This is Part 1 of a 6-part series titled "Successful Coaching During COVID-19". Read Part 2 here.
Like many of you, I am weary from hearing the daily stats regarding COVID-19. You can expect that some of your clients are having emotional, possibly frightened reactions to the unrelenting news. As a savvy guide, you can help them unburden themselves of some of these thoughts and emotions. First, determine how they are handling this situation by asking them open-ended questions about their feelings about the virus. For example, ask them questions like:
- What is happening when you feel anxious?
- What are the triggers that are stimulating you to feel frightened?
- What are some new possibilities regarding news watching that you have not considered before?
- What would it take to better minimize your anxiety related to this challenge?
However, be aware that asking too many questions of any sort consecutively can lead to a client feeling interrogated.
Next, let them know that they are not alone and that you value their thoughts and feelings, while being careful not to try to manage their stress. This requires you to listen with compassion and to let them know that they have been heard. Perceptive reflections are another form of listening, as they enable clients to hear what they are saying from the vantage point of another person.
A likely a perceptive reflection to news watching may be as follows: “So, on one hand, you consider it important to keep up with the news to help keep yourself and your family safe, while there seems to be a point where news watching seems to actually increase your anxiety.”
This type of exchange can support your client by eliciting ideas and conversation that support change. Instead of you as the coach making the case for change, the client is encouraged to take charge of the challenge and take part in a resolution. When the case for change comes from the client rather than the coach, rapid progress can be made in the direction of desired outcomes.
You can also help them mitigate their fear by sorting the reality of the situation from their feelings about it. Again, listen to their worries with an open heart and a closed mouth. You can address any fears with compassion and by collaboratively developing solutions with your clients without letting any of your personal feelings and thoughts get in the way. You can also help them cope with the current reality by listening to how they have “framed” the pandemic within their lives. From here, you can offer some tips for coping through exercise. Exercise will not “fix” their uncertainty, but it can offer hope for a better way of seeing things and a much-needed break in clients’ routines. Reiterate that you have heard them and value their views. Remind clients that living healthfully will help them have more perspective during this unprecedented time.
I've included an email template below that you can use to send to your clients.
New Normal Client E-mail
Hello CLIENT NAME,
I understand that you may have doubts and fears about the current global crisis, and I want to be a resource for helping you cope with this challenge. It is important to me that you know that you can share your concerns around COVID-19 during our time together. In fact, it is probably a good idea to set aside a few minutes as the beginning of our time together to check in on your COVID-19 related thoughts and perceptions.
Exercise can be a valuable approach to easing stress and redirecting your focus to the positive things you are doing for your health. You are not alone. I am here for you, not only to support you as you pursue your health and fitness goals, but also as a resource to answer any questions you may have about practicing healthy behaviors and to help ease any worry or stress you may be experiencing. We are in this together, so please know that I am here to help.