The Neon Way
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The Neon Way

My Guilty Secret

You know what people say about psychiatrists, right? That they are the least ‘sorted’ of any of us. I wonder what they say about coaches?

In the last week, the irony of my being a coach who supports people to navigate transition has not been lost on me. So I thought that rather than grimace shamefully inside and say nothing, I would just come clean and tell the truth.

Just over a week ago, my landlord announced that he no longer wanted to rent his flat and that therefore my tenancy in the area I had to come to love, would not be renewed. This came out of the blue and — it would be fair to say — plunged me headlong into a full-on meltdown! There was no taking a breath. There was no degree of stoicism, calm or equanimity. Just full-blown panic! All the worst-case scenarios came rushing in, with lots of data about the housing market and the world financial situation, carefully selected to support my doomsday prediction about the outcome. Fortunately I have had a relatively quiet week of work so have been able to fall headlong into a housing situation obsession, unperturbed in the main by work pressures. Even more hilariously, I had filled out a questionnaire for a project I am interested in, called The Uncertainty Experts, not long before and come out with a high score which was meant to indicate an impressive tolerance for uncertainty. So not only am I not practising what I preach, I am also entirely deluded and lacking in self-awareness!!

And the manifestation of my malaise? Well, how long have you got?

1. An inability to think about much else

2. An unusually high number of phone calls made to my mother

3. A reduction in food consumption (every cloud has a silver lining)

4. A reduction in quality and quantity of sleep (definitely not a silver lining)

5. A concentration of negative thoughts

And finally ..

6. A massive acceleration into activity overdrive to try to wrestle control back from the jaws of uncertainty.

Within twenty-four hours, I had registered with every estate agent on the planet, researched the national and local housing market, taken advice from accountants, financial advisers and a vast array of friends and viewed about half a dozen properties. I had also utterly exhausted myself.

The one thing I can say in my defence is that I clocked pretty quickly what was going on and realised that I needed to change tack for the sake of my own sanity and wellbeing, never mind that of my clients! Does this mean I stopped the madness? No, not completely. But I did start to have some days of calmer, more rational behaviour where I developed a more balanced perspective on the situation. I started sleeping better, I stepped back and breathed (occasionally lying with my legs up the wall which almost always does the trick, I find) and reminded myself of some useful truths (including the fact that last time this exact same thing happened, I was living in Scotland and found a place to live in North London four days later!!). This, I feel, is progress.

So why do I tell you this? First of all, because the idea that as a coach I am a paragon of virtue and ‘sortedness’, is clearly ludicrous and I want to reassure you all that I do know this. Secondly, because it’s true and I like to be honest. And thirdly because it is a really helpful reminder to us all maybe of just what a challenge uncertainty can be. It has a really annoying habit of appearing out of nowhere and taking your legs out from under you, just when you thought you were cruising in the clear. It can take your rational mind and social skills hostage, compromise your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing in minutes and move into your space like the flatmate you never wanted to have.

But the thing is, even though it is hard to evict said flatmate, it is most definitely possible. It takes self-awareness and understanding of what supports you to find your feet, and discipline to implement these things in order to centre yourself again and again and again. It takes time, discipline and practice. It also takes a lot of self-compassion.

I have made progress in a week — inside, I mean (no, I haven’t yet found somewhere to live). I have even resolved to park the whole matter while I go on holiday and then embark on a very, very busy month of work. Will I succeed? Who has faith in me? I am determined to give it a go.

So now my confession is made, I’m off to sign up to The Uncertainty Experts course, starting off with redoing that questionnaire!!

And no, my confession bears no ressemblance in any other way to that of Fleabag in the photo above.

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Kate Jones

Kate Jones

Director of Neon, a boutique coaching practice which specialises in helping people to live, work and lead well.

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