Structuring Great Wellness Coaching Sessions: Part One – How to Get Started

“So!  What do you want to talk about today?”  Your client responds with the first thing on their mind.  You start processing the topic with them and then…what?  Or, you greet your client and start checking in on what they had made commitments to working on and when the first one is brought up you begin processing it and…then what?

Health and wellness coaches often struggle with launching their regular, ongoing sessions with their clients.  With an allegiance to being client centered, coaches may simply follow wherever their client leads.  The result, all too often is a rambling and less than productive session.  String enough of those kinds of sessions together and the coaching may go nowhere and end prematurely.  

We may also see a coach take the reins of the session too tightly in their fists and want to begin the session exactly where client and coach left off at the last session.   “So last time we talked about your challenges in finding people to support you in making healthy lifestyle changes.  Tell me more about how that has been going.”  The client may have come into the session wanting to focus on something entirely different than their topic a week or two ago.

Co-Creating The Agenda

When a highly functioning project team meets together to discuss their work, an effective leader will begin the meeting by gathering input from all present and work cooperatively to weave together an agenda.  All present can contribute what they see as needing to be discussed.  That information is recognized and taken in for consideration and prioritization.  Then, and only then is the agenda set and everyone knows where and how we will start the down to business part of the meeting.  Think of this same process being applied with you and your client.

Consider this structure for starting your session with your client:

  • Greet and Connect.  Small talk.  Keep it brief.
  • Check-in.  
    • Client reports in on their efforts at lifestyle improvement, on their action steps that they made a commitment to at the last session.
    • Coach acknowledges the client’s efforts.  Briefly acknowledges and celebrates wins.  Empathizes with disappointments.  
    • Coach and client – and here is the key – DO NOT PROCESS what the client is reporting on.  Save that for after you two  have co-created the agenda.  “That sounds really important to you.  We’ll be sure to talk about that today.  What else…”. Gather it all in.
  • Co-Create The Agenda for the Session
    • Coach enquires about what else the client wants to focus on during today’s session.  Again – DO NOT BEGIN PROCESSING. You are still gathering in topics to discuss, not discussing them.
    • The coach contributes suggestions to be included in the agenda.  Yes, you are part of the “CO” in CO-CREATION.  You may want to remind your client that there is still work to be done on the creation of the client’s Wellness Plan.  You may want to hear any updates that they have from seeing their physician recently, etc.
    • Coach and client weave together an agenda for the session based upon what they mutually determine to be of importance and what order of priority they need to follow.
  • Remember the Importance of Dancing in the Moment
    • Despite the co-creation of a wonderful agenda, be prepared to modify it or even abandon it entirely depending upon what happens in the session.
    • Your client may discover a profound insight that hits them emotionally and processing that may become your new priority in the here and now.  Or your client may realize that there needs to be a real shift in the focus of the coaching.
    • Expect nothing.  Be prepared for anything.
  • Now You Can Begin Processing
Woman with headset in front of her laptop writing something on a paper while making a live video call with a patient or client, copy space

Step By Step – The Check In

Once coaching has been underway our clients are usually making commitments to specific Action Steps that they will work on between coaching sessions.  This, of course, is where the real lifestyle behavioral change takes place.  When those Action Steps were co-created and agreed upon at the last session there was some form of accountability set up – often just checking in at the next appointment about the progress.  Now is the time for the all-important follow through on that accountability.  Successes are celebrated as “wins”.  Acknowledging what it took (effort, strength of character, tenacity, overcoming obstacles, etc.) to succeed is the essence of the strength-based, positive psychology coach approach.  The key is to do this briefly and hold off on processing for later in the coaching session.

When our clients aren’t able to succeed in their Action Steps, we need to meet our client with compassion but not give them a “free pass” (Oh, that’s alright.  I know it’s hard to do these things.).  Acknowledge their feelings.  Empathize.  Then commit to exploring it later in the session as it often takes some real processing to make progress.  Again, this will require more time and concerted effort, so post-pone the processing until after the agenda is co-created.  Then you will have time to work on it more productively.

Step By Step – Co-creating The Agenda

Once the Check-In feels complete you will have some of the elements or topics to include in the agenda that you and your client are co-creating.  In addition to those items it is critical that you enquire about what the client wants to focus on during the session.  Do this before you suggest topics (such as picking up on subjects from the last session or taking the next step on designing their Wellness Plan).  If your client has filled out a Coaching Session Prep Form, you will have some of this information listed but still enquire directly.

Remember the meta-view. As you began to assemble your agenda ask your client some key questions:

  • How is this topic related to your overall Wellness Plan?
  • As we work on this together, what would progress look like?
  • Ideally what is the outcome you would like to see and how will we know if we have gotten there?

That last item, frankly, I find often very difficult for clients to identify.  Do your best to help your client clarify this.  The relevance to the overall Wellness Plan is like referring to the compass that guides the whole coaching process.  If it’s not relevant, in some way, why are we talking about it? 

In an especially helpful article from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) website, (https://coachingfederation.org/blog/establish-the-agenda#) Lisa Rogoff gives some excellent guidance.  “Sometimes clients don’t show up with a clear agenda, or they think it’s clear, but we need to do some work to make it resonate. I constantly remind my client (and myself): Slow down to go fast. I’ll often spend 15 minutes crystalizing what the client wants to work on and why. It is time well spent. From there we cut through the noise and focus.”  Now, Rogoff is most likely referring to hour-long sessions which very few health and wellness coaches do, so adjust your timing accordingly.  The point is worth remembering though, the time invested up front will pay off in productivity.

Our agenda building is not quite done yet.  Co-creation means you and your client both have input on this agenda.  This is where your own session preparation pays off.  As our client’s coach we can help navigate by looking at the meta view referred to above.  It’s like on our client’s voyage of growth and discovery we can continually look at our map and see where we are on our course of progress.  We have a perspective that is difficult for our clients to step back and perceive as they struggle with their day-to-day efforts.  By referring to your notes from previous sessions you can see where your client is at with the methodology of behavioral change.  Are we rushing into simple goal setting when we have yet to help our client take stock of their wellness, strengths, assets, and resources?  This can be where our knowledge of behavioral change theory, especially for example The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, really pays off. (https://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change)

Structure is Your Friend

Structure is your friend, don’t make it your master.  Once the agenda is agreed upon you can devote the greatest part of the coaching session to processing and then go on to next steps.  We’ll share more about how this looks in our next health and wellness coaching blog.

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com).  Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching.  He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world.  Dr. Arloski’s newest book is Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html

Coach Like Hemingway: Confident, Succinct, Effective

Use short sentences.  Use short paragraphs.  Use vigorous English.  Be positive, not negative.  Opening lines from 110 Stylistic Rules given to each reporter by the Kansas City Star where Hemingway got his first job in journalism (1917).

Hemingway’s typewriter in Cuba

Ernest Hemingway certainly picked up on those dictums and put them to good use over an extraordinary career as a writer.  When we think of these same admonishments, they could serve a coach just as well.  How can we examine our coaching language and find ways to make it more effective with a ‘less is more’ approach?

Perhaps we should say coach like Hemingway wrote.  “Papa” Hemingway certainly had some characteristics that would not make a good coach ­– self-absorbed, and as one critic put it tiresomely macho.  What Hemingway was, however, was an astute observer, both of people and the world around him.  That coaches can emulate.  “The hardest thing in the world to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings.  First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write.  Both take a lifetime.” (Ernest Hemingway: “Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba”)

Hemingway’s writing style works because we appreciate not just its brevity, but the way, in a few words, he brings us to the heart of the matter.  Whether it is action, description or emotion we arrive quickly where the writer wants us to go.  We get it.  His words are sometimes strong, sometimes tender, sometimes rather simple and mundane.  In my favorite short story of all time, The Big Two-hearted River, his WWI Vet protagonist, Nick, goes into the backcountry of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan ostensibly to fish and camp.  What makes it a healing journey is the way nature, and the author, strip daily activities down to the quick, to an existential present moment free of all the potential clutter that you can imagine Nick’s PTSD mind is capable of.

So!  What’s all of this have to do with coaching?  A masterful coach listens more than they speak.  In fact, when they speak it is usually in shorter, concise sentences.  Questions come across as confident making their impact more powerful.  Observations are free of editorializing.  The coach and client appear engaged in a tight, two-way conversation.

“Mr. Hemingway knows how not only to make words be specific but how to arrange a collection of words which shall betray a great deal more than is to be found in the individual parts.”  (Review of The Sun Also Rises)

A Mindset of Facilitation and Catalyzation

My job as a coach is to facilitate and, when appropriate, to catalyze the growth process in my client.  Rather than think for them, how can I get them to think in new and creative ways leading to their own conclusions?  Facilitating their work means not doing the work for them but making their work easier and more effective. 

If I am still operating in the consultant, educator,  or treatment professional mindset, I take on much more responsibility and, frankly, have to contribute more to the conversation because I am actually consulting.  Coaches can blend in education, certainly.  A health and wellness coach may share some evidence-based, widely accepted principles that help the client to learn more about how to improve their lifestyle.  If I coach from the consultant’s mindset though, I will be more verbose as I share more information, more of my own analysis, etc.

When I stay in the coaching mindset, I see my work as facilitating my client’s own work.  At times I may contribute my own observations, own and share my own perspectives, etc. (See my blog “Client-centered Directiveness is an Oxymoron, but it works!”  https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/client-centered-directiveness-an-oxymoron-that-works-part-one/#like-1228 ).  There are times when such sharing can serve as a catalyst for my client’s thinking.  Think of it like the drag racer who injects a little rocket fuel into his race car’s fuel tank.  If it ignites (my client finds value in it), boom!  We are off to the races.  The key is to use an eyedropper, not a gallon can.

Confident Questions

When a masterful coach asks a question, they simply ask it and let it stand without elaboration or explanation.  They may think of a way to clarify their question but rather than do so aloud, they hold, wait for the client to answer their first question and see if clarification is even needed.  What we see beginning coaches doing all too often, is asking a question, then adding a second and perhaps even a third clarifying question before the client has a chance to answer.  The coach is ‘thinking out loud’ and the effect can be one that causes confusion for the client, and, perhaps, waters down the power of the initial question.

Slow down.  Choose your words more consciously.  Have confidence in your question.  Have confidence in your client’s ability to understand it as you spoke it.  If they need clarification, they will let you know.  

The Iceberg Theory

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.  The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”  (Hemingway – from Death in the Afternoon)

In his book Write Like Hemingway, author R. Andrew Wilson explains the Iceberg Theory in Four Principles:

  • Write About What you Know, But Don’t Write All That You Know
  • Grace Comes from Understatement
  • Create Feelings from the Fewest Details Needed
  • Forget the Flamboyant

Write About What you Know, But Don’t Write All That You Know

The coaching conversation can never address everything that is going on in the moment.  The brains of coach and client are processing at lightning speed far more than can be (or is) put into words.  Coaches are constantly having to choose what to address, what to inquire about, what to feedback to the client and what to keep silent about.  As we observe and listen, we may choose to tuck some things in to what I call my ‘coach’s day pack’ for use later.  

Your client knows their own life.  In fact, they know it in far more detail than is necessary to discuss.  As you facilitate their process your client will fill in the gaps, the details in their own mind.  You don’t need to keep digging for them so that they are spoken aloud.  They are doing the work, just keep supporting them in exploring it.  Think of it as making strategic adjustments or touches to the process.  A little verbal nudge here or there in the form of Active Listening Skills or effective questions keeps your client moving forward.

When the need for education, sharing of resources, etc. comes up, share what is helpful and then return to coaching.  Your client’s topic  may trigger a wealth of knowledge that you have about a subject.  It may be enjoyable to share but some self-vigilance may help you distinguish between meeting the needs of your client versus your own.

Grace Comes from Understatement

Hemingway’s own personality came through in letters to friends and we see plenty of it in the tales of his adventures and legendary nights at the bars.  There he allowed his strong convictions, judgments and condemnations to come through.  In his writing, however, you won’t find him moralizing rights and wrongs.  There is an almost stoic acceptance of the realities his characters face.  

Certainly, it is trust that builds the coaching alliance and the best way to build that is through what Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard.  Being non-judgmental is key to creating the ‘safe container’ in which our coaching can take place.  Few things are appreciated more by our clients.  Getting ourselves out of the way always makes coaching work better.

Create Feelings from the Fewest Details Needed

When we use fewer words, we get back to listening, putting the spotlight back on our client.  When we paraphrase or summarize our task is to bring our clients words down to their essence.  This condensation keeps our clients focused and on track.  When we reflect a feeling and do our best to name it a whole whirlwind of emotion can now be hung on a single hook on the rack allowing our client to breathe in relief as they validate our call.    Now we are combining the beauty of understatement (above) with the efficiency of honing in on the essential. Less is more.

Forget the Flamboyant

In the last of his four principles of the iceberg theory, Wilson reminds us that “the purpose of serious writing isn’t to demonstrate how much you know”.  For the writer it shows up in over-description, flowery phrases and improbable plot lines.  For the coach?  What would a ‘flamboyant’ batch of coaching look like?  It might be entertaining to observe, but not so helpful to the client.  Great writing isn’t about literary tricks and great coaching isn’t about flashing techniques for their own sake.  A guided visualization exercise has to have a solid rationale for its use, likewise the selection of a coaching tool to use.  Great coaching often looks pretty basic much of the time.

Comfortable With Silence

The pause.  That pause that goes on longer and longer.  Is my client processing, cognitive gears whirling, emotion being tapped?  Or, do they need a nudge, a priming of the pump?  As our coaching matures, we become more trusting of our client’s ability to find their way through the silences.  We do “hold our clients to be naturally creative, resourceful and whole” as the authors of Co-Active Coaching have long affirmed. (https://coactive.com/resources/coactive-coaching-4th-edition/)  We need to decide when we are tempted to rescue our clients and when to let them do their work.  It may be a tricky call to know when to provide the nudge, the catalyst, and when to stay patiently silent.  Let your decision be driven out of keen observation and rationale instead of your own anxiety. 

The more centered and grounded you are, the easier it is to exude the patience needed for effective coaching.  Let your pace work for you, giving you enough time to be clear in your thoughts and confident in your questions.  Trust the coaching process and play with coaching a bit more like the way Hemingway wrote.

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com).  Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching.  He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world.  Dr. Arloski’s newest book is Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html

The What, the How and the Why of Lifestyle Improvement

Health and wellness folks are sometimes confused about the role each professional might play in helping individuals to live their best life possible.  Our clients are seeking to be healthier by losing weight, managing stress, stopping smoking, becoming less isolated, and often, managing a health challenge of some kind.  To do so they need:

  • excellent wellness information
  • great treatment (if that is called for) 
  • and a way to make the lifestyle changes that will ensure lasting success.  

So, who is responsible for what?

Help rehabilitation patients keep going at lifestyle improvement.

Fitness trainers, rehabilitation therapists, physical therapists, dietician, various treatment professionals and health educators can help their clients/patients to know what lifestyle behavioral changes will move them towards improved health and wellbeing.  What we often hear from these medical and wellness pros is frustration with a lack of success on their client’s part in making the recommended changes and making them last.  The reality is, most people simply don’t know that much about how to change the ingrained habits of a lifetime.  

The physical therapist works with their client in their session and sends them home with exercises that must be done every day.  The dietician creates a fantastic meal plan that their client must put into practice.  The fitness professional creates a tailor-made workout plan, but their client needs to exercise on their own, not just in front of their trainer.

Health educators, treatment professionals, etc. provide the 

WHAT

Health and Wellness Coaches provide the 

HOW

Our Clients find their 

WHY

Everyone’s challenge is the how.  It takes more then will power and motivation.  What is often lacking is an actual well-thought out plan that the client has co-created with the help of someone who can provide support, accountability and a well-developed behavioral change methodology.  Translating the lifestyle prescription into action and fitting it in to an already busy life is often where, despite good intentions, our clients struggle.  This is where having a trusted ally in the cause of one’s wellness pays off.

As field of health and wellness coaching grows, the challenge coaches sometimes face is clarity about their own role.  Sometimes the confusion is all about the what and the how.  For coaches to be proficient at “writing” the lifestyle prescription they need additional qualifications.  It becomes a question of Scope of Practice.

To guide coaches the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) has developed a Scope of Practice Statement.  Here is the part most relevant to our question.

While health and wellness coaches per se do not diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, or provide psychological therapeutic interventions, they may provide expert guidance in areas in which they hold active, nationally recognized credentials, and may offer resources from nationally recognized authorities such as those referenced in NBHWC’s Content Outline with Resources.”  (https://nbhwc.org/scope-of-practice/ )

If coaches can “wear two hats” professionally they can combine the what and the how Otherwise the key is to coordinate with other wellness professionals or work with the lifestyle prescription that their client already has.

A wellness lifestyle can mean a better quality of life!

Beyond the what and the how is the why.  The “why” of behavior is all about motivation – initiating and sustaining behavioral change efforts by drawing upon the energy and desire to do so.  The key here once again is the question of who is responsible for supplying this. People may initiate behavior based upon external motivation – the urging and cheering on of others, the fear of negative outcomes.  In order to sustain that motivation, it has to come from within.  The challenge here for all wellness professionals is to help our client to discover their own unique sources of motivation.  

Seasoned wellness professionals realize they can’t convince or persuade anyone to be well.  However, when we help our clients discover their own important sources of what motivates them, they discover their why.  Motivation is fuel.  Now with the aid of a coach our clients can find the vehicle to put in. They know what they need to change.  Now they have a way how to change and grow, and they know themselves, why.  (See our previous post Motivation Plus Mobilization: Coaching For Success At Lifestyle Improvement.  https://wp.me/pUi2y-mn

(A modified form of this blog has appeared in the Medical Fitness Network) 

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com).  Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching.  He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world. 

Coaching Alignment: Patience and Pacing

Alignment

Being in alignment with our client can refer to both our cognitive and emotional congruence with them. Congruence, resonance, and even alignment itself are all ways of expressing “being on the same page” with our client. This means clearly understanding the content of what our client is saying and also being in touch with their emotional state and expression. This allow us to more easily and effectively provide empathic understanding. This results from the effort by the coach to relate to our client, understand them and what they are communicating.

Alignment is achieved by a combination of effective coaching presence, a lack of judgment, active listening skills and the way the coach creates a tempo for the session through the use of their own verbal skills. On this latter point, how is the coach matching or reflecting the speed of the client’s speech and how are they (the coach) influencing or regulating it? How fast is the client covering ground ? That is, how quickly are they discussing subjects and processing? In other words what is the pace of the coaching session?

When coach and client are out of alignment coaching, much like a car engine, tends to sputter. If the coach is ahead of the client; talking much faster; pushing an agenda or trying to cover ground too quickly, the client may simply check out of the conversation, or struggle to keep up. The result could be awkward silences in response to questions, or a ‘fits and starts’ type of interchange that is seldom productive.

If the coach is behind the client, we see insufficient energy being expressed by the coach and the client is setting a pace that the coach is out of synch with. At some point the client will notice how the coach is not keeping up either with content or with energy. The client may become frustrated, or despondent and could even decide to drop out of the coaching. The consequences of being out of alignment with our client can be serious.

Being Out of Alignment – Causes

So, what can cause a coach to be so out of alignment with their client? What leads them to become out of synchronization with the coaching conversation?

Coach’s personality and anxiety. Some people are naturally faster talkers and processors. These coaches have to self-monitor their own rapid speech and processing with a determined effort at patience. There is also the anxiety that comes with being new to coaching.


Coach’s culture and background. Some people have simply learned to talk faster because of their family of origin, their own background, or even where they grew up. It’s a common observation to see the stereotypical New Yorker speaking rapidly.


Pressure from a coaching system the coach is working in. Coaches sometimes work for companies that expect fast results. Coaching sessions, even with limited time, don’t have to feel rushed but easily could.


The coach is too up in their head. That is, they are thinking too much about what to say or ask next and their listening is suffering as a result. The coach misses vital expressions of emotion or even content leaving the client feeling unheard. The client may be baffled by why the coaching is asking about something that they spoke of earlier but have already moved on from.

How to Be in Alignment With Our Client

Get centered. Being centered, grounded and more calm allows the coach to be as patience as they need to be. It allows the coach to be more present and better at observing all that is going on with their client. Doing what centers you in your life on a regular basis will allow you to come into the coaching session in a more centered way.


Psychophysiological self-regulation. What allows you to manage your own anxiousness? First is awareness that you may have gone beyond feeling energetic to acting frenetic. Become aware of the signs that your level of anxiety has gotten high. Anxiety is not always accompanied by worry. Are you jumping at sudden, loud noises? Are you breathing short and shallow? Have you exceeded the caffeine intake that you can handle without becoming ‘wired’? Practice breathing with more depth. Get enough sleep and rest. Consider learning methods for deeper relaxation such as relaxation recordings, practicing Yoga or Tai Chi, etc.


Know yourself. If you are a person with a long history of very rapid speech (no matter where or how you learned it), your challenge is to accept the fact that unless you are matched with a very similar client, it just won’t work well in coaching. You will have to make a very conscious, concerted effort to slow down.


Pace with patience. Consider the work you are doing with your client as a whole, not just one coaching session. This is where coaching with a well-developed methodology that has significant coaching structure will allow you to have perspective. Such perspective will allow you to be more patient and not feel like you have to push to get steps accomplished prematurely.


Dance with some rhythm. Good and great coaching appears to be like a dance between two partners that have established a rhythm that they are in synch with. There is a great two-way nature to an effective coaching conversation. The coach is actively involved, not just passively listening for long periods of time while the client rattles on. This is where effective use of Active Listening Skills throughout the conversation keep the coach involved and keep the client better focused. There is a rhythmic back and forth in the conversation that leads to productivity. A big part of dancing is also adjusting to the changes in the music. When your client shifts, are you able to shift with them? A change in mood, energy or topic needs to be noticed by you and requires an adjustment. To keep your client focused you might bring the shift to their attention and ask them how they would like to proceed.


Self-reflect. Listen to recordings of your coaching. It is much harder to self-reflect in the moment. Your lack of synchronization with your client may become much more obvious when you can observe is afterwards on a recording.

It’s easy to become far too content-focused in our coaching. Yet, what is the content bringing up in our client emotionally, mentally? There is so much more going on in a coaching session. This is where our threefold task of awareness comes in: 1)awareness of our client; 2) awareness of ourselves; and 3) awareness of what is happening in the coaching relationship. When we are in touch with all three, we will notice more about our pacing, our speed of speech, and the whole tempo of the coaching experience. Bottom line is trust the coaching process, relax and enjoy!

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

LOVE and HEART HEALTH: Coaching for Connection

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

From the Song “Nature Boy” – lyrics by eden ahbez, recorded originally by Nat King Cole, sung by David Bowie in the movie Moulin Rouge

There is the biological heart that pumps our blood and keeps us alive.  There is also what cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar calls our metaphorical heart.  “The metaphorical heart is the way that we thought of the heart before science came along…The heart was the seed of the soul,” Jauhar said. “It was where our emotions resided; emotions like love or courage… And what I have observed in my two decades now as a cardiologist is that the heart that is associated with love, that metaphorical heart, directly impacts on our biological heart… People who have healthy, loving relationships have better heart health.” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/love-heart-health/index.html)

Matters of the heart unfortunately on the medical level, also present us with the leading cause of death worldwide.  Heart disease is number one and stroke is number two across the globe.  (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death). We know all too well of the health risk behaviors that are part of people’s lifestyles that contribute to these conditions –    “high blood pressure, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.” (https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/heart-disease-stroke.htm) Yet there is evidence that love, emotional support and connection can lessen these risks significantly.

Chemistry!

It’s no accident that we speak of two people in love “having chemistry.”  Our initial attraction causes dopamine to be released deep in our brains.  The body follows this with a release of chemicals like adrenaline and norepinephrine causing to literally tremble with loving feelings.  “The brain seals the deal by releasing oxytocin, often called “the love hormone” because it helps couples create strong bonds. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide secreted by the pituitary gland during times of intimacy, like hugging, kissing and orgasm.” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/love-heart-health/index.html)

The effect of all of these love hormones flooding our bodies is very positive on our nervous system and our hearts.   We relax as we experience warm feelings of affection and as we do our parasympathetic nervous system dilates blood vessels and our blood pressure drops – certainly a good thing.  Likewise, the sympathetic nervous system – the initiator of our fight or flight stress response – is tamped down.  “A study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who spent time with their romantic partners experienced a greater dip in blood pressure than those who hung out with a stranger.” (https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health-pictures/reasons-love-is-good-for-your-heart.aspx)

The Power of Positive Relationships

There have been numerous studies showing that married people live longer and have better health overall.  “A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology assessed the relationships of nearly 5,000 adults ages 30 to 69. Those with strong, happy marriages lived longer than unmarried men and women.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon goes both ways. In the same study, adults with poor social ties had twice the risk of death compared to others in the study.” (https://living.aahs.org/heart-vascular/love-relationships-and-health-the-surprising-benefits-of-being-in-love/)

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University “led a trailblazing 2010 analysis published in the journal PLOS Medicine that looked at data from 148 studies involving more than 300,000 people. It found the odds of being alive at the end of a study’s given time period was 50% higher for those with the strongest social relationships compared with people without such ties. As a predictor of survival, this is on par with the effect of quitting smoking.

Other studies led by Holt-Lunstad focused on the health effect of marriage itself. The lesson there: Quality matters.

The work found people in happy marriages had lower blood pressure than people who weren’t married. But people in strained marriages fared worse than single people… Elements of a positive relationship, whether it’s a marriage or something else, include trust and security, she said. As does how well you respond to your partner’s needs – “the extent to which you are both giving and receiving, so it’s not a one-way kind of relationship.” (https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/02/05/how-a-happy-relationship-can-help-your-health)  So being in a loving and supportive relationship is very different than the constant heart-damaging stress of being in a negative relationship.

It’s About Connection

Supportive relationships may or may not have a romantic element to them, and don’t need to.  Cardiologist Baran Kilical notes “Some of these health benefits still apply to people who have a strong social support system…Positive, close relationships with family members and friends can keep you healthier, too.” (https://living.aahs.org/heart-vascular/love-relationships-and-health-the-surprising-benefits-of-being-in-love/)   Other research shows that hugging others reduces our chances of becoming ill.  Social support can reduce inflammation in the body.  An article in Everyday Health (https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health-pictures/reasons-love-is-good-for-your-heart.aspx) references research that shows that laughter can cause our circulation to improve by dilating our blood vessels; writing love letters can actually lower our cholesterol; having a positive attitude can reduce heart attacks; and holding hand can calm our nerves.  

And Don’t Forget Fido

Harvard Medical School’s newsletter (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/puppy-love-may-help-your-heart) featured an article showing the “increasing body of research that dog ownership may boost heart health.”  A four-legged fitness trainer will get you out walking more often improving your exercise level.  The research points to reduction is stress – a major contributor to heart ailments.  “Another big part of the benefit of dog ownership is probably its effect on mental health…Loneliness is a huge cardiovascular health risk.”

Coaching for Love and Connection

All of this research underscores the value of love and healthy supportive relationships and helps us identify critical health risks, but the challenge is how to help people do something about it.  When we do a thorough job of exploration with our client at the beginning of coaching and help them take on a 360-degree view of their wellness the importance of connectedness in their life will show up.  We can celebrate the support they have and help them identify where such support is lacking.  Our client may acknowledge these needs and be open to exploring more about them and to how to get these needs met.  On the other hand, our client may appear more closed to exploring these areas.  

When it comes to such matters of the heart there may be mixed feelings.  When a coach proceeds gently, with their client’s permission to explore these areas, and does so empathically, without judgment, the client may feel safe enough to explore the subject.  Coach and client can work to sort out fears of rejection, feelings of inclusion/exclusion in social circles, and the perceived risks in reaching out to others more.  This is sensitive territory and it is vital that the coach not impose their own values on their client.  The client may not be willing to take on working on such areas in their life at this time.  A thorough knowledge of and application of Readiness for Change Theory is crucial here as our client may need to explore much more rather than jump into action around increasing connection with others. (https://jprochaska.com/books/changing-to-thrive-book/)

Health and Wellness coaches must develop competency in coaching with emotions.  See my previous blog posts: “The Great Utility of Coaching In The Emotional Realm”, https://wp.me/pUi2y-lA) and “Emotions, Feelings and Healthy Choices: Coaching for Greater Wellness” https://wp.me/pUi2y-ok)  When coaching around a client’s ambivalence or reluctance to explore closeness in relationships with others becomes unproductive, yet the client still wants help in this area, it may be an opportune time to discuss how counseling could be of much greater benefit to the client.  Issues around intimacy, etc. may have roots in past experience and could at such times, be better helped by counseling.  See my previous blog post “Coaching a Client Through To A Mental Health Referral Using The Stages of Change” (https://wp.me/pUi2y-lp) .

We all have needs for love, connection and relatedness.  Helping our clients to get these needs met may benefit them, and their hearts, in more ways than they imagined.

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

Health and Wellness Coaching Trends for the New Decade

A whole new experience of time

Health and Wellness Coaching Trends for the New Decade

Only now that we have put 2020 in the rearview mirror does it seem like we are moving ahead into a new decade.  Who knows what moniker we will come up with for this century’s version of “the twenties”, unlike the “Roaring Twenties” of the 1900’s.

So, what lies ahead, particularly for the field of health & wellness coaching (HWC) in the next ten years?  Where HWC is going is influenced by three major factors: internal factors within the field itself; the larger field of wellness and health promotion and the field of medicine, particularly, lifestyle medicine.  

Pandemic Adaptations  

While the Covid-19 Pandemic has radically altered so many aspects of life, work and health for all of us, it will pass, but will leave a lasting mark.  This is evident in the 2021 Wellable Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report (https://resources.wellable.co/2021-employee-wellness-industry-trends-report).  Based on what we have already seen happen as adaptations to the health cautious pandemic restrictions employers are intending to:

Invest Less In:

  • Health Fairs
  • Free Healthy Food/Stocked Kitchens
  • Biometric Screenings
  • On-site Fitness Classes
  • Gym Membership Reimbursement
  • Health Risk Assessments

What will that mean for HWC?  

There could be less referral to HWC from simple screenings and HRA’s.  Coaching clients will have less opportunity to exercise at their workplace and will rely more on their coaches for creative ways to adapt fitness to their home environments where coaching accountability will be of even more value.

Employers are intending to: Invest More In: 

  • Mental Health
  • Telemedicine
  • Stress Management/Resilience
  • Mindfulness/Meditation

What will that mean for HWC?

This is an excellent opportunity for HWC to shine.  Coaches can work with their clients remotely and be of great value providing help with managing stress and developing resilience.  They can also be resources for not only the learning of mindfulness techniques but provide coaching around the adoption of these habits and their consistent practice.  Mental health coaching will increase but coaches will have to be especially careful to remain within their Scope of Practice (https://nbhwc.org/scope-of-practice).  Decisions will have to be made as to when referral to EAP Counselors would be much more appropriate.  As telemedicine increases coaches may be able to play an important role as referral resources for filling the lifestyle prescription – the lifestyle behavioral improvements requested by the treatment team.  Coaches role in primary care will continue to increase.

Investing in Health & Wellness Coaching

The Wellable Report Key Takeaway regarding HWC was that “Investment in health coaching has stayed relatively consistent.  Although they offer a more personalized approach, cost often prevents more adoption.”  When it comes to investing in HWC employers intend to:

  • Invest more – 23%
  • Invest about the same – 57%
  • Invest less – 21%

It’s great that we are holding our own in the eyes of employers.  HWC has done a great job of providing the evidence of our effectiveness.  The continual challenge is the affordability for companies to provide HWC.  Look for new experiments about who gets coaching and how to provide it.  Group coaching should be on the rise and coaches would be well advised to learn more about how to provide this service.  The real GAME CHANGER in the next ten years will be when HWC services qualify for direct reimbursement from insurance companies.  As you know, we are already in the Level Three of the CPT Codes.  When HWC reaches the first level, the field will explode.

Influences and Trends from the Larger Wellness Field

road of wellness

To a great degree we might say that as goes wellness, so goes wellness coaching.  The field of wellness and health promotion is quite diverse, ranging from employee wellness programs to spa managers.  It, and HWC are intertwined with the medical world, the fitness world, nutrition, and much more.  Gathering together a panel of wellness and media  experts, the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) put forth ideas about trends for 2021 (https://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/gws-2020/media-experts-predict-six-wellness-trends-for-2021/).

Looking at how the Pandemic has shown us the importance of preventative lifestyle approaches, their leading trend was A New Convergence Between Healthcare and Wellness.  They predict “new models that bring health and wellness together symbiotically” and see telemedicine and tele-wellness playing a much bigger role.  As we described above, much of that tele-wellness role can be filled by health and wellness coaches.

The same GWS panel predicted that Strengthening The Immune System would be another big trend.  While the panel referred to high-tech ways that medicine will be individualizing treatments, we know that the immune system is powerfully affected by stress and lifestyle – both strongly in the domain of the well-trained health and wellness coach.

The GWS panel identified a strong trend in Increased Contact with Nature.  Many people have discovered during the era of lockdown that connection with people “is being replaced with nature connection, which provides unique healing and solace in a pandemic.”  There can be a greater emphasis put on contact with the natural world as a way to manage stress and be more active at the same time.  Coaches can help people to come up with strategies for having more nature contact and following through on those ideas.  

The same panel also pointed out the shift that the Pandemic has brought to awareness of ways to optimize our home environments as wellness refuges.  Coaches can play a role here by helping people with de-cluttering and organizing their living spaces and making them work better for both relaxation and comfort and also things like home exercise.

Broader Trends

Pandemic times will end.  Broader trends that were embryonic before the pandemic will continue to grow in importance to health and wellness coaches.  Chief among them is:

  • Coaching with a greater acknowledgement of the role of Social and Environmental Determinants of Change.
  • Incorporation of technology while still providing ‘high-touch’ service.

HWC will emphasize greater exploration of our client’s living situation and how it affects their lifestyle choices.  There will be a greater recognition of the social, environmental and cultural barriers that our clients face and more coaching around how our clients can deal with those challenges.  Some of our most important coaching will be around helping our clients to overcome their sense of isolation and to build community in whatever ways they can.  Connection and support are paramount to wellness.

HWC will integrate more digital resources to help lower stress levels and improve sleep. There will also be more use of exercise apps and videos, digital weight loss trackers, and online nutrition resources in the coaching process.  Some of this will take place in individual coaching and some will work well with the support provided by coaching people in groups who share the same wellness challenges and goals.

Perfectly Positioned

HWC has been operating via telephone since its inception.  Nothing new here and perfect for our current times, and the times to come.  Adapting coaching to platforms like Zoom is a natural.  Cell phones have made it possible for coaches to reach people in even the most remote places.  Our challenges as we move forward will be:

  • To maintain high standards of professionalism and integrity so health and wellness coaches are held in high esteem and value by the public and our related professions.
  • To continue to pursue ways to make coaching more affordable through different access systems and through – eventually – direct reimbursement.
  • To maintain our identify and function as wellness coaches focusing on lifestyle improvement.

We are perfectly positioned to be leaders in the health and wellness of people around the world.  We can deliver the individualized wellness services that so many people need in order to live long and happy lives.  The future is bright!  Coach on!

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

Reimagining 2021


It’s fairly safe to say the few people will be sorry to see 2020 fade into the rearview mirror. The receding year has been a whirlwind of stress, anxiety, fear, and worry. Most of us have experienced times where predictability and stability went out of our lives leaving us feeling powerless in the face of external forces. It’s been a real test of our fortitude, resilience and endurance. Despite it all, it’s important to reassure ourselves that we have done our best.

New years have that innate ability to bring forth optimism. The hope for new vaccines and other changes in the shifting landscape cause us to look to a brighter future. How can we shape that future to manifest more of the health and wellness that we truly want?

It’s often said that we create our own reality. While pandemics and global events are more than our own individual creation, our response to all that happens to us is more in our own hands. Two techniques from life coaching that can help us create the life we want are perfecting the present and imagining a transformative future.

Perfecting The Present

“The past is no more
and the future is not yet …
nothing exists except the now .”

Fritz Perls

Much of our regret comes when we are contemplating, perhaps even stuck in, the past. Much of our anxiety comes when we do the same with the future. A great personal growth (and coaching) technique is to ask oneself “How can I make the present moment the best possible?”


It is easy to ignore much of what is around us as we dream of living somewhere else, working in a different job, being in a different relationship. Aspiring towards goals is good, but are we always looking beyond the ground we are standing upon, and what do we lose in the process?

A silver lining of the pandemic lockdown has been the reports we hear of people who embraced their present moment, their present situation, and made the best of it. It has been like we are trapped in the present, which many philosophers would argue that we are. With that has come realizations. What can I do with a time schedule that I have more control over now that I’m not commuting into a workplace? What am I noticing about my own backyard, neighborhood, even my own living space, that I appreciate, or that I want to improve upon? How can I make this day my best day possible? We might call this mindfulness, or awareness of the present.

Perfecting The Present is about asking your client to examine their present time in their life and how they can make it their best possible. How can you make this your best possible day, week, month, year? The focus shifts to improving the present and our relationship with it. It becomes about loving our own neighborhood more and making it a better place to live. The same with our workplace, our home, our family.

Imagining a Transformative Future

Guide yourself (or your client) through this Future Self Fantasy.

Imagine that it is December 2021.
You breathe in deep with your eyes closed and reflect upon what you imagine the past year has been.

Take your time and ask yourself:

What am I really glad that I did to make this year a positive experience?
Pause and reflect upon this.

What do I find myself very grateful for from this last year?

What am I glad that I did for my own health and wellbeing?

What am I glad that I did for others?

What new meaning and purpose did I discover in this last year?

Now, take what you imagined, and what perhaps you have realized from that experience and begin to shape it into a fantasy of what you want 2021 to be like.

We imagine
Then we fantasize
Then we plan
Then we actualize our plan

Setting Intentions

In the coming year I see myself being more ___________

In the coming year I see myself being less _____________

In 2021 I intend to connect more with ______________

In 2021 I intend to shift the way that I ________________
In 2021 I have the opportunity to ____________________

In 2021 I will ______________________________________

By the end of 2021 I will be able to see these measurable changes in my life _______________________________________

Support & Accountability

The very act of writing these intentions down and making them conscious is a great first step. If you want to ensure even great probability of success, share them with someone else. Select that person or persons with great care. Make sure they are positive and supportive, not critical or negative. Create agreements with them on checking in on a regular basis. Perhaps you might do this with a group. A terrific coaching group could be formed by attracting people who want to have group support and accountability in actualizing their intentions to make 2021 their best year possible, perhaps their best year yet!

Be safe, be well and stay well.  

Coach Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

Maximizing Wellbeing During Pandemic Holidays

By now most of us know personally someone who has been infected with the COVID-19 virus. The Global Pandemic has found its way into almost all of our lives. In the Northern Hemisphere we are facing the coming of winter with its cold, its shorter days, but also with its holidays. We’re all tired, if not exhausted by the degree of isolation and all of the precautions we are taking. The virus, of course, does not, however, care about how we feel. So, we keep up our smart preventative behavior and operate on what we might call functional paranoia.

There are two challenges facing us as we approach the dark days of winter and the joys of the holidays. One in psychological and emotional. The other is quite practical. For guidance on the practical this article by the Center for Disease Control (U.S.) is excellent! It is quite thorough and addresses some great strategies for dealing with our holiday celebrations and gathering with others to do so.

Thanksgiving and Covid-19
Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

How can we bring warmth to our holidays in many ways?


Mental/Emotional Wellness for our Winter Holidays

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and other important celebrations are usually a time to come together, share in honoring our spiritual beliefs, celebrate gratitude, love, peace and togetherness. Now the “coming together” part is completely different. Holidays, beyond the practice of faiths, also meet a lot of interpersonal needs that we all have. While turkeys and brightly wrapped gifts under an evergreen tree often take center stage in the media and in our minds, it is really the connection with others that we value above all else.

“Connection is the currency of wellness.” That long-ago quote from wellness pioneer Jack Travis is as true today as ever. On the flip side we know that social isolation is correlated with higher rates of all of the major chronic illnesses. (https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html) We also have a population in North America and many other countries where the number of single-person households is greater than the number of households with two parents and children present.

Many of the connections we have developed with others are now challenging to carry out safely. Getting together for coffee, tea or a pint is not as simple as it used to be. As our needs for connection grow more pressing, we may be tempted to make some dangerous self-defeating decisions in order to get those needs met.

Connection: a Resilient Redefinition

Our measures to counter the pandemic will not be going away soon. We will have some form of “Iso” (isolation) as my Australian friends call it, for some time to come. Yet, we must frame it as a temporary adaptation. It will not last forever. A key tenant of resilient thinking is to recognize when some circumstance is, in fact, temporary. Coping with the here and now is easier when we frame it as impermanent.

Perhaps, though, we do need at some level to grieve the loss of how things have been. Grieving is acknowledging what is and begins our journey towards accepting a loss. We can speak of what we miss. We can process this through with others who are in touch with the same losses. By expressing ourselves we can allow ourselves to let go and no longer cling to false hopes of returning to the way things were, or worse yet, acting like the return is already here when it is not safe to do so.

Then into the vacuum left by our grief it is time for gratitude. We often don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. Iso, the lockdown, has caused many of us to deeply appreciate the connections we took for granted. It has also caused us to appreciate what we have. Many reports come forth about slowing down, noticing life, seeing beauty in the everyday. Working at home, no longer commuting, we have more of our day to notice birds in our backyard, sights and sounds that had been passing us by.


Many are finding that there could never be a better time for a practice of gratitude. That might take the form of meditation, prayer, or some kind of ritual that centers us in our gratitude and brings it to our awareness. Hard circumstances bring out gratitude. I chuckled recently as I shoveled snow, grateful to be bending over and lifting shovelfuls of the white Colorado powder that had smothered the raging forest fires to our west. The threat of loss of someone we care about puts us in touch with the gratitude we have for their presence in our lives.

Science even validates the importance of gratitude. A Psychology Today article describes “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude”. “Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude) “


1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
2. Gratitude improves physical health.
3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
5. Grateful people sleep better.
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
7. Gratitude increases mental strength.


Time for a Reframe

We have all, by now, adopted a particular perspective on our current circumstances. That perspective is shaping our thinking and behaving every day and is shaping how we are anticipating the holidays ahead. The question becomes “How is our perspective working for us and our wellbeing, or against it?” In coaching we often help our clients to examine such perspectives and see when it is beneficial for them to reframe their thinking. In my new book Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft (https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html) I speak to how we can use the art of reframing.

“Reframing is a way to help someone consider a new perspective on an event that has taken place or is about to, a circumstance of their life, a relationship they are involved in and more. What would be a new way for your client to look at the same situation? How could shifting perspective change their course of action? An effective reframe can empower a previously stuck and helpless feeling client to engage in change.

Reframing can help clients to:
• See a personal quality previously seen as a liability as an asset.
• See what they believed was a personal weakness as a strength.
• See a potential problem as an opportunity.
• See the upside of a situation and how they can benefit from it.”


How can we reframe our pandemic experience? Reframing is not minimizing or engaging in self-delusion. What’s real is real, but how are we looking at it? While a Zoom meeting Thanksgiving dinner is nothing like the real thing, it may allow us to include people we love who would never be able to travel and be with us for the holiday feast. Working at home can be very stressful, but we are more in charge of our own work-clock and that can allow us to get out and walk at noon.

Get Cozy

There can be a real tendency when we are lonely and isolated to self-sooth. This can take the form of eating too many “comfort foods”, drinking more than we have in the past, etc. This may be an opportunity to reframe self-soothing as engaging is self-care activities that are both enjoyable and health enhancing. Luxuriating in a slow, hot bath, taking the time to make a healthy and delicious food you’ve researched, declaring a one-day moratorium and all work (including housework) and drifting along doing just what you want to do.

“Hygge, a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close.” (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy) Taking pleasure in the simple things of life that yield contentment is a great way to make it through the winter. Whether alone, or with whomever you can get cozy with, we can slow down and give ourselves permission to “indulge” in things that give us comfort. Shutting off the television and reading a good novel under a warm blanket with a hot cup of cheer on hand can start to reframe our whole mood.


Salvation in the Natural World

Being with others in the outdoors allows us to be active while physically distant enough to be safe. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385) We’ve seen a huge surge in outdoor activity since the pandemic took hold. As we head into the colder season, don’t let it hold you back. Our contact with the natural world is “not an amenity – it’s a necessity.” (https://news.uchicago.edu/story/why-time-outdoors-crucial-your-health-even-during-coronavirus-pandemic) With a few adaptations to our wardrobe we can still be outside and enjoy it, more like our Scandinavian friends do. Our Nordic friends have another new, and useful word for us. “A passion for nature cuts to the heart of what Scandinavians call friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv). The expression literally translates as ‘open-air living’.” (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20171211-friluftsliv-the-nordic-concept-of-getting-outdoors) By consciously scheduling our “friluftsliv” time our lives, even in winter, can be so much more rewarding.

The outdoors is not just for those fortunate enough to live on the doorstep of wilderness areas. Urban areas are looking at how city dwellers can make the most of time together in the safest possible place – the outdoors. This Bloomberg City Lab article tells of astonishing programs taking place around the country to reduce winter isolation (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-11/how-to-prepare-for-a-coronavirus-winter).


A Pre-Emptive Plan for Well Holidays

To create the kind of holiday experiences you want to have describe the outcome you want to see. Get clear about what’s truly important to experience as part of your holidays. Plan for it. Coordinate with others about how you can actualize your best holidays possible. Come to some agreements with friends about what is the best and safest way to experience the connection we all need. Reach out to communities (faith-based and otherwise) that you are part of to see how you can support each other in healthy connection this winter. Set your plan in motion with the support (and built-in accountability) of others. It may be as simple as a group hike on so-called Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving), or a series of small connecting experiences that see you through the dark days and bring more light into your world.

Be safe, be well and stay well.

Coach Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

15 Vital Books for the Wellness Coach – 2020 – Straight Off My Shelf

In the last ten years the field of health and wellness coaching has continued to evolve as a professional filed with standards, credentials (https://nbhwc.org) and a solid evidential base (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1559827619850489). We’ve attained more clarity about what effective health and wellness coaching looks like and more awareness of what all coaches need to learn. Coaches have an ethical obligation to constantly be learning and growing in our profession.

So, what are the “must reads” for the wellness or health coach? Ten years ago, I posted a three-part blog on this topic.

15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part One
https://wp.me/pUi2y-1n. 15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part Two https://wp.me/pUi2y-1z. 15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part Three https://wp.me/pUi2y-1H.

Now, in 2020, what I want to share with you are the top fifteen books that will influence the way you do coaching, the way you prepare for professional exams, and books that you will want to have at arm’s reach. These are the books on my own bookshelf that I find myself recommending over and over again to the thousands of wellness coaches that Real Balance has trained. There are many great resources out there, but here is my own very biased (as you’ll see when I recommend my own books) and opinionated list. In contrast to my own previous blogs this time I’m listing them in rank-order of importance to the coach practicing in the field.

15 Vital Books for the Wellness Coach – 2020 – Straight Off My Shelf

1. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change,2nd Ed. , Arloski
2. Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft, Arloski (In Press)
3. Co-Active Coaching, 4th Ed., Whitworth, Kimsey-House & Sandahl
4. Changing to Thrive, Janice & James Prochaska
5. Becoming a Professional Life Coach, Williams & Menendez
6. Motivational Interviewing 3rd Edition, Miller & Rollnick
7. The Coaching Psychology Manual, Moore, Tschannen-Moran and Jackson
8. The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner
9. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, Arloski
10. Taming Your Gremlin, Rick Carson
11. The Wellness Workbook, Jack Travis & Regina Ryan
12. The Open Heart Companion, Maggie Lichtenberg
13. The Craving Mind, Judson Brewer
14. Raw Coping Power, Joel Bennet
15. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz


1. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change,2nd Ed. (2014), Michael Arloski. (https://wholeperson.com/store/wellness-coaching-for-lasting-lifestyle-change.shtml) Like I said, a very biased list. Yet, I will have to say that this book (which is now also available in Mandarin) is used by many colleges and universities, as well as other commercial wellness coach training organizations all around the world. The 2014 2nd edition has expanded its coverage of coaching skills and the process of co-creating a wellness plan. The Wellness Mapping 360 Methodology provides the coach with a complete approach to behavioral change that distinguishes this book from others. The integration of what we know from the field of wellness and health promotion is another unique feature of this resource.

2. Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft, (2020)(In Press) Michael Arloski. (https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html) Coaching is both an art and an applied science. In this book my intention is to provide guidance for the health & wellness coaches who wants to go beyond competence to proficiency and embark on a journey towards mastery. The book is divided into four sections, Transformation, How To Be, What To Do, and Coaching People with Health Challenges. We will explore what distinguishes masterful coaches form those who are just learning their craft. Thoroughly substantiated by the evidential literature and providing in-depth lessons on all the major behavioral change theories, Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching will allow the reader to take their coaching to an advanced level.


3. Co-Active Coaching, 4th Ed., (2018)
Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kinsey-House & Phil Sandahl. (https://www.amazon.com/Co-Active-Coaching-Fourth-transformative-conversations/dp/1473674980/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2E78YGNE10TNG&dchild=1&keywords=co-active+coaching+4th+edition&qid=1601155442&sprefix=Co-%2Caps%2C206&sr=8-1)
THE foundational book of the life coaching field. The authors became the founders of The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and in this work set down the cornerstones that shape the coaching mindset. A great book to bone up on your coaching skills and to learn what the essence of coaching really is. A true must-read.


4. Changing to Thrive: Using the Stages of Change to Overcome the Top Threats to Your Health and Happiness (2016), Janice & James Prochaska. (https://www.amazon.com/Changing-Thrive-Overcome-Threats-Happiness/dp/1616496290/ref=sr_1_1?crid=24WCWLPXR1KL2&dchild=1&keywords=changing+to+thrive&qid=1601155877&sprefix=Changing+to+thrive%2Caps%2C202&sr=8-1) Replacing the original Changing For Good (1994), this book definitely is in the top four for your bookshelf. The tremendous utility of the Transtheoretical Model for Behavioral Change (TTM, Stage of Change) makes it the coach’s most important behavior change model to know well.

5. Becoming a Professional Life Coach: Lessons from the Institute of Life Coach Training, (2015) Patrick Williams & Diane Menendez. (https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Professional-Life-Coach-Institute/dp/0393708365/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=5.+Becoming+a+Professional+Life+Coach%2C+Williams+%26+Menendez&qid=1601156765&sr=8-1) Pat Williams is one of the true pioneers of Life Coaching and his earlier book (along with Deb Davis) Therapist as Life Coach was one of my favorites as I made the shift from psychotherapist to coach. Becoming A Professional Life Coach largely supplants this earlier book and provides the wellness coach with not only great skill building but lots of very practical guidance for practicing their coaching.

6. Motivational Interviewing 3rd Ed., (2012) William Miller & Stephen Rollnick. (https://www.amazon.com/Motivational-Interviewing-Helping-People-Applications/dp/1609182278/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=6.+Motivational+Interviewing+3rd+Edition%2C+Miller+%26+Rollnick&qid=1601157105&sr=8-1) This third edition is definitely the best resource on this vital approach to helping people change behavior. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a key tool for the health & wellness coach, especially when working with the ambivalent client. In addition to presenting the MI approach to many of the same skills used in coaching (with their own unique MI terminology), the book contains real gems of learning about the functions many of these skills serve and how to apply them in your coaching.

7. The Coaching Psychology Manual, 2nd Ed., (2015) Margaret Moore, Bob Tschannen-Moran and Erika Jackson. (https://www.amazon.com/Coaching-Psychology-Manual-Margaret-Moore/dp/1451195265/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=The+Coaching+Psychology+Manual%2C+Moore%2C+Tschannen-Moran+and+Jackson&qid=1601157580&sr=8-12) Another foundational book of the wellness coaching field. A comprehensive guide to many of the behavior change theories that coaches use and how to apply them.

8. The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, 2nd Ed. (2012) Dan Buettner. (https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Zones-Second-Lessons-Longest/dp/1426209487/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1OT3CA9BCUW6O&dchild=1&keywords=the+blue+zones&qid=1601323354&sprefix=The+blue+zones%2Caps%2C202&sr=8-2)  Longevity, we’ve found out is only 20% genetics (at the most) and is really 80% lifestyle (culture, behavior, beliefs, environment). Looking at studies of the hot spots or “Blue Zones” around the world where people live to a ripe old age quite often, common denominators teach us what it takes for an environment to make it easier to be well. The lessons for wellness are profound and based in solid evidence. We have made this part of the Real Balance curriculum since it was first published in 2008.

9. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, 2nd Ed., (2017) Michael Arloski. (https://wholeperson.com/store/your-journey-to-a-healthier-life.shtml)
A wellness journal for the client, this book outlines an entire wellness coaching process from self-assessment, to visioning, wellness planning, meeting challenges to change, tracking behavior and setting up accountability and support through connectedness for success. Many of the coaches I’ve trained use this with each of their clients either individually, or as a group guide (works very well in a 12-session format). Many coaches love it simply as their own guide for how they coach their clients.

10. Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way (updated edition) (2003), Rick Carson. (https://www.amazon.com/Taming-Your-Gremlin-Surprisingly-Getting/dp/0060520221/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Taming+Your+Gremlin%2C+Rick+Carson&qid=1601159057&sr=8-1) Whenever the wellness coaching client takes on change their own personal “Gremlin” or “inner-critic” will be there to oppose it, even if it’s the best thing in the world for that person. Our clients have plenty of external challenges to their attempts at change, but the internal ones can be the most devastating. This classic little book shows us how to spot the self-talk of the gremlin early and get it out of the way (as we get out of our own way!). Another true must read. I know of coaches who supply their clients with copies of this book when folks sign on to coaching.

11. The Wellness Workbook, 3rd ed: How to Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality, (2004) John W. Travis and Regina Sara Ryan . (https://www.amazon.com/Wellness-Workbook-3rd-Enduring-Vitality/dp/1587612135) Health & Wellness coaches need a thorough understanding of wellness and health promotion. This is the foundational book to understand what wellness is truly about. Jack Travis is one of the modern-day founders of the wellness movement and he lays out his theoretical foundation and theories in the introductory thirty-six pages which is worth the price of the book alone.

12. The Open Heart Companion: : Preparation and Guidance for Open-Heart Surgery Recovery, (2006) Maggie Lichtenberg. (https://www.amazon.com/Open-Heart-Companion-Preparation-Open-Heart/dp/0977606309) The psychological side of a major health challenge is often ignored. Maggie Lichtenberg, a PCC level coach, went through mitral valve repair surgery, saw a big missing piece and filled it admirably with this excellent book. As a wellness coach, whether you deal with heart patients or not, this book is an ultimate guide to helping your client with self-efficacy and self-advocacy. I make sure anyone I know (client or not) who is headed into any kind of major surgery (but especially heart surgery) either has a copy of this book or knows about it.

13. The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smart-Phones to Love – Why We Get Hooked & How We Can Break Bad Habits,(2017) Judson Brewer. (https://www.amazon.com/Craving-Mind-Cigarettes-Smartphones-Hooked/dp/0300234368/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Craving+Mind%3A+From+Cigarettes+to+Smart-Phones+to+Love+–+Why+We+Get+Hooked+%26+How+We+Can+Break+Bad+Habits%2C+Judson+Brewer&qid=1601319691&sr=8-1) The subtitle says it all. Health and wellness coaches today are quite likely to discover that their clients may be struggling with “device addiction” as well as other habits that work against their health. Understanding how our mind craves these behaviors and how they feed a cycle of addiction is critical to helping anyone take back control of their lives. What makes Judson Brewer’s approach different is that it is based in the practice of Mindfulness and offers an effective way back to wellness.

14. Raw Coping Power: From Stress to Thriving, (2014) Joel Bennett. (https://www.amazon.com/Raw-Coping-Power-Stress-Thriving/dp/0991510208/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Raw+Coping+Power%2C+Joel+Bennett&qid=1601319602&sr=8-1) Coaching around stress is an inevitable part of health & wellness coaching, so having the knowledge you need to do so is critical. From knowledge to research about stress to the tools and methods you need to apply it, Raw Coping Power’s strengths-based, resilience building approach is the best resource out there.

15. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, (2010) Tony Schwartz.  (https://www.amazon.com/Way-Were-Working-Isnt-Performance/dp/1451610262/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Way+We’re+Working+Isn’t+Working%2C+Tony+Schwartz&qid=1601320068&sr=8-1) Our coaching clients are often over-worked and under-supported with ever-increasing demands heaped upon them. Schwartz’s book looks at the systemic problems of the modern-day workplace, but then takes on an approach that individuals can use to cope and hopefully thrive. Think of stress management and time management as energy management. We are wired to deal with stress, but do we have “sufficient volume and intensity” of recovery? A great resource for helping our clients learn how to recover from the stress in their lives.

So, there you have it! Happy reading and keep on learning!

Dr. Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.

 

Wellness Coaching for Better Sleep, Rest and Immune System Functioning



Adequate sleep and rest are like magic. When we have enough of it our immune system is stronger, healing occurs faster, and very importantly we replenish our supply of energy that allow us to function at our best.

The Mayo Clinic tells us that “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757) The relationship between sleep, adequate rest and our immune system is solid. We’ve all likely had the experience of catching a cold when we fell behind in our sleep.

Today with the Covid-19 Global Pandemic and its accompanying economic hardships many coaches and their clients may have lots to lose sleep over. Anxiety, fear of an uncertain future, seeing infection rates rise, and all of the stress of the ‘functional paranoia’ it takes to stay reasonably safe can all interfere with our sleep. We may also find ourselves cutting back on needed rest during the day as we juggle children at home, adapting to a new work-at-home routine, etc.

While there is no guarantee that a healthy immune system will protect us from a novel virus like Covid-19, we all need the benefits that sleep, and rest will provide. For information on increasing your probability of staying free of infection see https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public, and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html .

A Balanced Wellness Plan

Take a good look at the Wellness Plan that you and your client have co-created. Chances are it will have some fairly active components: becoming more active, eating better, expanding friendship circles, etc. Ask yourself if all the efforts your client is making to improve their lifestyle require an expenditure of energy. Does that same Wellness Plan contain elements that replenish energy? Is their Wellness Plan restorative and regenerative? Is there a balance between these active endeavors, and the more passive and relaxing ones? Essentially, is there a Yin/Yang balance? (See The Tao of Wellness Coaching: Part Two – Practical Applications https://wp.me/pUi2y-lT )

Perhaps your client would benefit from combining their more active wellness efforts with ones like relaxation training, meditation, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Yoga, or Tai Chi. They may want to include more direct efforts such as effective napping and sleep hygiene strategies.

The Beauty and Benefits of a Good Nap

What do Margaret Thatcher, Barbara Walters, Winton Churchill, Salvador Dali, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein have in common? They are or were all confirmed nappers!

Adequate sleep and rest are important for all of us and especially for our clients with chronic health challenges. Regular napping has multiple health benefits: reducing stress, improving mood, boosting memory, improving job performance and increasing alertness. The Sleep Foundation (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity ) suggests “If your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy workweek or other factors, try to make up for the lost rest with naps. Taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each —one in the morning and one in the afternoon—has been shown to help decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.”

A key to effective napping is to set an alarm and only nap for 20-30 minutes. That way you can return to full alertness much quicker. Napping is more effective than caffeine at helping us to the same thing. In fact, clients who might have to avoid caffeine for medical reasons might especially find naps more helpful.

Clients who struggle with full-on napping might find that simply allowing their body to go from vertical to some form of horizontal for even short periods of time provides refreshing rest. ‘Putting your feet up’ and closing your eyes while slowing down and deepening breathing may allow for a rejuvenating shift in energy.

Sleep Hygiene

Our client may not know some of the sleep hygiene tips that can make getting to sleep and staying asleep much easier. You can point them in the right direction with resources and have them study these strategies on their own time, perhaps even set up some accountability around doing such homework.

Sleep Hygiene Tips from SleepEducation.org. (http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits)
Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:

• Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
• Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
• Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
• If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
• Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
• Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
• Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
• Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
• Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
• Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
• Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
• Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
• Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
• Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Coaching for Better Sleep and Napping

Wellness coaching is about helping your client to transform what to do into how to do it in their life. Educating one’s self about the importance of sleep and rest may be the first step, but then putting strategies into action is where coaching can help. If your client sees the value in attempting some of these sleep hygiene strategies or establishing more frequent naps, we can co-create with them agreed upon Action Steps that they are willing to make a commitment to doing. Establishing a way of tracking sleep will help our clients to be consistent in their sleep practices. We can set up a system of accountability with them where they might report in about it at the next coaching session or use text or email to do so.

Once our client is practicing their sleep hygiene habits it is important to explore their experience with it. Look for ways to increase intrinsic motivation by bringing their attention to how they feel when they are practicing these habits. This exploration can also uncover barriers that arise when your client attempt to improve their sleep or get more rest.

Coaching Through the Barriers to Healthy Sleep and Rest

A great coaching technique is to anticipate barriers before they are encountered. As you and your client select sleep strategies to try, ask them if they would anticipate any things that might get in the way of practicing these strategies. Do they share a bedroom with someone else? Would that person be amenable to these new strategies? Perhaps their partner loves having a television in the bedroom and are a fan of late-night TV. The very first step may be to ask your client if they feel that a conversation with their partner about what they are trying to achieve (improved health and wellbeing) and these sleep strategies they hope to use, would be worthwhile.

Other barriers will arise as your client puts their sleep and rest improvement strategies into action. They may get support or push-back. They may discover that their situation at work or home will require some real creativity to develop strategies that can work. You and your client can then engage in some strategic thinking and possibility thinking to tackle these barriers.

Coaching Through Barriers Related to Stress

The ability to rest and sleep can obviously be interfered with by stress and anxiety. Coaching for effective stress management requires knowledge and skills that can be found in my previous blog posts (The Psychophysiology of Stress – What the Wellness Coach Needs to Know. https://wp.me/pUi2y-nJ) and in recordings of my Real Balance Monthly Webinars: 11/16/18 – Stress! Recovery & Resilience: How the Wellness Coach Can Help – Part 1, 1/19/19 – Stress! Recovery & Resilience: Recovery – Part 2 and 2/15/19 – Stress, Recovery & Resilience: Building Resilience – Part 3. (https://realbalance.com/wellness-resources)  Adequate sleep and rest help our clients to recover from stress and build resilience. Helping them reduce stress and anxiety in the first place may require some form of relaxation training or other strategies that are discussed in the above resources.

Sleep difficulties, including more severe insomnia, may need to be evaluated by more clinical resources. Since difficulty sleeping and relaxing is a major symptom of both physical and mental/emotional conditions, there may be times when your client’s challenges are more appropriate for clinical treatment than coaching.

Sleep and Rest are Keys to Wellness

Many wellness models include healthy sleep as an essential component of a healthy, well-functioning person. Certainly, it is hard to achieve much of one’s potential when sapped of energy by chronic sleep deprivation. The reality is that people in our modern world are frequently sleep-deprived. “Poor sleep health is a common problem with 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days.” “Adequate sleep is necessary to: Fight off infection; Support the metabolism of sugar to prevent diabetes; Perform well in school; Work effectively and safely. Sleep timing and duration affect a number of endocrine, metabolic, and neurological functions that are critical to the maintenance of individual health. If left untreated, sleep disorders and chronic short sleep are associated with an increased risk of: Heart disease; High blood pressure; Obesity; Diabetes; All-cause mortality.” (https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/sleep-health)

Making adequate sleep and rest part of a holistic Wellness Plan may make a positive difference in all of our client’s wellness goals. Think of it as energy management. With a well replenished energy supply our client can have what they need to be more fully engaged in their health and wellness.

RESOURCES

Healthy People 2020 (2020) Sleep Health. Healthypeople.gov. 2020 Topics and Objectives. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/sleep-health

Olson, Eric J. (2018) Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? Nov. 28, 2018.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757

Sleep Foundation (2020). How Sleep Affects Your Immunity. Sleep Foundation.org. July 28, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity

 

For the very best in wellness and health coach training look to REAL BALANCE GLOBAL WELLNESS SERVICES, INC.  Over 10,000 wellness & health coaches trained worldwide.  http://www.realbalance.com 

 

 

For more about effective coaching refer to Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Ed., by Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, CWP, NBC-HWC.   https://wholeperson.com/store/wellness-coaching-for-lasting-lifestyle-change.shtml

and to Your Journey to a Healthier Life (Paths of Wellness Guided Journals) by the same author.  https://wholeperson.com/store/your-journey-to-a-healthier-life.shtml