As usual, I am writing this column a good six weeks before you will actually read it. This means that, as I write, I am projecting myself forward in time to late January. The festive season is over, the Christmas Radio Times has been dumped in the recycling bin and there are only toffee pennies left rattling around in the Quality Street tin. I imagine we all have that ‘back to work’ feeling, are steadily chipping away at the post-holiday email mountain, and our online calendars are again becoming steadily filled with meetings, deadlines and client appointments.
My reality is that, as I sit here tapping away at my keyboard, it is actually early December, I have just completed my final group supervision session of the year and we have all wished each other a ‘Merry Christmas’. I have stopped taking on new clients and I am winding up my practice for the holidays. As the winter Solstice approaches, I can feel the soft animal of my body slowing down, preparing for hibernation. I am also aware of the tension that often exists for me at this time of year; the danger of being swept up in the collective compulsion to overextend and overconsume – when my body is craving simplicity and silence.
'Working with nature as co-facilitator resources the practitioner as well as the client'
While gathering the contents for this winter issue, I found it interesting to read the contribution of our regular research columnist, Xeni Kontogianni, on burnout in the counselling and coaching profession, in the context of our feature articles from Lesley Roberts and Linda Aspey on working outdoors and our connection with the natural world. Like many, I am sure, I notice my stress levels rising when I have been disconnected from nature for too long. For me, ‘nature’ goes beyond the great outdoors, and signifies the nature of time, the natural rhythms of the seasons, of night and day, and the cycles of the moon. When I work against my nature – or my natural rhythm – for too long, my body and mind let me know that something is out of kilter. It’s for this reason I have started to put a boundary around my working hours, particularly in the darker months of the year. I know I am naturally an ‘early bird’ – one of those people who is annoyingly chirpy in the mornings but can’t stay awake after 10pm – so I am learning to work within this natural rhythm. In this way, I can be sure I am giving of my best self as a practitioner. As Lesley Roberts points out, working with nature as co-facilitator resources the practitioner as well as the client, which has a positive ripple effect on our organisations and communities and those of our clients. And as we learn to treat ourselves more gently and with more care and attention, we tread more carefully upon the Earth, more mindful of how we use her resources.
I’m also grateful to David Britten for taking time to introduce us all to the long-awaited coaching competence framework. As the framework and its accompanying user guide are published, David offers Coaching Today readers some contextual background on its development and use. What leaps out at me is that the competences are designed to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, acknowledging the considerable skills and professionalism of our members. As he writes:
‘…if the competences are the map, we still need the compass of our values, self-awareness and professional wisdom. We need our unconscious competence in navigating micro-aspects of the terrain that don’t show on the large-scale map; we need the well-provisioned rucksack of self-care.’
Let’s exercise our wisdom and fill our rucksacks with self-care as we journey onward into 2023.