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 

 

Wellness in a Time of Crisis: Serving Others/Caring for Ourselves

 

Maintaining strong immune systems and helping people to manage their current illnesses is part of the vital work that health & wellness coaches are doing every day. COVID-19 is causing much higher mortality rates among people with chronic health challenges – the very population that health & wellness coaches and wellness professionals serve. The world needs the work you do now more than ever.

There are two issues at play during this pandemic crisis: how can we best serve our clients/members, etc.; and how can we remain healthy and well enough to be of service and maintain our own wellness?

Serving Your Clients/Members/Patients

As wellness professionals face the new realities and restrictions of the pandemic and our responses to it unique challenges confront us.

  • Remaining in contact with your clients/members/patients while both you and they are working remotely.
  • Adjusting to remote contact when you’ve always worked in-person with those you serve.
  • Helping people who work on the frontlines of the medical world’s response to the pandemic.
  • Dealing with clients, members, or patients who are reporting more stress, depression and anxiety.
  • Helping people who feel frightened and helpless in the face of this crisis.
  • Helping people get the services they need, including your own, when those services are overwhelmed.

At the end of this piece I’ve listed some great resources to help with some of these challenges.

What Do You Need Now?

Many of us who are in the human-helping business tend to step up and be there for others with little hesitation.  The other side of this is our own tendency to not attend enough to our own needs during this time. What kinds of demands are you facing in your workplace?  Some wellness and coaching services are under greater demand and stress. Independent coaches, fitness trainers, etc., may be facing a reduced number of clients. What are you up against?

What are you doing for your own wellness and self-care now?
As each of us reach out to our clients and others to be an ally we also need to nourish ourselves.  In time of crisis, when it seems that we don’t have time for our own care, it is actually time for extreme self-care.  Stress has a terrible toll on the immune system and that is exactly what we all need to work on maintaining right now.

We are also not invulnerable to the same fears, anxieties and stresses that our clients and members are facing.  Perhaps you are working at home trying to juggle your work obligations with having a house full of family members trapped by social distancing guidelines.

Secondary Trauma

Be compassionate with yourself.  As you work with others during this crisis the emotional toll it takes upon you may be not just exhausting, it may be traumatic.  Secondary traumatization takes place when we are exposed to the trauma that others are going through.  It can have many of the same symptoms and effects upon us as direct exposure to trauma.  Here is an excellent resource for learning more about this. Emergency Responders: Tips for taking care of yourself.  (https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/responders.asp)

Seeking Connection

People that go through any kind of wellness training always develop a wonderful appreciation for their fellow classmates.  We see this when we all attend professional conferences and feel the support of like-minded colleagues.  Attempts to keep in touch are usually hard to maintain as everyone returns to their busy lives.  Now, with the cancelation of live conferences and such, we are left without that usual opportunity for rejuvenation and support.  You may be feeling alone, but you are not.

We know that the way through crisis, the way to build resilience is through CONNECTION, through reaching out and support.  As you saw in my previous blog post, (Social Distancing – Not Social Isolation: Coaching for Connectedness in the age of COVID-19 https://wp.me/pUi2y-p5 ) social distancing is not the same as social isolation.  Reach out to friends, but also reach out to your wellness colleagues.  They are going through many of the same experiences as you and can be primary sources of support.

Let me invite you to connect in many ways. One way is to GET A SUPPORTIVE CONVERSATION GOING by engaging in conversation about your concerns, fears, hopes and stresses that you are experiencing right now with COVID-19 happening worldwide. 

Connect on Facebook with the REAL BALANCE STUDENTS, ALUMNI & FRIENDS GROUP – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1581133502099770/  This group is open to all wellness-related professionals.

Connect on Linkedin with the Real Balance Wellness Coach Training Institute Group:https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3808651/   This group is also open to all wellness-related professionals.

Let’s make these forums one place where we can do that. Please contribute to these conversations. Building COMMUNITY takes participation.

Another opportunity will be April 24th. Our April Free Monthly Webinar will be: Wellness Coaching in the Time of Covid 19: Self-care and Helping Others with very special guests James and Janice Prochaska and Pat Williams. 

 

RESOURCES for helping others and helping ourselves during this crisis:


Also, please feel free to contact us by email (deborah@realbalance.com) or phone (1-866-568-4702) to let us know how we may be of support at this time.

Be well and stay well!

Coach Michael

 

The Psychophysiology of Stress – What The Wellness Coach Needs To Know

Easier Said Then Done

Stress gets blamed for most everything, and much of time deserves the accusation (60 percent to 90 percent of health-care professional visits are stress-related – https://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/10/relaxation.aspx ). Wellness and health coaching clients inevitably recognize that excess stress in their lives is affecting their quality of life, performance at work, and their very health in negative ways. Finding a way to deal more effectively with stress becomes part of most client’s Wellness Plan.

Wellness coaches all too often approach stress by working with their clients to strategically attack the sources of stress in their client’s lives. While there may be some specific gains made by that approach, all too often the result is temporary and band-aid-like, as yet another source of stress emerges. Solution-seeking as a stress management strategy is like flirting with infinity.

For over twenty-five years I worked as a psychologist and devoted much of my focus to helping people with stress-related disorders. I was an early adopter of the use of biofeedback and relaxation training methods. Combining those modalities with psychotherapy, my work was able to be of great value to clients suffering from muscle-tension and migraine headaches, a wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia, Raynaud’s Disease, and many more issues. I delivered hundreds of stress management workshops and became so involved in the field that I eventually became President of The Ohio Society For Behavioral Health and Biofeedback.

Both my clinical work and my years of coaching showed me that ‘managing stress’ requires the clinician or coach to understand the mechanisms of stress, its psychophysiology. I use the term psycho-physiology here because, perhaps nowhere else is there such a demonstration of how our thoughts and emotions have direct effect on our body. This is the center of the mind-body connection. Just thinking about taxes, a strained love relationship, a scary health condition, etc., can immediately result in an increase in blood pressure, the secretion of stomach acid, the constriction of blood vessels in our extremities, the release of cortisol into our bloodstream, and more. Understanding the psychophysiology of stress is vital to being able to develop coaching approaches that will allow our clients to recognize stress, recover from it, and develop the resiliency that they need to live their best possible lives.

The Psychophysiology of Stress

The human body operates on an amazing system grounded in the principal of homeostasis. This self-correcting process allows us to bring ourselves back into balance whenever it is required. When we overheat, we sweat and cool down. When our blood becomes too thick, mechanisms bring more water from our cells and thin our blood down to its proper viscosity. When we are under stress this homeostatic principal seeks to bring us back into balance. Let’s take a look at how our nervous system operates this.

 

From this graphic, focus upon the Autonomic Nervous System. You will see that it is composed of two parts, the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems. When we are under threat, or stress, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) kicks in and arouses us to either fight, flee or freeze. This is the classic Fight or Flight Response.

When we are under real threat, like a stranger jumping out of van and confronting us as we approach our car in an isolated parking lot, this response may be vital to our survival. Suddenly our heart rate goes up, our adrenal glands release adrenalin and noradrenalin, cortisol and other stress hormones enter our bloodstream, our eyes dilate (allowing us to see better in low light), blood leaves our extremities and pools to our body core (minimizing bleeding in case our arms or legs are cut, and protecting our vital organs), our digestion shuts down (we need our energy elsewhere), the bronchi dilate increasing our ability to take in oxygen, and more glucose is made available to the blood to provide a supply of instant energy for both cognitive and physical purposes. So, you can see that this remarkable response does a fantastic job of equipping us to deal with muggers, Saber-toothed Tigers (back in our days in the cave), and other acute threats.

Unfortunately, in our modern-day world, we often trigger SNS arousal to a greater or lesser degree, by what might be called ‘false alarm states’.

 

As any wellness coach can recognize, these false alarm states are often the drivers of the very issues that bring our clients to coaching. Stress has a tremendous effect upon these and many more health challenges. When we are in a chronic state of SNS arousal we will see more headaches, insomnia, difficulty managing chronic pain, more tendency towards unhealthy coping mechanisms (including addictive behaviors), and difficulty managing anxiety, anger and our emotions. It’s easy to see how a client with weight issues might have improved eating and exercise/movement but is still struggling losing weight as they continue to live a high-stress life. Thus, while we are wired to handle acute stress in a potentially adaptive way, chronic stress is our nemesis.

The Relaxation Response

Back to the all-ruling principal of homeostasis. The nervous system’s answer to Sympathetic Nervous System arousal is to counter-balance it with Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) arousal. To counteract all of this activation for action we need a way to slow down the heart rate, reduce the blood pressure, calm the breathing, bring blood back into the extremities, quiet down the release of stress hormones, get the digestive system back online, and essentially bring us back to our baseline level of tension/arousal, or even dip below it. In contrast to ‘fight or fight’, this response is sometimes referred to as ‘rest and digest’.

For thousands of years people have found ways to bring about this PNS arousal. Methods of meditation, breathing, movement, prayer, chanting, etc. all have the potential to bring about this state of profound relaxation. Harvard cardiologist, Herbert Benson, coined the term ‘Relaxation Response’, and his groundbreaking 1975 book by that title created a whole new way to approach dealing with stress. His research since then has continued to demonstrate the profound utility of bringing out this quieting response through mind-body practices. Benson managed to demystify meditation and to distinguish it from religious practices. In more recent times, Jon Kabat Zinn has done the same with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques. Bringing out the Relaxation Response allows us to recover from stress. I will be delving into how to coach clients to do this in my next blog posting.

 

Actions of The Relaxation Response

 

Stress And Distress

Coaches often encounter a client who will claim to “thrive on stress”.
We actually do require a certain level of stress to bring out our best performance. Think of how some of the greatest performances in music and sports have occurred in the most high-stress moments. We look to experience ‘optimal stress’, or what is called Eustress.

There is, of course, a point where the stress becomes excessive and this is where we see this positive stress become Distress. This is where one’s stress related disorder may kick in. The headache comes on, the difficulty sleeping begins, the gastrointestinal problems start, the skin reacts, etc. Practicing some kind of method that brings out our Relaxation Response on a regular basis may, however, bring our baseline level of stress down enough for us to remain in eustress longer and perhaps not cause us to cross over into distress. Thus, the wellness coach may work with a client to help them find a way to integrate some kind of regular practice that brings out the Relaxation Response. Performing such practice could be an activity the client keeps track of and sets up accountability agreements about with the coach.

Caution Coaching With The Relaxation Response

As a wellness coach working with a client who has chosen to practice some form of relaxation training or meditative practice, you need to inquire about your client’s health concerns and all forms of medical treatment that they may be under. The chief concern is that as a client develops more competency with bringing out their Relaxation Response, it may alter their psychophysiology in a positive way, but in a way that must be accounted for with potential medical adjustments. Specifically, if your client is, for example, taking medication for hypertension, such practices may reduce their need to this medication and the dosage may need to be adjusted. Have your client inform their treatment team of their practices that may affect their medication needs. The Wellness Plan always supports the Treatment Plan. Make sure your efforts are coordinated with your client’s treatment team.

In two subsequent blogs I will be addressing how we can coach around the need to recover from stress, and how we can build greater resiliency to stress.

Resources

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/10/relaxation.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11822639

https://www.britannica.com/science/fight-or-flight-response/media/206576/207822

Benson, Herbert and Klipper, Miriam. The Relaxation Response. William Morrow Paperbacks; Updated & Expanded ed. edition (February 8, 2000)

Real Balance Free Monthly Webinars: “Stress! Recovery & Resilience: How The Wellness Coach Can Help”.  http://www.realbalance.com/wellness-resources

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