The anxiety of reopening and challenges facing businesses

Updated: Nov 15

Lockdown is ending; it’s what we all wanted… but in a somewhat uncharted business environment – particularly as government support and funding evaporate like monsoonal rain from the Savanah – for some, it presents a whole new range of anxiety as they forge ahead.

It’s been a hard two years for everyone, particularly those with anxiety and depression, not to mention Autism. Mental health has been at an all-time low. But the harsh reality, both now and historically, is that mental health is secondary to survival, as in all crises.

We have been asked to do so many things that are uncomfortable or that we don’t like. It’s been the first time many of us privileged folks have been told what to do for our own safety, and it’s been fair to say we sucked at it. We learnt slowly, many of us kicking and screaming like it was ripping our soul out. Who would have thought self-preservation, perspective and caring for our community during a global pandemic would be so hard for some?

I digress. It’s been hard for us all, and just as we have adapted to the new normal of lockdown, the many and varied ways we had to operate our businesses just to keep the doors open, and now we begin to open up again, anxiety spikes for many.

Ch-ch-change This has been the motto of the pandemic. So many changes so fast on so many different fronts. And it’s hard to keep up.

As an autistic person, this has personally been my greatest challenge. Running scenarios in my head, planning the future, planning an outing, all done and redone a million times.

It’s exhausting… and something that we will all need to be doing as we reopen. What we do know is things will constantly change based on health advice, new research, politics (sadly), public health data and how messages are communicated.

As silly as it sounds, I’ve found it helps to expect and plan for change. I’ve been reading Taleb’s work, “The Black Swan”, which I’ve found quite unintentionally helpful during the pandemic. It outlines how we assume we know all possible outcomes, when in fact, we don’t. What lies outside our assumed range of possible outcomes is a black swan.

So, as we open up and things start to change and change again, try to notice black swans, and see the beauty in them rolling with whatever comes your way. Control of self rather than control of the world can help to reduce the mental load.

We all need support… financial or otherwise During lockdown, there has been a vast array of advertised grants and financial support available, but not all businesses were eligible, applied, or were approved. It was and is a mess.

Even the seemingly simple “Job keeper” program saw many businesses miss out, and most of the money spent went to businesses that saw an increase in profits (Harvey Norman I’m looking at you).

It’s been a proverbial minefield of paperwork and red tape to waddle through while trying to juggle running a constantly pivoting business in a pandemic. Many found the work and mental load too much – and rightly so. As we begin to peek out of the once locked door, many funding opportunities have come to an end, and anxiety grows as the support net (real or imagined) is removed.

In these uncertain times, I have a recipe that may help balance internal and external to help us move forward and away from needing fickle grants to survive. For me meditation is key. Before starting anything, before making decisions, make sure you aren’t in an acute emotional state. Meditation brings in more calm and more rational thought.

Our next ingredient is data. Not what you reckon or remember but do a deep dive into your business data from the last few years. Identify your core strengths and look at clearly simplified offerings you can put out to the market. Check your margins are still ok in the new world and reconnect with suppliers to check. Post lockdown is about simplicity – for you, your suppliers, and the customer.

And finally, with a clearer head, and a solid data back understanding of your historical sales, core offering and pricing, our final ingredient is identifying your core customer. Are there particular groups of people that LOVE your core offering and have supported you? Your mission is to engage these groups and connect with them in a targeted personal, and meaningful way.

The result sh