By Joanne Creary
In mid-March, when the spread of COVID-19 forced us into lockdown mode in response to the emerging pandemic, I imagined it would probably be a month or so and then everyone would get back to their normal routines. “No big deal,” I thought, about how I would cope with the country-wide mandate to stay home. I work mostly from home anyway, so there’d be no major disruption to my daily routine. Was I wrong! Eight months later, we’re all still living in the shadow of the pandemic, and it feels like there is no end in sight.
I began to hear from clients that they were experiencing anxiety about the future, especially related to the impact of the pandemic on their careers. Some were struggling with creating effective boundaries between work life and family life when it all takes place in the same space. Others told me that being less busy had given them time to take stock and they were wondering what was next for them.
Like almost everyone I know, I’ve wrestled with the fear of contracting the disease and sadness at being unable to attend important family events. My niece got married, and instead of flying to California to be there like I had planned, I watched her beautiful wedding ceremony remotely, on a computer screen in my living room. My aunt passed away, and my uncle has so far been unable to complete the ritual of having a funeral with family and friends paying tribute to his loved one and sharing in his sorrow.
Most of all, in those first months of lockdown, I struggled in a way I hadn’t expected with a sense of loss of control over my life. A few weeks in, I realized how fearful I was becoming, how filled with anxiety, not only for myself, but for those I loved as well. Although I recognized it as a natural reaction to the uncertainty, I also knew it wasn’t helpful. Neither was it desirable, for me as a Christian woman, to live that way.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God. (Is 41:10 NASB)
I started wondering how I could be intentional about using the training I have, as a mental health practitioner and as a life coach, both to protect my own emotional well-being and so I could continue to show up at my best, for my family, my friends, and my clients.
How could I help my clients to reframe the turmoil we have all experienced in 2020 as an opportunity for learning and growth, instead of distress and despair?
With many venues closed during the pandemic, it was no longer easy to distract ourselves with endless busyness. Could we use this time as an opportunity to refocus, to recapture a lost vision, or to attend to a long-forgotten aspiration? I went back to some of the basics I had learned in my coach training: values clarification and vision casting.
In the spirit of not taking my clients where I was unwilling to go myself, I began to take stock too. There were some things I would have to forget about doing, at least for now, but these made way for new opportunities to learn and grow.
Opportunities for in-person networking were practically nonexistent, but now I had the time and energy to channel into activities I had thought of doing but never made time for. Joining CCNI’s online Writers Learning Community is a direct result. So is writing this article.
For the first time, I accepted an invitation to present a webinar instead of speaking directly to an audience. This forced me way out of my comfort zone as I learned how to use two screens to simultaneously speak directly into the webcam and keep track of my presentation deck. The webinar was live, with a Q&A at the end, so there’d be no do-overs. When it was all over, I had several prospective clients and a new skill set in my coaching toolbox.
As coaches, we believe in the possibility of change. Our clients may feel stuck in these days of turmoil and uncertainty about the future. We have an opportunity to help them refocus on their core values and find ways to move into the future confidently and intentionally.