Each week, along with this column, I write a weekly e-newsletter for my members. Typically, it’s filled with chamber program updates, community event announcements and news submitted by chamber members. Occasionally though, like with this column, I’ll address larger themes.

Last Friday, our e-newsletter featured a piece about being overwhelmed. I wanted to share a portion of that with all of you, with some additional thoughts below.

“There’s a tremendous amount we’re all taking on right now — it’s overwhelming. It’s difficult to keep the days straight, as we’re dealing with so much stress and change in our workplaces, in our lives and in the world around us.

What are those stress points? Let’s name some of them:

  • Some businesses are transitioning all or part of their staffs back into the workplace for the first time in weeks, while collaborating with other staff and vendors who are still working remotely — so how we work is changing.
  • New safety restrictions are needed due to Covid-19, so we need to adjust our protocols, train our employees on these protocols and adapt our workspaces — so where we work is changing.
  • The PPP is ending for some businesses and they’re calling their staffs to return, but a certain percentage of employees don’t want to come back for fear they may catch Covid-19 themselves, or pass it to an immuno-compromised family member. Those people need to choose between their family health or their job and the business owner needs to replace some of their best people at no fault of either party — so who we are working with is changing
  • Some businesses who are not allowed to open yet, have the unbearable decision of “do I remain closed to follow the state orders or do I open, risk the ramifications and the fallout of that decision, so that I can remain solvent and be able to pay a wage to my staff?”  What’s the ethical decision when you have employees asking to work so they can make wages so they can afford their own expenses? So when we work and open is changing.
  • And on top of that, our favorite nonprofits are struggling from canceled fundraisers, and they have appeals which you want to help with, but don’t know if you can.
  • Our high school seniors are graduating, and we’re trying to celebrate this landmark change with them like a normal year, but nothing is normal. Our other students are ending their school year and we don’t know how to juggle their summer schedules which have shifted too with no summer camp and less summer jobs.
  • Our customers either follow the health and safety guidelines fervently for the health of those around them, or they ignore the health and safety guidelines just as fervently.
  • The top 10 books on the New York Times best sellers list and nonfiction lists all have to do with race in America, as we reevaluate how our society has gotten to this point.

It’s a lot. And this is just some of it. There are so many other stressors right now. It can be a lot to handle. When you look at all of it in total, and list it out like this, you begin to realize why you’re so tired, why you’re being short with others, and why you can’t keep the days straight.

I wanted to remind you, that it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re not able to handle all of these stressors as graciously as you’d like to every day. It’s okay not to work at peak efficiency every day.”

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The story went on to talk about disengaging when you can’t handle all of the stressors and how that it’s okay to do so. Then it mentioned how disengaging can mean not responding as quickly to e-mails, or newsletter requests or dues invoices, etc. Self-care is needed to handle stress.

Understanding that we are collectively overwhelmed in this moment is vital when we begin to consider how we re-start the economy and how we interact with one another. Our survey a month ago asked businesses what their anticipated losses are for 2020, and the 1,300-plus who responded to that question gave an average loss of 52.2%.

Which means, even with the sharpest turnaround possible, the absolute best most businesses can hope for is probably a 30% loss this year, which would still be the biggest loss in a decade for many businesses.

Imagine what 50% losses looks like. It looks like businesses unsure of which staff they can keep employed. It looks like owners deciding how much of their savings they can dip into. It’s desperation for successful sales and community events to drive traffic to their door. It’s an increased emphasis on doing all they can to help their business, and limiting any negatives.

Business owners are stressed and scared. So are their employees. Even once every industry is allowed to re-open, this constant pressure won’t just go away- it will be with us for quite some time.

Here’s what you can do: Be kind, be patient, be supportive with your time and money, be conscientious, don’t dicker. Promote them. Go out of your way to support those you want to be sure make it.

Also, remember, it never serves a business to make you aware of how close they are to closing. No owner tells their customers how much they need to make that month to stay solvent. They put their best face forward. Assume every business you know is struggling, whether they say so or not. Let’s never assume that these 52.2% in losses will be businesses you don’t patronize. Help those you love and do what you can to help.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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