Whether by intention, or by the intervention of that pesky global pandemic, most coaches now find themselves in a situation where the majority – if not all – of their work is being delivered remotely. In a world where WiFi has made its way onto Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, being able to communicate with our clients effectively, consistently and with ease has never been more important. And as coaches, we have been amongst the lucky ones who have been able to pivot our work into this new context with, for most of us, relative ease, as we shift to coaching online.
But as the pandemic rolls on and we start to face a series of Covid-anniversaries, it might be a good time to reflect on your remote working practices and ask; are you looking after yourself as best you might? Have you swapped your face to face regimen over to remote without making any adaptations for the impact of working differently?
Below are a range of simple rituals and techniques that are designed to help you be more mindful of the potential impact of sitting in front of a screen, coaching online all day.
Rituals to start a coaching day
One of the simplest and most powerful rituals to frame a day of coaching online is to walk to work. (And not just climbing the stairs!) The ritual of putting on outdoor clothes and leaving the house is such a gift. For a body that might spend much of the day sitting, it’s a gift to start the day with movement. For eyes that might be locked on a screen all day, it’s a gift for the eyes to observe things both near and far. Our lungs get to breathe fresh air, and there are numerous health benefits associated with this, including improving mood, concentration and creativity, reducing stress and topping up with necessary Vitamin D among others.
Powerful, healthy, simple and free; what’s stopping you?
Back in the days of delivering face to face coaching, a coaching day could be characterised by a jolt of morning adrenaline; rushing to leave the house, battling traffic or public transport, unexpected delays, the challenges of being amongst the general public. On arrival at the coaching destination, it would be beneficial to ground and discharge some of the physiological build-up collected from the battle of the commute.
When coaching online from home, however, the opposite situation can be true; namely, we don’t have enough adrenaline in our systems. We can arrive into a coaching session mentally prepared but hormonally under-prepared! Sometimes, a pre-session shimmy-up can give us that extra alertness that our clients will benefit from.
Depending on what’s going on with you, your household, your mood or your schedule, see which of these will give you most benefit and build them into your pre-coaching routine:
To soothe and ground – getting into relationship with your breath is the most effective way to bring an over-stimulated system into balance. To make a ritual of this, you might find the Alan Watkins model a useful way to go:
He suggests that it doesn’t matter what the preferred rhythm is, as long as it is even, rhythmical and through your heart (i.e. mindfully in the chest) and your body will do the rest, stimulating the rest and digest soothing mode of the parasympathetic nervous system.
To energise and stimulate – If you’ve had a lazy morning and are feeling somewhat sluggish, or if you’re feeling a bit low and unmotivated, then it can be useful to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to give yourself a physiological pick me up. To do this, you can mimic the kind of breathing that you see athletes doing before a race, focusing on sharp exhalations as opposed to calming inhalations.
Stand with your feet flat on the ground, hip width apart, and raise your hands in fists at shoulder level. Then ‘snort’ an out breath, rapidly, ten times in a row. At the same time as a snort, bring your hands sharply down to hip level, so your body is rocking in time with the snorting. Four sets of these will shift any mood! Hugely energising.
In his book, Psychic Protection, William Bloom says, “Very often when I want comfort or need a greater sense of safety, I orient myself to the four directions and notice in which directions my favourite places and people are.”
This can be a hugely grounding and stabilising ritual to build into a pre-coaching online day. In your office or coaching space, locate where is North, South, East and West in relation to you. Close your eyes, and let your imagination wander. Go as far North as you like, crossing continents and oceans. Travel south across the equator and beyond. In all directions, let your mind take you to the places you’ve been happiest, and visualise the people you love on all points of the compass. Open your eyes, knowing that you are on this earth, and where you are on this earth, grounded, supported, present.
Light a candle
A simple ritual to mark the start of a coaching day is to light a candle. Candles represent many things, and you may choose to find your own; a beacon of light, a boundary, illuminating the darkness. Maybe it’s just your way of letting yourself know that the space you’re in has become a working space.
Rituals for between sessions in a coaching day
There’s nothing wrong with having rolling coaching sessions, and going from one client to another with no break. It’s just that, energetically, it might serve you, and your next client, better if you can build in a small ritual that demarcates the lines. A clear statement of ending and beginning. Here are a couple of very quick and simple rituals that will deliver this result.
Stand up, stretch
Movement is such an effective way to press system-reset. Even if all we have time to do is stand up and stretch, or bend and touch our toes, this will effectively load our systems with a big data dump, getting us out of our heads and into our bodies.
As sensory beings, we can use different sensory stimuli to help us ‘reset’. One simple way to do this is to clap! Clapping gives us that lovely hand-tingling sensation, whilst also creating sound reverberations to move the energy in the space. You can literally give yourself a round of applause in between sessions and it will help you to refocus more quickly and sharply on your subsequent session. It is likely to make you laugh too, and endorphins are going to do you and your client the world of good. So give it a try!
Listen to furthest and nearest sound
A twist on using sound to hit reset is to take your attention to your sense of hearing. For ten seconds, listen to the furthest away sound you can hear; maybe the distant rumble of traffic or a lawn mower. Then, for the next ten seconds, bring your attention to the sound that’s closest to you, possibly the sound of your own breathing. Now that you’ve come fully back to yourself, in the present, you’ll be ready for the next session.
Rituals that reground after a difficult session
If you’ve had a session that was particularly challenging and that has left you feeling impacted in some way, you might want some quick and easy ways to bring yourself back to a grounded presence before your next session.
Pat, shake, stroke
We use the expression ‘shake it off’ figuratively, but we can embody it literally, too. If you’re feeling unsettled, stand up and vigorously pat yourself down; shake your whole body, give your body some firm strokes as though stroking the challenge off and away, onto the ground.
A great way to immediately reduce stress is to give yourself a butterfly hug. This technique is grounded in the science of bilateral stimulation and is known as a way to quickly bring us back to ourselves.
Find everything that is blue
A powerful and quick way to bring yourself out of a racing or worrying mind and into the absolute present is to tell yourself to find everything in the room that is blue. This gives your mind a specific task and focus, an action, to complete that requires your attention. It will stop racing thoughts and enable you to reconnect with yourself in the here and now.
Smile at the four corners of the room
A quick and (ludicrously) simple grounding technique when feeling threatened is to slowly and mindfully smile at all four corners of the room. If you were under threat, you would not smile. If you were under threat, you would not be moving slowly and calmly. By taking in your physical surroundings you can locate your racing mind in a specific place. These actions, put together, can have the effect of ‘smudging’ any negative energy that might have been generated in the coaching session and allow you to refocus.
Rituals for regrounding during sessions
Working for extended periods in front of the screen can have an impact; and whilst our intention is always to give our clients our full and total attention, we may at times need to remember to connect with ourselves first, in order that we can connect with them. Here are some super-fast rituals that can meet that need.
Feet on floor
One of the most powerful ways to reconnect is take your attention to your feet and place them both firmly and flat on the floor, feeling that connection to the earth. Simple, but powerful.
Tense and relax
Another super-fast technique that helps you connect to your grounded presence – without disturbing the flow of a session – is to practice a tense and relax technique. If you find your energy lagging or your attention drifting, tense your hands really tightly for ten seconds and then release.
Rituals for closing out a coaching Online day
At the end of a long coaching day, especially one where you’ve been coaching online all day, you will find real benefit from incorporating rituals that really honour the ending; the end of your work, the end of your focus, the end of your service.
Find whichever reflection techniques work for you and close off your thinking with some self-reflection. [link to article on this, once published]
For balance, if you walked to work, you might like to walk home!
If you’ve been burning a candle, enjoy the ritual of blowing it out and the smell of smoke that you can associate with the end of work.
If you’ve been enjoying playing with sound, then you might like to ring a bell or sound the singing bowl.
If you’re working from a space in the house that doubles as another space for you – i.e. it becomes your living room or bedroom once you finish work – then you might like to invest in some sage and burn sage as a way of smudging the energy, cleansing it of all your hard work and paving the way for a relaxing transition.
Hopefully, there are some ideas here that will work for you and that you can incorporate into your day of coaching online. As you’ll see, what a lot of these have in common is that they use the body to refresh and reset the mind; a lot of these rituals are also playful and light, inviting levity into your work. Whichever you choose to experiment with, hold them lightly and enjoy the play of it. You give so much to clients, let these rituals support you in giving something to yourself too.