As a freelance trainer, you’re not alone if COVID-19 – aka the Coronavirus – has derailed what’s happening in your life and business.
With much of the globe in various stages of social distancing, isolation and lockdown, we’re all trying to figure out how to exist in this strange new world.
With so many unknowns in front of us currently, it’s fair to say that there really is no right or wrong way to feel or cope. And you may find that your feelings and ways of coping change multiple times a day.
As I posted to the Trainer Talk community, I had a particularly bad day last week when the whole situation felt overwhelming. The support I received was incredible and it made me think about steps we can take to make it through this unprecedented time:
1. Self-care comes first
Right now, you may be worried about how your training business will survive, what you should be doing to keep it afloat, money, making use of this enforced downtime, and much more.
That’s before you even consider life stuff as well, which could include not being able to see your friends and family, caring for older relatives, homeschooling your children, other health issues and so on.
The truth is that life is uncertain, especially now. We’re all dealing with an unprecedented situation in which so many things are out of our control. That’s why it’s more important than ever to focus on the things we can control.
And one of those things is your own wellbeing. In the face of a world-wide pandemic and everything it means, self-care has to be a priority.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
In other words, you can’t thrive or support others if you’re running on empty.
So think about how you can nurture your wellbeing. Arrange chats with your friends and family, ‘attend’ virtual exercise classes, give yourself permission to be less productive than normal – whatever it takes to replenish your reserves.
2. Find your community
Many people have recommended reframing the term ‘social distancing’ as ‘physical distancing’ instead. It’s good advice.
While we have to be physically separated from anyone outside of our immediate households, it’s our social connections that will enrich this time.
For me, one of the lasting positives that I will take away from lockdown is how the Trainer Talk community has come together. A couple of weeks ago, we were all feeling the same sense of shock. I think many of us experienced fear, frustration, powerlessness, anger, sadness and worry.
But then the mood shifted.
People from across the training community came together virtually to offer support, a listening ear, practical suggestions and so much more.
And from what I’ve seen via social media, local communities are coming together too to support and look out for one another.
Reach out to your communities – whoever they may be – as it will help you feel more connected, now and after this crisis passes.
If you’re a trainer, please do know that Trainer Talk is there for you.
Members are loving our Friday check-ins at 5.30pm when we all share how our week has been.
3. Look after your mental health
Various charities have warned that the current situation is likely to see an upswing in mental health issues around the world, especially for people who were already experiencing difficulties.
I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last conversation I had that wasn’t about Coronavirus in some way, and that can be exhausting and anxiety-provoking. The constant stream of news stories (some from less-than-reliable sources) can also make you feel fearful and out of control.
It’s important that we all take steps to safeguard our mental health as much as possible. This might mean reducing your time on social media (or using it differently to connect with people), talking about your feelings, carrying on with things that you enjoy, or creating a new ‘lockdown’ routine.
People often say that they feel guilty for having a bad day as others may be in a worse situation. Be kind to yourself. This isn’t an either/or situation – yes, other people will be worse off but that doesn’t mean your feelings are less valid.
The NHS Mental Health and Wellbeing service is a good starting point if you need support.
4. Choose reliable news sources (but limit how much news you consume)
Following on from the point above, mental health organisations are advising that we all try to limit the amount of time we spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak, including on social media.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen some truly spurious news stories and conspiracy theories, as well as people leaping on other people with their interpretations of the lockdown rules.
Now might be a good time to turn off your breaking-news alerts on your phone and to set a specific time each day to check for the latest updates from trustworthy sources, such as GOV.UK or the NHS website. At all costs, avoid the opinions of ‘Shirley’ on Facebook!
5. Tackle practicalities
You may find it helpful to look at some of the practical stuff that affects your life – like food, income, exercise, etc. – so that you can create more control over your circumstances.
- Can you take a mortgage payment holiday or will your landlord reduce your rent temporarily?
- Are you entitled to support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme?
- Are there any benefits that you can claim?
- Do your local grocers offer a delivery service for fruit and veg?
- Do you need to reorder any medication that’s on repeat prescription?
- Is your usual gym offering virtual exercise classes?
- Are volunteers needed within your local community?
Questions like these can help you build up a clearer picture of where to put your energy or small steps you can take to reduce any anxiety you’re feeling.
6. Ask for help
If there’s anything in particular that you’re struggling with, please do ask for help.
Within the Trainer Talk community, we’ve seen that many people are dealing with similar challenges and can share practical advice and support about what has and hasn’t worked for them.
If you’re having to fully self-isolate and you need help getting food, medication or other essential supplies, have a look on social media and see what support local volunteers and community groups can offer.
Many streets are setting up WhatsApp groups or Facebook pages for neighbours to keep in touch.
7. Diversify your offering
With so many of us offering face-to-face training, there’s no doubt that the training sector has been hard hit by COVID-19.
The good news, speaking to different trainers, is that many are having to postpone their services for now rather than cancelling them altogether. While this doesn’t necessarily take away immediate cash flow worries, it does remind us that we won’t be in lockdown forever.
It’s natural, of course, to consider whether there are other ways you could reach your clients (if they’re still at work) during this time or how you could diversify your offering to make you less reliant on face-to-face work in the future.
Certainly, the last few weeks have seen a sharp increase in virtual training sessions and online programmes. This could be an option you want to explore.
Equally, you might not be in the right place to offer online training right now, so it’s important to resist jumping into this because it’s something you feel you should do.
Think about what’s right for you and your audience.
Here’s the link to a recent conversation I had with Karen Skidmore from True Profit Business about how trainers and coaches can cope with the current situation and find new opportunities: https://buff.ly/2JI7XY9
8. Learn new skills
If your training work is on hold for the time being, now might be the perfect time to learn a new skill or tackle an aspect of running your business that you’ve been putting on hold.
How about learning more about SEO so that you can fine-tune your website? Or turning your hand to photography so you can add unique images to your blogs?
Maybe you could record some videos about your business to post on social media or add to your YouTube Channel?
Even if there’s a business advice book you’ve always wanted to read or a TED Talk that you’ve been waiting to watch, exploring different ideas is a great way to use the enforced downtime positively.
Of course, the new skills you learn don’t just have to do with work.
Have you always wanted to paint, write, garden, cook or play music? This could be the right time to turn ‘one day’ into ‘today’.
9. Be realistic about what you can achieve
I’ve seen lots of social media posts over the last week encouraging us to see our current circumstances as the ‘new normal’. What particularly resonated with me was an email saying that, for many people, this isn’t a helpful term.
Arguably, there is nothing ‘normal’ about being in lockdown or self-isolation.
A more helpful term might be the ‘now normal’. What I like about the idea of the ‘now normal’ is that it refers only to the present moment. It encourages us to deal with what’s happening now rather than worrying about the days, weeks and months ahead.
This is important because we don’t know how long the current measures may be in place or what life will look like post-coronavirus.
Will people make changes based on this time, e.g. more concern about the environment, better connections with their friends, changes to businesses, or will we fall back into old patterns?
Only time will tell.
For now, all most of us can really do is take things a day at a time.
And that might mean shifting your expectations about what’s realistic. The truth is that you might not feel like being productive, learning a new skill or tackling practicalities. Or you may have hugely productive days followed by days when binge-watching Netflix is more than enough.
However you’re feeling, I think we can all agree that it’s the ‘now normal’ and that it’s completely OK.
If you’re juggling responsibilities (I know homeschooling is a big one) while working from home, be open with your clients about it. My experience so far is that people are understanding because they’re juggling responsibilities of their own.
10. Remember that this too shall pass
As with every big moment in history – and, indeed, our lives – the Coronavirus will pass eventually. One day, we will reflect on this time and process what happened.
This time of lockdown may mark a period of momentous change and small, meaningful differences or we may quickly revert to old patterns. None of us knows yet.
For me, it helps to remember that this situation will pass eventually. Every day in lockdown brings us one day closer to being physically reunited with our friends and family beyond our homes. I can’t wait.
You can find loads of helpful links and resources over on The Trainers Training Company Facebook page and on my blog. And if you’re a trainer, why not join the Trainer Talk community for advice and support about running your training business, now and in the future?