As COVID-19 devastates nations and businesses, there’s a potential casualty you may not have fullly realized: your mental health. Uncertainty around the health of your family, company and employees can be overwhelming. We asked Dandapani—a Hindu priest, entrepreneur and highly rated speaker for Entrepreneurs’ Organization—how to manage stress and the mental health of your staff during this difficult period. (Dandapani is pictured above, photo by Toby Burrows.)
What is your message to entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis?
Looking after your mental health during this crisis should be every business leader’s No. 1 priority.
Why is it so important? Because if you’re operating from a place of mental chaos, everything around you is going to be in chaos: your relationships, your family and your company.
There are so many critical decisions you need to make about your businesses every day—especially in this time of crisis—and you can’t make those decisions effectively if your mental health is a mess.
How can entrepreneurs manage their stress around the pandemic and its economic fallout?
First, you need to take charge of your awareness. To do so, you need a basic understanding of the mechanics of the mind: Your mind and your awareness are different entities. You can control your awareness.
Your awareness travels to different areas within the mind. The goal is to control where your awareness goes.
The mind itself isn’t bouncing around: It’s that ball of light we call our awareness that bounces from one thing to another to another. The lesson here is that you either choose where your awareness goes, or you essentially give permission to someone else to dictate where your awareness goes.
“If you’re not in charge of your awareness, someone or something else is in charge of it.”
If you’re not in charge of your awareness, someone or something else is in charge of it. It may be your environment, TV news, your spouse, kids or family around you.
Why do you believe we need to “choose our news”?
Have you heard the saying that the five people you spend the most time with influence the way you behave?
Then, why would it be any different if you’re spending all day watching TV news? You’re giving them your time and awareness, and they’re influencing you with repetitive words and images.
I spent decades learning to control my awareness—and I’m pretty good at it. But if I were to watch the news all day, I can guarantee you it would start to influence the way I think because they broadcast repetitive words and images that take us to the fear areas of the mind.
My recommendation is to stop watching news on TV. When I want information, I go to the source, such as the World Health Organization. It’s important to get information from authorities on the subject who have your best interest at heart.
Choose your news wisely. If you don’t, it can lead to a downward spiral of fear and anxiety.
How can we protect mental health when we’re directed to stay home?
Keep your energy moving. It’s incredibly important to channel your energy into positive activities and keep it flowing.
Energy is like water. When it’s not moving, it gets stagnant. The longer it stays stagnant, the more it becomes mucky and gross. When you start moving that energy, it improves your state of mind.
It’s like when you go to a yoga class. Think about how you feel before you go and then afterward. Before, your energy is sluggish. During yoga, you’re stretching out your entire nervous system, allowing the energy to flow smoothly through the body. As a result, you feel energetic and uplifted.
“While you’re at home during this crisis, focus on easy wins to keep your energy moving.”
When my energy is moving, it’s easier to channel it to positive areas of my mind. Like a giant round boulder, when it’s just sitting there, it’s hard to move it. But once it starts moving, it’s easier to direct and channel it.
While you’re at home during this crisis, focus on easy wins to keep your energy moving. Clean or organize different areas of your house, or find creative projects to get that stagnant energy flowing. Once energy is flowing, channel it into making a plan—whether it’s a financial plan for your business or a mental health plan to keep your whole family uplifted while you’re all at home together.
Go for a run, stretch, do yoga. Clean and organize your closets or pantry. Get that energy moving, or it’s going to stagnate, which leads to depressive thoughts.
How do we support our employees’ mental health?
As EO members and all entrepreneurs who run companies weather this crisis, it’s incredibly important to take care of your mental health and that of your employees. I’m assuming that a lot of EO-member company employees are working from home right now.
One question every EO member can ask themselves is, “What are you doing to ensure that your team members maintain an uplifted mental state?”
This is a key point: All business owners need to look after the mental health of their teams right now. There’s no more crucial action than that. Your company’s success is dependent on your team, and so their mental health is everything. You absolutely cannot compromise on that.
“Your company’s success is dependent on your team, and so their mental health is everything. You absolutely cannot compromise on that.”
If they don’t have an uplifted mental state while they’re working from home, how can they perform professionally in a way that can sustain the business? It’s one thing when we’re all coming to a central office on a daily basis and can check in with and support each other.
But now your troops are all in their tents. You need to implement a plan to ensure their mental health. Most importantly: Empower them with tools in how to deal with this. Encourage your team members to channel their energy and make progress in some area of their lives every day. Don’t make it complicated. You don’t have to organize virtual yoga or host unwieldy video conferences.
Consider the long term. Eventually this crisis will blow over. What will be the condition of your employees coming back to your office if you do nothing now to support their mental health?
You don’t want a team that’s broken. When they reunite and get back to business, employees need to be able to pick up where they left off and move forward—at their very best.
EO members, be sure to check the EO COVID-19 Communications Centre for the latest webinars and resources from the EO community. We’re in this together. #EOTogether