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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while we’re struggling with the financial stress of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s the emotional toll that deserves just as much attention. 

For Charlotte’s small businesses, owners are coping with the mental stress of reinventing products or services on the fly, terminating valued employees or counseling workers who have contracted the virus.

Licensed professional counselor LaTania Williams-McAdoo of Hopeful Expectations Counseling & Consulting Group understands the unique demands some business owners face.  

“If we don’t see clients, we don’t get paid. Depending on their technical savvy, some clients are not open to video counseling or therapy,” she said. “For those who are, we’re dealing with screen freezes and delayed audio.”  

To ease stress, Williams-McAdoo recommends self-care techniques like listening to music or guided meditations that you can find on YouTube.  

“Journaling also helps to clear your head”, she added.  

Williams-McAdoo cautions small-business owners to watch for obsessive thoughts, shortness of breath, numbness and chest pains. These signs could indicate that stress has become too much. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, she recommends contacting a mental-health counselor for help. 

LaTania Williams-McAdoo, owner of Hopeful Expectations Counseling & Consulting Group. Photo courtesy of LaTania Williams-McAdoo

For those with stretched financial resources, look for a counselor who offers sliding-scale fees. Psychology Today provides a directory of mental health services, and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The City of Charlotte is also paying attention to the toll the virus is taking on small businesses. Last month, the city’s economic development department convened alumni of its AMP UP! Charlotte business-training program for a listening session on the topic. A dominant theme was the sense of uncertainty many are experiencing.

During the session, Nia McAdoo (no relation to Williams-McAdoo) reported that she was forced to lay off most of Amped Events’ close-knit staff to preserve cash flow. The mental stress has been overwhelming.

“We laid off a dozen staff, and it’s difficult to remain optimistic when faced with so much uncertainty,” she said. “I’m fielding questions about unemployment and what’s next for the company when I have no definite answers.”   

McAdoo relies on meditation and exercise apps, like Peloton, to keep stress levels low.

To account for lost revenue, Alana Weaver-Bennett shifted her company’s business model from providing setups for birthday parties and weddings to serving the commercial sector. 

Party in a Tent – Charlotte now provides tents, tables and chairs to hospitals and clinics for temporary Covid-19 testing sites. The move required Weaver-Bennett to get clearance to operate as an essential business.   

To protect customers and staff, the company also implemented new safety procedures. Staff conducts limited-contact and contactless site visits; uses an Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectant to sanitize equipment before deliveries and pickups; and maximizes the distance between workers by limiting the number of associates on site.

To stay mentally strong, Weaver-Bennett and her husband/co-owner, Bernard, disconnect from the “not-so-positive aspects of the news,” like death tolls and unemployment. 

“We focus on things for which we are thankful — our own physical health and additional time with family — via virtual platforms,” she said.

With the statewide stay-at-home order extended through May 8, managing emotional well-being is critical. Charlotte small-business owners are adopting new ways to care for themselves during these uncertain times while also caring for our community.

Nikita J. Allen is an award-winning corporate trainer who has facilitated hundreds of CEU-accredited training workshops on behalf of not-for-profit, public and private clients around the world. Her company,...

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