As a therapist and digital nomad, Dr. Sonia Jaeger finds her lifestyle and identity challenged by the global pandemic. While acknowledging how hard these times can be, she still finds joy in life, especially in her online community of colleagues.
By Dr. Sonia Jaeger
Being a therapist in times of COVID-19 is hard. We might not work on the front lines, but we aren’t that far behind, really.
Being a digital nomad in times of COVID-19 is hard. Traveling freely and often is at the core of our lifestyle and identity.
Yes, these were my first thoughts when invited to write about “finding joy in challenging times.” While I spend a lot of my time these days finding joy and focusing on the good, I do want to start by acknowledging how hard these times are.
Challenging times are called challenging for a reason. I see it too often: people are so intent on finding the positive aspects of a challenge and on the growth opportunity that they forget to make space for all those negative feelings, for the uncertainty, the fear, and so so much grief.
Once we give ourselves that space, then we can, and should, focus on the things that bring us joy—and there are so many things, from the very small to the very big, that can bring us joy even in the most challenging of times.
But, again, it’s ok if you don’t use a worldwide pandemic to start a new side business, freelancing career, or hobby. It’s ok if you keep going through all the emotions, sometimes multiple times a day.
... people are so intent on finding the positive aspects of a challenge ... that they forget to make space for all those negative feelings ... and so so much grief.
So, to get back to the initial question, where do I find joy in these challenging times?
I find joy in my work and in my online counseling clients who use their skills to survive and sometimes even thrive in these times. I find joy in the shared laughter and the moments where something just clicks and things start to change. I find joy in the fact that yes, we are all in this together.
I find joy in the fact that as a digital nomad and psychologist working online, the transition might have been a bit easier for my clients and for me. I have been providing online counseling for years now, so while everything else might have changed, I did not also have to reinvent or transition my professional life.
I find joy in nature. I was lucky enough to happen to visit the French countryside when things started to evolve very quickly with COVID-19, and I was lucky enough to be able to stay as long as needed.
I find joy in the coffee I hand grind every morning, I find joy in the birds and insects I watch and listen to while drinking my coffee.
Sometimes, all it takes is a shared space to acknowledge how hard this is.
But overall, my biggest joy and lifesaver in these challenging times has been my international community of Location Independent Therapists. Having these colleagues by my side every step of the way, catching up multiples times a week in our business meetups, virtual coworking sessions, book club, happy hours, and peer-supervision calls and in writing in between.
I find joy in seeing their faces and hearing their thoughts and feelings. I find joy in connecting across countries, continents, and time zones and hearing more about what it’s actually like right now in so many corners of the world.
I find joy in helping each other work through these challenging times, taking care of ourselves, our families and friends, taking care of each other and of our clients. Sometimes, all it takes is a shared space to acknowledge how hard this is. And to take a deep breath together.
Our location-independent therapist community has also been a great reminder that yes, while we are all in this together, each of our experiences is absolutely unique, and vastly influenced by the country and region we live in, who is stuck at home with us and how big of a disruption to our lives this is, how many plans we had to put on hold and how well equipped we are to handle uncertainty and restrictions of freedom.
... there are so many things, from the very small to the very big, that can bring us joy even in the most challenging of times
I find joy in all those colleagues who got to experience how well counselling can work online and in all those people, who suddenly realized that their job may actually be done remotely after all.
I find joy in seeing and hearing from all those who see this as a great opportunity to finally start their own online business. I find joy in those colleagues who also know that they don’t have to do it alone.
I find joy in all those friends and relatives who got a crash course in digital life and suddenly related a bit more to how I live.
Finally, I find joy in knowing that all feelings are welcome and that anxiety, sadness, and joy are never really far apart, especially in challenging times.
A German-French psychologist, psychotherapist and PhD, Sonia has been living a location-independent life as a digital nomad for the past five years while providing online counselling to expats and other globally mobile clients in German, French and English. Sonia is the co-host of the podcast “Mit Psychologie und Laptop um die Welt” where she and her colleague Carolin Müller talk about the reality of digital nomad life and their work as digital nomad psychologists.
In early 2020 Sonia co-founded the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community with fellow FIGT member Melissa Parks, PhD, connecting mental health professionals across the globe, helping them grow their location independent business. LIT will be opening up their community 1-5 June 2020, so keep an eye on their space!
(Photo credit for Sonia's portrait: Zsanett Kovacs Photography)