5 coaching tools to calm the mind in uncertain times
Fellow coach, Laura Duggal and I were due to catch up earlier this week and collaborate on some lifestyle articles about our face-to-face group coaching programmes but, with social distancing no longer just a new concept but a way of life, we turned our thoughts to ways we can help others in uncertain times.
Coaching is first and foremost about connecting and listening. We were both helped by sharing what we are struggling with right now due to the COVID19 virus backdrop and hearing each other’s ideas for coping better drawn from our own coaching practice.
With that in mind, here are 5 coaching tools that you may find useful to apply over the coming weeks and months.
1/ Compassion –for self and others
Now is the time to be kind to yourself and with others; however you are feeling is ok. Start right there, check-in with yourself and acknowledge how all of this uncertainty is making you feel and the impact that is having. Make the time to reach out and connect with someone and let them know that you are thinking about them and are available to talk. This is a great technique to take the microscope off of your own worry and do something good. You are not the only one struggling with previously super-independent parents, how to stock up responsibly for a possible lockdown or how to manage finances or important decisions at this time. Human connection and laughter can help a lot. It is particularly important to support friends who work in medical professions, working on the front line.
2/Set the bar low and clear it
Coaching is designed for personal challenges and encourages flexibility in micro steps for goals large or small. You might feel a huge responsibility to keep going, to get lots done but in reality, there are new routines to adapt to and new factors to consider so you need to do what matters most first; family, food, work, health –mental and physical. Knowing where to begin can leave us feeling quite stuck. Sometimes the thing that you need to do might seem really difficult, but the key is to break it down to its simplest step –what is the easiest thing you can do now to contribute to getting started on your priority? Think about all the ways you might tackle a problem arising for you right now due to the virus: jot them down in a mind-map; now review which of those can you action next? Do that and then review again. Keep things simple and doable. Doing the smallest action you can do, over and over, will get you moving forward again and feeling more positive and focused.
3/ The locus of control
This is great for when your mind is spiralling out of control and your jumping ahead to the future ‘what if’. Draw out 3 circles, each inside the other. One is for all the things you can’t control, another is for all the things you can influence and the last is for the things within your control. Write in all the circles things that belong in each section. For instance, if I was feeling anxious about the advice about coronavirus right now, my lists might look like this:
Out of my control
• Government policy
• School closures
• Other peoples actions
Things I can influence
• Sharing information I have
• Whether my daughter is washing her hands!
Within my control
• How much social media I look at
• Sources of news I pay attention to
• My routine
You have to do this one for it to really have an effect, so take a few minutes to find some paper and a pen and start writing your thoughts out.
4/ Reframe the challenge
Reframing is a linguistic tool that you can used to transform the situation in your mind. It is not a falsely positive spin, nor does it ignore the reality of what we are facing, but it is a way to focus your mind on a different angle allowing you to be more creative when exploring the options instead of being stuck with one view. For example, how can we stay calm and positive with the schools closing?
Instead of the initial panicked thought that you will struggle to cope with home-schooling your children try these questions….
What are the opportunities in this situation? What might I learn about? What am I curious to know?
For example, my own son struggles with the academic aspect of school so this is an opportunity for him to focus more on his strengths and try out a more flexible approach. I’m sure that together we will learn lots of new things and I’m curious about how the digital technology will be used. On a practical level it will mean less outgoings in the short-term.
Instead of thinking ‘I have to organise everyone …’ try thinking ‘We get to spend time together in safety as a family….’
Instead of thinking ‘I’m so worried about how we will keep them entertained,’ try thinking, ‘I’m alert to the fact that they might get bored so we will need to consider ideas to manage that.’
When we intentionally choose what meaning we assign to each event or worry it turns down the volume on panic, lifts our energy, makes us more resourceful and is a great habit to develop resilience in ourselves and others.
5/ Dedicate time to think
I know for lots of us right now it feels like all we’re doing is reading, talking and therefore thinking about the virus. It can feel like it’s taking over our lives. One way to keep a check on this is to set times throughout the day as dedicated ‘thinking time’. You can choose how long for, it maybe that you spend 20 minutes every couple of hours thinking about the situation, or looking on line, but that for the following hour or 2 you have to focus on something else, whether it’s work, a book, exercise etc.. This can really help us to break a negative thought cycle.
We hope you find these useful to come back to. Laura and I are both offering a number of free calls if you’ve read this and think it would be useful to talk an exercise through with an experienced Coach.