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Five Actions To Immediately Take When Faced With A Personal Crisis

Written by: Christi Barbour, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Christi Barbour

As leaders, we are taught to be prepared for a crisis, employee troubles, financial issues, and supply chain challenges. The list is endless yet somewhat expected if you own or run a business. And because these things are expected at some point in the life of our business, we prepare for them. We professionally develop our team, surround ourselves with savvy business consultants, and do our very best to prepare for and mitigate the challenges these troubles could bring.

Crisis on red txt in black background

But what about the crisis you never thought to prepare for?

You have invasive ductal carcinoma grade 3,” she said on the phone. I sat in my office, door closed, my back to the glass so my team couldn’t see me sobbing while a specialist from the oncology department shared the detailed results of my biopsy. Stage 2 Breast cancer. It was an overwhelming experience that left me numb and feeling every emotion all at once. Two weeks prior, while traveling solo on business, I was experiencing some pain in my right ribcage. Assuming I had pulled a muscle while lugging around a heavy suitcase, I dismissed it initially. But a persistent nagging pain led to finding a lump in my right breast, so as soon as I landed at the airport, I went straight to my OBGYN. The rest was a whirlwind: a mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, and lots of follow-up doctor’s visits that included incredibly hard conversations over the course of several very long weeks. Once I had a better understanding of my particular case, the treatment plan that was necessary for survival, and the journey I had ahead of me, I was better prepared to turn my attention to our business to determine how and where I would be involved but more importantly how I could step away to give myself the space I needed to be treated and heal. I had a long road ahead of me and according to all the specialists who developed the plan, it wasn’t going to be an easy journey. You might find yourself facing a scary diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, a family crisis, or another significant life-altering event; we are all victim to being ripped away from life as we know it at any point in time. I have learned that it is possible to step away if you start planning immediately and with the help of others.

Start by seeking counsel from others

In addition to a loving family, I am fortunate to have a business partner of 23 years who I trust implicitly. With all of their help, I started processing the news and how to move forward. Next, I reached out to our business consultants who took time to grieve the news with me, then jumped into action about what I needed to do to get through the year to follow. As you start this journey, finding someone you trust and can be vulnerable with, is imperative. Be it a spouse, business partner, coach, or professional colleague, you will want to have someone that can help you process and make decisions that are not clouded with fear or anger, two emotions that are highly prevalent in the early days of diagnosis yet unfortunately when you often have to make the biggest decisions.

I received some great advice from a dear colleague shortly after being diagnosed, “remove yourself from any potential bottlenecks in the business while you are in treatment”. This included decision-making, client interaction, or anything that was time sensitive. As an owner, this was a tough pill to swallow but looking back it was the best gift I gave myself, our team, and the company before beginning chemotherapy. With the help of my trusted inner circle, we created an action plan that was small enough to fit on a Post-It note and feasible to finish in 30 days, the amount of time I had before starting treatment. You too can benefit from this simple and powerful tool which will enable you to prepare quickly and efficiently for your crisis. The Post-it note read:

  1. Calendar

  2. Delegate

  3. Who & How Much

Clear your calendar

It’s important that you clear your calendar to give yourself the physical and mental space you will need to deal with your crisis. With a (presumably) jam-packed calendar that includes client, team, and vendor meetings among other things, you will need to determine who will take each of your responsibilities. To do this, you will need to determine to whom you will delegate this work, but first, you need to ask an important question: “What can simply not happen?” This is a tough one and something most of us knee-jerk-react and say, “Everything has to happen!” but what you will find is there really are things on that to-do list and calendar that can completely go away, and no one will notice.

Determine whom you will delegate to, then do it

Once you have your list of what needs to be delegated you will need to start engaging the help of others. People around you will want to help. Let them. Determine with your trusted inner circle (be it your team, advisors, or family) who can take what role and give them the information they need. If you need to make introductions – make them, go over instructions – do it, provide history – start sharing the story. The more you can do to set someone else up for success the easier it will be to walk away and the better you will feel.

Decide how much and with whom to share

Depending on your situation, you may feel comfortable sharing it with the world or hesitant for even those closest to you to know. Either way, it’s important you are clear with the people inside your organization about what you want to be shared with anyone outside of your organization so your team can honor your wishes and share the right information. Completing these three steps gave me the peace of mind I needed to walk away to focus on myself and empowered those around me to succeed with the tasks they had been assigned. A win-win for all.

Reading this article, you are likely someone who wants to learn all they can from any situation, a crisis is no different. Any life-threatening diagnosis or other personal crisis can understandably make us angry, scared, or experience a myriad of other negative emotions. Rightfully so. But the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to see the good of the situation. And I can assure you, there will be plenty of good things to celebrate.

Commit to seeing the good

When I received the "cancer call" and became part of a club no one wants to ever join, I made a promise to myself to look for the sparkling moments each day that otherwise would never have existed. I know I have not been perfect at capturing them all (they have proven to be numerous), and I know there have been days that I was too angry or upset to notice, but they have been there and I hope to continue to capture as many as I can. Practicing the art of gratitude during times of crisis can be tough, but the hard work is worth the payoff. Much like when we were children running around at dusk hoping to catch those elusive fireflies, these “moments of good” sparkle, but they are ever-moving and require our attention and focus to catch.

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Christi Barbour Brainz Magazine

Christi Barbour, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Christi Barbour is creative visionary who understands how to harness the emotional impact inherent in design to create more meaningful spaces. She sees ahead of the curve, defining a new way to think about how we live and work in houses and buildings. Christi has crafted both workplace cultures and spaces that inspire and uplift, changing the dynamic for interiors and design. She is a Founder and Partner in Barbour Spangle, a multi-disciplinary interior design firm that offers creative exploration for commercial, residential, and mixed-use projects.



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