By Chris Olsen
Last week, I participated in a book discussion with Jen Gotch, founder of ban.do, author of New York Times bestseller, “The Upside of Being Down” and mental health advocate. The event was hosted by Julie Burton, the founder of ModernWell, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based coworking space for women. While the talk was originally scheduled as an in-person event, I really enjoyed it as a Zoom event. It felt way more intimate—like we were all hanging out at home, chatting and sipping from giant tumblers of LaCroix and vodka. (OK, my tumbler may have been the only one with vodka in it, but did anyone else who participated feel like it was a girls’ night with Jen?)
The discussion was engaging and covered a number of topics from Jen’s upbringing and relationships to mental health and her entrepreneurial journey. I related to her sometimes contentious relationship with her mom and asked when it changed for the two of them. For me, that shift happened in my mid-twenties—just a few years before I lost my mom to cancer (and I’m so thankful it did!). In Jen’s case, everything changed when she got married and her now ex-husband became a sort of buffer in family situations.
Jen was featured in a Forbes interview this week and provided advice for navigating a crisis. Much of what she shared in the interview was part of last week’s book discussion as well—here are 7 ways Jen recommends coping during a global pandemic or any crisis:
Identify the voice on the loudspeaker in your head. During a crisis, sometimes the internal voice that’s the loudest is the one that was hardwired to keep you from being eaten by lions a long time ago. When that voice blares in and you aren’t in actual physical danger, tune it out. Practice this often and Jen says that eventually, “You will barely hear it at all.”
Don’t worry about the what ifs. Navigating a crisis can often lead to thoughts of future events you have no control over. Jen’s advice is not to get caught up in negative thoughts about what “could” happen. If your brain is spinning with what ifs, pause and consider what is happening in that very moment, and start by tackling that first.
Focus on your breathing. If you’re struggling to manage your thoughts, Jen says, “Focusing on your breath, even for 30 seconds, can change your mental and physical state. It’s something you have been practicing your whole life, so you’ll be great at it.” Next time, take a deep breath in, hold it for five seconds and breathe out. Repeat as needed.
Get your body moving. When managing your thoughts seems impossible, move your body. Jen’s favorite way to do this is dancing, but any form of movement will help to get you “out of your head and into your body, plus it connects with the emotional centers of the brain and can actually prompt an emotional reaction that often comes in the form of joy.”
Reflect on how resilient you are. As an entrepreneur, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already experienced adversity and made it through to the other side. Jen finds taking time to recall those moments can be really helpful. Remind yourself: “I have been through really hard things before and I came out on the other side and I can do that again and again.”
Practice self-care from the inside out. When it comes to self-care, instead of focusing on the external (and all of the health/wellness/beauty services currently unavailable), shift your focus inward. Jen believes we hold a lot of information to help care for and heal ourselves. Start by asking, “What do I truly need in this moment in order to feel okay—not all better, just OK?”
Identify the tiny upsides. For Jen, looking for an upside in every crisis—even if it’s tiny—is a game-changer. “That one act has changed my relationship with challenging times and makes me feel empowered rather than defeated.” My upside? For me, the months of March and April have flown by at warp speed. As an extrovert who looks forward to connecting with others in person again soon, it would be far more challenging if each day of the stay home order passed in slow motion. What’s your tiny upside?
Photo: Jen Gotch
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support womxn-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.