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

anxious retailer

worried retailerIt started with a simple question to me, “How do I overcome anxiety?” It came from a retailer dealing with all the stresses of reopening, cleaning, hiring, and training employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

Retailers are susceptible to doubt and the anxiety that comes from nagging questions like, "What if I have to close? What if I get the virus? What if shoppers don't return?”

Getting past that Coronavirus Retail trap takes keeping your mind engaged.

What triggers anxiety?

Most of us reach a breaking point caused by too much news about the pandemic, too much uncertainty in a relationship, a stressful situation with family, or the stress of not enough money to make payroll or to pay your 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 go away by just ignoring it. That’s how you end up with a heart attack or the loss of your business.

I can say from my own 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 continue to adapt and make quick changes in 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, many times anxiety could 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 the drain 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. By making it the last thing you do at work, it allows your mind to prepare for the next day. You are training your brain to look forward to possibility.
  3. Reorganize the salesfloor 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 discover what you want; then work 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 for both of you 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 on 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. That’s being compounded by wearing masks. If your sales process is well-trained, the associate should be able to adapt to any situation.
  11. Remind yourself that customers will return. Unless you sell bicycles or other in-demand items right now, you have to remind yourself of that fact when traffic is down and shoppers are cautious. They will be back.
  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 that you found meaningful. A retailer told me he was complaining 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 during Covid-19 - maybe even more so.
  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 of that fact 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 really 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 that 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. Even with coronavirus anxiety here are lots of opportunities to grab onto. You can’t just hope business will return or wait for it to happen on its own.
  28. Take breaks and leave your office. It can be counter-intuitive right now, 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 face the facts of what is going on. 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, stare out over the sparkling lights, and say out loud, "I already own all of this."

Oh, and 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 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. To combat anxiety, stress, and worry, focus on what you can do in the moment.

How to deal with anxiety? Notice that worry-voice as a symptom. Don’t ignore it. You can even say thank you to 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.

You can sign up for my free retail video training on rebuilding trust and reopening below.

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