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We’re Exhausted! Send Help. A Stress Management Guide for Business Owners.

Collin Gabriel April 25, 2021


Gavin D’avanther (00:00:00):

Everyone, including business owners are suffering from a lot of extra stress right now, and that makes creativity and invention and things like planning for your business and pivoting so much harder. And yet we all still have to navigate our lives and our families and, uh, figure out what to do with our businesses. Um, so we’re thrilled to be here on a Monday morning with you. Welcome again, you’re with livelihood Northwest for a special topic learning session, and we’re gonna launch into, um, the guest speaker in just a moment. Our livelihood Northwest our mission is to foster business, sustainability and growth for historically underserved entrepreneurs. Within local communities, we provide exceptional business development support services to promote lifelong learning, empowerment and positive economic impact. So this morning we are thrilled to have, uh, Vanessa Washington, as our guests expert, as the owner of Sankofa counseling, she practices personal trauma counseling.

Gavin D’avanther (00:00:58):

And as the owner of the village village resiliency project, she also does workshops and classes for organizations about managing and handling people who are recovering from trauma and how we as a community can be part of their solutions. Um, so she’s going to go through a presentation. You’re welcome to post questions in the chat as she goes through. And then we’ll also do some questions afterwards again, at the end, we’ll stop streaming in order to do any private questions. So I’m going to stop sharing. I’m going to pass this to Vanessa. Good morning and welcome. Let me get my screen set for y’all.

Vanessa Washington (00:01:38):

Okay. So you’re assuring me. You guys can see me. I just can’t see you, right,

Gavin D’avanther (00:01:42):

Right. You are not sharing yet. You’re not sharing your screen yet. Yep. There we go. You got it. Thank you. All right. Good morning. Thank you so much for being here and I’ll pass it off to you. Thanks, Kevin.

Vanessa Washington (00:02:06):

Uh, good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. Um, I am so tired. You are so tired. And so I’m really glad that we can connect and, um, name what we’ve been feeling and hopefully come up with some strategies to help you as you go through and enter into the fall, which has more transitions for many of us. Uh, my name is Vanessa Washington. I’m founder, as Gavin was saying of San COFA counseling and village resiliency project, San COVID counseling is located downtown. You can find us on Instagram. Our website is Sankofa counseling.org and village resiliency project has been providing ongoing consultation for quite some time. And as many of you have experienced business interruptions, we have as well. So our launch for village resiliency to have its own website and Instagram that all got pushed to tomorrow due to the Rona. So you can find us on Instagram, but the website will be up tomorrow.

Vanessa Washington (00:02:58):

So there’s a page at the end of this, you’ll be able to find, so I am a licensed professional counselor. Um, I specialize in providing trauma treatment and I personally work with, um, racial minorities, gender minorities, those who have been underserved traditionally. And so, um, San COFA was kind of birthed out of need and recognizing how important culturally competent care was needed in our city specifically. So that’s a little about me. I’m going to have my partner for village resiliency, Michelle, just hop on and introduce herself because she likely will, um, popcorn in as I’m speaking. And I just want you to be able to orient to her. So Michelle, could you say hello really quickly?

Michelle (00:03:37):

Hi, I’m Michelle and I’m happy to be here. I’m an educator. And I, as Vanessa said, do a lot with resiliency and helping, um, our clients understand stress. Um, resiliency is such an important component in self-care and so I’m joining her today. Um, and I may pop in a few times as she said, thanks.

Vanessa Washington (00:04:01):

Okay. So just a quick, um, I want to summarize what the poll was and then give you an idea of how my world has been kind of rocked by Corona so that you recognize we’re likely in the same boat here. So many of you said childcare was a significant stressor election distress risk with COVID social isolation, systemic oppression, financial uncertainties, these all kinds of financial uncertainties was just under 50, but all of the ones I just said were above 50%. They’re on our mind. Our life is being actively impacted by so many different things right now. And so, um, I, my practice is downtown. I’ve still continued to do therapy and mental health work. I did experience a significant shift in our consulting work and it’s just, now it seems like our local, um, business is starting to pick up a little bit. So we have some training starting. So with you, we’ve had a lot of significant shifts in our own personal business. We’ve had to postpone some things and we’re getting ready to restart. So I think I have a slight lag on my computer one second as we move forward.

Speaker 4 (00:05:09):


Vanessa Washington (00:05:10):

So we just did this poll, what we’re going to do today. Just so you have a quick idea, we’ll be talking for about an hour, hour, 15 minutes. Um, first we’re going to just talk about what, how the brain kind of operates, what it’s ideally, how it’s ideally meant to operate. And then what happens when we start introducing stress? What happens when we start to introduce trauma is what we’re going through right now with global trauma. Is it a stressor? How does that impact us? And then talking about some strategies that you can use hopefully to put into practice to hopefully become a stress management, almost like a little floaty. It doesn’t seem like this, see that we’re living in this year is going away. And so rather than fight it and wish and hope that we could just not have Corona or not have racial uprising or not have all of the stress kids at home working, what can we actually do to support wellness through it so we will get started.

Speaker 4 (00:06:07):


Vanessa Washington (00:06:08):

So we are going to talk briefly briefly about the brain. Ideally, I like to think of the brain as a car. And so there are a couple regions of the brain that start to, um, gosh, you guys, I’m so nervous. I haven’t done a zoom with training in such a long time. Give me a second. Give me a second. Um, so the brain is powerful. It works for us. It supports us, it manages our stress. It helps us survive through significant stress and trauma and uncertainty. And there are things that it needs to work. Optimally there’s things. It needs to respond to stress, or we’re kind of at the whim of biology. So before we talk about what actually happens with stress, I want you to just orient yourself to these three parts of the brain, our autopilot system, our gas system, and our brake system.

Vanessa Washington (00:06:55):

And just like a vehicle. The goal, once we reach adulthood is to have a balanced car. When we come in and work with adults or teachers, we talk about how these systems are quite different. When you’re younger, they’re wired differently, they operate differently. But for the purpose of our talk, the majority of us have reached that full maturation, that full brain growth, the brain takes about 25 years to reach full completion. And so I’m going to be talking to you in that vein today. Uh, if any of you drive around for work, if you do deliverables, if you have gone on road trips, you recognize that there are things that you have to do proactively. Sometimes you got to check out your breaks. Sometimes you got to make sure you have gas in your car before you can even go on a trip. And then you also have to start paying attention and recognizing what different signals of your car might mean.

Vanessa Washington (00:07:41):

Ooh, I heard that weird sound. What could that be? Oh, my system engine light, my check engine light just came on. What, what might that mean in the brain is really, really similar. So this is going to be a very oversimplified view. Each of these regions have significant, massive information. Our training send to actually be two hours on just this slide. So our hour, hour and a half on just this slide. So bear with me as we just kind of label what they’re for before we start talking about what happens with stress. So autopilot is our brainstem. It’s like kind of right at the base of your neck and autopilot helps manage our body. It makes us Yon without recognizing that we need oxygen, it helps us blink. It manages our heart rate, our sleeping, um, and it happens without our conscious awareness. For the most part, we may recognize the signals of our brainstem working for us, but for the most part, it just kind of keeps us going.

Vanessa Washington (00:08:30):

We then have our feeling brain and our feeling brain is kind of right behind our eyes. Um, if my hand was a model of the brain, our brainstem would be my wrist and the limbic system, our gas would be right here and it’s tucked over right under the brakes, which I’ll get to in a second. So it’s kind of right behind the eyes back here. And the limbic system is our vitality system, our feeling brain, this gas system. It is our pleasure center. It is our social center. It manages our fear. It responds to stress, it deploys, fight or flight when we’re actually under threat and we need to survive. All of that starts to happen in this limbic system region, the gas. Um, the thing about the gas is that it, it uses cues of the, it takes the cues from the environment to recognize when it needs to go.

Vanessa Washington (00:09:17):

And it actually is not connected to the brakes whatsoever. So you may have experiences of big emotion with little ability to kind of recognize how to bring yourself down. Or if you haven’t, I’m sure your kids, if you have children, or if you have young ones in your life, if you have employees, sometimes our gas can just go, go, go, go, go, go, go. It’s pedal to the metal. And we want that for a lot of good reasons. Um, at the very start, Gavin said, as business owners, we have to have creativity. We have to be able to see the big picture. We have to be able to pivot. And a lot of us as business owners can really engage our feeling brain, our gas system. It’s what helps us be visionaries. It helps us see through uncertainty and say, I can make a change.

Vanessa Washington (00:09:58):

I’m going to do that. Our limbic system is where our joy comes. Our, so anyways, it’s all emotion. It’s all guests. Then we have a brake system. So no matter what you’re feeling, whether you’re scared, whether you’re stressed, whether you are loving life, whether you are having the best day of your life, your gas is just going to feel, it’s going to sense, and it’s going to Intuit. And we use a totally different part of our brain to regulate that emotion. So I have a fear of dogs. I don’t know where that fear came from, and I’m not actually afraid of them. Now in adulthood, I just have a habit of being afraid. So an example of how these kinds of work together is, um, if a document in my room right now, my feeling brain, my gas is going to start revving up. It’s going to start making my heart go.

Vanessa Washington (00:10:42):

I’m going to start getting squirmish. I’m going to get nervous. Oh no. Am I going to get scared? Am I going to get bit and nothing about my gas is going to stop that thought, it’s going to take my thinking brain. My, um, my brake system. This has Vanessa, you know, this dog, Vanessa, you know that this is a natural reaction that happens. So our brake system makes meaning of the emotions. We’re feeling. Our brake system is our big CEO. Our brake system is kind of like the master control people call this the prefrontal cortex or the cortex. This brake system helps us make sense of everything that’s going on. It helps us manage nuanced thought. It helps us take changes in our work environment this year and try to pivot and say, okay, how can I make this work? Our brake system interrupts an impulse.

Vanessa Washington (00:11:26):

So I’m sure many of us wanted to quit or want it to run away. Or let me just get rid of this business this year. And it’s our brake system that comes back and says, slow down, girl, you got this, you can do this. So what we really want ideally is for a balanced vehicle for all three of these, to be working together, that we have the vitality of our emotions when we want them, when we need them, they can motivate us that we have a stress response system when we need it. But then we have a brake system that can differentiate between what is good, what is scary? So that’s all we’re going to touch on with this. We’re going to reference these as we talk about stress, but we’re going to move on from here. So most people we don’t think in terms of brain, we think in terms of capacity in terms of behavior. So what is going on when we are actually at our best? We have you guys, I just have to pause for, as I’m going to take some water. I’m so nervous. I don’t understand what is going on. Um, so just give me a second. I’m going to teach you how to do this today anyway. So I might as well model it for you. Let me orient what’s happening.

Vanessa Washington (00:12:27):

Okay. So our window of tolerance, this is ideally what we want our stress response system to look like. If with COVID, without COVID, ideally we will have a large window of tolerance. It’s expansive. This is when we can manage stress without kind of flipping our lid without losing our marbles. We typically have this buffer and coping zone. Typically, ideally we have a big window of tolerance that can flex, that can manage doing even zoom calls without a lot of facial feedback and things. But what starts to happen with stress is that buffering coping zone right now due to COVID, we actually don’t have the same coping zones, the same type of materials and buffer that we typically do. So as you just saw often for many of us, rather than going from I’m a little bit stressed, I can do this. I can pull on this and this, we go straight into a threat response because our brain, our systems are literally wired right there.

Vanessa Washington (00:13:21):

So, so that you have an idea of what happened for me. What we do when that happens is go back to basic needs. What basic needs do I need? I was overheating. I needed a tank top. We got to regulate our system, take some water and we’d go back to it. So I appreciate you all. I appreciate your willingness to see my vulnerability Michelle, for taking over. And let’s just keep on going. So ideally, ideally, we want to be able to stay in this tolerable stress zone COVID has happened. That is not a tolerable stressor does a toxic stressor. And what that means is that we have different hormones, different chemicals, different neurotransmitters that come down and help us engage life. If we’re feeling safe, if we have access to all of our tools, it’s very different. We have different neuro-transmitters coming in. When we feel threatened, we have very different transmitters coming in when our survival is at stake.

Vanessa Washington (00:14:12):

And so those are all transmitters. Those turn into behaviors, those turn into our fight or flight zone. So we’re going to actually talk about toxic stress and how that is something we’re all kind of experiencing right now. So there is traumatic events, there are traumatic events. And then there are also trauma responses. We’re going to talk about what a traumatic event is. A traumatic event is simply the presence of something that overwhelms our capacity to cope. A traumatic event can be life-threatening to you or someone you care about, excuse me. So it can be, um, you can witness something happened to your employees and it’s still be a traumatic event for your body. You can be actively involved in a car crash and that be a traumatic event for your body. So traumatic events simply means that we’re releasing different hormones to help us survive.

Vanessa Washington (00:14:59):

It’s neither good, nor bad. It’s simply a survival strategy that happens to aid in our wellness. So trauma can happen to us, to someone we care about where we can witness it. It can be life altering. Life-threatening such as a new disease that we know very little about that is causing significant destruction and death. That is a life altering event life-threatening but it can also be a pile up of stressors. So maybe you are healthy and safe. Maybe you are able to avoid this virus touching you, you’re following the precautions it’s managing, but all of the pilot of stressors that are associated with that are giving you a significant loss of control and they start to push your brain into an actual threat mode. So, um, Michelle, did you talk about the difference between, um, healthy stress and what that does for us? Okay. So healthy stress.

Vanessa Washington (00:15:49):

The difference here is healthy stress. We actually want it. Stress gives us capacity to expand that window of tolerance. It builds resiliency. So we don’t want to avoid stress, but we do want to avoid, um, significant dumps of stress. We do want to avoid not having coping strategies to manage because then it starts to just breed in our system. It can start to cause some harm. So events that push on our capacity that exceed our ability to cope this situation. Having a pandemic may not have actually been a traumatic experience, had all of our coping strategies. We still have access to if we could still go see our friends, whenever we wanted to, if we could have the routines of going to work of doing presentations in real life of being able to have your shops, opening your restaurants open than having a scary, scary virus out here, wouldn’t have such a toll. So a traumatic event is both the presence of danger, but also an absence of safety or an instability of that safety.

Speaker 4 (00:17:12):


Vanessa Washington (00:17:13):

So I’m going to tell you an example of what happens if a tiger came into the room and kind of why this happens, what happens with toxic stress? So remember this window of tolerance that we actually want to be big and expansive, and then we have that buffer zone. So if it’s not big, if we’re, um, if we’re struggling, if we’re having some, um

Vanessa Washington (00:17:33):

If we’re struggling with maybe a fight with our spouse, if we’re, if we’re going back to school, not in a pandemic, then we have those buffer zones we can reach out to. But when a threat, like a legit threat, this virus, a tiger comes into the room. Then our brain says, okay, girlfriend, you do not need be thinking about what you’re cooking for dinner. You got to get rid of this tiger. You do not need to be thinking about sending that email and trying to market your ideas and build your business. You need to respond to the tiger. And so our brain has these fail, safe, um, trigger points that it will do to literally stop us in our track and preserve life at all costs. And our brain is kind of finicky in that it doesn’t know the difference between a can’t differentiate between types of threat.

Vanessa Washington (00:18:15):

It just says, Oh, you’re in danger. Here you go. So for our brain tigers are anything that hits us up into our fight or flight zone. And so the tiger comes in. What happens within a nanosecond, all of us that are experiencing this tiger are going to go into fight or flight mode. And we want to go into fight or flight mode. We need to, that is what keeps us safe at all costs tiger comes in and our little wizards and our brain says, Oh, okay. We don’t know what type of tiger this is. We don’t know what type of threat it is, but we’re going to prepare your body to be a powerhouse. So when that nanosecond your eyes dilate so that you can see as far as you need in the dark and the light, however, you need to get rid of that tiger.

Vanessa Washington (00:18:53):

You’re going to have access with your eyes to do so. Your digestion literally stops so that if you can’t eat a meal for a little bit, you have some sustenance in there. Same with your, um, we don’t go to the bathroom. We don’t urinate just in case that we’re going to not have access to water. Our body literally goes into survival mode for us. When that happens, that frontal lobe, the CEO of our brain, the part that keeps calm, that understands this might be short-lived that part of the brain is not accessible in any way, shape or form. And we don’t want it to be because to do that would be to shift these resources. And we need them to survive in that moment. So this is kind of hard because what ideally our brain would like is for threats to come and then to leave, we would like to have the tire come in for one moment, we have our fight or flight system.

Vanessa Washington (00:19:43):

We’re able to get back to safety and the tiger goes, the difference with our fight or flight system is it is all of that gas. It’s going to go, go, go, go, go. That fight or flight hormone is going to drop down until it gets evidence that it’s safe or until it gets some sense of familiarity to it. So when we go into fight or flight mode, we have up energy, which is that red bar, or we have down energy. And you may do both. You may have experienced both over the last six months or your system might have a very specific favorite that it likes to do when we have that fight or flight energy it’s up and out. So you might have great access to intense emotions. You might have great access to like physical muscle tightness. You might be very hypervigilant, constantly checking the news, constantly checking what your kids are up to constantly checking your grocery lists over and over again.

Vanessa Washington (00:20:36):

It’s an upper arousal situation. If we experienced the other side of arousal, it is just as intense. It is just as intrusive into our being. It can be the freeze or the down, down in inward energy. And this is those of us or those of you who may have experience like muscle fatigue. I don’t even want to get out of bed. I don’t want to sleep. Our body slows us down and for good reason, so that tiger comes in. Some of us will find an exit strategy and we’ll say, okay, we’re going to be able to run away from this bear. And we have all of that fiscal capacity to do so. We’re going to find weird ways to get out of a building that we never thought of before, because our brain is deploying a hundred percent of our resources to keep us safe.

Vanessa Washington (00:21:17):

Those of us that decide to fight this bear. We want to fight this virus. You guys, probably the day one went and bought all the different respirators, all the different masks, all the different hand gloves, we’re going to fight. We’re going to be okay. Those of us that went into freeze, we had a different response. The brain has another type of response that a fight doesn’t work. If flight doesn’t work, if the threat isn’t going away, if your coping strategies, aren’t helping you get out of there, we’re still out of that window of tolerance, but it’s going to slow your system down to a whisper so that it is our last line of defense to go into a freeze response. So that if that tiger were to come up to me and start sniffing around, my organs are barely moving. So our brain at all costs are sent to keep us safe.

Vanessa Washington (00:22:02):

It’s quite remarkable. You’ve seen those stories of someone who just swam across the Columbia or lifted up a big car and the, um, in the presence of a threat that is our fight or flight system coming to keep us alive. So a lot of people, I say all this, because a lot of people will say, I’m in fight or flight, or I’m having a trauma response. And you always want a trauma response because that means you are staying alive. The hard part is this is not going away. So our systems actually are not meant to have heavy cortisol, heavy adrenaline, heavy testosterone, ongoing. We’re meant to have it for a short period of time. So fight or flight energy is not just physiological. I told you about what happens to your digestive, track your eyes, all of that, but it actually impacts our moods, our perceptions.

Vanessa Washington (00:22:48):

So we have flighty energy. We might have behaviors of wanting to quit of never texting. Again, me jumping off real quick. That’s a flight response, a fight response. You’re not gonna, um, you might be really, really wired, but you’re not gonna be able to fall asleep. Any of you have been just laying in bed. I really need to sleep. I really need to sleep. I really need to sleep, but your body is not letting you because you have excess arousal dumping into your system. Your heart might be racing. Those of you who feel, um, frozen. Some examples that you might be in a frozen state would be just losing gaps of time. The heck, how did I, how is it already September 1st? What, where did it go? How was it? 5:00 PM. I didn’t, I wasn’t here. Maybe you’re out of your body. And so it is interesting to note that when we actually go into threat response, which I would bet the majority of us have been since March, April, um, this is actually good and healthy and it’s meant to be our body.

Vanessa Washington (00:23:49):

This is evidence that our body’s adjusting to the stressor. Just like when you start getting a fever with a cold, that means the virus is leaving. Your system fight or flight is how we’re settling back. Find in substance of normalcy. After all of these hormones have been dumped into our brain. And I say hormones because I have spoken to almost every single one of my clients, myself included all of my family who say, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I shouldn’t want to quit. I shouldn’t want to punch a hole in the wall. I shouldn’t want to let that, that commitment go. And we need to get out of that should a zone because we’re all in survival zone. And so the last thing we need is for us to be dumping hater selves on top of ourselves, it isn’t normal to be in fight or flight right now, recognizing it and having solutions to move you out is what we had to start working on.

Vanessa Washington (00:24:38):

So the last thing I’ll say about our fight or flight system is it’s quite normal to have about a six month adjustment period with it. So after you face any type of threatening situation or traumatic experience, your system is going to take a couple months, a couple of weeks to actually settle back to baseline. If these are starting to, um, if you are experiencing fight or flight that is not going away or is not dissipating in intensity, or if it truly is disrupting your ability to do your business activities or to be a parent or to experience any type of joy. If you’re in that still moderate, severe zone, probably around now, around end of September, October, then that’s a cue to you that you may have. Um, you’re that arousal stain stuck in your system and there’s tools that we can do with mindfulness there’s tools. Therapists can do with you, even pastors in yoga that can help release some of that energy. Um, so that’s just something to be mindful of as you go into the fall pivot taste. So before we jump into what we can do with this, I just am interested. I’m familiar with a couple of different tigers of 2020. I’m curious if any of you in the chat, you don’t need to say very personal traumas, but just what type of tigers are causing the most, um, disruption to you as a business owner, as a human in the world. And the next slide, I’ll give you some ideas if no one pops out and shares,

Gavin D’avanther (00:26:09):

Go ahead and put your, uh, thoughts in the chat so that you don’t have to speak up. What are some of the tigers that you are facing in addition to COVID right now, I put in parenting through COVID having to make those decisions every day about what is safe and what is not safe when my kid wants to do things, but I have to decide as a parent, what to do, what are some of the other tigers that are adding stress to your life? Just go ahead and type some couple of things in the chat. So I’ve lack of control, not able to plan ahead. That’s a huge one. Isn’t it? Vanessa, huge planning

Vanessa Washington (00:26:44):

Ahead is how we orient get our wits about us. And so things change

Gavin D’avanther (00:26:49):

Over and over a loved one has cancer and I can’t visit due to COVID awful, awful. Um, no typical systems work, making so many decisions. Yeah. A great one for business and for personal living and working in a very small space with a partner.

Vanessa Washington (00:27:13):

We’ll give it one more second, 20 more seconds, if any others pop up. Yeah.

Gavin D’avanther (00:27:17):

And if anyone else has one, throw them in chat. These are great. Thank you for sharing these. What I really want everyone to see is that you’re not alone. Everyone has these other stressors that they’re, that they’re facing these other tigers in the room besides COVID not one could hiker in the room. It’s multiple tigers in the room,

Vanessa Washington (00:27:36):

Which simply means not in stress zone. We are actively in that trauma response zone, whether, um, trauma diff is not, um, specific to each of us, what is a traumatic event for me might not be you. What we’re talking about is that dumping down. So not having the access to your loved ones, having to all of a sudden work and do school and do meetings in a 500 square foot thousand square foot space. That is hard. That takes away our control. Absolutely.

Gavin D’avanther (00:28:04):

Yeah. Thanks. I really like, um, general lack of control and not able to plan. I think that’s a really general and very specific one that I think we’re all struggling with.

Vanessa Washington (00:28:15):

So in these, I think they hit on the ones that you just spoke about

Gavin D’avanther (00:28:19):

Not having a national leader, looking out for the people, right? Political concerns, crime increasing in the neighborhood being torn between wanting to help and wanting to self-protect. Wow, that’s a huge one right now.

Vanessa Washington (00:28:38):

And you, I mean, 71% of you, I took a quick note of the poll. 71% of you are experiencing distress tie to this election. In addition to it being a sense of, um, uncertainty and scaredness for some of us, it is actually a threat to our being and wellness as well. Um, this virus is a physical threat. If we get sick, what is it going to do to our bodies? But it’s also a business threat. It’s also interpersonal threat is my business going to survive this. It impacts our relationships. Like you said, not being able to have access to those. You care about not being able. I’ve had so many, we’ve had weddings in our family have to be canceled. We’ve had funerals that can’t be attended awful. Our traditions have been impacted significantly. And we’re going to talk in a second about what safety means.

Vanessa Washington (00:29:22):

I’m talking to a lot about the threat is safety is the presence of predictability, of stability, of consistency, of routine of traditions. This virus has taken many of those routines and traditions that foundation away, um, these protests, whatever side you are on, I work downtown. They impact I have a gas mask in my car so that if there’s tear gas that night before I can get to and from normalcy has been kind of removed from us. Anti-blackness police brutality on and on harming of Brown and blackness in this country disrupts our safety. There’s a definition of trauma that is very simplified by someone that I trained with. And they say, it’s anything that happens too fast. That is too much. And that is what all of the things that you will have listed it’s happening time and time again. And then lastly, I’ll say these can these governor executive orders, all of us as business owners have had to orient, not just once, not just twice, but over and over and over again.

Vanessa Washington (00:30:24):

What am I allowed to do? What is going to make me liable? What is going to keep me in business? What’s going to keep my customers safe. You mean I have five different things. What does OSHA say? What does OHA say? It is too much for our system to orient to. We have a lot of tigers going on impacts to wellness when we have tigers. So when we have that cortisol dumping, and it’s not going away because these tigers aren’t going away. So remember a trauma can be tolerable. If it’s short lift, it turns into toxic, actual traumatic experiences. When it’s not going away, this is not going away. The election is in six months. COVID response. Maybe we’ll have a vaccine maybe in a little bit who knows we’re here for awhile. It means we’re going to be perpetually in a state of stress.

Vanessa Washington (00:31:09):

We can do things to lower the impact of stress. We can do things to make ourselves feel safe within it. It is not as simple we give up and we’re just going to be gone. Or there are things we can do, but it’s helpful to know when you do have a moment of emotional intensity or when you do forget something or you do miss a deadline to remember that your brain is likely already maxed. And so we have to be taken care of then to give it some additional support than what we typically put increased anxiety is just a given. There is no shame at all in any emotional or physical or physiological responses to stress. Anxiety is simply fear or, um, lack of certainty. It is either underestimating ourselves or having such a big thing that we’re overestimating that event. Of course, of course, anxiety is here.

Vanessa Washington (00:31:57):

The crappy part for us is that when we’re in constant threat response, we lose access to our ability to make sense of, to pivot within, to be creative, within, to shift and kind of get our buoys up so that we’re not drowning because so much of our energy has to go towards just showing up at work today. We don’t really have the resources available if we’re only at the whim of biology that we need to remember deadlines to do cause and effect thinking to do future planning. And so there’s quite, and lastly, I’ll say another risk that is forthcoming is if we don’t actually take this seriously, if we don’t start saying just like I would say, I have a cold today, or I have strep throat. If we can’t get comfortable in saying, Ooh, my stress is up, Oh, I’m having a stress response. Then we are actually going to start adding to the problem. And we are going to set ourselves up for fatigue, for burnout. Our systems will start to be more compromised. So we actually will be more likely to get ill. So actually taking stress as a serious business risk factor and taking wellbeing as a serious, um, business necessity. These are the actual things that are going to help you get through this next six months.

Gavin D’avanther (00:33:12):


Vanessa Washington (00:33:13):

To get to safety, that’s all we’re going to do for the questions about trauma. Um, and so we can ask questions. Are there any questions in the chat about threat response before I jump into it?

Gavin D’avanther (00:33:24):

Not yet. Thank you. Keep going. So

Vanessa Washington (00:33:29):

Psychological safety safety from a psychological perspective has two components that we’re able to orient and organize around it and that we’re able to recover from depletion. So even if we have the tsunami of events that are happening over and over and over again, our job is to figure out how can I orient around this? And that’s where we have predictability consistency and structure and how can I repair and recover from how my system is being hit by this stress? And for both of these, we have to start getting real with ourselves. We cannot do wishful thinking. We have to be realistic and say, okay, if you’ve been waiting for this virus to go away before you make a long-term plan about if you’re going to see people in person or not, you need to shift your plan. If you’ve been thinking maybe in a month, maybe in a month, let’s see what the news says.

Vanessa Washington (00:34:19):

Let’s see what the phases are. You’re going to constantly be in the checking that hypervigilance in our system. Remember we’re trying to drop it back down to a new normal. So we have to start actually organizing around the events as they are. For me, that looked like at first I was setting new announcements to my people every two weeks or so now I’m doing them in seasons. So they’ll get an update next week and that’s going to take us through December, which means I don’t have to make significant business decisions about from going in the office if I’m not. And that’s a, um, I get that. That’s a privilege to my profession. Some of you may have to go back to that office, but starting to think ahead of time of how can I be more predictable in chunks of time to give my threat brain just a little bit of that buffer zone that it needs to kind of get our marbles back.

Vanessa Washington (00:35:08):

Um, another way to organize events is around consistency and structure. And so the rest of this presentation is going to be talking to you about proactive strategies for getting consistency and structure and reactive strategies for getting consistency and structure. If we are holding on, if we’re in the buffer zone at all times right now, or if I can assume for the most part, many of us are in that buffer zone at all times, if we’re not organizing and orienting and creating safety in the small ways we can, we are a moment away flipping our lid and going into that active threat.

Speaker 4 (00:35:40):


Vanessa Washington (00:35:49):

And this is where we get to talk about self-care and burnout just as a quick definition. So self-care is taking action to preserve your health, your physical health, your emotional health, your business, occupational health. It is required as a preservation necessity. If we are not actively doing some care in this moment of time, when there’s so much stress, we are putting ourselves on the path of burnout. So stress and trauma can do some things. Yes, absolutely having adversity that is out of our control can do some things to our functioning. And we now have some skills and some tools that we can start to orient and create self care habits within it so that we can learn to tread water sometimes, or we can learn that we’re going to float on our back for a little bit. And then we’re going to tread water. If we do not, if you don’t take this talk or your own conversations with your family members and don’t create a toolkit for yourselves, I would bargain to say that you are going to start experiencing some significant burnout.

Vanessa Washington (00:36:42):

That will be harder to get out of one of the best things that Gavin ever told me, um, in business advising was that a nap is a valid business activity to do that. If my ability to rest is going to give me enough of my buffer zone to then be able to take care of business, to do marketing, to do outreach than I need to rest. Rest looks different in the time of Corona virus. And I get that. And so, um, there are some tools that we’re going to give you, but everything from here on out is going to talk to you about what you need to then go take a day and start creating your own self care plan.

Speaker 4 (00:37:22):


Vanessa Washington (00:37:23):

So stress and resiliency are very close friends. They’re like two sides of the same coin. We do not develop resiliency without adversity. I would never wish trauma. I would never wish cancer. I would never wish hardship on anybody. And I don’t want you to hear the first part of this where there’s scary stuff in her body and think that that’s the end of the story, learning how to stretch within adversity, learning how we can pivot right now is going to give us some give. If we were a rubber band it’s going to help us give. So the next time we face a crisis locally, nationally, we’re not going to be as blown out of the water by it. So, uh, resiliency is built. It is not given it is a skill to learn. And so what this looks like is you have to learn to recognize your stress signals.

Vanessa Washington (00:38:10):

You have to learn to recognize what you may not be, um, equipped to handle with. And then you have to literally develop strategies to try. So these are just simple things that I think would be helpful if you have not already started a new work routine, now that you are working from home, or if you’re working at the office, but you have to have less capacity or people while you’re there, you have to have a routine at home to just be, or, I mean, I’m sorry. You have to have some routines, give you some, um, proactive, give that’s like the idea of getting your oil checked before you go on a long drive. One thing I will say is stop at 90% as a business owner, someone said decision fatigue is that we’re making decision after decision after decision. We’re making decisions on safety. We’re making decisions on financing.

Vanessa Washington (00:38:57):

We’re making decisions on which loans to apply for. And then we go home and we have to make decisions about dinner. We have to make decisions about what our kids are going to do for school. And that’s too much decision for a brain that is already maxed and waning. And so if you can’t, if it is not going to be a huge detriment to you, I would even say 85%. If you are 85% from done 90% from done, and it’s good enough, if you’re a perfectionist, let go of that last 10%, that’s going to do nothing but drain the little bit of room. You have kick it out and go do something else. Okay. Let’s talk about preparing your toolkit. First. I want you to look at these squares. So unmet needs cause a stress response in times of crisis and times of uncertainty in times of Corona in times of racial violence, unmet needs push us into fight or flight zone and that’s those nasty thing.

Vanessa Washington (00:39:49):

And a stick to us for a couple hours. They disrupt us. They make us have to take days off and recover. So we have to get very comfortable at starting to recognize our needs as valuable and necessary in needing to be managed. We have emotional regulation needs, um, the need to be at even keel, which is almost laughable to consider now that we probably haven’t experienced just how well that Zen in quite some time, but emotional regulation. If you catch yourself having big ups, big downs, um, strong emotions, energy, internal thoughts that are just nine at you. That’s a cue that you need to do some toolkit stuff on your emotions. Getting some supports around how to manage. We have relational needs and these are getting impacted so much. Relational needs to be in communication, uh, in community to be validated, to be seen in all of our worth, to have other celebrate our successes, to celebrate traditions, to get married, to have all of those good things.

Vanessa Washington (00:40:46):

First birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, those relational needs are being pressed on. And so we have to then take extra care to figure out, I know zoom calls are exhausting. I know that we’re all doing too much electronic stuff, and that’s a quick way that we want to then shut down, but we also still need connection. We need to be able to be with people that value us. We have control needs. I had to, um, go to a doctor last week and it was a small clinic and he looked so stressed and I said, what’s going on? And he was like, I went from having one role. I was the doctor. I loved doing what I did. I got to create change. And now I’m doing the front desk. I’m doing the chiropractor work. I’m doing the faxes, the insurance authorizations it’s too much. I don’t have the control that I used to want.

Vanessa Washington (00:41:33):

All of us have gone into business and we’ve seen a very, we have a specific way of doing things. We probably wanted to go into business to create some new changes, new systems. And so to have not the government, but a virus. And then these state mandates and all these different changes that are eating away at our control that starts to wane on us. And then lastly, physical needs, we still have to eat. You still have to go to the bathroom regularly. We still have to move our body for exercise. And so starting to think through these, not in a deficit way of, I don’t have access to those, but which ones are starting to press more on me. That’s going to help you then create a toolkit that is more supportive for what your stress response is doing. So I would encourage you if any of those pinged on you, those are going to start being closed for us to follow up on. Now, if we go to the other side about scheduling days off, um, three quarters of you have taken one day off since March. And I believe it was half of us have taken two days off in a row since March. We’re on a six month trajectory, right? March. Yeah. So in six months, half of us have not taken two full days off in a row. This is comical for me to say, because in our household it often is that right.

Speaker 5 (00:42:49):

I need a day off. I need a day off and there’s no day off to be

Vanessa Washington (00:42:53):

Because it’s going to make things worse or I’m going to miss that deadline. Or how could I possibly give this away to someone? And yet, if I’m telling you that our brains are primed and ready to flip, they’re ready to go into threat mode. We’re barely hanging on already to not give ourself permission to have a partial day off. Maybe you can cancel that and go take a quick nap if you can’t take a full day off, but schedule ahead recognize the predictability in how our stability is being taken away right now. Okay. I can’t take a day off on a win, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look at my calendar in October and I can schedule a day off for three weeks from now. One of my favorite tools that I give teachers pre COVID is they’re all stressed. They’re all primed and ready to start school in September.

Vanessa Washington (00:43:36):

Look at your calendar now and schedule when you’re going to have a three-day weekend that just helps us get some control back. It helps us recognize we will have a break and remember that’s going to help our gas system, that threat response. See, okay, we can call them just for a moment. Um, so that is an absolute necessary. If only half of us have had two days off in a row, that is where you need to start. The rest of these are going to be different days. But what I would like to tell you is that you need to have days specific to the task that you need to accomplish. There is too much too fast at any given day. As business owners, as parents started going to school year, we have multiple jobs, we have multiple roles and we’re constantly making decisions. So give yourself a break and say, you know what?

Vanessa Washington (00:44:22):

I actually need to schedule a day where I’m not checking my email. I need to schedule a day where all I do, I put it on my calendars, I’m going for a hike. So I went through the businesses. I’ve done consulting with the clients. I’ve spoken to over the last six months. And I started to think through what are the gaps that it seems to be themes around missing. And it seems as though, and it makes sense. All of us are in survival mode. None of us are planning play days. And even if we want play days, we don’t have access to the play dates that we would want to do, or they’re limited, or we have to wear masks through them. And so a lot of times I’ve literally heard people say, well, I’m just at home. Why would I take a day off?

Vanessa Washington (00:44:57):

It’s not like I can go anywhere. Why would I have a do nothing day? And that’s keeping us in stress and threat mode, we have to plan a day for creativity. And I’ll give you a slide and information on how to do that. Um, lastly for business owners, a catch-up day, if you are swamped, probably like we all are then schedule a day in the middle of September, the middle of next week, where you can plan around it, where all you’re doing is muting your phone and getting caught up on some important tasks. Some of you who have been in fight and flight mode, and you’re not able to sleep schedule a day where you can just rest or sleep. Okay. So toolkit strategy. Number one, if we know that we are experiencing massive threat, our brains are absorbing tons of physiological distress, constantly. There’s so much on the news to want to orient around, but it’s also scary.

Vanessa Washington (00:45:44):

We have to manage our access to the scary stuff. Just like I said, a dog came in and I can manage it and I can say, okay, well you typically do this and it’s not that big of a deal. And it’s going to be okay right now. If 10 big Wolf looking dogs came in, that’s too much information. It’s going to literally push me into a fight or flight zone. So you have to limit the amount of news you’re consuming. You probably need to limit the screen time. And that’s a loss of normalcy. It’s not fair that typically we are socially connected. We all have all these social media accounts, but to go onto those social media accounts and see people like you get harmed to go onto social media accounts and hear updates about a virus or the political strategy around the virus that causes your energy to go back up.

Vanessa Washington (00:46:28):

That’s not helpful. I cannot watch the news anymore. At the start of the day, I have to watch it now during certain specific days of the week, so that it’s loving. Just like we tell our kids, you can’t have 500 suckers. It’s going to hurt your tummy. I’m telling you, you cannot have 500 hours of news consumption. It’s gonna hurt your tummy. It’s gonna make you nauseous. It’s going to put you in fight or flight. It’s going to keep you hypervigilant limit it. Also limit the alarms in your life. If you have a really annoying buzz, what we are trying to do is recognize we’re already hanging on. So we don’t need to add stimulate to it. Do not have that loud, annoying, awful zinger, unless you absolutely have to. Can you change the notifications on your phone, on your email so that they’re more pleasant, they’re less sensory, um, activating and then things to change specifically, changing the information you’re getting altogether.

Vanessa Washington (00:47:21):

Maybe you start a TV show. You, it has never considered, um, opposite of the emotion is really, really helpful. So if you are experiencing chronic fear, if you are feeling like, Oh my gosh, there’s just too much going on. And I can’t get rid of this scary feeling in my body. That’s a great time to watch a comedy. Even if it feels like you can’t track it, even if it feels like this is so stupid and silly, there’s better things going on in the world. Your brain needs to focus on something different in order for that stress response to go down, that could be taking the kids to the park or saying, we’re going to play candy land one more time or something, give it something different to focus on so that it gets a bump of connection. So it meets those needs rather than activates that stress need.

Vanessa Washington (00:48:07):

And you probably need to change your routine and schedule. If you haven’t already. We are. We all had to shift how we worked in the spring. And then depending on our industries, we found some sort of foundation or some launching pad for the summer that we might do, but we’re going into school year. Some of you are. I have my son up there getting ready for school tomorrow. My partner is up there getting ready for school tomorrow. That’s a lot going on. All of a sudden we have to orient again to a change in routine. So give yourself permission. Maybe you work in chunks. I spoke to someone yesterday who said they figured out a sweet spot is to do two hours early morning, take two hours off. So they don’t have to worry about excessive needs. And then they do a nighttime shift, really starting to play up and recognize where’s the stress spot.

Vanessa Washington (00:48:51):

Where’s the tension I’m feeling. Where is that strong, emotional, and starting to create a plan around it. If you wait for the Uber to come, you will not be able to successfully ride that wave and come back down. This is those times that we proactively create a new structure to try out. Um, and then lastly, I’ll give a different slide later for anxious thoughts. But if you notice every time I’m on this phone call, my anxiety goes up. Every time I watch this show, I get really down and depressed. Those are valuable pieces of information, not to be judged, but to start to name, you can make a fear vortex. If you are very scared, if you are very anxious, if you are really worried about money, draw yourself a, um, tornado and put in all the thoughts, all the intrusive thoughts. The weird thing about our brain, the fascinating thing about our brain is once we name something, once we connect around it, once we actually let it to come out, it actually that’s the vehicle by which it slows down. So if we keep pretending, we’re not feeling these things, the emotion, the intensity actually starts to go up and then we get to get used to reality. Testing. Reality testing is a way to stop intrusive thoughts. I’m going to lose my business name it. I’m scared of losing my business. Okay, what can I, can I take a break? Can I take a break for a moment? Can I walk around the block? It’s still there. Here’s all the reasons I’m gonna lose my business. Okay. Then let’s start getting some data.

Vanessa Washington (00:50:20):

If you are so scared that you are going to die, let’s look okay. Only two or 3% of people that have COVID are going to actually pass away. That is awful. And we don’t want that number to be any number, but reality testing is going to keep us back into that buffer zone. We want to be able to reality test. No one likes me. Everyone hates me call up a friend that you know is going to laugh with you. Do some reality testing, give your body, give your perceptions of different piece of information to center on.

Speaker 4 (00:50:49):


Vanessa Washington (00:50:52):

So toolkit strategy, one, manage your information intently.

Vanessa Washington (00:50:58):

Um, this, if you have not done, I would also do during your day off, have it be different. So your day off can not be a work-related activity. If you take a day off and all of a sudden you’re answering emails, that’s not a day off. You’re actively in work mode. So financial stability, business solvency accessing these loans that are coming out require that we kind of have a, um, business packet at the ready. I don’t know if any of you have been overwhelmed by, I need this, this, this, and this to apply for this loan. And it closes in two days and Oh my gosh, how am I going to get it to you? And all of a sudden it’s too much. And maybe we miss something that would have really been helpful. So this is both a protective and it’s proactive. Some things that could be helpful.

Vanessa Washington (00:51:40):

These came from previous, um, streams that livelihood Northwest has done that have greatly impacted my stress around business related stressors. I’ve been gathering all your financial statements. What loans have you applied for? You need a day for this. If you try to squeeze this in between meetings, it’s going to be overwhelming. So literally if you haven’t done it yet, take a day, take half a day. Let me find all my bills. Let me just create a word document. Let me start something now. So that opportunities that come up in October, November, when your tax accountant wants information, you just have it there. You don’t have to go use the energy you have on a day and depleted to get materials. Your document gathering day should not be the same as your organization day, unless you have a lot of capacity, but the goal is not to get you to I’m depleted and exhausted.

Vanessa Washington (00:52:28):

I need to sleep. The goal is to give you a little bit of stretch. Okay? One day I get all the documents and it probably is going to do a lot of fear and uncertainty by looking at it or realizing what you don’t have or what you need. And then you do your self-care strategies. And then you start to organize it, get a folder, get some tabs on it. Um, my tabs have finances. My house bills notices that you’re sending out to your people. If you have decision-making trees, those of you that have to decide if you’re going to go back and person, how you’re going to do that, how are you going to monitor all these different changing laws and rules have a little light? What questions do you have? What have you used to help you make decisions and just are having them organized?

Vanessa Washington (00:53:09):

And then lastly, um, this North star, we’re going to talk about, I think this very next slide, but the North star is the idea that you have something that you can send her on. That says, this is who I am. This is who the business is. This is how we’re going to move the pandemic. These are ideally what we would like to see. Um, I have a little pop-up note that shows up every evening. That’s just a little affirmation to myself. Yes. This is hard. Yes. This is hard and you are enough and you have the skills and you have the tools, whatever your value is, um, re inspiration day. Let me see time second. See, we only have like two more slides. We’re almost there. Um, we need re inspiration. There is so much threat. Anytime you want to go on social media for an escape, you’re going to find evidence of threat.

Vanessa Washington (00:53:59):

Anytime you go on the news, even to get some feel-good stories, you are going to be inundated with messages of scarcity and fear and no good. And that automatically puts us in threat brain. We have the capacity to create a new normal, to start getting that vitality back, to get that creativity back and we can do it on a personal front. We can do it on a professional front, or we could do it both. I don’t know what your cup of tea is. Some of you may be artistic and you want to draw. Some of you might want to color, but some of you might not be artistic at all. So a re inspiration day is something that gets you connected back into what you enjoy about life outside of working 12 hour days, or waking up and thinking about things you need to do.

Vanessa Washington (00:54:41):

And writing a sticky note re inspiration day could look like rearranging your living room. So it just sits differently. So it’s like, Oh, I have a new way to orient. This is kind of nice. It could look like, okay, that those need bubbles. I just shared, I really miss my people. Every day I wake up, I think of relational needs. If that’s what you’re experiencing, then you need to start getting some pictures out and start looking at them. Give yourself a little bump of the stress. Um, in relation to the stress that you’re feeling. If you cannot find inspiration, if it’s not even there for you to like, kind of get and pull on, then just get out. If it’s safe for you to get out, if it’s safe, you have a mask that can follow all of the things. See if there’s a hike, you can go on.

Vanessa Washington (00:55:23):

I know some of the hikes are overcrowded. And so depending on your risk threshold, you might not want to do that. Go for a drive, walk on the waterfront, go to a different part of town. Look at old buildings, do something that your mind can focus on. That is not related to is my work going to survive? Are we going to survive? Connect back to something you enjoy? And then on a business tip of it, probably this would be helpful as well. Remembering why we came into this to begin with. I’ve had so many thoughts of, well, maybe he’s now not. Maybe now’s not the time. Maybe I should be focusing on family, maybe all the reasons, but there’s a very specific reason. Each of us were called into our professions. There’s a very specific reason. We all have decided to stay in the tenacity, why we’re choosing to be here.

Vanessa Washington (00:56:13):

It’s real hard to connect to the why when you’re constantly, constantly, constantly treading water. So give yourself a day, do a, a vision board, right way. You’re hoping to come out of this with what skills am I going to develop that are going to rock my world. Put those on there. If you need help with inspiration days, um, little bullet journals have been a lifesaver for my clients at the start of pandemic, rather than having to do lists around stress management. Let me make sure I get my coping done. Ideally, what would you want to in September with maybe you want to go on a couple more walks in September. Maybe you want to try to read one page of a non-academic business-related survival related book. Maybe you have something that you want to like try to cook. And so create a bullet journal or something that you can track that justice simply reminding you. You will not remember in times of stress, what is going to actually help you feel better. So it’s literally thinking of it ahead of time. What could bring me vitality and trying to purposely put yourself in the way of it.

Gavin D’avanther (00:57:17):

Vanessa, I’d like to pipe in with a question here. Um, Scott, Scott posted while you were talking a problem shared is a problem halved. And I have a comment about what if you want to share, but you’re concerned about traumatizing someone else by sharing your own issues. What about that fear of impacting others?

Vanessa Washington (00:57:34):

Yeah, that’s a great question. Thank you for bringing it up. So sharing has two components and they are related. So it’s nice to be mindful of it. Connection, breeds, safety, just like threat dumps down cortisol and fight or flight energy, connecting to someone who gets you, who validates that experience, who honors it, that actually increases oxytocin, which is just the way of say it. Like that creates a way for our body to actually rest quicker. And so connection is so, so, so important. And I hear you that we don’t want to overburden those around us. Um, predictability is an Avenue of safety. So even being able to predictably check in with your person and say, I could really use some venting time, or I really need to share how hard this is for me. Do you have capacity to hear it today? Then you’re asking their permission.

Vanessa Washington (00:58:28):

You’re getting predictability both for yourself and for them. Okay. I think Scott is the name of it. Okay. He has something he has got to tell me. Um, let me, let me get my system ready versus being knocked over. I have found talking to business owners that it is a little bit difficult to talk to folks that are in different professions or that don’t have the burden of business owning because there’s a, um, a lack of shared knowing. And so finding places I know livelihood, I think Gavin interrupt me if I’m wrong. I think there’s still access to free business advisors use that. Maybe there are things that you can push off and get support from other resources that are more equipped to give you that support. So that then with your friends and family, you can talk about some of the things, but not give them the whole host of your tigers.

Vanessa Washington (00:59:14):

Maybe we talk about one tiger where we talk about the growl of the type. So it’s not a don’t share. Sharon is quite helpful and lovely. Just give them some predictability and choice before you dump. Okay. Cement shoes, cement shoes is, um, Michelle will know the theory of this. Actually this concept actually came from, but cement shoes are kind of our North star. I think of Redwood trees and how they are so big, so expansive and no matter what happens with the wind, they’re sturdy, they will flex, but they don’t break. And it’s because there’s such a deep root system. It’s such a strong metaphor. Samantha. She uses the metaphor like that. Like, no matter what waves, no matter what tornado, your cement shoes, keep you locked in and naming something. There’s this concept is called name it to tame it. That literally by naming what we’re feeling by listing the charges that we want to like focus on, we start to actually create the pathway for those to become real our cement shoes.

Vanessa Washington (01:00:17):

We’re probably a little more clear pre COVID and then we’ve had to flex with the wind and it was necessary to learn how to, okay, what sailboat do I need to get through this now is your time to recreate your cement shoes. Now is the time of saying, okay, this threat is here. It’s going to be here. Some people say it’s going to be here for a year. Some people say it’s going to be for don’t time limit it. But if this is the sea that we are in, if I can, I can, if I can depend that tomorrow is still going to be like it was today. Reconnect to your mission statement. What are my ideals? What are my visions? What do I want for myself? What I want for this business, some fear is going to come up naturally when you do it.

Vanessa Washington (01:00:58):

Because those things that you want might have some risk associated with them right now, but still don’t avoid naming them. Some ideas of identifying your cement shoes. What do you love? What values do you want to instill? Do you want to embody, but do you want people to say about you and your business? How do you want to feel about yourself after the pandemic? And so really letting yourself just start to orient around who am I? Okay. And lastly, this is kind of those CPR moments. So we can do all the things we can say. We’re going to prep ourselves. We can say, we’re going to think ahead. We’re going to create predictability. We’re going to get a good, solid focus and organization around our business. And we’re still going to have blows of emotion. We’re still gonna have days where we are simply knocked out.

Vanessa Washington (01:01:47):

And so literally finding ways to respond, to name it. Um, I just say, don’t be a hater, but if you need actual names to look up, you can look up tendon befriend. You can look up, um, mindful awareness. Uh, what we need to be doing to ourselves is to not increase the emotion, noticing what’s happening in our body. Noticing that you’re starting to get overheated, noticing that your jaw, I can’t see many of you, but stretch your jaw just as you’re here, like wiggle your ears, see how it feels to have your wrists around. Oftentimes we don’t actually realize that we have tension until we try to loosen it up. So start to pay attention and get comfortable, paying attention to your signals. Recognizing it’s a business expense. If I am not paying attention to my signals, I’m going to get swept away by them.

Vanessa Washington (01:02:36):

And I’m going to have to take a day off or I’m going to be ineffective in that meeting or something. So start to notice it if that’s too woo, woo. If you don’t want to think about your feelings, you can’t access your body. If you are kind of in that free zone where you are out of body, then maybe give yourself permission to use metaphors. I’m a wilted flower today versus a flower. That’s like a spreading fruit. I’m in a green zone today. I feel great. I am in a red zone today. It’s a hard day. Naming it, naming it, naming it is the first pathway to actually taming. It do not gaslit yourself. There is no bad emotion. There’s no wrong stress response and it is happening because of biology. So if you feel depressed, you feel depressed. There is no shame in that.

Vanessa Washington (01:03:19):

If you feel angry, you feel angry, let yourself have the feeling. And the response is always, that makes sense. Of course you feel that way. So we become almost our little inner counselor, our inner Yoda, or in a yoga master of named the feeling and then validate it. This is a valid response to a pandemic. None of us have gone into a fall with the school year. At the beginning at home. This is a normal response. If you have children in your life, probably validate. It’s a normal response to have to manage what’s going on with them and with you and all your different roles. And then the job is to ground within it. So when I say ground, I mean, you’re finding ways in the moment to support yourself with that emotional experience. So this is that reactive kind of CPR thing. My favorite way to ground, I will just teach you if you are in a space where there’s any type of color, it doesn’t matter. Black, white, or colors, choose a color, any color and look around and see how many times you can see that color popping up for you.

Vanessa Washington (01:04:24):

So if I picked blue, blue Spiderman, picture blue curtain, blue puff, all that, I sometimes sit on actually picking a color. You can pick a shape at that speaks quicker to you. We’re giving your brain one quick thing to orient to in the moment, that’s going to bring you back to the here and now it’s going to kind of slow that stress response, people that are auditory and musical, listen to a song, put on a song. And your whole goal is to listen to every single instrument as it’s playing. So you notice what’s going on in your body. You validated this is normal and healthy and appropriate for the stress that we’re experiencing. And you give yourself a tool to focus on something just for a couple seconds. If you can get away with it. I know a lot of folks aren’t requiring that our faces beyond the zoom call, lay on your back with your feet at a 90 degree angle and let your heart just something about laying on our back with our feet.

Vanessa Washington (01:05:19):

Elevated slows our heart rate down. We can orient up. We can listen to music, actually getting your body. Um, breathwork is the last one I’ll tell you. So remember our threat brain does not differentiate. It can only see, Oh, they’re trying to strategy to ease the stress. The threat is actually going away. And so it’s kind of finicky. It’s going to say either they’re in danger or they’re not. When we are stressed, we have shallow breathing, nothing wrong with shallow breathing, except for when we already are at a stress brain, then our brain starts to think, well, maybe they’re drowning. Let me dumb down some more stress hormones in case they got to get out of that. See, we don’t need more stress hormones. So what you need to do is really get into the habit of doing some deep breath work. And for me in my practice, what I teach my clients to do is to picture your belly, like almost having a flower in there or a Bobo doll and the bubble dolls are what you kind of popped down and they come back up picture of flower bubble doll and on your exhale, you’re trying to knock that flower over, knock it over, knock it over.

Vanessa Washington (01:06:24):

So you breathe in,

Vanessa Washington (01:06:30):

But it is a deep, deep exhale. Some of you may have Mons with it. Some of you may not pick whatever image you want down there, but that deep exhale sends the response to the brain. Okay. They’re okay. They got this. So we notice the experience. We validate it and we ground. And the key part, I love the question we just had because if we can’t validate, if we are already too far gone and we can’t use our brain and our creative pivoting in our thinking and it, all we see is terror and the whole world’s over. That’s when you call someone else. That’s when you go to a business advisor, that’s when you go to a friend because they have their breaks, a lock for our situation. And so they can give you a bigger picture in the moment of, Nope, that seems totally normal. Have you tried this? And typically when we reach out to other people, the things that they say are not genius things, it’s like, Oh, I didn’t think of that. They didn’t think of that. Cause your brain wasn’t stressed brain. So if you can’t validate, reach out, get some love from someone around you that can offer a perspective to you.

Vanessa Washington (01:07:36):

I think from here, this is probably where we’re going to do questions. We do have some resources that we were going to pass out that will be in the chat. And those are more specific ideas. There’s a survey in there of just how often do you do these physical things, these emotional things, these psychological things. And it’s meant to be like a way to check your temperature. Whoa, how far am I off the wagon here with self care. Um, but it’s also a really good tool to give you some creative options for doing self-care. There’s also a PDF. That’s just really great. That talks about engaging your senses as a way to ground and manage stress. And, um, we’ll put that in the chat as well.

Gavin D’avanther (01:08:17):

I’ve posted two documents in the chat from Vanessa. Um, you’re welcome to view them or download them from the chat. If you can see that, if you can’t find the chat, there should be a button at the bottom of your screen with a little, uh, thought box. Um, first of all, Vanessa, I want to thank you so much for a great presentation. Um, if you want to stop sharing your, uh, let’s actually, do you have a final slide for this? Or do you want to leave it on this one?

Vanessa Washington (01:08:40):

Actually I’ll do this final slide. So we leave it on here for those of you that, and I’ll say one little last thing, those of you that may want some additional support, if you are experiencing intrusive thoughts, control needs that you’re not able to cope around. You need to be speaking to someone or maybe you are having some scary flight. Thoughts of flight energy can still show up as self harm or desired even into your life. So if it’s too intense or it’s not dissipating, then check out some counseling and see about your doctor. So Portland therapy center in psychology today, you can both just type in your insurance type, what type of counselor you want. And you’ll get a whole list of photos and videos and things to kind of go through Western psychological and Cedar Hills. Cedar Hills is at the hospital, but they have a clinic as well.

Vanessa Washington (01:09:25):

They both have multiple locations and availability. So you could just call and see, do they have counselors available? Crisis line is listed. And the last two are specifically around insurances that you need, um, as quicker step two or different steps. So if you have Kaiser insurance, you have to call this number before you’re paired with anyone. And if you have OHP, you can still use the psychology today, Portland therapy center, but they health share has their own specific directory where you can look just through their providers. So the link is there as well. And if you need require, want, it is so normal to want someone who reflects your identity, you call your insurance and you say, Hey, I need a black therapist. Hey, I need a gender fluid therapist. Who do you got? And they will send you a list of those. So don’t let identity barriers be, um, the reason to not get care. We just gotta do a little more tweaking to get you the right type of care. So we’ll leave this on and then I’ll, we’ll hop off the share screen.

Gavin D’avanther (01:10:23):

Great. Thanks so much, Vanessa. Let’s leave that there for a minute. Yeah. With the, with the, uh, um, contact information. Um, I don’t have any urgent questions in the chat, but this is a great time to put questions in the chat. If you would like to, we will also stop live streaming in a few minutes. And if you want to do any more private questions, more personal questions. Um, while folks think about that, I would like to take a moment and share, um, one of my go-to business books. Good to great by Jim Collins. I don’t know if this is when you’ve read, but this is when I recommend he talks about something. He calls the Stockdale paradox and it’s from talking to, um, Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And he’s talking about the prisoner of war experience and the trauma of that.

Gavin D’avanther (01:11:08):

And he asked him who didn’t make it out. And he says less easy. The optimist, they were the ones who said, Oh, we’ll be out by Christmas. And then Christmas would come and Christmas would go and they wouldn’t be out. And they say, Oh, well, be out by Easter. And Easter would come and Easter would go and they wouldn’t be out again. And they died of a broken heart. So the really the paradox that he comes up with, which I love is the idea that you have to confront the most brutal facts of where you are, but you also have to have ultimate faith that you will prevail. But if you give yourself these deadlines, you give yourself these it’ll all be, I’ll be better by Christmas. You’re setting yourself up for, um, lost hope and lost faith. So the Stockdale paradox being confronting the brutal facts head on, but having to have ultimate faith that you will get through it. And I find that just the most interesting and compelling piece of business advice I’ve really ever read. And it’s more true now than ever Vanessa thoughts on that.

Vanessa Washington (01:12:08):

I love that I would, um, add likely if you do take me up and schedule yourself a day off day and if you put it out about three weeks and you’re like, yeah, I need that. I would bet that by the time you get to that day, you are going to feel like you are on thin ice. And so even reminding yourself, Oh, I proactively decided to take a day off because I knew I would be feeling this way. It’s like really start to recognize how do deadlines impact you? How do certain events, what is the start of the year? Like, and just owning it. So you have a chance at moving through it with more ease.

Gavin D’avanther (01:12:41):

Yeah. The thing that, um, our advisor team has been talking about a lot is that many of our clients are struggling with lack of creativity because creativity is fueled by a free and open and stress low brain. And while we are so stressed and while we are so very pulled in so many different directions, we’re all struggling with the stresses of finding our own creativity. And creativity is the only path out of this for business owners. We have to put our on our most creative thinking caps and to do that, we have to find our most flexible brains and our most flexible thinking skills. And that is really where some of these strategies that Vanessa is talking about are incredibly important in terms of making room in your brain for your creative thinking to thrive.

Vanessa Washington (01:13:29):

That inspiration day is really trying to pick up on this. So if we just recognize that our creativity is going to be lower, it might be harder to start with creativeness with our business. And so letting yourself say what, maybe I want to paint a room. Maybe I want to like grow lettuce this fall and just be excited at it. It’s coming out. Anything that’s even, it could be related to your business, but any type of novelty, any type of new type of experience is going to start to get that creative juice going again,

Speaker 6 (01:14:01):

Not even acids Liz. Um, I, I’m not sure. I feel like you’ve touched on all of the, the ways that it kind of shows up for the different business owners there’s, I’ve seen freezing. I’ve seen all of those different tools, you know, or, um, States I think, uh, just think about how to build these practices in over time and how to have people to talk about them with, to normalize it and how, how to make it a habit and a safe thing to do either with the family, like people that are in our lives, in a, in a daily way. So that, I mean, sometimes you need a counselor and sometimes you just need to know, Oh, like these two little things could really help if I talk about it. So I don’t know if you have that.

Vanessa Washington (01:14:58):

No, that’s great. So, and that’s the hard part is the reason we talk about the stress response being so automatic is it will just go unless we are purposely now trying to put something different for our brain to wrap around. So the quickest habit that I’ve seen other businesses, other parents do is to not right. When you wake up, check your work email, give yourself a pause and giving yourself a pause. Because if you go straight into that, you don’t know what’s in that inbox. And so whatever’s in that inbox is now taking off the precious little moment. You had to take a breath and to orient, to like your safety of your bedroom before you put on that business hat. So if there’s any way, 15 minutes, 20 minutes to do something, have a cup of coffee. Tea is a great way. If you have aroused energy, then tea, peppermint tea, ginger tea, non-caffeinated decaf, coffee where low worrying what we’re actually putting in our body so that we have a better chance I would choose because of that because our brains are so max, I would choose one or two habits to try and commit to yourself.

Vanessa Washington (01:16:02):

I’m going to try them for a couple of weeks because we won’t make new habits without practicing. The phrase is practice makes permanent the more we do it, the more we are tuning to ourselves, the more we’re attuning to this is how I show up with stress. This is what I can do. We will start to create the pathway we need to actually manage.

Speaker 6 (01:16:21):

I think that’s even a piece of like how to pick those first one or two. Even that first step can be really hard. Right?

Vanessa Washington (01:16:30):

Yeah. And so that’s, I would encourage you to not try to think of it in the moment because emotion mind is really hard to think ahead for, so some strategies would be looking through, um, even that self-care list that you’re going to see on that PDF and choose to. I originally said, I’m going to read a book that’s not related to anything. And that was too much content. It was too much brain space. Go for a walk. If you can, if it’s safe for you to walk around, maybe you say, I’m going to walk for two minutes, three minutes, just up and down my block at the start of work up and down my block at the end of work, I’m going to set some predictability in my schedule and it may feel at first, which is why you commit to it ahead of time.

Vanessa Washington (01:17:12):

It may feel at first I can’t justify a two minute walk because this thing, no, you can, you can pause that’s your brain has to build a new connection. And it has to see that that nothing crazy happened when you did it before, it’s actually going to start to feel supportive things that decrease your actual stress load in your body exercise. So exercise actually moving the adrenaline out of your body is one quick way. If you like to do, if you don’t like exercising, you could also, um, like learn to do maybe one pushup at a time or learn to, um, do planks or something that engages your muscles to kind of release some adrenaline. So if I were going to choose anything, it would be, do not check your work email at the start of the day and to add some sort of movement, even two or three minutes, it doesn’t have to be exercise. Doesn’t have to be heavy, but get your body moving.

Gavin D’avanther (01:18:07):

The thing that, one of the things that I discovered pretty early is I had to set a limit on how late I read the news. So I’ve now said like after 8:00 PM, I can’t read any news or I won’t be able to sleep. So I had to set a boundary, not just at the beginning of the day, but at the end of the day that I don’t engage in news after 8:00 PM so that I am able to call my brain and sleep.

Vanessa Washington (01:18:29):

How did you learn? You needed that limit Gavin

Gavin D’avanther (01:18:33):

By not sleeping?

Vanessa Washington (01:18:36):

I think that’s part of the answer is giving yourself permission to notice. So maybe this week, maybe you don’t try anything. Maybe you just pay attention to when are my yellow zones, where are my red zones? And then over the weekend say, is the Gavin strategy? Is it no news intake? Is it walking around? Is it choosing one person that I’m going to call every Friday and just say, Hey, Hey, hello. Hi, you have to orient first that what’s really going on and then create a plan.

Gavin D’avanther (01:19:02):

Great. Any, uh, Michelle, any final comments or questions before we stop the live stream? Um, Michelle, did you want to add anything? Thank you so much for your time today.

Michelle (01:19:12):

Yeah, no, I think that was great. And it’s really building, um, choosing the different strategies and then, and everyone is different. And so there are some that won’t work for some people. And so not just giving up because you don’t like it in the moment, like Vanessa said, but sticking to it for a week before you decide. Nope, that one wasn’t for me. Let me pick two other ones and eventually, um, you’ll see. What, what does work and give you that buffer?

Gavin D’avanther (01:19:40):

I liked the slide that you shared, Vanessa, that had the, it had the calendar and it said, it said like walk 31 day, like it had, it had a calendar laid out for each activity so that you could really track them without going, wait, what was I supposed to do today? What were my, what was I going to try and do? It was like a really easy check-off list.

Vanessa Washington (01:20:00):

Yeah. And not one to induce shame, but that’s exactly it. You say here’s six things maybe I want to try. And then maybe you wake up and say, Oh, not these ones, but I’ll do that one today. Interest has free templates. They’re really beautiful. And creative check out from dressed, mood, journal, their habit trackers. And that’s what will come up.

Gavin D’avanther (01:20:18):

I’m also a huge, uh, Bernay Brown fan. And there’s, she talks a lot about, um, releasing the shame when you’re feeling the stress and the shame piling up and being able to say it and, and, uh, X two and the right to hear your story. And I think part of the, you know, we talked a little bit about not wanting to dump on someone else. Um, you have to pick your, you have to pick carefully, you have to find somebody who is willing to hold space and share space with you and receive rather than just trying to solve your problem, because nobody is going to go out and solve. COVID. We just all need to find ways to manage our own brain reaction. Any final thoughts Vanessa, before we stop the live stream,

Vanessa Washington (01:21:08):

My final thought is just to give yourself grace. We are all in a maxed out space. And so sometimes that rubber band is going to snap. And of course, shame is going to come up after that. I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I said that. I can’t believe I missed that thing. And so really giving yourself grace of we are all in this together, we are all experiencing a hot mess of a situation and we’re on the path of building resiliency. Just you being here saying I care enough to take an hour out to just even hear someone say, it’s okay to feel this way. You’re on the path of resiliency. So we’re just learning to tread water, creating some safety and we will get through it.