Top Ten Wellness Strategies for The Self-Employed

It’s lonely at the top, especially when you are the whole mountain!

Profitable corporations have embraced wellness programs as a way to effectively hold down healthcare costs, boost productivity, creativity and reduce absenteeism and turnover rates. If you are one of the more than sixteen million self-employed people out there, what’s your wellness program look like? When you are self-employed and you become really ill, it’s like Hewlett Packard locking the gate and turning off the lights…you’re out of business! Making conscious investment in your company’s biggest asset, you and your health, is critical.

About one out of every nine people in the American workforce is self-employed and 90% actually chose to become so. Corporate-culture refugees are often happier on their own, but this new territory comes with it’s own particular stresses and challenges. Nobody tells you to stop working for the day. There is no schedule other than the one you make yourself. Couples who have their own business together must become communication experts with each other. There is tremendous freedom and potentially tremendous pressure.

There is certainly an upside though…many of them in fact. When you see that the temperature at noon will be in the nineties, you can get your walk or run in at 9:00 am and work through your noon hour. You may commute just across the hallway. There is no pay-scale, and no glass ceiling.

The big challenge is work-life balance. How does the self-employed person achieve a wellness lifestyle and one that is both personally and financially rewarding? How do we really apply the old adage “work smarter, not harder”?

Let’s look at the Top Ten Wellness Strategies for The Self-Employed.

1. Identity. Realize that you are not your work. Your business is something you own, not vise-versa. The key is to “have a life” and to, in fact, nurture a well-rounded, full and meaningful life. Meaning and purpose in both work and life ensure motivation to be well and to be successful. When your work is in alignment with your values and beliefs conflict and stress are minimized and energy emerges to get the job done.
2. Boundaries and flexibility. The old joke that being self-employed is only half-time work…you can work whatever 12 hrs./day you want to work, is much too real. It’s a double-edged sword you want to take conscious command of and have it cut for you instead of against you. Track your work hours by writing them down if need be. Set alarms. Give yourself days off. When things pop into your head, jot them down for discussion later and then return to being back in the present moment. Make agreements with partners to create some hours each day and some times each week when business is not discussed.
3. Confidence. Overcome the fears that drive you to over-work by building your confidence and belief in your ability to be successful. You do not have to be available 24/7 to be productive. Know that your skills, abilities, and investments in your work can allow you to take time off and still thrive.

“I have so much to accomplish today that I just meditate for two hours instead of one.” M.K. Gandhi

4. Self-care/Self-permission.Give yourself permission to take fantastic care of yourself. Confront outdated and fearful personal beliefs about putting yourself last on your list. It may feel strange, but practice what feels like “extreme self-care” and it will probably be about right!
5. Investment. Invest in your own wellness. Get all of your medical check-ups on time. Invest in your own physical health with regular exercise and high quality fuel (food). Invest in your own mental health by expressing your creativity and having fun with others.

6. Energy. Re-charge your energy with frequent breaks. Stretch, move, breathe every hour. Studies show that your creativity and productivity will soar (http://www.ernestrossi.com/interviews/ultradia.htm) (http://www.polarunlimited.com/2010/09/the-way-were-working-isnt-working-summary/)

7. Organization. Your to-do list won’t magically go away while you’re doing all of this wellness stuff! Your work has to be efficient, not just excessive effort. Educate yourself about what organizational systems will work for you like GTD (Getting Things Done) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done) or ZTD (Zen To Done) (http://zenhabits.net/zen-to-done-ztd-the-ultimate-simple-productivity-system/) . Experiment with HOW you work, not just working harder to find out what really catalyzes your productivity. Delegate. Repeat, delegate! Hire an IT person (even just one time) to help your technology work for you instead of bogging you down. Use the famous Urgency/Importance Matrix (easily found online) to prioritize and streamline tasks while eliminating what really doesn’t matter.

8. Self-compassion. Be kind, patient and self-forgiving. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” May sound cliché, but it’s true. Keep lifting your head from where your nose is on the grindstone and see the bigger picture of your progress and that of your business. (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/go-easy-on-yourself-a-new-wave-of-research-urges/)
9. Connection. Self-employment can be very isolating and this can boost self-doubt, depression and pessimism. Get out and connect with other professionals at organization meetings. Do some work at coffee shops and go ahead and talk with people!
10. Get a Coach. It’s lonely at the top, especially when you are the whole mountain! Invest in an ally who specializes in helping entrepreneurs and folks like you. A business/life coach may give you the support and accountability you need to create a plan for success and effectively pursue it. A wellness coach may help you find the life/work balance you are looking for, help prevent burnout, and help you find a totally sustainable way of living and working that maximizes your health and well being, allowing you to actualize more of your wonderful potential.

What’s your experience either being a self-employed person seeking wellness, or a coach who has helped people in this way?  Please leave a comment here on the blog.  Thanks!

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Coaching The “Boomer Generation” for Aging Well

Expect the unexpected with THIS generation!

Every seven seconds a “Boomer” turns fifty. The American post-war “Boomer Generation” spends more on health care than their parents did.
They visit the doctor more, they consume more services, and aren’t afraid to use their $7 trillion in collective wealth to improve their quality of life. From physical therapy, to cosmetic surgery, to the latest in life-saving technology, Boomers just aren’t built to grow old gracefully or go “quietly into the night.” Their impact on the marketplace for health and wellness products and services is huge and unprecedented, and wellness coaching may just be on their shopping list.

Boomers live longer, but the debate goes on whether they are healthier or not. It is like the tale of two generations in one. Our stereotype of the generation is like most stereotypes, usually misleading. We think of the Boomers as the same folks who went to college in the late sixties and projected an image of rebelliousness, and social consciousness. While this generation did acquire more education than any previous, not everyone went to college, and not all became the health conscious, socially and environmentally aware folks that describe the icon the current media might portray.

They are in fact quite a paradoxical group to look at. While on the one hand there are plenty of physically active, health food conscious “oldsters” in Yoga classes and out on the bike and hiking trails, especially in some parts of the country, many folks the same age are living a very different lifestyle. The Boomers, as a whole, are far more obese, are under more stress at work, and are retiring later, if at all. They are much more sedentary than any previous generation driven by more jobs that limit movement and have longer commutes. While they don’t smoke as much, they self-report being less physically healthy than their parents. They watch more TV and even their recreational pursuits can go either people-powered or “full throttle” (i.e. sitting down revving some kind of engine).

Abbey Road has a new look!

Helping this enigmatic generation create a healthy future takes on two aspects, the individual and the sociological. When we look at long-lived cultures around the world, like the National Geographic-funded Blue Zones project does (www.bluezones.com ), we see cultures that have in place healthy norms and lots of social support. People in all of these longevity hot spots make lots of movement a natural part of their daily lives. They live with meaning and purpose and a strong sense of spirituality. They eat wisely and “belong to the right tribe”. They honor and keep elders within their community. Social isolation is a health risk for all, and only increases in threat as we get older. The challenge is for us to build the kind of families and communities that support being well not just while we’re young, but for our entire lives.

Once again, “coaching for connectedness” may take center stage. Making the goal of obtaining greater social support a central part of a client’s Wellness Plan may be the most helpful thing they experience in wellness coaching.

COACHING BOOMERS – Three Ideas

# 1 – Never assume they are retired, or are even retiring anytime soon. Chances are your client who is still at least in their sixties, is still employed full-time. In fact they may be headed into the most productive time of their lives. Let’s call them late-bloomers. For them Work-Life Balance Coaching is a greater need than ever. Furthermore it may be complicated by some factors of aging keeping them from performing like they would like to, or being able to get the most out of the limited time they have for exercise and self-care. If they are taking medication that makes weight loss more challenging, or are recovering from surgeries, etc. (joint repair and replacement is more and more common with this group) they may not be able to be as “efficient” in their activities to maintain their health. Exploring this in coaching and helping them to create new strategies may become a really valuable use of coaching.

Many of this generation have also found themselves facing retirement with financial problems instead of reserves to draw upon. For them, healthcare issues and wellness lifestyle choices may revolve around expenses, especially for the pre-Medicare group. They may really benefit from coaching that can help them keep their health a priority in the face of the frightening costs of healthcare.

#2 – Coach around the subject of meaning and purpose. Some folks are fortunate and either find meaning and purpose in work they continue to do, or have lived full lives where they have developed rich sources of meaning and purpose outside of their careers. For others “retirement” may result in such feelings losing their anchor. Without a solid sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life there is less motivation to engage in a really healthy lifestyle. Help your client search in directions that align with their values and interests. Reconnecting with old interests, becoming active in organizations, volunteering with non-profits may all bridge this gap in a meaningful way. This may be a great time in life for developing the spiritual side of one’s self. Coach your client through the steps of exploring such new pursuits and following through on creating “experiments” to find something that works for them.

#3 – Always explore the issue of connectedness. Never assume that your client has friends and family that can or will support their efforts at improving their lifestyle. More and more seniors are living alone, especially as spouses die and children move away. Many others have relocated themselves to places where the challenge is establishing a whole new circle of friends.

“Studies have shown that people who are isolated and lonely have a higher incidence of health problems. A 1998 study of patients with heart disease found that 50 percent of the patients who reported feeling very isolated were not married and had no one in whom they could confide died within five years. During the same time span, only 17 percent of those with either a spouse or confidant died. Another 1998 study on women found that symptoms of depression and lack of social support were associated with more heart attacks, open-heart surgeries and deaths from cardiovascular disease. A report has found that seniors, who attend church at least weekly, live longer.” (http://seniorhealth.about.com/od/mentalemotionalhealth/a/lonely.htm)

Also, don’t assume that social networking online is not in the picture. Many boomers are quite tech-savvy, certainly more than any other group of oldsters ever has been. Folks with chronic illnesses may find both information and online groups of others sharing the same health challenges. Whether it is through something online, participating in a Senior Center’s programming, or engaging in community groups in align with their interests, it’s all good.

The individual aspect, again comes back to lifestyle choices, conscious awareness and realizing that we are in charge of our own health. A big part of it is realizing that we can and do affect our own health. Building that confidence, that self-efficacy is crucial. Making the individual decision to connect with others and build a sense of healthy community may create yet another paradox, but one that works for us.

My grandpa, he’s 95

And he keeps on dancin’

He’s still alive

 

My grandma, she’s 92

She loves to dance

And sing some, too

 

I don’t know

But I’ve been told

If you keep on dancing

You’ll never grow old

 

Come on darling

Put a pretty dress on

We’re gonna go out tonight

Dance, dance, dance

Dance, dance, dance

Dance, dance, dance

All night long

“Dance, Dance, Dance” – The Steve Miller Band

What’s your experience coaching this aging “Boomer” generation? Please share in your comments here on the blog.