Long isolation is bad for our psyche and we can easily lapse into depression. The inability to make physical contact with relatives, friends, colleagues or other people we normally communicate with is creating discomfort and disharmony in our daily lives. We have to tune into the new realities and reorganize our routines in order to find other useful things to do at home. Instead of feeling down for not being able to do the usual, we should change the focus and find new forms of expression.
That is precisely why I spoke to the famous American motivator – Joanne Bond. For 30 years she’s been coaching business leaders and augmenting their professional skills. She consults start-ups and some of the most successful entrepreneurs. She conducts seminars for women who are going through life changes. Joanne’s approach revolves around emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-control and resilience – all of them – qualities that contribute to success in life and at work. Joanne’s experience includes projects in the healthcare sector and science. She holds a master’s degree in communication psychology and is a coach certified by Hudson Institute of Coaching in California. Joanne Bond visited Bulgaria in 2018 as part of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center’s mission.
How did your life and job change under the conditions of the coronavirus crisis?
Quieter. Calmer. Home-based. No travel. Focused on daily living with my husband, cooking, grocery shopping, exercising, listening to music, reading, watching TV and working. In some ways it’s exactly the same but more restricted. And more emotional when I worry about getting the virus or what the future may bring.
My work has definitely changed. I am an executive leadership coach, trainer and facilitator. Coaching clients – both individual and teams – continues by teleconference, but no in-person sessions. Clients still want to keep their development initiatives moving forward yet their work has been redirected to the shifting priorities. For example, some have been re-assigned to rotate through Emergency Operations Centers. All my customized in-person training classes that I provide to clients have been cancelled or postponed until clients can determine if/when they will be providing this content virtually. All retreat and meeting facilitations are being delayed. With some clients, I am currently working to re-create training modules and topic-specific meeting facilitations, especially with teams.
Do you coach clients online and what problems do they have for turning to you?
Each client has their unique set of development goals and challenges. Many continue to be focused on work and leadership development and are staying the course. At the same time, they are now having to integrate homeschooling, remote work (telework) for themselves and their staff, virtual meetings, daily changes, etc. All of these changes are creating additional stressors. And forcing the need to adapt as quickly as possible to a shifting landscape, both professionally and personally. So, their well-being and stress management have become much more of a focus for them, their families and their organizations.
What advice do you give them? Could you give us some strategies for surviving the crisis?
Stay present. Be self-aware of your emotional landscape. Understand and acknowledge your feelings, which are neither right nor wrong. Feelings are personal. Knowing how you feel will help you make your best choices for action for yourself and your relationships especially during this stressful time. Practice empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Everyone is having their own, unique experience of this pandemic. Take care of yourself. Build and sustain your resiliency. (Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after setbacks.) Stay focused on your health and energy so you can continue to do the things you need to do during this time and have the fortitude to continue after the pandemic. Health is of the utmost importance now. For me, I stay healthy and gain energy by exercising. I’ve been doing virtual yoga and cardio classes. I’ve also tuned into guided mediations online sessions. Many of these offerings are free or low cost. My clients talk about meditating, working out, playing board games with the family, singing or playing a song each day and posting on Facebook, and other creative ways to manage stress.
Do you advise us to make plans for the near future, for example June, or is it better to take it one day at a time?
Trying to predict the future is difficult and impossible. I feel that planning helps many of us cope with uncertainty and gives a sense of control. So, if you want to plan and it makes you feel better, do so. Balance your budget, map out your next career steps, learn something new that prepares you for what you want to do. Envision how you want June to look and feel. Explore your options if this energizes you. Imagine your next, best future. That being said, I believe there is a lot of power in being present. Being present in the moment gives you the opportunity to deepen your understanding of yourself. To know yourself better. Ask yourself, how am I feeling and why do I feel this way? What can I learn from this? This is how we grow and develop into a much more self-aware human being. And this is the gift we can give to others in our lives. Our presence. We all need support now. And we all need to be present for each other, to listen, love and care.
A lot of people live by themselves and isolation is especially difficult for them. How can they cope better?
Reach out and connect to others. Many people are using virtual platforms (i.e., Zoom) to get together with friends for a virtual social hour, for example. Or connecting with people using FaceTime instead of just texting. It’s nice to see other people’s faces, so more photos are being exchanged. I’ve noticed that we’re reaching out to family and friends to see if everyone is OK, whereas we may have gone longer periods of time between contact. It is comforting to hear others’ voices. If you feel that you are struggling, contact your healthcare professional for advice. This is not my area of expertise.
You mentioned to me that it would be a good idea to form online groups for mutual aid. How do they function and do they help?
See answer to question above. I am aware that there is a lot of social media use occurring in all different platforms. I don’t know if online groups are helping or not. The answer would be unique to each person.
What personal benefits can we extract from the coronavirus situation? Where’s the silver lining?
Personally, I feel that this time in our lives is an opportunity to pause and notice the impact of the pandemic on your life. It can be tough to look at this and feel the changes, but I think this is where the beginning of a much better future can be for us all. This is our time to imagine what’s possible. We are becoming more attuned to the value of our healthcare workers and their needs, appreciative of teachers and the role they play in educating our future leaders, housing the homeless, shopping for our neighbors who can’t go to the grocery store, supporting our restaurants by eating take-out food from them, and so on. Even though we are physically distanced, I feel that socially we still yearn to connect and are finding ways to do so. In my experience, I’ve observed that we seem to be at our best selves in a crisis. And I think that this pandemic is showcasing this as well.
Joanne, thank you for this interview! All the best and good luck.