Sticky Situation

N ew Year’s resolutions can be tough to muster in the midst of a pandemic, when planning for the future itself seems fraught. But professional organizer Lauren Hass sees this time as an opportunity. “It’s 2022, we’re hitting two years, what are you going to do differently?” she asks. Many of her clients are taking the attitude, “‘I’m gonna have something to show for it’… I think there’s something to that, just wanting to be productive and more organized.”

Instead of thinking in terms of traditional resolutions, however, Hass and business partner Cindy Schrank prefer to think of the new year as a time to get “unstuck.” Hass, whose Orange business Clutter Kicker helps people declutter and organize their homes, and Schrank, who offers six-month personalized health and nutrition counseling programs under the name Maven of Moderation, have teamed up to offer Unstuck, a course that brings together cohorts of six women for four sessions designed to help them set personal goals and move past whatever has been holding them back. Meetings online (and, someday, in person) begin with a breathing exercise, then move into education, sharing and supporting one another’s progress.

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Schrank, who lives in Woodbridge and also works as a dental hygienist, says that among her patients, she was seeing a movement toward more interest in wellness even before the pandemic, but these last two years have made that shift more urgent. She lists a familiar litany of problems: lower activity, job loss, stress eating, shifting our private space into work and school space. “This is such an opportunity for a trend that was sort of starting [already],” she says. “I do feel that people are looking for something to get them remotivated and get them really excited to start taking care of themselves and change the trajectory of where they are.”

Career coach Angela Karachristos agrees. A career development professional at the University of New Haven with a background in human resources, Karachristos also offers personal career counseling through her business, Anthos Consulting. Most of her clients are women, and she’s watching another trend; the pandemic has pushed women, especially mothers, out of the workforce in droves—3.5 million moms of school-aged children in just the first month of the pandemic, according to a report earlier this year by the Census Bureau. Many of those who’ve stayed at work are “also questioning and reevaluating how they’re compensated for their time,” Karachristos says. Recently, she’s been helping clients prepare for not only end-of-year reviews but also self-imposed reviews. “They want to be really smart about using this point in time to leverage whatever they can to make sure that they’re being compensated fairly… [and are] on the right career trajectory.”

It can be hard to take action in a situation that feels uniquely uncontrollable, but life coach Dana Hilmer of Madison points out that life has always been uncertain and unpredictable. “We just don’t always know it because we try to make plans,” she says, calling up pre-pandemic days. “If [you] can embrace this uncertainty—because that’s really what life is—and just live in that moment… you can make those choices” that will move you forward. Shortly before the pandemic, Hilmer and fellow coach Wendy Perrotti created Camp Reinvention, a program geared towards women who “want to create a second half of life that they’re really excited about.” The first 12-week course, intended to be a one-off, was held in person. Its success inspired Hilmer and Perrotti to relaunch online in June of 2020. Their next 12-week session, a health intensive, begins in March.

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What all these women have in common is a story of being stuck themselves, especially in the tug-of-war between career and motherhood, and finding their own ways out. Hilmer and Perrotti point to three types of “traps”—thinking, doing and “shoulding”—that people fall into. They offer a free, 20-page e-book, Freedom From What Keeps You Stuck, that elaborates on those traps, followed by “Try This” action items. “Every one of us is going to find ourselves stuck in these traps at different times,” Hilmer says. Rather than trying to address them all at once, she suggests asking, “What is the one key place where you’re getting stuck? And then focus on that first.”

Karachristos offers networking advice—while avoiding the word “networking.” It’s intimidating, she says, because it implies “this formal transactional conversation that has to result in some kind of outcome.” Instead, she says, reach out to everyone with whom you have a relationship—family, friends, neighbors, former coworkers—and let them know you’re on the job market. Likewise, “start saying yes to opportunities.” That’s easier said than done, she acknowledges, when “we’ve sort of gotten out of our social groove, and it’s really easy and comfortable right now to stay home.” But even trying something “slightly outside of your area” of expertise or comfort may connect you with new people and new opportunities.

In their Unstuck program, Hass and Schrank always start by helping clients declutter their spaces because, Schrank says, “If we’re feeling anxious in our own space due to the clutter or the disorganization, it’s really hard to then work on our body, mind and spirit.” They also believe, like Hilmer and Perrotti, in the power of working together. “People find camaraderie in knowing that they’re not the only ones stuck in some way,” Hass says.

Perhaps most of all, Karachristos advises, be patient with yourself “because it’s been such a difficult two years now.” No matter what you try, she says, expect there will be setbacks. “You have to give yourself some grace that it’s a process, it’s not just going to happen.”

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image by H_Ko/Shutterstock.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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