Inspire Series — Navigating Uncertainty on the Path to Personal Excellence: Tips from a Life and Career Coach
I interviewed Life Coach Saira Iqbal who works in the field of business psychology. Below Saira shares strategies to keep calm and carry on along the journey to personal fulfilment and excellence even when you are faced with difficult circumstances.
Tell us a bit about you, and how and why you started your practice.
Psychology, the mind, mental health, individual differences in people — these have always been subjects that fascinate me from as far back as I can remember. Why are some people able to make the most of their skills and reach unexpected heights, whereas others get stuck in a spiral of negativity and are never able to lift themselves up? How can people use their innate values to do work that is most fulfilling to them?
I studied Psychology as an undergraduate at university, finished my Management masters and then went to work in London in leadership & talent consulting / business psychology roles. My work has been diverse, but one of my favourite aspects of my job was assessing and coaching managers and leaders in order to help them function more effectively on the job. I enjoyed developing people, I loved being on a journey that helped transform them. I wanted to take this one step further and so I decided to officially qualify as a coach. The more I coached, the more I loved it, and the rest as they say is history!
Do you think that navigating uncertainty affects our mental health and why is that so?
We are creatures of habit. We like to know what is happening around us and follow a routine so that we feel we have some control over our life. One of the problems with the global context of COVID-19 is that not only has it impacted our daily routine and what we know, but also the outlook has been largely gloomy. This can make people fixate and fret over the most negative scenarios.
How exactly does uncertainty affect our mental health and is it related to anxiety?
Uncertainty, unpredictability coupled with all the real and fake media coverage increases anxiety because there are no concrete answers, and this increases the feeling of a lack of control. If someone is already an anxious person or suffers from an anxiety disorder they may worry even more. Right now there are no clear answers or end point; it’s pretty much a waiting game, so this can feel very unnerving.
Can you share some practical strategies for coping with uncertainty?
First of all, limit your exposure to media. Media exposure can give us a false sense of control and security when this is not the case. Read the crucial news and then move on.
Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t control. You can control which government loans to apply for, and how you choose to structure your day in lockdown. You can’t control the outcome of a vaccine development program or an exact date when you will go back to working in the office.
Distract yourself and do the things you enjoy. Read that book or watch that movie, facetime friends and family.
It’s a really difficult time for many, and once you have sorted out the main practicalities, try and focus on the present rather than the future.
You can do this by:
- practicing mindfulness & meditation techniques. There are a lot of online tools and apps such as Headspace that can help you with this.
- giving yourself ‘worry time’ where you do a ‘brain dump’. Write down everything and anything on your mind in a notebook and then park it, so that it’s out of the way and you can focus on the rest of your day.
- focusing on your body. Many anxious people or worriers tend to live in their head. Exercise, or something like yoga, might enable you to connect with your physical self and be more present and in the now.
Remember there is help available. Whether it is practical help to figure out your next step, or if you need help managing your emotions, lots of professionals are working online and are accessible to you now.
What are your 3 best tips for improving one's general wellbeing?
- Make time for the things that you enjoy no matter how silly or useless they may seem right now. Whether it be crochet, baking or trash TV – do that thing that feeds your soul!
- Do some form of exercise: this one wouldn’t have been in my list a few years ago and probably the one I struggle with most, but I’ve grown to really appreciate the importance of exercise. Whether that is cycling, dancing or yoga, not only does it help with signalling the release of endorphins within your body, it helps ground you in the physical body, which can be useful for a lot of anxiety sufferers who live in their head.
- Find out what your values are and align them to what work you do. Values are your fundamental beliefs that dictate how you act and what decisions you make. They are the key to your authentic self. Without alignment between your values and the type of work you do there can be a sense of swimming against the tide. You will only be truly happy when you find out what they are, and align your purpose to meet them. I love doing this with clients and it is so powerful to see their transformation along the path to personal excellence.
Saira Iqbal is a business psychology coach who runs her own coaching practice. She has a passion for psychology, assessment and developing people. She offers a free 30 minute discovery call for people who want to discuss their requirements. You can get in touch with her on instagram.
This article is part of the Inspire Series — designed to introduce you to health and wellness warriors who provide practical tips to improving your overall wellbeing. If you enjoyed reading this article, sign up below to hear from me next time or shop my organic skincare products.
Anna, a.k.a. Miss Organics