Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Behavioural Strategies to Support Mental Wellbeing


 
We are all aware of the strangeness of this time and also how different the experience of this pandemic has been from one individual to the next. So many factors will affect where we sit in our sense of wellbeing, but one thing that we all share is a feeling of uncertainty of what lies ahead. Now this is not news. We are being bombarded with media coverage of the situation and the adverse effects on various populations, and it is a time when we need to collectively come together and support each other, however, it is also a time when we need to dig deep into our own experience and understand the effect this uncertainty may be having on our mental and emotional health. It somehow feels wrong to dwell on our personal situation but the danger is that we don’t acknowledge and find coping strategies to deal with whatever challenge we are facing, no matter how small it may seem in the bigger scheme of things. Our clients need support in this time, but we too need to be monitoring our own mental state.

Many factors can result in stress and anxiety. But at this time there are some key changes that will affect many. To name a few:

• Finances
• Job loss
• Fear of sickness
• Separation from loved ones
• Isolation
• Loss of loved ones and inability to get closure
• Trip cancellation
• Unwillingness to make plans and have things to look forward to

Many of us are experiencing a sense of destabilisation in the world as we know it. So what is in our control right now? By following a step by step process perhaps we can regain a feeling of equilibrium during this difficult time. What people often fail to realise is that there are many physical behaviours we can adopt that will have a profound effect on mental stress. That is not to say that self reflection is not of value and changing our thinking will not help, but if we combine the two, then we get the biggest benefit. So here’s a step by step approach that used both our minds and our bodies:

STEP ONE – Take Stock
Become self-aware of what emotions you are experiencing but also what physical sensations are might be indicating that our body’s needs may not be being met. Where are you holding the stress?

STEP TWO. - Identify what is in your control
Work out what you can change and what you need to accept. Don’t waste time ruminating over things that are outside of your power of influence.

STEP THREE – Check in with how you are treating your body
What we eat or drink, how we move, rest, sleep, hydrate and breathe are all physical behaviours that can nurture vitality. If things are not right in any of these areas, our energy can be depleted. e.g. Do you need exercise or rest?
Check on each and see if there are any areas that you can change or improve. How will you do this?

STEP FOUR – Renew with nature
Get outside whenever you can. Use nature to improve your mood, help your sleep, release hormones and general performance in life. We have never needed nature more.

STEP SIX – Eliminate unhelpful behaviours
What habits are you developing that are not helpful? Is it something you are regularly thinking and telling yourself, or something you are doing to cope that is working against you? Identify and replace them.

STEP SEVEN – Love yourself
Engage in regular doses of self-compassion. Understand your emotions and how you deal with them. Be aware that sadness can wrongly be expressed with anger. Talk to your close friends and family. Discuss what’s going on for you. Follow physical pursuits that replenish you. Be your own wellness coach.

STEP EIGHT - Trust
That life will unfold in the way it is meant to. Let go of the illusion of control. We never really had it!

And remember this statistic. A researcher in trauma (Donald Meichenbaum) said that an estimate of all the people who had experienced trauma, 30% of them suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and 70% of them experienced some form of personal growth! And the difference was the person’s belief about the event. If you believe it is possible to grow, you will.
Care for your client’s during this time, but also care for yourself.

Follow Your Flow


Flow state, this unique state of peak performance and life engagement, is an area of great interest to everyone from elite athletes, to high performing executives, to artists and academics. As we know, being in ‘the zone” of flow state is not just about maximising performance, or efficiency, but it’s the state where you feel your best, where your full absorption in the moment leaves no space for self-criticism, as we obtain a sense of one-ness with the task in the present moment.

But there are a lot of misperceptions about flow as well, including the perception that flow is Binary (i.e. you are either IN flow, or NOT in flow). However the research of Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Cardiologist, has been used to identify what’s now called The Flow Cycle, which has 4 stages. So it can be tremendously helpful to understand where you are in the cycle, as there are things you can do to move yourself through into flow, and help yourself find your way back in more smoothly the next time

As 2020 evolved into an incredibly challenging year of instability and uncertainty, I was hearing phrases like “at my edge”, “stretched beyond my means”, “lost my ground” and even the word “struggle” from my clients. I began to develop the framework of a group coaching course on Resilience as something to offer as a resource for this time. Through this research I interested in “flow hacking”, or identifying the gateways into the flow state and how to most efficiently facilitate a way in for myself as well as for my clients.

For someone who is currently feeling in “struggle” it can be hard to stomach the idea that you're on the verge on an optimal state of consciousness.

It would be helpful to learn then, that the first stage of Flow is called "Struggle". It's the time that you're at your edge, your brain is being stretched to the verge of what it knows and it feels like overload. Again, it is so important to know where you are in the flow cycle, because it’s essential not to give up completely at this stage, as tempting as it might be.

It is then time to move into the second stage of flow is called “Release”. It's where you let go of focusing on the problem, and allow your brain to shift elsewhere. You remove your attention from the tension of a “problem” into relaxation, restoring, ease and instead distract yourself by going for a walk, listening to music, etc. Flow lives on the cusp in between the flight/flight activated response and the relaxation response.

Once you’ve created space for the positive hormones it’s possible to return to the activity that was generating the challenge and this time slip straight into that sweet spot of Flow, where you’re now flying with that creative engagement, unrestricted by the limiting beliefs that your dear old rational brain overlays on all of your creative ideas.

This kind of unrestricted creative potential in the flow state results in a 500% increase in productivity. It results in a 700% increase in creativity. AND perhaps more important to our work as wellness coaches, is that we know that people in Flow state are happier and more intrinsically motivated.
Finally, just as we need to know how to get ourselves INTO Flow state, it’s equally important to know what to do to get ourselves OUT. The final stage of Flow is called “Recovery”. This is by far the easiest part of the Flow Cycle to overlook, given our culture’s general tendency to overlook rest and spaces of integration.

It’s essential to take this time to pause, to restore and recharge, given that Flow state is actually an incredibly taxing process on the brain and body, In doing so we are presenting the possibility of future burn out, and helping ensure that we are fully prepared to dive back into the stage of “Struggle” again when it arises.

2020 is irrefutably a masters course in challenge and struggle. Want to meet it as an opportunity to find your way into a deeper sense of engagement and motivation? Find out more about how to follow your Flow!


Written by Lucine Eusani, Mphil, MA Conflict Resolution & Wellness Coach, RYT

WCA Coach Trainer & Mentor




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