(Posted July 2022)
Loneliness is the most frequently used term by loved ones of candidates to express their feeling about the entire CFE process. It is like the CFE candidate just goes to another world for two months. The loved ones use expressions like “He is a shadow of the man I knew” and “I finally have her back!” to express their sense of being isolated during the CFE study time. The candidate must do the work, but there is a role for loved ones as well.
The CFE process can become all-consuming. And even if candidates can stay in control, it is still very difficult for them to try and share what they are going through because it is unique and difficult for someone else to understand (see the earlier blog posting, “How to Explain the CFE to Your Support People”). It is just easier for them to block out everything around them during that time and not discuss it.
Some loved ones intentionally stay away to let the candidate focus on studying. This is a very bad idea. There are no prizes for being a martyr. Allowing candidates to isolate themselves from outside support systems during a time of stress can have the opposite effect. If loneliness is one of the big CFE-related problems, it makes sense to widen, not narrow, the social circle. There are lots of little ways that you can help make their studying more efficient, but they don’t require the candidate to be a hermit, or you to be a martyr, with no life.
TAKE THE BREAKS
If the candidate has a balanced study program, they should have built in breaks during the August – September period. There should be time for you, family and friends. In fact, it is important that they take that time away from anything CFE-related because it promotes efficient study, minimizes the chances of burnout and reduces stress. There must be a life beyond the examination and one of your challenges, as a person who cares about the candidate, is to get them to take those breaks. There is a balance. You should encourage breaks where they are incorporated into the study plan but avoid creating pressure for the candidate to study less than what is scheduled, as this can increase their stress.
Interestingly, there was also a common sentiment that, even when the candidates were not studying, their mind was not necessarily there with you. This is not a good thing because there must be separation from the CFE study. A candidate who studies all day, and then sits there and thinks about it all night, may have some serious problems passing. They need to separate themselves from the study process. This can be done by taking walks, playing with kids, going sailing, playing sports, gardening, light reading or whatever. The specific activity isn’t the important part. It is the separation from the study process that counts and physical activity is the best.
There are often monetary concerns to deal with as well. Passing the CFE is an expensive process by the time CFE examination fees, unpaid time off, and the cost of a training course are considered. If a candidate is paying for these costs, it can create cash flow problems. Nothing raises stress levels, or the intensity of arguments, as fast as money problems. Some sensitivity by both parties and budgeting in advance can reduce problems that might otherwise strain a relationship.
Candidates are going to be stressed, especially towards the end of the process. Individuals cope with stress in a variety of ways and a little stress is a very healthy thing. Excessive stress is debilitating. Don’t bother them with little things, as stress is also cumulative. Focus on the big picture and if a few things slide, well, let it be. Consider what simple tasks or housework you can take off your candidates lap that may help ease their mental load.
Do not let your candidate isolate you out of their lives. They need you there as anchors. They need you to do the occasional random nice thing, like put a card in their study materials or make them dinner for no reason at all. They need you to help them keep perspective. Encourage them often, remind them they can do it, and tell them you believe they will.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Living with a CFE candidate may be difficult so be prepared in advance for this season. Tell a close friend or family member that you think the next few months could be tough, so you have already opened a channel for encouragement when you need it, and your candidate is lacking in their energy to support you.
There is likely going to be time when your candidate is studying and you will feel lonely or miss their company. Plan in advance for this. What are ways you can relax that do not create pressure for your partner to join you? Where is that friends phone number you have been meaning to see for a year? Give them a call and meet for coffee.
Your CFE candidate will come back to you and appreciate your understanding and support.