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.

 

Positivity and Perspective Needed in These Times

What we see depends upon our perspective.

It is easy to feel under bombardment today with news of COVID-19, economic chaos, and all of the fallout that reaches into our communities, our families and our lives. There can be a sense of negative overwhelm that can seem inescapable. This is true for us as well as for our wellness coaching clients. We all know that dwelling on the negative is not good for our mental or physical health, yet how can we deny reality?

Positivity is not about denying the challenges we face, the losses we suffer and the pain we feel. It is not about self-deception. It is, however about the ratio of our negative thoughts to our more positive thoughts. Researcher Barbara Fredrickson pioneered what is known as the Positivity Ratio (https://www.positivityratio.com). She contends that we do need to accept that negative emotions are quite real. She also admits that our more positive emotions are often rather fleeting. Rather than focus on how they come and go, she urges us to notice their quantity. The key is to balance the negative thoughts and feelings with the positive ones. While her positivity ratio of three positive thoughts to one negative thought has come under critique, there can be no doubt that seeking some kind of more positive balance can contribute to our wellbeing.

As you go about your day more mindfully:

Begin your day with a morning ritual that includes calm awareness of your surroundings; a practice of gratitude; a kind and gentle transition as you wake up.
Focus on positive information as you check in with the rest of the world. Don’t ignore the news but consider whether you want to begin your day with all of the heart-breaking stories that lead.
• As your day unfolds remain in a state of gentle self-vigilance about your thought patterns. Seek that balance of positive to negative. Catch yourself when you find sarcasm and cynicism emerging.
As you deal with negative events seek to put them into perspective. Recall how you have been resilient enough to make it through difficult times in the past. Realize that all things will pass.

Coaching has developed the skill of re-framing to help our clients to see things from new perspectives. Re-framing is, again, not self-deception. It is not about denial. It is about seeking out the upside, the potential for viewing and experiencing an event through the lens of new and other possibilities. We have all experienced blessings in disguise. Unfortunately, the disguises are sometimes quite painful at first. Then we see how they may have worked out for our best.

Before we re-frame it is critical to acknowledge what is real. For ourselves and when we coach with a client, First Acknowledge, Validate and Empathize (https://wp.me/pUi2y-bZ). Allow feelings to be felt, honored, and validated. It’s okay to feel the way you feel. Then, you can move on to seeking a way to re-frame. Pushing to re-frame too quickly is often perceived as dismissing one’s feelings. “Come on. Cheer up!” No one wants to hear that when we are in the midst of pain. Once feelings have been honored, then you can help the person (or yourself) to gain a new perspective and move forward with their (our) lives.

On the Real Balance Global Wellness homepage you will find the video of the Real Balance April Free Monthly Webinar: “Wellness Coaching In The Time Of Covid -19: Self-care and Helping Others” with special guests Drs. James & Janice Prochaska and Dr. Pat Williams (https://realbalance.com).  Be sure to watch this excellent hour-long video.  CEU’s are available upon completing watching it.  For further questions re: this inquire to deborah@realbalance.com.  

 

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

 

Social Distancing – Not Social Isolation: Coaching for Connectedness in the age of COVID-19

 

 

We all still need each other. Even in the age of COVID-19, our health continues to depend upon healthy supportive relationships. Real Balance https://realbalance.com has always stressed what we call Coaching for Connectedness.  We‘ve seen lifestyle improvement occur and last more often when people receive support for the changes they are making to live healthier lives.  When a coaching client sets up an action step we ask “Who/what else can help support you in this?”. Research on what makes health behavior last points primarily to two factors: a shift in self-concept and community support.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753403/  It’s also a well-established fact that people who are more socially isolated have significantly higher rates of all major chronic illnesses.  https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation

Our challenge in the midst of a pandemic situation is how we distance from each other while remaining connected to each other. Yes, follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing. We can still greet each other with elbow bumps, and then go for a walk, a bike ride, a cruise in kayaks, etc., and continue to avoid the proximity that puts us at any risk. We can connect via phone and receive the nourishment of live, interactive conversation that texting and e-mail don’t quite match. We can climb on board a web-based platform such as Zoom and Skype provide where we are face-to-face for our conversation. We also have all sorts of apps such as Facetime, WeChat, and many more that allow us to have face-to-face interaction for live conversations.

As coaches we can continue to work remotely with our clients, as the majority of coaching is already done. As we do, explore the feelings that the changes brought about by social distancing are bringing out in your clients. Empathize. Explore. When people talk about their fears, the intensity of those fears almost always lessens. As people become less afraid, their thinking improves. They aren’t so quick to jump into dismissive all-or-none thinking. They are then able to engage in strategic thinking with their coach to find unique solutions to staying healthy.

• The fitness center is shut down. How can you shift to working out at home? Use stretch bands. Modify a spare room into a place to do Yoga, floor exercises, etc. Spring brings better weather allowing more cardio outdoors.
• Do more outdoor exercise/activity with other people – just keep your proper distance.
• Encourage clients to find new ways to electronically visit their friends, grandchildren, and others. Play online games together.
• Check in with your clients to make sure they have CDC information/WHO information about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.htmlhttps://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Take heart at how people are showing concern for each other during this time. Younger people who are at somewhat less risk are engaging in social distancing, handwashing, etc. not only for themselves, but for the older and more vulnerable people who could be affected by the contact they are having. People in neighborhood chatlines are volunteering to go pick up groceries and prescriptions for older or more sickly neighbors. Hopefully what will come out of all of this is a greater sense of how we are all in this together. Distancing does not mean isolating. The truism of Jack Travis is still valid: Connection is the Currency of Wellness.

Be well and stay well!

Coach Michael

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBW-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc.

 

2010-2020 A Decade of Growth for Wellness Coaching

After years of building a foundation, health and wellness coaching has flourished in the last decade. At the beginning of this last decade the International Coach Federation was only fifteen years old and the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching hadn’t even been thought of yet. My book, Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, had been on the market for only three years, and The Coaching Psychology Manual, for only one. Thousands of people were already trained and working as health and wellness coaches, but the numbers were nowhere near where they are today. Wellness coaching was being used by employee wellness programs, disease management and insurance companies but had not made its way into the clinical world much at all. There was considerable success where wellness coaching was being applied, but the research to back it up was lagging. As the decade moved along towards 2020, everything shifted. Health and wellness coaching has truly arrived!

In the last ten years we have seen the profession of health and wellness coaching grow both in its application and as a true profession with standards and credentialing. Early in 2010 the National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches was formed to develop and establish those standards and a system of credentialing. After an untold number of hours of work by dedicated coaching professionals this evolved into the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching that we have today. Now, in addition to certification that coaches can receive by the organization that trained them, they can apply to become certified through the NBHWC by qualifying for and passing an examination administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Prospective coaches can now choose to be trained by qualified organizations that have earned approval by the National Board, ensuring great quality for their educational experience.

Importantly the critical research evidence backing up the incredible effectiveness of health and wellness coaching has mushroomed. We now have hundreds and hundreds of solid peer-reviewed journal articles making the case for health and wellness coaching.

My observations over the past decade is that the growth of health and wellness coaching has particularly accelerated in three areas: universities, the international arena and clinical/lifestyle medicine. Let’s look at the role Real Balance Global Wellness has played in each.

Loma Linda University

Early in the decade only a handful of schools were offering programs that included health and wellness coaching. These were mostly schools of Integrative Health or related areas. Leaders such as The California Institute of Integral Studies, Duke University, and the University of Minnesota were such innovators. As more and more schools discovered that health and wellness coaching offered their students a practical skill set and a needed certification in the field, actual training in health and wellness coaching became highly desirable. Real Balance began to partner with schools of Public Health, Nursing, and a variety of programs to not only deliver direct training, but to train college and university faculty to become Real Balance Trainers and be able to deliver our curriculum and certification. Our program nurtures such schools along until they are ready to apply to the National Board to become an approved program in their own right.

China!

As lifestyle diseases have replaced infectious disease as the number one cause of premature death, the value of health and wellness coaching is being increasingly recognized around the world. Interest is growing fast in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Real Balance truly became Real Balance GLOBAL Wellness in this last decade. We developed training programs in Ireland/UK, Brazil, Australia, and China. We delivered keynotes and programs in the Azores Islands of Portugal, and the Philippines. Students from around the globe continue to become trained as health and wellness coaches through our live webinar classes.

The third area of growth for health and wellness coaching that has ballooned especially in the last few years of our past decade is primary care/lifestyle medicine. The recognition that a large component of our health is behavioral has led to the greater openness to the role of health and wellness coaching in direct medical services. Health and wellness coaches are helping patients to be more successful at medical compliance/adherence, and at accomplishing the directives of the lifestyle prescription recommended by their treatment team. The tremendous growth and increasing acceptance of the principles of lifestyle medicine has helped health and wellness coaches to be seen as a very practical solution for the behavioral changes sought by physicians and other healthcare practitioners. The recent granting of a Level Three CPT Code for health and wellness coaching is a huge step forward. Though direct reimbursement is a ways off, the new code helps legitimize health and wellness coaching in the eyes of the medical world and opens doors.

Health and wellness coaching enters this new decade with an earned respect. We have the evidence of our effectiveness, solid professional credentialing and standards, international awareness, and a recognition that we can play a key role in improving health and wellbeing all around the world. Be a part of helping us take it forward!

Michael & Deborah Arloski

Emotions, Feelings and Healthy Choices: Coaching for Greater Wellness

One of the first things we learn about in the fields of Wellness & Health Promotion and Health & Wellness Coaching, is that our lifestyle choices are a primary determinant of our health and wellbeing. It seems straightforward that making the right or healthy choice is a rational process based upon having the best information. We often then address how challenging it is for a person to put that choice into practice by looking at their social support, environmental conditions, etc. Much of the focus for wellness coaching becomes helping our client to create a wellness plan based upon those healthy choices and implementing with support and accountability. Let’s stop and take a closer look at those decisions.

Anyone in the healthcare or wellness fields is keenly aware that clients don’t always opt for the best, or healthiest choice. They also often observe clients changing these choices for no apparent reason. One day our client is convinced to start working towards a largely plant-based diet, and on another day, they show little if any desire to do so. We can explore ambivalence, of course, but what is really going on in our client’s decision-making process?

Applying what we know about the role that emotions play in decision-making can be extremely useful to the wellness coach. Learning how to coach our client in this emotional realm is often critical to their success. (See my previous post: “The Great Utility of Coaching In The Emotional Realm”, https://wp.me/pUi2y-lA)

Emotions and Making Lifestyle Choices

Making lifestyle choices are like any other decision-making process – they are more complex than it seems at first. Understanding how our emotional bias fits into this process may help coaches to be less perplexed by some of the self-defeating lifestyle choices we see that our clients have made and continue to make.

Emotions are a heavily researched area of psychology and it is easy to get lost in its vast literature. In an especially succinct article, Executive Coach Svetlana Whitener synthesizes the work of several key researchers and conveys a useful paradigm to coaches to learn from. (“How Your Emotions Influence Your Decisions”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/05/09/how-your-emotions-influence-your-decisions/#5eece5313fda)

Emotions emerge as a response to external stimuli, or the recollection of it, or the imagining of it. “That stimulus generates an unfelt emotion in the brain, which causes the body to produce responsive hormones. These hormones enter the bloodstream and create feelings, sometimes negative and sometimes positive… So, to review, it’s stimuli, then emotions, then hormones and, finally, feelings. In other words, your emotions impact your decision-making process by creating certain feelings.” (Whitener, 2018)

 

How we interpret or frame those feelings and how we respond to them results in our choices executed in our behavior.

In this model it is not the emotions that we are aware of, it is the resultant feelings that we feel. When our clients contemplate making lifestyle changes, they often experience a variety of feelings. They may experience positive anticipation or dread. The memory of past failures may bring up the emotion of fear resulting in feelings of embarrassment, regret, shame or guilt. Likewise, a history of more pleasant experiences may lead to positive anticipation. What Stage of Change the client is in may be heavily influenced by the feelings they are experiencing.

Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary

Psychologist Paul Ekman’s research on emotions opened a huge doorway to understanding how people express themselves. A key from his work that can help the coach is to look at how (as in our model above) emotions generate feelings and how those feelings differentiate. Researcher Tiffany Watt Smith has listed 154 different worldwide emotions and feelings. (1). Studying Ekman’s Wheel of Emotions can help a coach to expand their own knowledge and use of emotional terminology. As you coach with your client you can explore more possibilities to help your client clarify exactly what they are feeling.

 

Ekman’s Wheel of Emotions

 

 

 

 

How The Coach Can Help: Coaching With Emotions and Feelings

1. Coaching Presence – Your coaching presence sends an ongoing message that either gives permission to explore feelings or denies it.
2. Notice – Be keenly observant of the emergence of feelings on the part of your client. Be continually scanning not just their words, but how they say them. Hear the changes in tone of voice, volume, rapidity, etc. Notice all of the nonverbal information you can gather.
3. Contact – Help you client to connect with their feelings. Use the Active Listening Skill of Reflection of Feelings. Share observations of patterns you see. “I’m noticing that each time you talk about taking time for self-care you begin speaking about your partner.”
4. Name it – Help you client to name their feelings. As we saw above emotions can generate a wide variety of feelings. Expand your own emotional vocabulary and help your client to drill down to what they are truly experiencing. “Well, it’s not really anger, it’s more like resentment.”
5. F.A.V.E. – First Acknowledge the client’s experience and what they have been through. Then Validate their feelings. It’s okay for them to feel the way they feel about it. (Regardless of how rational or appropriate their feelings may seem.). You absolutely must not judge their feelings. Most importantly Empathize. Show real empathy and compassion and put it into words.
6. Process – Help your client to explore and process their feelings. Allow them to expand and talk about them. Once the initial release has taken place, they will usually start to analyze what is going on for them, looking to make sense (and meaning) out of their feelings.
7. Insight – Is your client able now to gain some insight from what they have learned in this process?
8. Application/Integration – Are they able now to take their insights and turn them into action? Now you can coach your client on ways they can modify their behavior or create experiments in their lives to improve their lifestyle.

Note – If you find that you are answering the questions in items 7 & 8 with the negative, your client may benefit more from counseling instead of (or in addition to) coaching. That is, if they just continue to process feelings, and process feelings without it leading to insight, or if they are unable to put their insights into action, and instead return to processing feelings (and emoting), then begin to explore the alternative of counseling. See my blog on this topic – Coaching a Client Through To A Mental Health Referral Using The Stages of Change (https://wp.me/pUi2y-lp).

A wellness coach may think that it is their job to get their client to make the right lifestyle choices. When coaching deteriorates into convincing or persuading, we are stepping away from the coaching process. We can certainly warn our clients about misinformation they may have about fad diets, or unproven remedies, etc. However, effective coaches honor their client’s autonomy. The reality is that after a coaching session, our clients will go on living their lives doing what they choose to do despite our urging. Trust the coaching process. Help your client to factor in their emotions in a more conscious way so that the lifestyle choices they make are working for them instead of against them.

References
(1) Tiffany Watt Smith. “The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust” (PDF). Anarchiveforemotions.com. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
(2) Ekman, Paul (1999), “Basic Emotions”, in Dalgleish, T; Power, M (eds.), Handbook of Cognition and Emotion (PDF), Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Dr. Michael Arloski

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC, is a psychologist, professional coach, author, trainer/educator and CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness. Follow his blog at https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com, and his presence on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/michael.d.773), Twitter https://twitter.com/DrMArloski) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/realbalance/).

The Utility of Self Determination Theory and Motivation in Wellness Coaching – Part Two: Autonomy, Competence & Relatedness

 

Activities like camping with a friend in the backcountry can meet our three innate psychological needs.

As health and wellness coaches work with their clients to help them live their healthiest lives possible, an understanding of the basics of Self-Determination Theory of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (http://selfdeterminationtheory.org), is very useful. In the Part One blog posting on this subject we looked at how this theory addresses human motivation. (https://wp.me/pUi2y-nT). Here we will look at how coaches can benefit from understanding the significance of the theory’s identified three innate psychological needs that we all have.

 

The Three Innate Psychological Needs

At the heart of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is the underlying assumption that there is an inherent human need for fulfillment and self-actualization through personal growth, development and mastery (competence), for connectedness (relatedness) and for the experience of behavior as self-determined and congruent with one’s sense of self (autonomy). These three needs are considered universal and essential for well-being. Whatever supports the positive experience of competence, relatedness and autonomy promotes choice, willingness and volition, interest, full engagement, enjoyment and perceived value — the inherent qualities of intrinsic motivation. It also leads to higher quality performance, persistence, and creativity.

The degree to which these needs are either supported or compromised and thwarted has a significant impact on both the individual and the individual’s “social context” (the physical and social setting in which people live and work and the institutions with which they interact). If all three needs are satisfied “people will develop and function effectively and experience wellness” and if not, “…people will more likely evidence ill-being and non-optimal functioning.” (http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory/)

“We believe that all human beings have a set of basic psychological needs. The needs that we feel are important are the need for competence. That is to say to feel confident and effective in relation to whatever it is you’re doing. Second, to feel relatedness, that is to say to feel cared for by others, to care for others, to feel like you belong in various groups that are important to you. And the third need is autonomy… Human need is something that must get satisfied for optimal wellness and optimal performance. If they don’t get the need satisfied, then there will be negative psychological consequences that follow.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6fm1gt5YAM)

 

Coaching In Support of Autonomy

People have a need to feel they are operating their lives out of their own choice. Supporting the client’s need for autonomy is considered one of the primary tasks of a coach. The client-centered nature of coaching supports client autonomy throughout the coaching process. Coaching operates on mutual agreements between client and coach. Agendas are co-created with the client always in the lead. In wellness and health coaching this is especially true as client-generated goals have more inherent “buy-in”, that is, more motivational connection. The coaching cornerstone stance that the client is “naturally creative, resourceful and whole” (NCRW)( https://coactive.com/why-cti/buy-the-book) fosters autonomy as the coach works to evoke the inner wisdom of the client. Rather than operating from an expert point of view, the coach provides support for the client’s own decision making, even though they assist in the process.

Coaching In Support Of Competence

This NCRW stance also supports the other key human need according to SDT, of seeking to achieve competence. Again, in line with the tenets of humanistic psychology and the more recent developments in positive psychology, clients are treated as though they are indeed capable and possessing great potential. The strengths-based, positive psychology nature of coaching emphasizes acknowledging and building upon the client’s attributes and qualities they already possess. A key here is acknowledgement. Client’s often minimize or fail to recognize their strengths and achievements. If their self-efficacy is already low, having been brought down by previous failure experiences, they may tend to overlook what they are accomplishing, or to downplay it. The active listening skill of acknowledgement needs to be used by coach whenever it can be genuinely utilized. As client and coach work on self-determined goals and break it down into doable action steps, leading the client to enjoy more and more successful experiences. As they do so, they begin to feel more competent in the area of improving their lifestyle, which naturally builds their feelings of self-efficacy.

Coaching In Support of Relatedness

The heart of coaching is the coaching relationship itself. Creating that alliance supplies the client with a trusted resource for support that can be relied upon unconditionally. As the coach exhibits the qualities that make up great coaching presence (supplying the facilitative conditions of coaching) (https://wp.me/pUi2y-6i) the client feels accepted, acknowledged and cared for. Often our clients are lacking relationships in their lives where they experience adequate empathic understanding and are free from judgment.

“It is important to note that whilst a coachee may have close relationships outside coaching, s/he may not consistently feel heard, understood, valued and/or genuinely supported within those relationships. If not, they are unlikely to feel strongly and positively connected to others and in an attempt to satisfy this basic need, may attempt to connect by acting in accordance with the preferences of others, rather than one’s own.” (https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1106&context=gsbpapers)

For the client, it is not only refreshing to relate to someone who provides unconditional positive regard and validates their experience and feelings, it may actually free the client up to explore their lives with new openness and independence. Perhaps they have been holding themselves back from making some of the lifestyle changes they need to make because of the fear of losing connection, to some degree, with others. Perhaps with the support of the coach, the client may be willing to take such risks to live in a healthier way.

The Real Balance approach to coaching has long recognized the importance and power of coaching for connectedness. We realize that coaching is a very brief moment in someone’s life and that lasting lifestyle improvement often hinges upon finding the support of others for the changes clients need to make. As we help our clients choose action steps in their Wellness Plan, we continually ask, Who else can support you in doing this? Building in strategies to seek out and gain support for wellness goals and the action steps needed to achieve them is often critical to success.

Of course, not all of our clients enjoy lives rich in connectedness at home, work and in their communities. As we co-create the Wellness Plan with our clients, we may want to include developing more connectedness as an Area of Focus to be consciously worked on. Part of that process may be exploring ways in which the client holds themselves back from reaching out and making more interpersonal connections in their lives. As clients feel empowered by the autonomous nature of choice in the coaching process, they may be more willing to increase their connectedness.

As coaches reflect upon their work, not only with a single client, but will all of the people they coach, they can benefit from asking themselves if their coaching process addresses and supports the fulfillment of these three innate psychological needs. The self-vigilant coach may want to listen to session recordings and ask themselves “Am I coaching in a way that really supports my client’s autonomy, or am I being too prescriptive or too directive? Am I using acknowledgement enough to help my client realize how their sense of competency is increasing? Am I remembering to ‘coach for connectedness’ and help my client expand their circles of support?”

Deci and Ryan see the fulfillment of these needs as paving the way towards optimal functioning — essentially making the wellness way of life much easier.

Dr. Michael Arloski

For the very best in wellness and health coach training look to REAL BALANCE GLOBAL WELLNESS SERVICES, INC.  Over 8,000 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 

The Utility of Self Determination Theory and Motivation in Wellness Coaching – Part One: Motivation

“Don’t ask how you can motivate others. Ask how you can create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves.”
Edward L. Deci

The motivation of the coaching client for change is usually seen as the foremost factor in the coaching process, yet many coaches lack adequate knowledge of this concept. Some coaches believe that is it somehow their responsibility to motivate their client. This can come across as an attempt to convince or persuade the client to become engaged in a lifestyle improvement process, urged on by a cheerleading coach. As coaches become more experienced, they usually discover that effective coaching is about helping the client to get in touch with what motivates them from the inside and build on that. One theory that can help coaches grasp the nature of human motivation and then implement it well is Self-Determination Theory.

The life work of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (http://selfdeterminationtheory.org) has yielded a theory of human motivation that not only fully supports the coach approach but also adds valuable tools of understanding. In complete alignment with the tenets of humanistic psychology (https://www.amazon.com/Toward-Psychology-Being-Abraham-Maslow/dp/0471293091) , Self-Determination Theory (SDT) views human beings as constantly striving towards actualizing their potential, seeking out ways to foster their growth and development. It is also very much in alignment with the Client-Centered (or Person-Centered) Approach of Carl Rogers (https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Person-Therapists-View-Psychotherapy/dp/039575531X/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=3WAH0XRWWQF0SM32MPZJ). Finally, it is easy to see how the way coaches trained in the ICF Core Competencies and the coaching foundations that are laid out in sources such as Co-Active Coaching (https://www.amazon.com/Co-Active-Coaching-Fourth-transformative-conversations/dp/1473674980/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1549473972&sr=1-1&keywords=co-active+coaching) work with clients are entirely congruent with SDT.

A core contribution of SDT is the way it demonstrates how it is the type of motivation, not the quantity of motivation that is key to success with behavioral change. According to Self-Determination Theory there are two types of motivation, controlled motivation and autonomous motivation. SDT presents a ‘motivational spectrum’ with amotivation, or total indifference at one end and intrinsic motivation, doing something for its own intrinsic satisfaction at the opposite end. In between these two extremes lies extrinsic motivation with its own motivational spectrum from the most externalized (controlled) to the most internalized (becoming autonomous) types of motivation.

MOTIVATIONAL SPECTRUM
A client is viewed as potentially having different types of motivation related to different behaviors, similar to what we have seen in the Transtheoretical Model of Change, (http://jprochaska.com/books/changing-to-thrive-book/) Your client may be in the “Action Stage” when it comes to improving their nutrition, but in the “Contemplation Stage” regarding beginning an exercise program. Likewise, in the SDT model, your client may feel Controlled Motivation from and Extrinsic source (e.g. pressure from physician and spouse) to begin exercising, and yet possess Autonomous Intrinsic Motivation to improve their nutrition because of a life-long fascination with and enjoyment of healthy eating.

Coaches certainly encounter clients who are indifferent to making changes in some areas of their lives. This would be referred to as Amotivation, or simply lacking motivation. SDT looks at the process of motivation as part of the behavior change process, rather than a pre-requisite for coaching. The client does not have to be “ready” for coaching, rather, it is within the coach’s function to help the client get in touch with the motivation they need for change and resolve ambivalence Again, it our job to meet our client where they are at.

Controlled Motivation

All too frequently the wellness coach encounters clients who are feeling the pressure of Controlled Motivation. This is the “carrot and stick” approach to motivation. It means doing something in order to get a reward or to avoid punishment. It is characterized by feeling seduced (towards a reward) or coerced (to avoid negative consequence). Either way there is a perception of being pressured, obligated or even forced. A perfect example is the coaching client coming to fulfill a requirement for a wellness program incentive plan. The client feels forced into coaching to receive the reward of a 10-20% discount on their health insurance premium (and to avoid the implied penalty of missing this discount). Deci has emphasized that this approach has negative consequences for both performance and well-being. Deci and Ryan also noticed that individuals coming from controlled motivation tend to take the shortest path to the end result. They often complete the wellness program requirement and immediately quit the program.

Autonomous Motivation

Autonomous motivation has two aspects. The first is interest and enjoyment. If these two are present, so is motivation because I don’t have to be convinced to do what I love doing. The second type has to do with deeply held values and beliefs. Behaviors that are in sync with values and beliefs are coherent with one’s sense of self. According to Deci, the research demonstrates that when behavior comes from autonomous motivation people are more creative and better at problem solving. When confronted with challenges or obstacles they are more able to think ‘outside the box’. Overall, performance is better especially around hands-on learning and people feel better about themselves. All in all, “autonomous motivation is associated with both physical and psychological health.”

Autonomous behavior is about choice. Deci, in an effective video interview (https://youtu.be/m6fm1gt5YAM) , points out that it is not the same as independence. A person can be experiencing autonomous motivation (operating out of their own volition) when they choose to seek out a walking group to participate in. Autonomous motivation can drive both individualistic and collectivistic behaviors.

SDT also acknowledges that there is often a process experienced by people whereby their motivation may progress from Controlled External Motivation to eventually become a choice that they fully embrace — Autonomous Intrinsic Motivation. What may begin as

 

Spatial representation of different forms of extrinsic regulation. From Spence & Oades PDF (2011)

a requirement of a program (see a wellness coach to get an incentive) — External Controlled Motivation — may move to compliance with a program (continue to see the coach out of an ‘introjected’ sense that they ‘should’ do so). However, if the coach is effective at creating a true coaching alliance with their client and helps them to see the benefits that they may have to gain by continuing coaching, the motivation shifts through a sense of “identification”, to that of Autonomous Motivation — the client is truly choosing to be involved in coaching. Finally, as the client experiences the benefits of coaching and enjoys the coaching, they have fully ‘integrated’ the process and are experiencing Autonomous Intrinsic Motivation to engage genuinely in coaching.

In effective coaching we always refer to co-creating with our client ‘self-determined goals’. The message to the client is that they are the ones in the driver’s seat, choosing their own Wellness Plan with our assistance. As we coach our clients through the journey of change we can draw upon SDT to remind us to stay client-centered, to continuously move towards building client autonomy and towards motivation that is more intrinsic in nature. It’s just good coaching!

In Part Two on the topic of Self-Determination Theory, we’ll look at how we can incorporate the Three Innate Psychological Needs of SDT — the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness into more masterful coaching.

 

For the very best in wellness and health coach training look to REAL BALANCE GLOBAL WELLNESS SERVICES, INC.  Over 8,000 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 

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