There’s been a lot of useful advice about self-care shared throughout COVID, and many people have developed new strategies and/or doubled down on existing practices for looking after their personal wellbeing during these especially challenging times.
Self-care is an essential component of wellbeing, but it’s not the only answer to stress and burnout. We also need to care for each other. One way we can do this is by proactively building communities of care.
Why Build a Community of Care?
Humans are social beings, and we benefit tremendously from having positive relationships in our lives. Our individual and organizational wellbeing depends greatly on the quality of our personal and professional relationships.
Feeling connected with and supported by others is a basic human need. When we experience this connection and support, we see many positive outcomes, including...
Improved mental and physical health
Increased satisfaction with life and work
Improved engagement and innovation
Increased trust and motivation to help others
Increased productivity and performance
Lower staff turnover and absenteeism
What Does This Actually Look Like in Practice?
I’ve been struck by the incredible power of positive connection lately while observing coaching sessions as part of our Positive Peer Coach Training and Certification program. The aim of this program is to build staff wellbeing at international schools through coaching and community.
In our peer coaching community, members come to a 30-minute coaching session with a topic they’ve identified beforehand. The topics are tremendously varied, relating to personal or professional goals. Their coach provides a safe, confidential space for them to explore their topic, spot strengths and resources, celebrate signs of progress, and design positive actions to support continued movement in the desired direction.
That sounds pretty straightforward, and it is. But what continually amazes the coaches and me are the tears and deep expressions of gratitude that come regularly. Time and time again we’re seeing a hugely cathartic release for people as they’re given this simple, beautiful opportunity to talk through something important with a kind, caring person who gives them all the “air time” and holds them with unconditional positive regard. What a gift this is.
The coach doesn’t provide answers or advice. The coach doesn’t “assign homework.” The coach simply offers the structured time and space, holding it well so their conversation partner can relax into this golden time set aside for their own reflection and growth.
At the close of a recent peer coaching conversation I was observing, the coach asked their conversation partner how they were feeling about the session. Through tears of joy and gratitude, here's what they said...
"This was amazing, and I'm so grateful to you for offering me this time and your support. I have a much better understanding now, a new way to look at this. Honestly, I've never taken time to talk it through, and now I realize how much it has been affecting me. You've given me space to peel back the layers of the onion and figure out some things I can try - such simple things that I've never thought of. I'm really excited about the ideas you helped me come up with, and I hope we can talk again soon."
To me, this is the thrill of the quiet staff wellbeing revolution we’re creating together with our Positivity Playground Member Schools. The more people who know how to facilitate these authentic and powerful conversations with each other, the better we can support each other throughout everyday life and work.
Caring is Contagious
Being part of a global team of positive peer coaches who are implementing this vision together is what gets me going in the mornings and has helped keep me energized through COVID.
Our coaches say their own personal and professional relationships have been transformed since they’ve learned what coaching actually is. They tell me every week that they’re interacting differently with people now - not only with colleagues, but with their students, friends, partners and children too.
This is one powerful way we can care for each other through COVID and beyond: one safe, meaningful, uplifting conversation at a time…creating a positive ripple effect throughout our schools, families, and communities.
How About You?
When is the last time you experienced a deeply restorative conversation where you could be your authentic self and take time to talk through something that really matters to you? ...and when is the last time you created that space for someone else?
Feel free to send me a chat message anytime (at the bottom of the screen) - or connect with me on LinkedIn where I share research-based positivity and wellbeing micro-coaching questions each week.
About the Author
Kristin Lowe is a former international school teacher who now works as an organizational psychologist and positive psychology coach.
Kristin’s work centers around helping international school communities cultivate what is best within themselves and leverage these strengths to support our next generation of changemakers.
You can read more about Kristin’s background and qualifications here.