What to do when your work starts to disappear, almost overnight?
It’s fair to say there has never been a time in the world like this. As therapists and wellness practitioners, we were already holding space for people who were struggling. From dealing with physical and emotional health issues, to high levels of stress and anxiety, to growing fears about the state of the planet and our changing climate. Now our clients – and we ourselves – are faced with Covid-19, and what would weeks ago have seemed impossible to imagine – huge parts of the world in lockdown, lives turned upside down – is happening.
Changes are coming pretty much on an hourly basis, or that’s how it feels. Most of us are making dramatic changes to the way we work and run our practices, in many cases shutting our doors for the foreseeable future, while simultaneously juggling every single other aspect of our lives: working out how to pay the bills, how to take care of children, how to support our loved ones who are vulnerable, how to protect ourselves and avoid getting sick, how to hold it all together. There’s barely a chance to catch our breath.
If you’re reading this, if you’re overwhelmed, if you have no earthly idea what you’re going to do next…….pause. (Don’t skip the next step. It will take less than one minute.)
Take a really slow, deep breath in. As you breathe out, notice the tension in your shoulders and your upper body, and see if something can soften and drop down just a little. Repeat. Can the muscles around your eyes, your forehead, your cheeks, your jaw, soften too? Notice where you’re in contact with the chair or the floor or whatever surface you’re sitting on. Feel the ground underneath you as you breathe out. The ground is still there. Even if it feels like someone pulled the rug out from under your feet, the ground is still there.
There are things you can do, right now.
To make the best short-term decisions and to start designing your path forward, first you need to get your head around how you’re going to manage financially. You need to do this before you start thinking about what to do in your business, whether to keep marketing, how to keep your clients, what to say when, and so on. You need to know what it will take to make it through this first bit.
1 Your finances – getting super clear on what you need
If your income has ground to a halt or dramatically reduced, your number one priority is to know how you’re going to get through the next weeks and beyond. First: Work out a basic version of your monthly budget. Sit down with a paper and pen and make a list. The idea is to get clear on what you absolutely need – your basic monthly budget is the total amount when you add bills, groceries, essential payments. Look at what you can cancel or cut back on – multiple screening subscriptions, expensive cable/tv packages, any paid apps you can do without.
The amount you’re left with is what you need to get by for one month. Multiply that by 6, and that’s what you need to get through the next six months.
It may seem like a scary amount at this point, but it’s the place to start, and your six months of living expenses is what you’re building towards, assuming you don’t have the savings to cover that amount already.
2 Find out what support is possible
Look into what you’re entitled to in the form of benefits or other support. If you’re in the UK, visit the government’s Coronavirus support page. Keep checking regularly, as more measures are being announced. Depending on your situation the options may include specific help for the self employed – an announcement on this in the UK is expecting in the coming days, universal credit, housing benefit, rates relief, a government backed Coronavirus business interruption low-interest loan, or help with paying tax you currently owe. You may be entitled to a break in your mortgage payments and there may soon be further measures announced for renters. Keep checking.
If you have fixed repayments, be proactive – make some phonecalls now, and find out what’s possible. Call your bank, call your credit card company, and find out how they can help. It’s quite possible they can reduce or remove your minimum monthly repayment for a couple of months, and/or create an extension on your payment plan. Don’t wait to do any of this. Take another deep breath, and make some calls.
If you can bring some costs down, and bring some more income in, update your basic monthly budget. Factor this in, factor in any savings you have, and I am hoping the picture starts to look a little more manageable.
3 Your practice – the very first step
How to do your healing work during a pandemic? Can you even keep your practice going? Some of the things you’ve always done as a practitioner may have to stop suddenly. This might include one-to-one treatments, in-person yoga classes, or group events that get cancelled. It’s a shock to the system. You know how to do things the way you’ve always done them. What are you supposed to do now?
I get how incredibly hard it is to process all of this. I have had so many conversations with colleagues and clients in the past week, and there are so many emotions coming up. If you’ve built up a steady practice, or you were moving in that direction until a moment ago, there is grieving to do. If you’re just starting out, or just about to qualify, it might feel like too much to keep going with.
You have the strength and the resilience to adapt, and you can learn ways to be creative.
You will get through this.
Here’s one thing to do today, even if you can’t see the future clearly yet. Stay connected with your clients. Send out an email to everyone on your list. Breathe, make a cup of tea, set aside the time to sit and write a message. Make it personalised, and write from the heart. Let your clients or yoga students know that even though your practice or yoga studio is on pause, that you’ll be here for them on the other side. If you can, offer them some resources or suggestions to manage during this time. If you can’t think of any of that yet, write anyway. Let them know you’ll be in touch in the near future with ideas and resources.
This may seem like a small thing that’s not necessary right now if your clients already know that you’re not treating.
But it’s one small action that’s a commitment to your clients, and to your practice.
In the next days, in the next week, as things settle into a new normal, you’ll be thinking ahead and you’ll have some time to make plans and develop some creative strategies. Right now, I’m busy adapting Pathway to a Full Practice ahead of the course launch to make it relevant to the current challenges, as well as containing the core essentials you’ll need to rebuild and grow your business – in a couple of weeks when we launch, the course page will look very different! I’ll also be sharing tips and ideas on the blog and in emails (click here and sign up at the bottom of the page) about how to sustain your practice and keep moving forward during the pandemic – even if you can’t leave your home.
For now, whatever else you’re juggling to make ends meet and to take care of yourself and your family, don’t give up. If you take just one action in your practice today, make it to reach out to all of your clients, with a message of support and reassurance, and to let them know you’re going to be here for them going forward.
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