Cultivating Happiness at Work

Oct. 1, 2017
Lessons learned from overcoming post-acquisition depression.

Last week was an exhilarating week! We closed on our third acquisition and it was a doozy. Overnight, the size of our operation went from two shops to three but because of the size of the new shop, we more than doubled the size of our operation. On top of that, the new shop is over an hour away in a completely different city and state. In terms of complexity, it feels like we more than doubled. This deal was five months in the making and toward the end, it was consuming the bulk of my time and attention. Like most big challenges, it had its share of dramatic swings. There were many times that it looked like it was a done deal, then days later it felt like it was falling apart. 

But we did it. And now we’re on the other side of it. And here I am in my most honest moments feeling depressed. What? Where did that come from? I just completed an amazing deal and now I have this new shop to learn and all the details that come post acquisition. There are profiles to set up, contracts to have switched to my name, a staff to get to know, local referral partners to meet, insurance policies to set up and on it goes. Paperwork, people work, rinse and repeat. But my motivation is at an all-time low. What is happening? 

I’ve never given birth, and I in no way want to disrespect the moms everywhere who have, but over this past weekend I realized in a small way what many mothers experience with postpartum depression. It’s fairly common from what I have read and observed that moms can sink into a depression after giving birth. So, after one of the most exhilarating experiences possible and just when the little one needs mom the most, it’s common for mom to be depressed. 

I now get that. On a much smaller scale, to be sure, but I get it. 

Not everyone who reads this column will be acquiring shops. But we all go through seasons where there’s a big accomplishment or a big let down. Following both of those, we often experience some form of situational depression. I call it situational depression because for some, depression can be a debilitating disorder that requires professional medical advice. That is something else altogether.  

For those us facing a situational depression, for whatever reason, here are a few things I’ve learned about how to not stay in the funk too long.

First, celebrate! When you reach a milestone or achieve a goal, have some kind of marker with people you care about and who care for you. Maybe this is a meal with close friends and family. Or perhaps it’s drinks with a close circle of those who made it happen. Even better, do both! The point is to mark the occasion as a win and share the joy. The good news is there’s always something to celebrate, even in the hard times. 

Second, and related to the first, is to make gratitude a habit. There’s a lot of recent research behind it but the simple practice of writing down a few things every day that you are thankful for can have a disproportionate positive effect on how you feel. Starting or ending every day with gratitude can literally rewire your brain toward happiness (If you’re interested in learning more about this see the TED talk or books by Shawn Achor).

Lastly, get outside and get moving! There is something in the rhythmic movement of exercise—whether that’s a walk, run or bike—that calms and centers the mind. As we engage our bodies, the brain just naturally moves toward a calmer, more settled state. 

I know this column is simple but isn’t that exactly what we need when we’re facing a lot of complexity? We don’t need another thing to pile on the complexity scale! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, celebrate with loved ones, practice gratitude and get your body in motion. There’s going to be another challenge right around the corner and these simple practices will make sure you’re ready for whatever it is.

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