad thing would that lead to?”

Left unchecked, it can take you down a spiral and leave you numb and hopeless. It goes beyond just having a negative thought. We’ve all been there.

That’s why it is so important to stop anxiety from growing.

I asked my Facebook fans how they were dealing with stress and what they would tell an anxious retailer about how to deal with anxiety. Their suggestions helped me compile this list.

Here are 30 simple and effective ways to battle anxiety without medication, drugs, or alcohol.

  1. Be extra gentle with yourself, emotionally and mentally. It is easy to fall into the trap that tells you you're not doing enough and feel even more anxious. Then you run the risk of just shutting down, which helps no one. 
  2. Make a new to-do list at closing. Making it the last thing you do at work allows your mind to prepare for the next day. You are training your brain to look forward to possibility.
  3. Reorganize the sales floor and work on a plan of action. When you find yourself aware you are in an anxiety loop, use the time to focus. It is the key to discovering what you want; then working out how to achieve it.
  4. Find the opportunity, not the fear. Keep your goal in front of you to get through this and be a better business. Whether you are selling merchandise online, having virtual shopping appointments, or doing live videos, there are a lot of opportunities out there, so set your resolve to find and go after those.
  5. Find or inject humor whenever possible. Making someone laugh can help ease stress as long as it isn’t at someone else’s expense.  
  6. Focus on what you do well and regroup in weak areas. While much has changed since Covid-19, retail is still a game of being brilliant on the basics. Lead with your strengths.
  7. Be forgiving if you don’t get everything on your list done in a day. If you don't get to a task, don’t just dump it into the next day but assign it to a date. I can't tell you how many post-it notes I have used where I just copied and added on and felt stressed. Now I have to schedule a time to do it rather than just list it, which gives me control of the feeling.
  8. Call your customers. A simple “How are you?” personal phone call connects you to making someone else’s day which lifts both of you up and deepens your bond. If you’re stressed, imagine how your customers feel. Reach out to them. This is a perfect time to express empathy and to foster those relationships.
  9. Change your anxious self-talk to Never Give Up. When you repeat Never Give Up, it gives you the backbone to choose creativity over fretting.
  10. Role play. We all are a bit rusty on our soft skills of talking to customers. If your sales process is well-trained, the associate should be able to adapt to any situation.
  11. Remind yourself that customers want to shop in stores. No matter the product, online sales have slowed overwhelmingly, and brick-and-mortar retail is the magnet.
  12. Start a daily gratitude list. Each day will bring something new to add to it, and when you feel stressed, you can balance your fears with things you found meaningful. A retailer once complained about how awful 2020 was when a friend interrupted him. “2020 is a great year - your son is alive.” He had been diagnosed with brain cancer, underwent treatment, and is on the road to recovery. Writing it out lets you remember how much you have rather than what you are afraid you won't.
  13. Do something challenging. Face your fears about doing live videos; get in front of your audience and Just. Do. It.
  14. Do something positive for your community. Every time you do something to help others, it comes back to help you, too, and leaves you feeling more positive. The old adage, "You'll get everything you want in life if you first help others get what they want," is still true - maybe even more so now.
  15. Get out into nature. Birds, frogs, crickets, and other sights and sounds remind us there’s so much more out there. I did this on Sunday, and it was so helpful to me.
  16. Dive into what you’ve been putting off. Work on your website or make it easier for customers to shop via social media.
  17. Be kind to yourself. Our minds are like sponges soaking it all in and turning us into shadows of the courageous people we want to be. It’s okay to notice anxious thoughts; you just don’t want to dwell on them.
  18. Project into the future. Visualize yourself with the problem you are anxious about already solved, then work back to what you need to do to get there. Then  ask yourself better questions around “How do I? Your focus stays on the solution and not the problem. Once you see the end result, it's just a matter of connecting the dots.
  19. Focus on what you can control. Anxiety and worry are usually over something you can’t control like the economy or the weather. As you unpack an anxious moment, evaluate what you have control over. Then focus on those things. Take one day at a time. Turn off the news and focus on the positive things around you and your business. Stay busy; innovate and find new ways to promote your business. Be open to change.
  20. Intense anxiety is a moment. It is not forever. Remind yourself as soon as you get that anxious feeling, it is just a moment. Listen to your body. Use one of these skills to get your head back in the game.
  21. Move your body. Tony Robbins talks about body movement to get into a peak state. Part of the science behind that is that physical activity helps release serotonin which regulates mood.  Daily exercise is ideal if only to walk around your neighborhood.
  22. Take a deep breath. Deep breathing sounds easy, and it is. When you remember to take a slow, deep breath it lowers your heart rate.
  23. Meditate. Just 10 minutes of focused, mindful meditation helps you decompress and silence those nagging voices in your head. If you don’t, your body will make the time later in an inconvenient way.
  24. Notice when harmful anxiety starts. Unless you take action to deal with and halt anxiety, you rewire the brain to say, "This is normal," and it becomes a much harder habit to break than adopting mindfulness.
  25. They’ll be back. To quote Hamilton’s King George, “You’ll be back.” " You know they will. You may have to remind yourself when traffic is down, and shoppers are still cautious.
  26. Stop comparisons. It doesn’t matter how your competition is doing. Your four walls are all that really can be controlled, so find time to work on them. Focusing on others will only bring you down and distract you from what’s important to your business, and that’s taking care of your customers.
  27. Look at your weak spots. What are your salespeople doing with the opportunities they are getting? How are they cultivating their customer base to get new business? Are they doing the simple things they think don't matter, like calling after delivery? When you release the grip of the past, believing opportunities won't come again, you are free to make new choices. 
  28. Take breaks and leave your office. It can be counter-intuitive, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself for the long distance. Even just setting your smartphone timer for five minutes to look out your window and try to find a leaf moving, a bird, or a cloud can interrupt the anxious voice and bring you focus.
  29. Be realistic and examine your business data. Brainstorm what it would take to change and form a plan. Fear is often a result of feeling out of control.
  30. See your day before it happens. Jim Carey used to drive to the top of Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, staring out over the sparkling lights and saying, "I already own all of this."

Get enough sleep, adopt a healthy diet, and don’t drink too much booze or caffeine.

And remember, it's not just you feeling anxiety; it's also your employees.

If you feel you cannot cope, don't hesitate to consult a mental health professional, especially if you are dealing with depression.

 See also, How Retail Employees Can Maintain Their Sanity

In Sum

No one wants to shop in a store where the owner is like Chicken Little, consumed with the idea the sky is falling. Yet that is what we are bombarded with daily from the news and our social posts. To combat anxiety, stress, and worry, focus on what you can do at the moment.

Focus on how you are the stable driver of the community. 

How to deal with anxiety? Notice that worry voice is a symptom. Don’t ignore it. You can even thank it for reminding you to guard your thoughts.

Then ask yourself better questions, “What do I want my life to look like next year? What’s one thing I can do for someone else today?”

Get leverage on yourself. Dream what is possible. Make a bold plan. Ask for help. Take action. Follow through with your staff.

We are all maneuvering through uncharted territory. Trust your experience and gut instincts that brought you through past challenges and anxious feelings.

Take time to stop, reflect on wins, and reach out to help others.

You can do this.

I work with some of the biggest, best brands in the world on how to become more authentic in an increasingly inauthentic world where technology is driving everything. If you’re looking to create a remarkable experience with your retail sales team, you need the best retail sales training. Visit salesrx.com to learn more or download the outline.

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