If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
I actually liked where I was going. I enjoyed working with clients, running my own therapy practice. I was not planning on changing direction. I was planning in expanding my services at my private practice – doing more of the work I love doing. And then the pandemic hit… I was without work (and income), all my clients had better things to do (like getting their head around what lock-down practically meant for them).
After a week of forced staycation, I really needed to motivate myself to do something! So, I decided to attend online workshops to broaden and deepen my skills. I used to like online workshops and conferences (when it was an exception). I attended without my camera on, I rarely turned on my microphone and could not be bothered to participate in the group chat or breakout rooms. And when the voice of the presenter was annoying me or the content boring, I just left…
What was wrong with me? The next thing I knew, I found myself making full use of my Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ subscriptions. I did not want to go out for a walk. Walking for the purpose of getting watered and fed in the middle of the walk made sense to me. Why would I walk randomly around the neighbourhood with no apparent goal or dog?
I did realise I was very lucky; the husband and I get on well! We devised a rhythm that worked for us both. I would walk to the shop with the goal of getting ingredients for lunch. He or I would cook lunch and we would eat together. He would go back to work upstairs, and I would return to the sofa. I would cook tea, we would eat together again and after some prodding on his part, we would go for an evening walk before plonking back on the sofa.
During the sixth week of the lockdown, clients came trickling back. I set up my computer in the bedroom – which was definitely frowned upon by the counselling world before the pandemic and found that setting up fancy backgrounds on Zoom was more distracting than helping. My clients and I just had to make do. And we did!
The work itself had changed, not just by seeing clients online, but the content, more worries, different fears, certainly more loneliness, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Each navigating their own boat.
And suddenly I found myself being swamped with work, there were more clients that wanted support than I had hours in the day! For the first time in my years of private practice I could have kept a long waitlist. Of course, I did not – it is not useful to put a client on a waitlist if they are ready for therapy now! I found out whom of my colleagues were working (remotely) and referred on everyone I could not place myself.
It became apparent that I needed to practise what I preached; find a new rhythm, stop stressing about things you cannot change and be kind to yourself! Self-care became my own number one priority!
I got dressed for work, scheduled breaks, continued to have lunch with the husband, only attended online workshops that were of actual interest, and I even found myself holding on to the workday evening walks, rain or shine.
I noticed that my head was about to explode, and I had no space left in my head to do anything else. So when the first lockdown lifted, I took the whole month of August off. I travelled to The Netherlands, hung out with my sister, her boyfriend and their three dogs. I so needed that change of scenery! And my sister being a qualified Tai Chi teacher made me go outside, doing Tai Chi in the park. It was heaven!
In September working from home continued, the same as before my break; getting dressed, having breaks, lunch, dinner with the new addition of the Counselling Supervision Course. The latter being mostly in person (yay) as essential training was allowed to go ahead. One weekend a month, whereby my colleague-friend and I traipsed off to Winchester to feed our brains and souls. This was the one outing that most of my fellow students (and the tutors!) were looking forward to, as it was also the only outing during the pandemic (besides deciding which supermarket to go to next, to mix things up a bit).
Once the course was finished and we all became qualified Counselling Supervisors, I found myself at the tail-end of the pandemic and asked myself ‘What’s next?’
I went back working from my office, which I had missed so much. Still seeing most clients online and a few in person – working COVID-secure of course! And still found that so many people were looking for counselling / coaching support.
Now in the not so distance past I have worked for the Primary Care Counselling Service (NHS), whereby all NHS patients could get offered six sessions when they make contact. A fantastic and so much needed service! But currently their waitlist is humungous!
In the much more distant past, I have worked for an Employee Assistance Program, whereby all employees of companies who had signed up for this service could phone a 24/7 helpline, staffed with qualified counsellors. These employees also could be put forward to formal counselling (in person, by phone, online), usually anything between three and six sessions, depending on the contract their employer had with the EAP.
So, I did some research, as I would like more people to have that so much needed support. What I found was that most EAPs were ‘big business’. Big companies (1000+ employees) pay the EAP approximately £15 per head. The EAP offers the helpline and counselling sessions (the latter discouraged) and the counsellors on the helpline and who were offering sessions, were not paid very much.
What was out there for small businesses (up to 100 employees) was not much or seemingly expensive – yes, the monthly fee did include a ton of online sessions and if they were not used, they could be rolled over. Or if you needed more, you could add and pay for those too. I have not been able to get an inside look at their own employee (counsellor) payment stats, so I will not guess…
Another interesting (quite scary) fact I found was that according to the Health & Safety Executive, one in four people will have mental health issues at some point in their life. When you employ staff, you have the legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of your employees at work and to provide a safe working environment. This includes their mental health wellbeing and falls under law of The Equality Act.
This was the thing that was next! My years of experience in general business support, Human Resources, Life Coaching, Training, Event Organisation, Customer Services, Counselling and Supervision were able to combine into a cohesive entity and on the 25th of May 2021 KvLS Ltd was born!
Why this long-winded blog about how and why KvLS Ltd came to life? Well, during a recent trauma and stress workshop – yes, we therapists have Continued Professional Development training, I recognised that we all have gone through the same storm and the storm is not over yet.
In order to survive and thrive, we all could do with taking some time to recover, mourn, process what happened! Including me 😊 Writing is therapeutic and helps with processing – and again I practice what I preach – and I am hoping that you all find something in my musings that you can relate to (even if you are thinking right now; sod you, what about me?).
What helped me too was understanding the psychology behind this traumatic pandemic event. Back in the day, when we were all caveman and cavewoman and we encountered something that was threatening our life, we would flee and run home to our tribe, jump up and down to get some attention and share our story and fears. Wounds would be tended to, and plans would be made to face or avoid the threat in the future.
Now back in 2020/2021 it was not a bear or a lion. We were told to stay home and physically distance ourselves from PEOPLE! People were no longer safe, not even our tribe-buddies. People could kill you and you could kill people – okay, it was not put that way, but that is how our caveman/woman brain understood this.
So, we fled; some of us into work, others in home schooling, watching tv, cooking, eating, exercising, online shopping – you name it! Anything to distract us from what was going on. We got bored and had to un-bore ourselves. Some people became very creative, some people decided to help others out (hail to all!).
And then we became angry… Frustrated… Annoyed… ‘The government is doing it wrong!’, ‘That person in front of me is not wearing their mask!’, ‘The person behind me is not keeping enough distance!’, ‘Those neighbours having too many people over!’. This was masking the worry, the fear, the hopelessness and helplessness. And for some people it activated! All that pent up energy had to go somewhere! ‘There is a lot I cannot change, but I can do this!’
And when that pent up energy is spent, we flopped or froze… Lethargic, giving over, back to our cave, the sofa… Or so highly stressed, not being able to sit still, bodies so tense it became painful, waiting for the other shoe to drop…
Now in the stress and trauma cycle, we should be moving towards recovery. There might be an end in sight. But all is not over yet, we might have to do some more fleeing, fighting, flopping and freezing – I can go through those in one day; usually not wanting to talk to anyone before midday, fighting my way through the afternoon and evening, flopping into bed at the end and not being able to sleep as my whole body is tense.
So, what do we do? Will everything go back to normal when this pandemic is over? Will we have to wait that long? How can we get back to some sort of normality? When are people safe again?
Well, to help with processing what happened to you, you will have to re-engage with your tribe (family, friends) as most of us were emotionally distancing. Close that gap! Talk! Hang out! Have your story heard and listen to others, tend each other’s wounds, make a pact on how to move forward.
But first; acknowledge where you have been, where you are now – before moving on.
And with regards to work, that is part of your tribe too! Collectively acknowledge where you all have been, what has worked, what has not worked, where you all are now. Then make plans to move forward; what needs to change, what would have to stay, what needs more work, what would help and support you collectively to recover.
And of course, we could be part of your tribe 😊
Our Mission and Vision:
At KvLS Ltd we provide tailored counselling services and mental health support for small businesses (up to 100 employees), to assist in improving overall well-being at work including attendance, productivity, and staff retention.
Our vision is based on our commitment to long term mental health solutions; for you and your staff to be able to cope and deal with the stresses of life, with support from us, so you can get on with what you do.
We are part of your team!
As a small business owner, you can sign up with us for Business Mental Health Support for you and your staff. The retainer, direct debited monthly to help with your cash flow, includes the monthly mental health support call with you or your appointed dedicated staff member. And when there is anyone within your organisation that would benefit from mental health support, you can refer them onto us. We will do the assessment and organise the sessions for them. Contact us today!