Keeping your oxygen mask on

This week I’m reprising some emails I sent out early in the pandemic to help remind folks of the basics and make sure we’re still focused on keeping everyone connected. Earlier the subject was the team and clients; today I want to talk about taking care of your company’s #1 asset, you!

Tame the anxiety

When we’re scared, our body reduces blood flow to our pre-frontal cortex, making it harder to think and reason. This is not ideal!

If you’re feeling anxious, the first step is to breathe.

Your body’s reaction to fear, and your body’s reaction to excitement, are identical except when we’re afraid, we hold our breath. So breathing can turn fear into excitement.

Spending time in gratitude is also very helpful to calm fear and anxiety. Write it down every day, “What am I grateful for?” then list at least three things.

Lastly, don’t listen to the voices that come in the night. They are always distorted and false!


Your focus needs to be on the facts you can control.

Take a good look at your numbers. What happens if vendor payments get delayed (some will), or projects push or get canceled (some will), or employees get sick (some will). What happens? Be specific. Look at the numbers and the facts.

Plan some scenarios. If we can only close X% of projects, we need to cut costs by Y% (which likely means payroll). Make a plan, it will be wrong, but it’s a plan!

Make decisions. Set a deadline; you will execute your plan by Feb 1st (or whatever date is right for you).

What is within your control? Focus on that.


Don’t forget that proper sleep and rest underly all of this. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep, you are working as effectively as you would with a couple of beers in you. If you go a week like that, you are in a severe cognitive deficit.

Do you think you’ll need creativity right now? Scientists studying brain scans discovered that creativity happens when your brain is at rest (like in the shower or driving).

To be the leader you need to be in this time, you need sleep, and you need downtime.

If you don’t have what you need, you are a danger to your company.

We’ve made it this far; if we stay focused, stay safe, and keep our businesses going, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

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