Covid-19 has changed life for everyone and nobody yet knows when, or if, we can return completely to how it was before the pandemic. The lingering uncertainty about anything is draining but as the Dubai-based Clarity Coach – and a single parent with a full-time job – Shereen Qutob tells The Livehealthy Podcast, it’s entirely possible to find ourselves again.
What made you become the Clarity Coach?
I’ve suffered panic attacks since 2012, to the extent where I couldn’t leave the house or I would have to have someone on call for back-up if I felt I couldn’t drive. I had a heart monitor at work and I was tracking my palpitations. The ER staff at the hospital were my best friends. They’d see me and go “She’s here again.”
For about 14 months I was on medication and I speak openly about that, because it saved me, but that period coincided with me starting to learn about the mind and the nervous system and I learned that physical symptoms are an indicator that your thinking is off track.
In 2018 I was going through my own unravelling, with a lot of shifts and changes in my personal life. I needed a place or community where I could try and make sense of this world. As much as anything, I started my platform as a way of reminding myself not to dwell on the negative.
Last year was all about becoming more inwardly focused. Whenever I was taking too much input from people and themedia, I suffered. It frazzled me. There are some individuals who just talk about problems or about how the world is doomed and there’s no hope. That would have an impact on me.
So I decided to take control of how I feel but I had to work out how to do that in a crazy world that I can’t control.
What clarity solutions did you come up with?
I started switching off. I unfollowed lots of profiles where the content left me feeling not very good. I don’t really watch mainstream news and I limit my time with certain people. It sounds clichéd but I turned to the age-old philosophies. At first even 10 minutes of silent meditation felt like torture, but then it became 15 minutes, then 20, and I started to actually look forward to that time.
The more I put the focus on myself, the better I felt. I have little practices in my day now when I return to myself. I have my sacred space where I surround myself with my favorite things, beautiful posters and inspiring quotes.
And it works. At work I am much more balanced. I fill my cup first before I go out into the world. Other people’s reality is not necessarily mine, but I can keep a compassionate perspective, listen to them and then politely excuse myself.
Has Covid-19 helped you to focus?
Absolutely, 100 percent. From around September 2019 – so pre-Covid – I was facing some health challenges. I am a single parent to two daughters, I had started a new job and was feeling very stressed. The last straw was when I saw an integrative health coach and realized that nothing was working. I was juggling so much and I had put myself on the back burner.
That turned out to be a sort of preamble to 2020 so that when it all started I had already had a bit of training and it was a matter of upping my practices.
I found I was becoming much more sensitive to people and feeling bombarded, so in March 2020, I started this platform as a 100-day challenge to regulate myself – not just from the physical perspective but also my mental and emotional health and all the fears, because they all feed into the nervous system.
Now it’s a way of life. I start the morning with warm water and lemon and then have my green juices. Now I can tell when I’m not aligned or when I’m out of balance. It’s about gentle movements, stretching and on Saturdays I do a boxing class, which is a great release.
How’s your work-life balance?
They say it takes a village to raise a child and I’m the first person to tell you it’s the truth. I am so lucky to have my parents living just 10 minutes away in Dubai to help me.
In the past I would have been reluctant to talk about being a working single parent because of the stigma in the region and the fear of my work performance being judged, but I’m more honest with people at work now. In my last interview I was completely open. I said, “I’m a single parent, I have two girls and if the school phones, I drop everything and run.”
And the response I got was “Thank you for sharing and being so honest, so let’s see how we can make this work.” I don’t care about fancy titles or benefits but flexibility is very high on my work wish list.
What are your coaching tips for clarity?
I’ve been learning about essential oils and sound healing and energy clearing. There are a lot of alternative therapies out there and I found they all helped and added to my sense of balance.
One of the things in my tool kit is frankincense oil. It’s a very grounding oil and has many properties. For example, it’s anti-inflammatory.
I listen to binaural beats [A form of sound wave therapy] People look at you as if you’re weird but I say, “Look, this stuff works.”
When I was having my panic attacks, I was on medication for a good 14 months, because I needed something to calm my symptoms down in order to be able to think clearly. I certainly don’t dismiss medication but I also know now that there’s a lot we can do ourselves. Listen to some healing sounds, take a few drops of oil, take three deep breaths. It’s simpler than we make it out to be.
In the end you’re going to have to face yourself. No one’s going to eat right for you, no one’s going to exercise for you or meditate for you. And you are allowed to be in a low mood because you can’t float around on a cloud all the time. When you’re dipping in and out of moods, that is in itself a redirection of your compass. Be aware of it, but give yourself that time.
Self-care is crucial. If you’re not doing it in this day and age, you’re missing the point.
Shereen Qutob, Clarity Coach, was a guest on the Livehealthy podcast on April 21, 2021.
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.