Thrive Coach NANCI HOGAN explores how the pandemic has slowly eroded our vitality, and how coaching can help us develop the insights, skills and actions to reverse this process.
At the beginning of the pandemic, people had energy. Most of us said, “I can cope with this - I’m tough.” In fact, we were proud of our coping ability and just got on with things in the midst of a rapidly changing environment - one which we’d not experienced before.
But at this point, things are different. We are ‘zoomed out’ as the novelty of online quiz nights and parties has worn off. Our work life has bled into our home life. We made mental lists of possible projects during lockdown - reading books, clearing out rooms, taking online watercolour courses - but we can no longer muster the energy for these projects, and instead they loom like shadows in our guilty conscience.
We’ve come to realise that living and thriving in a pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. And in the absence of a fixed ending point, many of us are experiencing a sort of slow burn out. One writer refers to it as ‘Acedia’. It’s a word first used to describe the condition experienced by 5th century monks whose living conditions mimicked our lockdowns - limited physical contact, constriction of physical space and movement. ‘Acedia’ is defined as a “combination of listlessness, undirected anxiety, and an inability to concentrate”. Sound familiar?
This term might be helpful to us now as it normalises, rather than medicalises how we feel. We may not be clinically depressed or anxious, but we are not thriving either. If you are experiencing any combination of boredom, restlessness, listlessness, exhaustion, psychical or social isolation, then you may be experiencing ‘acedia’. Ask yourself, are you:
1. Constantly having to adapt as the circumstances change due to second and third waves of the pandemic and constantly changing lockdown rules?
2. Facing constant uncertainty and disappointments for the foreseeable future e.g. wondering whether or not you will have to cancel Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other holidays?
3. Feeling guilty that you are not getting enough done each day, both in your home and professional life? Do you always feel like there is more to do?
4. Do even the simplest of activities wear you out?
If you answered ‘yes’ to many or all of these, then you may be headed for a slow burnout. If so, let me reassure you that even as we experience these unpleasant emotions, it is still possible to develop the ability to thrive. Thriving is a choice which requires developing certain skills and a certain mindset. The emotions you are experiencing at the moment do not necessarily mean you need counselling for clinical depression or anxiety. But you don’t need to be paralysed by them. So how can we run this endurance race without burning out?
It’s important to take control where we can, to establish boundaries, and to find meaning in day to day life, because the future is uncertain. Through coaching it is possible to do these things, and start to develop more resilience and more capacity to thrive. Coaching can help you:
1. Begin to name and normalise what you are going through. You can then recognise you’re not the only one that feels this way, and so you’re not alone even when you may feel isolated at every level.
2. Develop self-compassion
3. Brainstorm and implement ideas for self-care
4. Uncover new ways of creating meaning and purpose during this time i.e. helping you identify your core values and how can you actualise them in different ways even whilst locked down
5. Develop a sense of control over the things you can exercise control over
6. Negotiate boundaries with family and friends based on your comfort level with risk i.e. how much risk are you willing to take.
7. Better establish a work-life balance and boundaries in a virtual working environment where this has become increasingly blurred
So how does coaching work? A coach will first create a safe space for you to begin exploring both your emotions and the changes you’d like to make in your life. They will ask you powerful, open-ended questions designed to help you identify and process what’s going on for you, what changes you’d like to make, and what choices you have. There are always options. They will help you identify your preferred choices, and make the positive changes you desire in your life.
What a coach will not do is tell you what to do or how you feel. But if you feel overcome or paralysed with emotions, or even if you are unable to identify what your sense of unease is, then a coach can help you address them.
If you’re feeling tired, uneasy or stuck, then book a one-off coaching session with us. You’ll get a ‘resilience check-up’ and come away with some initial suggestions as to how you can better thrive. Don’t wait until you burn out - it takes much longer and is much harder to recover from burn-out than it is to nip it in the bud before things go too far.
After this first session, you can decide if you want to continue with more long-term coaching (up to six sessions) or whether you might instead first benefit from counselling. Thrive coaches cannot provide counselling, but they are trained to identify and refer you to a trained Thrive counsellor if need be.