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From online discussion spaces to TikTok videos, social connectedness is important for mental health during social distancing
Adriana De Luca and Michelle Lalonde, owners of Tiber River Naturals

From online discussion spaces to TikTok videos, social connectedness is important for mental health during social distancing

By Kailynn Newediuk

For women entrepreneurs and those working to support them, this can be a challenging time, but maintaining a sense of togetherness during this period of social distancing can be good for both company wellness and mental health.

Dr. Moira Somers, a psychologist and business consultant based in Winnipeg, says to get through something that is “just relentless and all consuming” people need to look for sources of positivity and connectedness.

It’s important for entrepreneurs to check-in with themselves, she says, and make sure to recognize when they can handle strategic planning and business concerns and when they need to turn their attention to their emotional well-being.

Katherine Lanteigne, director at Women in Business New Brunswick (WBNB), agrees and encourages her clients to check in on their well-being because everyone is dealing with the pandemic’s impact differently. “Don’t feel the pressure to be over productive,” she says.

Like many organizations across Canada, WBNB are listening closely to their clients and finding ways to address their concerns as best they can online.

The WBNB’s Hot Topics networking platform started as a way to connect women entrepreneurs across New Brunswick and encourage collaboration and skill sharing. During COVID-19 Lanteigne says the tool is providing a space for entrepreneurs to gather and discuss how they’re dealing with the changes and uncertainty.

“It’s a great platform to just talk and for women to see they’re not alone,” says Lanteigne. WBNB plans to offer the online discussion every two weeks to get updates from women and see how they’re coping.

Similarly, the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce is offering free online discussions in partnership with Startup Canada throughout April and May, so a larger community of small business owners and entrepreneurs can participate.

CEO Nancy Wilson and Member Success Coordinator Tabitha Mirza say they want to provide a welcoming space for women to discuss the economic and social impacts COVID-19 is having on their lives. They make sure to end every discussion with positive ideas about what a new normal for women entrepreneurs might look like.

Entrepreneurs are also looking after their employees and Dr. Somers suggests they will benefit from frequent communication that expresses “grounded optimism.”

This reassurance might come in many forms — a daily Zoom call with the team or going out for a walk and getting some fresh air during a phone meeting are options. Or, in the case of Michelle Lalonde, maybe creating a team TikTok to boost morale and lighten what can be a heavy situation for some people to work through.

Lalonde and her business partner Adriana De Luca own Tiber River Naturals, an eco-friendly personal care and home care product store based in Winnipeg. One of their two retail stores is closed because of provincial social distancing regulations, and Lalonde says the biggest adjustments have been managing workflow and staying connected.

“Our leadership team meets every morning at 9 a.m. and are evaluating where we’re at, how things are going, and making any changes we need to make,” says Lalonde.

Team building that was once centred around monthly potlucks has evolved in new and creative ways. As well as making team TikToks, Tiber River Naturals offers Meditation Monday’s on their Instagram every day at 8 p.m. CDT in partnership with Inside Out Meditation. “We want to make sure the team feels appreciated and safe,” says Lalonde.

Despite COVID-19 statuses and regulations changing continuously, Lalonde says her team’s anxieties have lessened the more they’ve stayed connected and continue to support one another. She says the changes they’re making at Tiber River Naturals will have a long-lasting effect on their company culture.

“I think in a lot of ways entrepreneurs are really built for this situation because we have to navigate the unknown all the time,” says Lalonde.

Dr. Somers says self-compassion, forgiveness, and cutting people slack will go a long way during these turbulent times. “This is much more fatiguing than any of us expected it would be,” says Dr. Somers. “But nobody can be resilient in the absence of positivity.”

Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week is from May 4-10. This year’s theme is social connection and CMHA is encouraging online conversations with #GetReal and #MentalHealthWeek.

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