The pandemic has left a mental strain on small business owners. The good news is you can recover. (Photo: Tim Foster on Unsplash)
The pandemic has left a mental strain on small business owners. The good news is you can recover. (Credit: Tim Foster on Unsplash)

It’s unquestionable that small business owners are natural optimists who, as Winston Churchill said, “see the opportunity in every difficulty.” Why else would they risk everything—their money, their time, their ego—to start and run a business?

But the pandemic has taken a toll. Many are simply weary from lockdowns, hassles with government programs, continually changing rules to contend with, and shortages of employees and inventory items. How can you get back to your upbeat mind frame? 

Here are some ways to continue being an optimist.

The NFIB Optimism Index in June 2021, rose for the first time since November 2020. It’s moving in the right direction. The optimism rating is considerably higher now than it was 10 years ago.

Other trends worth noting:

  • Earnings trends over the past 3 months improved somewhat
  • Owners are expecting better business conditions over the next 6 months

2. Keep Things in Perspective

If you’re still in business now, you have reason to remain optimistic. Things could be worse. During the Great Recession (2008-2010), it’s estimated that 170,000 closed their doors. This is more than the typical 7.5% of businesses that shut each year, regardless of economic conditions. During the pandemic, it’s estimated by the Federal Reserve that 200,000 business “exited” (a polite term for closed down), but this was a smaller percentage of businesses as compared with closures in the Great Recession and the actual number of exits due to COVID-19 was fewer than expected.

According to the Fed, the number of shutdowns varied considerably with industry. For example, barber shops and nail salon shutdowns were higher than historical averages. The Fed refers to this as “excess establishment exit,” which means that of the 200,000 closures, only part were in excess of historic closure norms.

3. Work on Staying Positive

Some people are naturally optimistic and are always making lemonade out of lemons. But many have to consciously work on staying positive. SelectHealth, a not-for-profit health plan in Salt Lake City, has some suggestions on how to stay optimistic during hard times. These include:

  • Keep an open mind. With things continually in flux, don’t get stuck. Listen to possibilities that may improve your situation.
  • Allowing yourself to have bad days. It’s unlikely that you can maintain a positive outlook 24/7. Things happen to disrupt your business and certain affect how you feel. Just allow yourself to feel those things and then move on.
  • Making a list of things you can manage. While much of what happened during the pandemic was out of your control, it’s helpful to remember that there are always some things you can manage. Do what you can and don’t focus on what’s out of your control.

Harvard Business Review had some other suggestions for staying positive during difficult times:

  • Be more mindful
  • Share some kindness
  • Practice gratitude

Final Thought

It’s an important recovery strategy to remain optimistic as the economy improves. Norman Cousins said: “Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects.”

The prospects are looking better. Yes, there are concerns about COVID-19 variants and government responses, inflation, and other challenges. But what’s new? There are always challenges and, with a positive attitude, you can deal with them all.