I am reading and hearing many scary stories of those who have been exposed to Covid-19. Given how unfamiliar we are with this version of corononavirus, its symptoms are confusing. They often present as some other kind of illness: falling, seizures, loss of smell, exhaustion, confusion. The problem for the doctors and nurses trying to diagnose it is that these symptoms can be easily misunderstood.

In a similar way, I am fielding a wide array of therapists’ questions and these queries seem like symptoms.

Many in our profession wonder: Has my practice been exposed by this pandemic? And if so, what should I do? Private practice symptoms include issues like these:

So today, think of me as your visiting nurse, making a house call. In this newsletter, I will explain:

What the Pandemic Teaches Us

When I go the beach, I especially like to walk at low tide. With the sand uncovered, I can see random shells, debris and driftwood left behind. The economic recession we are living through, caused by Covid-19, is comparable to being at low tide. It has exposed much about the typical business.

What is laid bare in your practice? Here are some symptoms that I hear repeatedly:

Addressing The Symptoms

I know this is a big list and you may have other concerns to add. If your practice is exposed, its not too late to shore it up. Go step by step and remember, small steps count.

I have written about these issues and offered strategies in my earlier books, including one written specifically for an uncertain economy: Crisis-Proof Your Practice. I will continue to address these topics in successive newsletters.

But today, let’s start with just one, the last one on the list: You need a strong business mindset to stay viable. Let me show you how you need to think, for now and for the future.

Best Business Mindset

I have been studying successful entrepreneurs for two decades and I see that they tend to share similar qualities of thinking. An entrepreneurial mindset influences your ability to lead, make good decisions and take effective actions.

Here is the mindset I recommend for those in private practice:

I want to clarify the last aspect: the ability to sustain a mindset of abundance during times like these.

Abundance in a Crisis

Abundance, as a concept, speaks to the ability to allow things to circulate; just as in nature, there is a continual flow of significant movement. An attitude of abundance requires you to focus on that which is present, not that which is missing.

What do you have in abundance right now? I hope your list includes some of these: time, energy, quiet, resources, self-discipline, routine, good will, caring, support, love, creativity, opportunities, curiosity, and gratitude. When you focus on abundance in a time of crisis, you concentrate on existing connections and future possibility. You live into your potential.

As the owner and operator of a small business, one way to feel abundant is to stay connected to the essence of your practice. Try this exercise:

The Body of Your Business

Martha Graham, the famous dancer and choreographer, had a wonderful mantra that was later adopted by others: The body never lies. Graham meant that the body and its capacity for movement was a barometer indicating the state of the soul of the dancer.

We can use the same mantra when thinking about a private practice: the business never lies, as long as you know where to look. A small business is a feedback loop, offering you accurate information about its health and well-being. You can learn to feel the body of your business, in your own body.

Ronald Law, cardiologist and author of The Body of Business, contrasts the function of human organs to the disciplines of business. He assigns a different business function to each organ and explains the purpose and promise of each, to see how a healthy body and a healthy business mirror each other.

For example, he notes that the heart of your business is in your finances; How does money circulate through your practice? Your lungs reflect your level of information: Does more data allow you to breathe more easily? Your ability to organize and manage your business mirror the way your kidneys control your metabolic balance. Are the kidneys of your business in good shape? Your own body can be a metaphor for the framework (the body) of your business.

Connecting to Your Business Body

[From Building Your Ideal Private Practice, 2nd Edition, chapter 3]

There are many measures to monitor for the health of your practice including topics we will cover in further chapters: your business vision, client count, rate of new business, finances, systems, administration, and the value of your services. That’s a big and weighty list for a therapist, who may be untrained in business, to easily assess.

Many therapists relate to the world more kinesthetically than cognitively, as feelers rather than thinkers. If this describes how you gather information, let me show you how to assess the health of your practice in another way: by embodying your business, to see what feedback you can sense, at an intuitive level.

Ronald Law, cardiologist and author of The Body of Business, contrasts the function of human organs to the disciplines of business. He assigns a different business function to each organ and explains the purpose and promise of each, to see how a healthy body and a healthy business mirror each other.

Law suggests that the brain of the business is your best thinking and summarizing of everything you know and feel about the day-to-day operations, as well as the vision and future of how your practice may grow over time.

The heart of your business is in your finances and how money circulates through your practice. The breath and lungs of your business are also involved in your financial well-being, and your ability to breathe easily with strong lungs can translate to business.

Having control over your data, knowing your business inside and out, ensuring that you have the budget and resources you need can be the difference between holding your breath and hoping you survive or relaxing in the knowledge that your practice is operating according to a plan.

Law thinks that the management discipline of business is analogous to the role of kidneys in your body. Just as kidneys control your metabolic balance, your ability to stay on top of the management of daily operations, staffing, administration, and plans for growth will determine the balance and functionality within your practice.

Finally, consider the role of the gut in the body. Some researchers think that we have a second brain in our stomachs, a second set of neurotransmitters that control digestion and work with the immune system to protect us from hostile bacteria. Nerve cells in the gut use serotonin to signal back and forth to the brain. Just as your gut absorbs and stores energy to fuel the body, your business services and products are the fuel of your practice.

When they are not producing sufficient value for clients or passion for you, the therapist, you will feel that your practice is lacking in quality or substance. As Law says, the maxim “you are what you eat” resonates throughout a business in the creation and delivery of product and services.

Exercise and Meditation: Diagnosing Your Business Body

Have paper and pencil ready for the last step of the exercise. Using your imagination, allow yourself to metaphorically step inside your private practice and feel or sense, organ by organ, the degree of health and well-being of your business, represented by the sensations and awareness you experience in your own body.

Begin by sitting or standing quietly, with eyes closed. Become aware of your own body, its weight, temperature, ease, and posture. Notice and sense the well-being and comfort or any areas of pain or discomfort in your own body. Take a deep breath and begin to shift your awareness to your private practice, exactly as it exists today. Using your imagination, see and feel yourself stepping into the body of your private practice, and take on your business’s body. Imagine that your office walls are now the skin of your own body, so that your practice is housed within yourself. Your head aligns with the head of your business. Your feet align with the ground your business stands on. All of your body is now housed inside your business, and you are feeling and sensing everything about your business, from the inside out. Take several easy and deep breaths as you continue to allow your imagination to further this process, and feel your body becoming a clear and accurate representation of the body of your business.

Now notice feelings or sensations in your head, neck, back, and brain. This is the head, neck, spine, and brain of your business. Is this area filled with plans or ideas or thoughts? Do you sense a healthy charge of constructive, strategic thinking? What do you notice? Feel everything. Is this area active, or are you feeling dull-headed, blank, or sleepy? Is your business head and brain filled with a sense of purpose? Or do you feel at a loss? Is your spine strong or weak? Take more time and notice what you can sense or see or understand as you spend time in the brain of your business. What do you detect about the health and activity or illness and inertia of the head neck, spine, and brain of your business?

Next, bring awareness to the area around your heart; feel its warmth in your chest. What do you notice about the heart of your business? The heart of your business represents the finances of your business. Can you feel your heart pumping and blood circulating through your business body? How does your financial heart seem to you—strong or weak? Does your money center seem aerobically fit and strong or do you observe it in need of resuscitation? Now notice the state of your lungs. Can you breathe easily? Let your lungs represent the accounting aspect of your business body. Are you holding your breath, not sure about your budget or worried about financial mess? Or do you feel able to take deep breaths, sensing that your accounting is sufficient? What do you observe as the health or weakness of your business body’s heart and lungs?

Now focus awareness on your kidney area, located halfway between your chest and groin. What do you notice about your business kidneys? Any pain or sense of inner irregularity in tissues, muscles, blood, or bone? In your business body, this characterizes your management function, the ability to balance all the operations and flow of the body. How does your business body feel—well balanced and secure, or weak and uneven? What do you observe as the health or weakness of this organ?

Finally, check in with your business gut. Do you feel full of a sense of comfort and fullness in your gut, or any pain and emptiness? Do you feel a good level of energy or are you hungry and tired? In your business body, the gut is a second brain, a source of information and intuition that represents the services and products you offer. Is it nourished with the nutrients needed to be productive? What do you observe as the health or weakness of this business organ?

Please open your eyes and take some time to reorient to your surroundings. Write your observations from this exercise, organ by organ, to help you more fully understand the state of your private practice. Organ by organ, what felt strong and healthy? What needs your immediate attention? Did anything surprise you or disturb you during this exercise? What do you interpret from your findings?