I began applying my self-care rules to the extension of myself that is the Empirical
family of companies.
Like so many small business owners, the lines between work and home often blur in the Lissy household. My husband and I team up to “P.T. Barnum” our way through the three-ring circus that is our life: keeping the companies going, raising our two sons, and working together.
The pandemic raised the price of admission to our circus, as well as the stakes. Like everyone else, we now juggle additional health protocols for ourselves, clients, and employees. We’re working to keep up with the demands for our services as well as ever-changing guidance from the CDC and our local government in a contracting economy. We’re finding a work/life balance harder to achieve than ever before as we spend more time working from home.
In our strange new world where home and work collide more than ever, I’m finding some of my jealouslyguarded “me-time” activities and practices help me better manage my companies. I used to draw a hard line between home and work because I didn’t want the stress of work to invade my home. But in the extreme upheavals this pandemic has caused, I started reaching for whatever lifelines I could find—self-imposed boundaries be damned. I was pleasantly surprised to find that just as I can allow the stress of work to negatively impact my home life, I can extend the peace of home to positively reshape my work day.
I began applying my self-care rules to the extension of myself that is the Empirical family of companies. Rather than fighting to keep the two separated, I’m experimenting with a more Zen approach, one that recognizes nothing is what it used to be and appreciates how we can all work together to adapt to what is.
Here’s what’s working for me.
1. Meditation for Management
I’ve been practicing meditation on a personal level for over five years. Before getting out of bed when I wake in the morning, I think about the day and what outcomes I desire. I try to avoid the news or e-mail until I have finished my morning routine—including a walk or a bike ride. The point is to remind myself I’m not my thoughts, this present moment is all that is, I can change my thoughts at any time. I focus on intentional breaths to find sanity and healthy perspective on whatever disaster just struck. The benefits apply to family and work: clear thinking, more patience with family members, more energy, and feeling capable to take on the day, whatever that day brings.
I have a small corner of my home exclusively for meditating. I can escape to this corner throughout the day and reconnect with that peace in ways I never could from my desk at the office. I had many, many trips to my sacred spot in those early days of the shutdown. The upshot is I got better at finding meditation time
throughout the day for shorter and shorter periods of time, but with the same benefits. Now I can check my e-mail and find my breath simultaneously. In addition to the physical benefits of mindfulness—lower blood pressure, stronger immune system, better sleep—my colleagues, clients, and kids are getting a calmer, more centered Dawn who is better prepared to deal with the day’s murder hornets.
2. Spacing Out
I had no idea what social distancing was before COVID-19, but I did have a clear notion of space. I needed the surface of my desk to organize my paperwork. I needed the 20 minutes after dropping my kids off at school to mentally prepare myself for my workday. I needed the drive home to shift into dinner-making
mode. I had a clear picture of what part of my life went where, and when.
That’s all changed, but it’s not all gone. I have a new appreciation for physical and mental space thanks to the pandemic. I used to take for granted the routine that allowed me to be Mom at home and Dawn at work, as did my colleagues. Those of us with kids who couldn’t go to school and professional deadlines to meet found our worlds colliding and established spaces shrinking.
At first I felt overwhelmed, as did my whole team. But after a few weeks of confusion and complaints, I started finding space in new places. Turns out the daily dog walk provides a safe social distance of two wolfhound lengths from my neighbors, but we can still check in on each other. Given the rate at which
COVID-19 guidelines from various authorities change, that might mean this week only half the engineering team can be in the office at any given time, or my state now requires wearing a mask any time I leave my house. It’s ironic: the more restrictive regulations become, the more my mind expands to find the wiggle room needed to stay productive and happy.
3. Zooming to the Rescue
I’m a big believer in the power of personal connection. I prefer phone calls to e-mails. I like to have hard conversations face-to-face. I’m an unapologetic hugger. I routinely invited friends, students, and job prospects to our lab in Colorado Springs to see how we work first-hand. Before the pandemic, I averaged a week of travel per month for conferences, client visits, or vacations. I enthusiastically pursued business and adventure all around the world.
I miss that, but I’m adapting thanks to Zoom. I used to consider it a poor substitute for being in the room with someone. It didn’t offer the same level of intimacy as a handshake or a cup of coffee at the same table. But humans are inherently social and adaptable. We’re making the most of the tools we have to fill the voids appearing due to the pandemic. We’ve honed our video conferencing skills to the point that we’ve now hired three people over Zoom, something I’d never dream of doing pre-pandemic. I’ve even taken my yoga practice to a new level thanks to the convenience of asanas via video.
I’m also having more meaningful conversations with clients and colleagues over the computer. What used to be rushed meetings tied to an agenda are now deeper dives into life and how we can help each other. When we ask how someone’s family is doing, we’re genuinely interested.
4. Finding Gratitude in a Global Crisis
I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for over 10 years. Like my meditation, chronicling my gifts wards off the doom and dark news that’s a mouse click away at any given moment.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the fear of an international health and economic crisis. The numbers for both are not encouraging. But that’s become a poignant reminder of one of the principal lessons of meditation: the only thing we truly have control over is where we place our attention.
I’m focusing mine on the gifts of the pandemic. Because we all face the same real health threat and similar restrictions on the lives we used to know, we’re more patient, compassionate, and understanding. I’ve been pushed and pulled in so many different directions, I’m more flexible than I’ve ever been (one more nod to Zoom yoga). I know the challenges we face today are shaping a better tomorrow.
So each day I jot down a thank-you for that daily reminder that we’re all in this together, even if we’re masked and staying six feet apart.
Dawn Lissy is a biomedical engineer, entrepreneur, and innovator. Since 1998, Empirical Technologies Corp. has operated under Lissy’s direction. Empirical offers the full range of regulatory and quality systems consulting, testing, small batch and prototype manufacturing, and validations services to bring a medical device to market. Empirical is very active within standards development organization ASTM International and has one of the widest scopes of test methods of any accredited independent lab in the United States. Because Lissy was a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, she has first-hand, in-depth knowledge of the regulatory landscape. Lissy holds an inventor patent for the Stackable Cage System for corpectomy and vertebrectomy. Her M.S. in biomedical engineering is from The University of Akron, Ohio.