January 2022! Welcome to a New Year and all of its potential. Ready to put the stresses and the tragedies of 2021 in the rearview mirror it’s a time to set intentions for a better year ahead. Hopefully you had some respite over the winter holidays and are ready to charge ahead in a positive way. Yet, the carryover, perhaps hangover, from that last year is very real for many people including ourselves and the clients we serve.
As we listen compassionately to stories of loss, grief, and challenges of all kinds, we need to find a way to be there for our clients and yet care for ourselves as well. Compassion fatigue is a common experience when we are exposed to too many stories of strife and trouble. How can we refill our own cup when it seems at times like this, others are draining it? I address this issue in Chapter Five of my new book. I offer this to you in my own spirit of compassion.
From Chapter Five – Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft, by Michael Arloski
We practice compassionate detachment for the benefit of our client and for our own benefit as well.
Compassionate detachment is respecting our client’s power enough to not rescue them while extending loving compassion to them in the present moment. Simultaneously compassionate detachment is also respecting ourselves enough to not take the client’s challenges on as our own and realizing that to do so serves good purpose for no one.
Compassionate detachment is an honoring of our client’s abilities, resourcefulness, and creativity. We remain as an ally at their side helping them to find their own path, their own solutions. We may provide structure, an opportunity to process thoughts and feelings, a methodology of change, and tools to help with planning and accountability, but we don’t rescue. As tempting as it is to offer our suggestions, to correct what seem to be their errant ways, to steer them toward a program that we know works, we don’t. We avoid throwing them a rope and allow them to grow as a swimmer. Sure, we are there to back them up if they go under or are heading toward a waterfall. We are ethically bound to do what we can to monitor their safe passage, but we allow them to take every step, to swim every stroke to the best of their ability.
To be compassionate with a client we have to clear our own consciousness and bring forth our nonjudgmental, open and accepting self. We have to honor their experience.
“Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.” Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Compassionate detachment is also about giving ourselves permission to protect ourselves. Being in proximity to the pain of others is risky work. There are theories about the high rates of suicide among physicians and dentists based on this phenomenon. Compassionate detachment is also about being detached from outcome. We want the very best for our clients and will give our best toward that goal, but we give up ownership of where and how our client chooses to travel in the process of pursuing a better life. Their outcome is theirs, not ours.
Compassionate detachment is not about distancing ourselves from our client. It is not about becoming numb mentally, emotionally, or physically. It is not about treating our clients impersonally.
Compassionate detachment is being centered enough in ourselves, at peace enough in our own hearts, to be profoundly present with our clients in their pain, and in their joy, as well.
Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com). Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching. He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world. Dr. Arloski’s newest book is Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” This cheery tune becomes an earwig for many of us as we wander through any kind of store playing holiday muzak. However, “According to a survey, 45% of…people living in the United States would choose to skip out on the holidays, rather than deal with the stress of it all.” (https://www.claritychi.com/holiday-stress/). So, what’s so bad about holidays? Time off. Connecting with family and friends. Special delicious foods. Party-time! Sounds a lot like wellness, but what’s the all too common experience? Stress!
A poll by the American Psychological Association shows:
• Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress” come holiday time
• 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time,”
• 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money,”
• 51 percent are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts.” https://allonehealth.com/holiday-stress-guide/
In contrast to the holiday season we have created, the natural season in the Northern Hemisphere is the polar opposite. These are the dark days that slow us down, invite us to rest, recuperate, and replenish our energy. It’s a time better suited to reflection, contemplation, intimacy, warmth and connection. The ecology of the world – which we are part of, not separate from – dives into a biological shift that allows for dormancy, hibernation and such. As larger mammals that don’t hibernate, we do remain active, yet, it seems we try to maintain an activity level that doesn’t change as the world around us changes. Electric lights and indoor heating keep us going like it’s the middle of summer. If anything, it’s not the time of year to biologically and mentally deny us what we truly crave – a break!
“Managing” our stress is only a partial solution, and often more of an illusion. What works is recovering from stress. Psycho-physiologically we need to counterbalance the over-activation of our Sympathetic Nervous System (the Fight-Flight or Stress Response) with time spent allowing our Parasympathetic Nervous System to counteract the former, bringing out the Relaxation Response. (See my previous blog post: “The Psychophysiology of Stress – What The Wellness Coach Needs To Know” – https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1471&action=edit)
So, how can we more consciously live in greater harmony with the winter season? How can we slow down with it and recharge our physical, mental/emotional and spiritual batteries? We can look to some cultures in the world that approach winter differently. How about some Niksen and Hygge?
For many people, “doing nothing” may seem like a huge challenge. Our minds are usually firing on all cylinders, sometimes fueled by stimulants such as caffeine. We are often continually distracted by our work, our phones, our online activity, the radio we are playing, etc. We are almost bombarded by media about “mindfulness” which offers one alternative solution, but Niksen is slightly different. “It’s not mindfulness: a better definition would be a short period of mindless relaxation” is how Almekinder describes it. She urges us to “loosen your concept of time and productivity and practice this simple exercise from the Netherlands. Allowing your brain to rewire from stress by doing nothing is a wellness practice worth implementing. If you are sitting in a cafe, you can indulge in some stress-busting niksen but sipping your coffee and looking out the window. Leave your phone in your pocket and let your mind wander.”So, when that empty moment comes, don’t fill it in. How many of us have conditioned ourselves to reach for our phone if nothing else is handy and search for something to occupy our minds. You might say that niksen is a way to liberate your mind from occupation!
So, there is value in “spacing out” however you do it. I love to practice this as a form of observational meditation. I’m fortunate to have a great backyard inhabited by lots of birds, squirrels and a few lovely rabbits. Trees, bushes and plants change with the seasons and weather brings sunshine, wind, clouds, and sometimes rain or snow. I simply sit and watch as I rid my mind of thoughts about the rest of the world, what I need to do next, and such. The key is to simply observe. Refrain from connecting what you are seeing with what it might be related to. Just watch the snow fall without thinking about the meteorological implications.
“Hygge, a Danish term defined as “a quality of coziness 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.”
Coaching It Up
Health & Wellness Coaching clients sometimes postpone their sessions until after the holiday season passes. While this might be fine for some, it could be the time when coaching could be of great value. Inquire with your client about how you might adjust what areas of focus they are working on to fit their more immediate concerns, such as holiday stress. Ask permission to offer some resources they might find interest in such as the information above in this post.
Current wellness goals may need some specialized attention during this time of year. Weather changes may require new strategies for being physically active as outdoor options may become more challenging. Clients may worry about maintaining progress on weight loss as they face the temptations of holiday treats, parties, etc. Explore with them their attitude, fears, and assumptions about their upcoming holiday dinner. Explore the pressures they are experiencing around holiday gift giving and their financial wellness. There is actually plenty of coaching that can be done to help our clients come through the holidays successfully.
For You and Your Client
Think about what your holiday goals are this year. Consider substituting the stresses and pressures you’ve experienced before with a whole new set of intentions. Sitting down, either by yourself or in conscious deliberation with your partner/others and set intentions for a holiday that actually meets your needs. Those needs can include sharing your abundance with others through gift giving, philanthropy or through volunteer work, etc. Think through how you can create a holiday season less focused on material wealth and more on the kind of personal, spiritual, and physical wealth that enhances your wellbeing and serves others.
Have the grandest of holidays!
Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com). Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching. He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world. Dr. Arloski’s newest book is Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Craft https://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html
As we finish up our Next Steps part of the coaching structure in our session, we still need to arrive at clarity with our client about how they will be holding themselves accountable to follow through on their Next Steps and how we, the coach, can help.
You might say that if there was a singular contribution of coaching, in general, that put it on the map, it was accountability. In the early development of life coaching/business coaching, etc., clients sought out a way to be more accountable to themselves to accomplish the goals they were striving for. Sometimes the client was in a business structure where they were at the top of the reporting chain, so who was helping them be accountable? The value coaches provided with accountability quickly demonstrated that coaching was worth investing in.
The Key to Effective Accountability
Ultimately a client is accountable to themselves. Their coach is not their supervisor, manager, teacher or parent. The key is to set up and continuously convey through carefully chosen language that the client is accountable to themselves, not the coach. Accountability needs to be felt internally not as an external force applied by someone else. Yet, the coach needs to do something to help the client with accountability. How do they do it?
The coach supplies two things: • A rationale for the importance of accountability and tracking behavior. • The structure which the client uses to make accountability work and continue to create progress.
Clients have often attempted to make lifestyle improvements without the aid of a true Wellness Plan. They sometimes have not even kept track of their progress in a measurable way. A target is set ( X number of pounds, a certain distance covered in a race, for example) but the day-to-day grind of getting to that target can fade away without consistent persistence and feedback. Not having a clear picture of how consistent the client is being allows for self-deception to leak in. The person “thinks” that they are exercising regularly, but are they?
One of the best questions in coaching is: “How will you know when you are being successful?”
When the coach asks this question, even the most reluctant client will admit that they have to figure out some way to keep track of their efforts. It’s not always easy. I remember one client who said, “I like to track things…when I’m being successful!” However, facing the lack of progress can spur the coach and client on to examining strategies and making adjustments.
Co-creating Accountability Agreements
Maintaining the Coaching Mindset is crucial to setting up effective accountability agreements. This is where a Client-Centered Co-Creative Approach works best. When a coach slips into the prescriptive, consultative mindset we hear words like this: • “I want you to…” • “I need you to…” • “You ought to…” • “You should…”
“I want you to walk four days for twenty minutes each time next week.” “You ought to be drinking at least X number of ounces of water each day.” It’s easy to take charge and state what you, the coach, thought was obvious from your conversation around Next Steps. When the coach does this, they take power and autonomy away from their client.
How much different it sounds when the Coaching Mindset comes through. “So, you’ve decided on walking between now and our next appointment. Tell me about how often and how long to walk would be right for you to have a successful week.”
The most common form that accountability takes is when the client agrees to a commitment to simply report on their progress at the next coaching session. This usually works very well for most Action Steps. Coach and client write down this commitment and the coach makes sure to ask about it at the Check-In portion of the next coaching appointment.
At times, however, a lapse of seven to fourteen days between appointments may not be optimal for practicing a new behavior or seeking to make progress on an action steps that requires greater frequency. For example, beginning practicing relaxation training needs to be done fairly often during a week. Especially because it is a very new behavior to remember to perform, a system of more frequent accountability may work better. Let’s say that our client recognizes this (perhaps because the coach challenged them around it) and knows they need to connect with their accountability resource (the coach) more often. Coach and client agree that the client will email or text the coach every second or third day and report on their progress.
Don’t be a reminder service. As we say, “There are apps for that.” When a client asks for a reminder to perform their Action Step you and your client are best off if your gently refuse. Offer instead to have the client contact you (email, text, etc.) when they have actually completed the behavior. This encourages greater self-monitoring by the client and more independence which will pay off in the long run.
When wrapping up the session, here’s another important tip:
Ask your client to recall and restate to you what they have made commitments to doing as Action Steps, and how Accountability will work. This has much more power than when you tell them what has been agreed to.
The Importance of Support
Coaching for Connectedness is a vital part of Health & Wellness Coaching. We know that people who lack social support have much higher rates of all the major chronic health challenges. Exploring what sources of support a client has is an essential part of any initial Discovery or Foundation Session. When clients lack support we may see if our client wants to make that an Area of Focus for their Wellness Plan and consciously work on expanding it.
Unfortunately, coaches don’t always include checking out support as part of the Coaching Structure. When we have co-created an Action Step with our client it is important to ask:
“So, who or what else in your life can support you in doing this?”
Make this question part of how you conclude working on each and every Action Step. You, the coach will be providing support but how else can our client find support for their wellness efforts?
The Wind Beneath Your Wings
Help your client to seek out and distinguish who or what in their life will be a positive and encouraging source of support. Critical, negative, cynical and sarcastic people need not apply! Support from positive people can be the “Verbal Persuasion” or cheering on that Albert Bandura talks about as a way to build Self-Efficacy. (See my blog “Lessons From Albert Bandura For Wellness Coaches” https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com/wpadmin/post.php?post=843&action=edit } Perhaps even more powerful is the type of support where others actually do the same activity as the client’s action step, and do it with them. This may take the form of an individual such as a walking buddy, or a group, such as a hiking club. Also, don’t forget about sources of support like a pet dog – the four-legged fitness trainer!
Internal Barriers and How to Ask for Support
Involving others in one’s Wellness Plan seems like a no-brainer, but such is not always the case. Your client may be inhibited to do so for various reasons. Explore their reluctance with them. You may discover that your client sees it as a sign of weakness to ask others for help. They may have had severe lessons about this earlier in their lives. They may also be embarrassed to involve others until they have had a measure of success on their own. Imagine the overweight client who doesn’t want to share yet another weight-loss effort with their friends until they feel better about their own progress.
A frequent source of support that is called upon by many clients is their partner, spouse, etc. Here the vital step may be having a crucial conversation with that person about exactly how they can be supportive, and to identify exactly what is not helpful. The coach can help with rehearsal conversations and by offering to set up accountability around just setting a time for the client to have their important conversation with their partner.
In the last couple of minutes, it’s time to wrap up the coaching session. Coaches can do this in a number of ways.
• Summarize the highlights of the sessions ¬– what was covered. • Ask the client to share what their “take-aways”, their essential learnings from the session were. • Ask the client to repeat what their Action Steps will be between now and the next appointment and what Accountability will be for each. • Confirm the next appointment. • The coach may or may not add a comment from the “Metaview” – the Big Picture of the course of the coaching to give perspective on the client’s progress. • The coach my share something inspiring, often in the form of Acknowledgement of the client’s efforts at lifestyle improvement.
Coaching structure is your friend. Don’t make it your master. Use it well and at the same time be ready to “Dance In The Moment”.
Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com). Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching. He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world. Dr. Arloski’s newest book is Masterful Health & Wellness Coaching: Deepening Your Crafthttps://wholeperson.com/store/masterful-health-and-wellness-coaching.html
“So! What do you want to talk about today?” Your client responds with the first thing on their mind. You start processing the topic with them and then…what? Or, you greet your client and start checking in on what they had made commitments to working on and when the first one is brought up you begin processing it and…then what?
Health and wellness coaches often struggle with launching their regular, ongoing sessions with their clients. With an allegiance to being client centered, coaches may simply follow wherever their client leads. The result, all too often is a rambling and less than productive session. String enough of those kinds of sessions together and the coaching may go nowhere and end prematurely.
We may also see a coach take the reins of the session too tightly in their fists and want to begin the session exactly where client and coach left off at the last session. “So last time we talked about your challenges in finding people to support you in making healthy lifestyle changes. Tell me more about how that has been going.” The client may have come into the session wanting to focus on something entirely different than their topic a week or two ago.
Co-Creating The Agenda
When a highly functioning project team meets together to discuss their work, an effective leader will begin the meeting by gathering input from all present and work cooperatively to weave together an agenda. All present can contribute what they see as needing to be discussed. That information is recognized and taken in for consideration and prioritization. Then, and only then is the agenda set and everyone knows where and how we will start the down to business part of the meeting. Think of this same process being applied with you and your client.
Consider this structure for starting your session with your client:
Greet and Connect. Small talk. Keep it brief.
Client reports in on their efforts at lifestyle improvement, on their action steps that they made a commitment to at the last session.
Coach acknowledges the client’s efforts. Briefly acknowledges and celebrates wins. Empathizes with disappointments.
Coach and client – and here is the key – DO NOT PROCESSwhat the client is reporting on. Save that for after you two have co-created the agenda. “That sounds really important to you. We’ll be sure to talk about that today. What else…”. Gather it all in.
Co-Create The Agenda for the Session
Coach enquires about what else the client wants to focus on during today’s session. Again – DO NOT BEGIN PROCESSING. You are still gathering in topics to discuss, not discussing them.
The coach contributes suggestions to be included in the agenda. Yes, you are part of the “CO” in CO-CREATION. You may want to remind your client that there is still work to be done on the creation of the client’s Wellness Plan. You may want to hear any updates that they have from seeing their physician recently, etc.
Coach and client weave together an agenda for the session based upon what they mutually determine to be of importance and what order of priority they need to follow.
Remember the Importance of Dancing in the Moment
Despite the co-creation of a wonderful agenda, be prepared to modify it or even abandon it entirely depending upon what happens in the session.
Your client may discover a profound insight that hits them emotionally and processing that may become your new priority in the here and now. Or your client may realize that there needs to be a real shift in the focus of the coaching.
Expect nothing. Be prepared for anything.
Now You Can Begin Processing
Step By Step – The Check In
Once coaching has been underway our clients are usually making commitments to specific Action Steps that they will work on between coaching sessions. This, of course, is where the real lifestyle behavioral change takes place. When those Action Steps were co-created and agreed upon at the last session there was some form of accountability set up – often just checking in at the next appointment about the progress. Now is the time for the all-important follow through on that accountability. Successes are celebrated as “wins”. Acknowledging what it took (effort, strength of character, tenacity, overcoming obstacles, etc.) to succeed is the essence of the strength-based, positive psychology coach approach. The key is to do this briefly and hold off on processing for later in the coaching session.
When our clients aren’t able to succeed in their Action Steps, we need to meet our client with compassion but not give them a “free pass” (Oh, that’s alright. I know it’s hard to do these things.). Acknowledge their feelings. Empathize. Then commit to exploring it later in the session as it often takes some real processing to make progress. Again, this will require more time and concerted effort, so post-pone the processing until after the agenda is co-created. Then you will have time to work on it more productively.
Step By Step – Co-creating The Agenda
Once the Check-In feels complete you will have some of the elements or topics to include in the agenda that you and your client are co-creating. In addition to those items it is critical that you enquire about what the client wants to focus on during the session. Do this before you suggest topics (such as picking up on subjects from the last session or taking the next step on designing their Wellness Plan). If your client has filled out a Coaching Session Prep Form, you will have some of this information listed but still enquire directly.
Remember the meta-view. As you began to assemble your agenda ask your client some key questions:
How is this topic related to your overall Wellness Plan?
As we work on this together, what would progress look like?
Ideally what is the outcome you would like to see and how will we know if we have gotten there?
That last item, frankly, I find often very difficult for clients to identify. Do your best to help your client clarify this. The relevance to the overall Wellness Plan is like referring to the compass that guides the whole coaching process. If it’s not relevant, in some way, why are we talking about it?
In an especially helpful article from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) website, (https://coachingfederation.org/blog/establish-the-agenda#) Lisa Rogoff gives some excellent guidance. “Sometimes clients don’t show up with a clear agenda, or they think it’s clear, but we need to do some work to make it resonate. I constantly remind my client (and myself): Slow down to go fast. I’ll often spend 15 minutes crystalizing what the client wants to work on and why. It is time well spent. From there we cut through the noise and focus.” Now, Rogoff is most likely referring to hour-long sessions which very few health and wellness coaches do, so adjust your timing accordingly. The point is worth remembering though, the time invested up front will pay off in productivity.
Our agenda building is not quite done yet. Co-creation means you and your client both have input on this agenda. This is where your own session preparation pays off. As our client’s coach we can help navigate by looking at the meta view referred to above. It’s like on our client’s voyage of growth and discovery we can continually look at our map and see where we are on our course of progress. We have a perspective that is difficult for our clients to step back and perceive as they struggle with their day-to-day efforts. By referring to your notes from previous sessions you can see where your client is at with the methodology of behavioral change. Are we rushing into simple goal setting when we have yet to help our client take stock of their wellness, strengths, assets, and resources? This can be where our knowledge of behavioral change theory, especially for example The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, really pays off. (https://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change)
Structure is Your Friend
Structure is your friend, don’t make it your master. Once the agenda is agreed upon you can devote the greatest part of the coaching session to processing and then go on to next steps. We’ll share more about how this looks in our next health and wellness coaching blog.
Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative. Opening lines from 110 Stylistic Rules given to each reporter by the Kansas City Star where Hemingway got his first job in journalism (1917).
Ernest Hemingway certainly picked up on those dictums and put them to good use over an extraordinary career as a writer. When we think of these same admonishments, they could serve a coach just as well. How can we examine our coaching language and find ways to make it more effective with a ‘less is more’ approach?
Perhaps we should say coach like Hemingway wrote. “Papa” Hemingway certainly had some characteristics that would not make a good coach – self-absorbed, and as one critic put it tiresomely macho. What Hemingway was, however, was an astute observer, both of people and the world around him. That coaches can emulate. “The hardest thing in the world to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime.” (Ernest Hemingway: “Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba”)
Hemingway’s writing style works because we appreciate not just its brevity, but the way, in a few words, he brings us to the heart of the matter. Whether it is action, description or emotion we arrive quickly where the writer wants us to go. We get it. His words are sometimes strong, sometimes tender, sometimes rather simple and mundane. In my favorite short story of all time, The Big Two-hearted River, his WWI Vet protagonist, Nick, goes into the backcountry of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan ostensibly to fish and camp. What makes it a healing journey is the way nature, and the author, strip daily activities down to the quick, to an existential present moment free of all the potential clutter that you can imagine Nick’s PTSD mind is capable of.
So! What’s all of this have to do with coaching? A masterful coach listens more than they speak. In fact, when they speak it is usually in shorter, concise sentences. Questions come across as confident making their impact more powerful. Observations are free of editorializing. The coach and client appear engaged in a tight, two-way conversation.
“Mr. Hemingway knows how not only to make words be specific but how to arrange a collection of words which shall betray a great deal more than is to be found in the individual parts.” (Review of The Sun Also Rises)
A Mindset of Facilitation and Catalyzation
My job as a coach is to facilitate and, when appropriate, to catalyze the growth process in my client. Rather than think for them, how can I get them to think in new and creative ways leading to their own conclusions? Facilitating their work means not doing the work for them but making their work easier and more effective.
If I am still operating in the consultant, educator, or treatment professional mindset, I take on much more responsibility and, frankly, have to contribute more to the conversation because I am actually consulting. Coaches can blend in education, certainly. A health and wellness coach may share some evidence-based, widely accepted principles that help the client to learn more about how to improve their lifestyle. If I coach from the consultant’s mindset though, I will be more verbose as I share more information, more of my own analysis, etc.
When I stay in the coaching mindset, I see my work as facilitating my client’s own work. At times I may contribute my own observations, own and share my own perspectives, etc. (See my blog “Client-centered Directiveness is an Oxymoron, but it works!” https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/client-centered-directiveness-an-oxymoron-that-works-part-one/#like-1228 ). There are times when such sharing can serve as a catalyst for my client’s thinking. Think of it like the drag racer who injects a little rocket fuel into his race car’s fuel tank. If it ignites (my client finds value in it), boom! We are off to the races. The key is to use an eyedropper, not a gallon can.
When a masterful coach asks a question, they simply ask it and let it stand without elaboration or explanation. They may think of a way to clarify their question but rather than do so aloud, they hold, wait for the client to answer their first question and see if clarification is even needed. What we see beginning coaches doing all too often, is asking a question, then adding a second and perhaps even a third clarifying question before the client has a chance to answer. The coach is ‘thinking out loud’ and the effect can be one that causes confusion for the client, and, perhaps, waters down the power of the initial question.
Slow down. Choose your words more consciously. Have confidence in your question. Have confidence in your client’s ability to understand it as you spoke it. If they need clarification, they will let you know.
The Iceberg Theory
“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” (Hemingway – from Death in the Afternoon)
In his book Write Like Hemingway, author R. Andrew Wilson explains the Iceberg Theory in Four Principles:
Write About What you Know, But Don’t Write All That You Know
Grace Comes from Understatement
Create Feelings from the Fewest Details Needed
Forget the Flamboyant
Write About What you Know, But Don’t Write All That You Know
The coaching conversation can never address everything that is going on in the moment. The brains of coach and client are processing at lightning speed far more than can be (or is) put into words. Coaches are constantly having to choose what to address, what to inquire about, what to feedback to the client and what to keep silent about. As we observe and listen, we may choose to tuck some things in to what I call my ‘coach’s day pack’ for use later.
Your client knows their own life. In fact, they know it in far more detail than is necessary to discuss. As you facilitate their process your client will fill in the gaps, the details in their own mind. You don’t need to keep digging for them so that they are spoken aloud. They are doing the work, just keep supporting them in exploring it. Think of it as making strategic adjustments or touches to the process. A little verbal nudge here or there in the form of Active Listening Skills or effective questions keeps your client moving forward.
When the need for education, sharing of resources, etc. comes up, share what is helpful and then return to coaching. Your client’s topic may trigger a wealth of knowledge that you have about a subject. It may be enjoyable to share but some self-vigilance may help you distinguish between meeting the needs of your client versus your own.
Grace Comes from Understatement
Hemingway’s own personality came through in letters to friends and we see plenty of it in the tales of his adventures and legendary nights at the bars. There he allowed his strong convictions, judgments and condemnations to come through. In his writing, however, you won’t find him moralizing rights and wrongs. There is an almost stoic acceptance of the realities his characters face.
Certainly, it is trust that builds the coaching alliance and the best way to build that is through what Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard. Being non-judgmental is key to creating the ‘safe container’ in which our coaching can take place. Few things are appreciated more by our clients. Getting ourselves out of the way always makes coaching work better.
Create Feelings from the Fewest Details Needed
When we use fewer words, we get back to listening, putting the spotlight back on our client. When we paraphrase or summarize our task is to bring our clients words down to their essence. This condensation keeps our clients focused and on track. When we reflect a feeling and do our best to name it a whole whirlwind of emotion can now be hung on a single hook on the rack allowing our client to breathe in relief as they validate our call. Now we are combining the beauty of understatement (above) with the efficiency of honing in on the essential. Less is more.
Forget the Flamboyant
In the last of his four principles of the iceberg theory, Wilson reminds us that “the purpose of serious writing isn’t to demonstrate how much you know”. For the writer it shows up in over-description, flowery phrases and improbable plot lines. For the coach? What would a ‘flamboyant’ batch of coaching look like? It might be entertaining to observe, but not so helpful to the client. Great writing isn’t about literary tricks and great coaching isn’t about flashing techniques for their own sake. A guided visualization exercise has to have a solid rationale for its use, likewise the selection of a coaching tool to use. Great coaching often looks pretty basic much of the time.
Comfortable With Silence
The pause. That pause that goes on longer and longer. Is my client processing, cognitive gears whirling, emotion being tapped? Or, do they need a nudge, a priming of the pump? As our coaching matures, we become more trusting of our client’s ability to find their way through the silences. We do “hold our clients to be naturally creative, resourceful and whole” as the authors of Co-Active Coaching have long affirmed. (https://coactive.com/resources/coactive-coaching-4th-edition/) We need to decide when we are tempted to rescue our clients and when to let them do their work. It may be a tricky call to know when to provide the nudge, the catalyst, and when to stay patiently silent. Let your decision be driven out of keen observation and rationale instead of your own anxiety.
The more centered and grounded you are, the easier it is to exude the patience needed for effective coaching. Let your pace work for you, giving you enough time to be clear in your thoughts and confident in your questions. Trust the coaching process and play with coaching a bit more like the way Hemingway wrote.
The What, the How and the Why of Lifestyle Improvement
Health and wellness folks are sometimes confused about the role each professional might play inhelping individuals to live their best life possible. Our clients are seeking to be healthier by losing weight, managing stress, stopping smoking, becoming less isolated, and often, managing a health challenge of some kind. To do so they need:
excellent wellness information
great treatment (if that is called for)
and a way to make the lifestyle changes that will ensure lasting success.
So, who is responsible for what?
Fitness trainers, rehabilitation therapists, physical therapists, dietician, various treatment professionals and health educators can help their clients/patients to know what lifestyle behavioral changes will move them towards improved health and wellbeing. What we often hear from these medical and wellness pros is frustration with a lack of success on their client’s part in making the recommended changes and making them last. The reality is, most people simply don’t know that much about how to change the ingrained habits of a lifetime.
The physical therapist works with their client in their session and sends them home with exercises that must be done every day. The dietician creates a fantastic meal plan that their client must put into practice. The fitness professional creates a tailor-made workout plan, but their client needs to exercise on their own, not just in front of their trainer.
Health educators, treatment professionals, etc. provide the
Health and Wellness Coaches provide the
Our Clients find their
Everyone’s challenge is the how. It takes more then will power and motivation. What is often lacking is an actual well-thought out plan that the client has co-created with the help of someone who can provide support, accountability and a well-developed behavioral change methodology. Translating the lifestyle prescription into action and fitting it in to an already busy life is often where, despite good intentions, our clients struggle. This is where having a trusted ally in the cause of one’s wellness pays off.
As field of health and wellness coaching grows, the challenge coaches sometimes face is clarity about their own role. Sometimes the confusion is all about the what and the how. For coaches to be proficient at “writing” the lifestyle prescription they need additional qualifications. It becomes a question ofScope of Practice.
To guide coaches the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) has developed a Scope of Practice Statement. Here is the part most relevant to our question.
“While health and wellness coaches per se do not diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, or provide psychological therapeutic interventions, they may provide expert guidance in areas in which they hold active, nationally recognized credentials, and may offer resources from nationally recognized authorities such as those referenced in NBHWC’s Content Outline with Resources.” (https://nbhwc.org/scope-of-practice/ )
If coaches can “wear two hats” professionally they can combine the what and the how. Otherwise the key is to coordinate with other wellness professionals or work with the lifestyle prescription that their client already has.
Beyond the what and the how is the why. The “why” of behavior is all about motivation – initiating and sustaining behavioral change efforts by drawing upon the energy and desire to do so. The key here once again is the question of who is responsible for supplying this. People may initiate behavior based upon external motivation – the urging and cheering on of others, the fear of negative outcomes. In order to sustain that motivation, it has to come from within. The challenge here for all wellness professionals is to help our client to discover their own unique sources of motivation.
Seasoned wellness professionals realize they can’t convince or persuade anyone to be well. However, when we help our clients discover their own important sources of what motivates them, they discover their why. Motivation is fuel. Now with the aid of a coach our clients can find the vehicle to put in. They know what they need to change. Now they have a way how to change and grow, and they know themselves, why. (See our previous post Motivation Plus Mobilization: Coaching For Success At Lifestyle Improvement. https://wp.me/pUi2y-mn)
(A modified form of this blog has appeared in the Medical Fitness Network)
Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. (www.realbalance.com). Dr. Arloski is a pioneering architect of the field of health and wellness coaching. He and his company have trained thousands of coaches around the world.
Health and Wellness Coaching Trends for the New Decade
Only now that we have put 2020 in the rearview mirror does it seem like we are moving ahead into a new decade. Who knows what moniker we will come up with for this century’s version of “the twenties”, unlike the “Roaring Twenties” of the 1900’s.
So, what lies ahead, particularly for the field of health & wellness coaching (HWC) in the next ten years? Where HWC is going is influenced by three major factors: internal factors within the field itself; the larger field of wellness and health promotion and the field of medicine, particularly, lifestyle medicine.
While the Covid-19 Pandemic has radically altered so many aspects of life, work and health for all of us, it will pass, but will leave a lasting mark. This is evident in the 2021 Wellable Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report (https://resources.wellable.co/2021-employee-wellness-industry-trends-report). Based on what we have already seen happen as adaptations to the health cautious pandemic restrictions employers are intending to:
Invest Less In:
Free Healthy Food/Stocked Kitchens
On-site Fitness Classes
Gym Membership Reimbursement
Health Risk Assessments
What will that mean for HWC?
There could be less referral to HWC from simple screenings and HRA’s. Coaching clients will have less opportunity to exercise at their workplace and will rely more on their coaches for creative ways to adapt fitness to their home environments where coaching accountability will be of even more value.
Employers are intending to: Invest More In:
What will that mean for HWC?
This is an excellent opportunity for HWC to shine. Coaches can work with their clients remotely and be of great value providing help with managing stress and developing resilience. They can also be resources for not only the learning of mindfulness techniques but provide coaching around the adoption of these habits and their consistent practice. Mental health coaching will increase but coaches will have to be especially careful to remain within their Scope of Practice (https://nbhwc.org/scope-of-practice). Decisions will have to be made as to when referral to EAP Counselors would be much more appropriate. As telemedicine increases coaches may be able to play an important role as referral resources for filling the lifestyle prescription – the lifestyle behavioral improvements requested by the treatment team. Coaches role in primary care will continue to increase.
Investing in Health & Wellness Coaching
The Wellable Report Key Takeaway regarding HWC was that “Investment in health coaching has stayed relatively consistent. Although they offer a more personalized approach, cost often prevents more adoption.” When it comes to investing in HWC employers intend to:
Invest more – 23%
Invest about the same – 57%
Invest less – 21%
It’s great that we are holding our own in the eyes of employers. HWC has done a great job of providing the evidence of our effectiveness. The continual challenge is the affordability for companies to provide HWC. Look for new experiments about who gets coaching and how to provide it. Group coaching should be on the rise and coaches would be well advised to learn more about how to provide this service. The real GAME CHANGER in the next ten years will be when HWC services qualify for direct reimbursement from insurance companies. As you know, we are already in the Level Three of the CPT Codes. When HWC reaches the first level, the field will explode.
Influences and Trends from the Larger Wellness Field
To a great degree we might say that as goes wellness, so goes wellness coaching. The field of wellness and health promotion is quite diverse, ranging from employee wellness programs to spa managers. It, and HWC are intertwined with the medical world, the fitness world, nutrition, and much more. Gathering together a panel of wellness and media experts, theGlobal Wellness Summit (GWS) put forth ideas about trends for 2021 (https://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/gws-2020/media-experts-predict-six-wellness-trends-for-2021/).
Looking at how the Pandemic has shown us the importance of preventative lifestyle approaches, their leading trend was A New Convergence Between Healthcare and Wellness.They predict “new models that bring health and wellness together symbiotically” and see telemedicine and tele-wellness playing a much bigger role. As we described above, much of that tele-wellness role can be filled by health and wellness coaches.
The same GWS panel predicted that Strengthening The Immune Systemwould be another big trend. While the panel referred to high-tech ways that medicine will be individualizing treatments, we know that the immune system is powerfully affected by stress and lifestyle – both strongly in the domain of the well-trained health and wellness coach.
The GWS panel identified a strong trend in Increased Contact with Nature. Many people have discovered during the era of lockdown that connection with people “is being replaced with nature connection, which provides unique healing and solace in a pandemic.” There can be a greater emphasis put on contact with the natural world as a way to manage stress and be more active at the same time. Coaches can help people to come up with strategies for having more nature contact and following through on those ideas.
The same panel also pointed out the shift that the Pandemic has brought to awareness of ways to optimize our home environments as wellness refuges. Coaches can play a role here by helping people with de-cluttering and organizing their living spaces and making them work better for both relaxation and comfort and also things like home exercise.
Pandemic times will end. Broader trends that were embryonic before the pandemic will continue to grow in importance to health and wellness coaches. Chief among them is:
Coaching with a greater acknowledgement of the role of Social and Environmental Determinants of Change.
Incorporation of technology while still providing ‘high-touch’ service.
HWC will emphasize greater exploration of our client’s living situation and how it affects their lifestyle choices. There will be a greater recognition of the social, environmental and cultural barriers that our clients face and more coaching around how our clients can deal with those challenges. Some of our most important coaching will be around helping our clients to overcome their sense of isolation and to build community in whatever ways they can. Connection and support are paramount to wellness.
HWC will integrate more digital resources to help lower stress levels and improve sleep. There will also be more use of exercise apps and videos, digital weight loss trackers, and online nutrition resources in the coaching process. Some of this will take place in individual coaching and some will work well with the support provided by coaching people in groups who share the same wellness challenges and goals.
HWC has been operating via telephone since its inception. Nothing new here and perfect for our current times, and the times to come. Adapting coaching to platforms like Zoom is a natural. Cell phones have made it possible for coaches to reach people in even the most remote places. Our challenges as we move forward will be:
To maintain high standards of professionalism and integrity so health and wellness coaches are held in high esteem and value by the public and our related professions.
To continue to pursue ways to make coaching more affordable through different access systems and through – eventually – direct reimbursement.
To maintain our identify and function as wellness coaches focusing on lifestyle improvement.
We are perfectly positioned to be leaders in the health and wellness of people around the world. We can deliver the individualized wellness services that so many people need in order to live long and happy lives. The future is bright! Coach on!
Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, NBC-HWC is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness (https://realbalance.com) a premier health & wellness coach training organization that has trained thousands of coaches around the world.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, there you have it! Happy reading and keep on learning!
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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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.