How to run your business when you are feeling low!

Published 29th September 2023 in Category: Nervous System

Let’s talk about running your business when you are not feeling great. Because up until recently to me "feeling low" and not feeling my bubbly energetic self (after having come out of chronic illness --> see my full healing story here), felt like failure, regression, back to square one, again! I realise that after having suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and 30+ other symptoms and diagnoses, not feeling "my best" still felt somewhat dangerous. Let me introduce you to a phase called "transition" instead. But let's examine how we get there first.

The trigger phase

I have come out of a very stressful summer period and it was emotionally taxing and physically draining… all the travelling, not being in a safe environment or my safe haven - my home. Feeling uncertainty, sometimes exhaustion… basically sometimes feeling shaken and activated. I was fine with doing the minimum in my business during those periods. I prioritised self care, meeting my own needs and managed to focus on nervous system regulation first and foremost. Yay, that alone was huge progress and I am proud. Where my previous response would have been falling into a total slump and freeze response, I stayed regulated for the most part and recovered quickly. Amazing with capital A.

Fast forward, I was finally home and my expectation was to jump back on the bandwagon and tame the unicorn of passion and momentum in my business... now that I was finally home, safe and had plenty of time. But the energy didn’t materialise. I got frustrated, felt like I was slacking, unproductive, falling behind, failing… myself and my business.

The aftermath of sympathetic activation

So here is what I know to be true now: Don’t forget that after strenuous and activating periods, there is a TRANSITION phase! 

I realised I had become good at regulating stress in the very moment of challenges, but not at transitioning afterwards. 

What’s transitioning? 

Transitioning means you are no longer in the actual sympathetic activation of fight, flight, freeze…. The acute danger, tension, uncertainty is over. BUT just like after an intense hunt or chase, a life and death situation (because that’s what our nervous system thinks we just went through)… there is an adjustment period of processing, recalibrating, integrating learnings and becoming this new version of you.

The discomfort of the transition phase

Often this can feel super uncomfortable. This can be feelings of confusion, anger, resistance, irritation, even depression or a state of highly functional freeze (able to do basic daily tasks like cooking, washing up… basically functioning but an inability to motivate yourself or get moving on other important tasks like business, todo’s, exercise, being social etc.). 

Let me make this clear: feeling low during a transition phase is NOT a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s you moving forward but most often without realising you are moving forward. 

That's why we get frustrated because we think we are regressing and are right back at the start. We are not. We are transitioning to a new version of ourselves. 

THAT requires space in our nervous system and despite us thinking we should have 100% capacity available to us, it is more like 20%. Because consequently the other 80% of our capacity is being used to integrate,  return to safety and ground ourselves.

So here is the key to making the most out of this transition phase:

Let your nervous system dictate the speed!

Your mind might be like… “Ok, let’s go, we are ok again now… so let’s be productive, conquer the world!”. And your body might be saying, “Fuck, that was hard, let’s not get up today or tomorrow or ever”. 

Don’t get stressed at the ambiguity and sometimes inability to mobilise after you’ve gone through an activating time. 

Your mind might be ambitious but your nervous system shows where you are truly at. This is not the time to move mountains on the outside or in your business, but instead continue to build a rock solid foundation on the inside.

Focus on the basic human needs of your nervous system: safety, comfort, grounding, feeling, grieving, processing, being! 

This can look like doing very gentle somatic movements, breath work, body touch, vagus nerve training. Or even none of the above sometimes.

Your ambition vs. your true state

I was so ambitious to exercise, be healthy and do myself some good after my triggered state was finally over… but I had to realise that my craving for a sense of safety and comfort was even stronger than any ambition to live healthily and do all the things I thought I should. I wanted to go outside, do yoga, go for walks… I was shocked to realise that to be truthful, I didn’t actually even want to go outside. I realised that being outside felt not safe. There was noise, there were people, there were cats that wanted attention and food (yep, I look after 12 not-so-feral-anymore cats). I didn’t want to be there for anybody. I wanted to be free of any kind of pressure or demands. Not surprising after the intensity of the summer. My mind was thinking: let’s go outside, be super healthy, do yoga. My nervous system was saying: oh god, let’s stay inside and the utmost energy expenditure I can fathom right now is move from the couch to the fridge". 

I had to admit: my window of tolerance was VERY small.

Following nervous system cues

Following the cues of my nervous system is what opened the door to acceptance and allowed me to recharge and integrate. It also signalled to my limbic system that YES, I can take a hint and take care of myself effectively. So that my limbic system didn’t have to intervene with all sorts of survival mechanisms and symptoms to keep me safe, like anxiety or even full blown fatigue or depression (like before).

Following these cues and needs for safety helped me stay truly healthy, without my body having to produce symptoms and without me crashing or getting triggered even more. It helped me to open up and widen my window of tolerance again. This WAS THE WAY to stay HEALTHY, despite my ambition of what I thought being healthy meant (yoga, hikes, exercise, walks...). It was all about GENTLE mobilisation out of an “aftermath” freeze state. And by gentle mobilisation I mean interrupting the freeze pattern from time to time, even if it was just for 1 minute with a tiny bit of somatic touching or stretching or just getting up purposefully.

How patient, kind and self-compassionate we can be with ourselves through this transition determines how long it takes to return to the new version of ourselves that once again shines with creativity, passion and energy.

Not feeling good can feel “dangerous”

No, it does not feel good to get triggered or be in the aftermath of a trigger. But learning to be ok with not feeling ok, is HUGELY IMPORTANT.

For the longest time I thought, I shouldn’t have to feel bad. In fact feeling bad felt highly dangerous to my nervous system and triggered me so much, given my history with childhood trauma and cPTSD.

That’s when I knew that mastering “not feeling good” was my next step on my healing journey and the gateway to entering the more joyful next phase of success, energy and feeling great again.

THIS IS THE WORK! Including in your business.

Success is not about finding the next marketing strategy, branding or content creation hacks. But doing the actual work of mastering your emotions, triggers, setbacks and transitions in your nervous system.

EnergyFlow, LifeDesign, overcoming procrastination, perfectionism, overwhelm, anxiety, burnout

So how to run your business when you are not feeling great?

1) Let your protective mechanisms do their job!

If all you can master today is Netflix, then so be it. Let your protective mechanism (immobilising you with a freeze response) do its work if there simply aren't any resources to do anything else. Self-care and self-compassion IS the work and is the utmost priority.

2) Go for gentle mobilisation

Go for gentle minimum mobilisation. Like even if you feel like you can’t get off the couch at all. Watch an hour of Netflix and then get up and do some gentle body touching, shaking or butterfly hug (anything somatic) for even 1 or 2 minutes. You are allowed to go back to Netflix for another 2 hours afterwards. It’s just about really getting to a minimum of intervention. It doesn’t have to be more. But show your limbic brain that you CAN mobilise and that it's safe. A powerful message.

3) Go for repetitive rewiring

This one is from my trusted friend and fellow coach Lydia Wilmsen. I didn't feel particularly good about myself sitting on the couch, watching Netflix and letting life pass me by. I did some inner work and brain retraining with that inner sense of feeling not valuable but I needed something else for in between doing that conscious inner work. I needed something for while I was in that physically and mentally immobilised state, watching Netflix. 

So Lydia recommended to come up with a short affirmation that resonated with me and repeat that to myself WHILE I was netflixing. I chose "I am safe, secure and stable" and a day later "I am valued, appreciated and loved" and while I was watching episode after episode I just repeated this sentence (sometimes quietly, sometimes out loud, sometimes even singing it). I didn't have to believe it. I didn't even particularly have to feel it. It was just about feeding my brain with a repetition I HAD CHOSEN, and not the garbage that knowingly or unknowingly was looping in my mind otherwise. It felt kind of good giving my mind something useful to do... and I did start to feel more safe, secure and stable after a while. 

4) Focus on trust

Trusting yourself, that when you are back to your true energetic self, you will actually do the work in your business that moves the needle forward. When you are energetic again, you will utilise this time of energy and momentum - as you have done so many times before - to skyrocket your business. So that you don’t have to in times of lower energy 😉 Seriously: trying to get even simple tasks done during low energy takes for freakin’ ever… but when you are in good spirits, they will take 2 minutes. So don’t waste your time or breath. Trust in yourself, trust the flow of life, trust in running idle and boredom (the birthplace of creativity) and know that this is just a phase that will just as easily and quickly change into something more desirable again soon. 

5) Have non-negotiable minimum standards

Despite giving into your protective mechanisms (see 1), you can still implement non-negotiable minimum standards that you practice in your times of energy... so you can automatically continue them in your low times. Mine for example is "to share my message daily". Ideally you have a freebie or entry point to a funnel set up already. Ok. Go into a Facebook group you interact in regularly and share a brief message where you invite people into that entry point. This takes not even 5 minutes and I might do a quick post in bed in the morning - during my morning scroll 😉 - where I say “Entrepreneurship is a nervous system game, not a mindset game… find out where you stand by taking the nervous system test here…" (basically include a link to your freebie). That’s it. Work for today is done! Anything else is a bonus. This minimum standard should be as easy, fast and non-negotiable like brushing your teeth. You just feel yucky not having done it. And you can still do it, even if you are tired and ready to go to bed.

6) Don't make decisions

Don’t make decisions, strategise or plan during low times. The decisions you make when running on a full tank are always the most inspired and powerful ones. They derive from your true strength and self, whilst your state during your lower phases will draw from fear and lack. Postpone important decisions until you have changed your state.

7) Change your state

This brings me to my final and most important point: when feeling low, it’s never about solving the situation. If you have questions throbbing in your head like, “Ok, so what do I do?”, “How will I get out of this?”, “How do I solve this?”. Know that these are the wrong questions. They are actually part of the problem. 

They come from our problem solving mind. Give your mind 1000 problems to solve and it will busy itself solving those 1000 problems until it gets another 1000 problems to solve. It’s what it does. It’s what it's good at. So instead of treating “feeling low” as a problem and cementing the underlying assumption that “something is wrong / not how it’s supposed to be”, you need to approach this from a different level. Like Einstein said, we can not solve problems from the level on which they were created. So what to do instead? 


Rather than staying stuck in your problem solving psyche, step out of "problem country" and focus on changing your state. How? By getting into your body and out of your mind! I already mentioned going for minimum mobilisation. But what if you go one step further. Rather than thinking "oh shit, but I should be doing XYZ (todo's, creating content for my business, set up a sales page etc.)", think about "ok, my only job today is to change my physical state, that IS my work". So rather than requiring (aka forcing) yourself to do anything for your business, try and see that AS your WORK instead! For me anything from weight training to hiking and any bottom up technique like vagus nerve training, painting, walking or somatic movement works. That way you focus on going from frazzled and confused to calm, or from uncertain and feeling small to peaceful and self-compassionate. That’s what’s needed more than anything else in that moment. And a calm, peaceful state will be exactly the state you need to SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM!

It will change your whole game.

Keen on mastering your nervous system and emotions?

If you want to learn more (like how to apply brain retraining or nervous system regulation) and go from strength to strength in your life and business, I recommend you start with my nervous system test, to see if and how dysregulated your limbic brain and nervous system might be. 

Take the nervous system test now and find out where you stand.

Take the nervous system test!

Is your nervous system killing your business (and health)? Do you procrastinate, feel exhausted easily, are highly sensitive, suffer from anxiety or ADHD? Check in with your nervous system and find out!

Running a business with cPTSD or chronic illness

Running a business when you've been chronically ill or have suffered from cPTSD / developmental trauma is a little bit different 😜 

But that doesn't mean your business can't be the thriving success you want it to be. Sometimes it just means you get to do it in an even more awesome way, like using more automation, funnels and fun marketing that feels great to you and not triggering. And to be honest... who wouldn't want that anyway! Nobody likes or buys that bro-marketing, cookie cutter hustle mode crap anyway. That's why - having gone through chronic illness - to me business is a vehicle to do the inner work, share it with the world and learn how to never compromise your values. It means, getting PAID FOR WHO YOU TRULY ARE. 

Are you on your journey of setting up or scaling your business right now and know things like fatigue, procrastination, limiting beliefs or anxiety? Then take the nervous system test above or check out my other courses, programmes and ways to work with me.


    2 replies to "How to run your business when feeling low?"

    • Claire

      This is exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. 🙏💗

    • Catherine LifeDesign

      ❤️❤️ I hear you ❤️❤️
      Because I was right there with you, going through my own “transition” phase recently 😜 It was hard, it felt forever. But it was also a gateway to resolving “feeling low is dangerous”. I am happy to say, I’ve come out the other side once again stronger, more resilient, more peaceful and certain than ever before. We just gotta get good at feeling and processing the low stuff just as much 😍 Big hug, whatever phase you are in right now. Thank goodness not everything is permanent… 🤪

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