Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

How to be resilient in uncertain and stressful times




Health and Wellness Coach and WCA graduate, Jason Nikakis from Vital Lifestyle Coaching shares his strategies on increasing self care and managing resilience in this current health climate.

As a health and wellbeing coach I help people build their physical, mental and emotional resources to meet life challenges. Over the last month I have been deploying all that I have learnt in the last 30 years of working in health and fitness. This has been identifying what is within my circle of control, taking action and calling on those resources that have me be as resilient as I can, in the face of uncertainty.

Some of you may already know that I have been amidst a family health crisis, with both parents currently in hospital, a wife that has a chronic health condition (reliant on immune suppressing medication) and the emerging uncertainty of COVID 19. I have had a few sleepless nights to say the least! I have also made it a non negotiable, to maintain and indeed increase my self- care behaviour, that has me be the most effective and resilient in these eventful times. 

Here I would like to share my top 6 strategies.

Keeping up my exercise has been essential.  I know that activity is my best prescription for managing stress. When in “fight and flight” having an outlet for my adrenalin and cortisol is essential from turning and acute event into a chronic health issue. We know keeping up exercise and a healthy lifestyle is key for managing chronic stress and it’s negative effect on our immune system. It also help me mange my mood, and allows me to think more clearly and stay solution focused. 

Maintaining “healthful” eating. Choosing foods that both nourish me and maintain health- whole foods, especially fruit and vegetables. When extremely stressed my tendency is to miss meals. Fortunately for me, my wife has been supporting me in maintaining energy and sustenance.

Mindfullness practice has been something that I have previously struggled with. Over the last 5 months I have made a conscious effort to develop a routine around mediation. What has worked for me is starting small and attaching the habit to an already existing routine. First thing in the morning when preparing my percolating coffee, I sit on my meditation stool and listen to a 10 minute guided meditation. My other strategy is to punctuate my day with a few deep belly breaths. I have also tried to link this to daily rituals, like brushing my teeth, washing my hands, or waiting for a traffic light. The benefit is that I can create some space between racing thoughts or tumultuous emotional states. This space helps me chose actions that are more in alignment with my values and gives me a sense of calm when sailing in a metaphorical stormy sea.

Maintain good sleep and restorative processes. During uncertain times keeping a routine is critical. Having good sleep hygiene and maintaining a constant bedtime and awake time is one thing I can control. Having some soothing activities that help calm a stressed and aroused state, has been important for me when trying to fall asleep. This is sometimes a hot shower, essential oils, white noise, guided mediation,  or an audio book/  podcast that takes me to a happier place.  

Do something that gives you joy. I am lucky to have an energetic and creative 4 ½ year old. There is nothing more delightful that seeing the world through his eyes. Lately building a rocket ship (photo) out of boxes and completing a jigsaw puzzle has helped me focus on other aspects of my life that are not filled with angst. If you don’t have a young child, try an activity or hobby that helps you reach a state of flow. I love to be in nature, however getting away is challenging at present. I am currently getting my nature fix by walking in the park, gardening and lying under my gum tree.

Connecting with loved ones and community. Even if you are unable to do this in person, getting on the phone or using technology like facetime or skype to share, all that is important and going on in your life. This is critical for all of us physically, mentally and emotionally. It also helps us remember that we are all in this “life experience” together and are part of a greater community.
 
Finally I always come back to this….
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”
 
One thing that is within my circle of control is choosing actions that are in alignment with my values.

At this time I stand for being: compassionate, caring, accepting, calm and healthy J

Can Stress Become a Postive Force in our Lives?


Stress is generally seen as the bad guy in today’s busy world.  The belief that we have not got the resources to handle what is on our plate, creates stress!  Note – the belief.  Stress can make certain health problems worse and there are many downsides of prolonged, untreated stress.  But let’s get back to this idea of “belief.”

Stress is very personal.  What creates pressure and anxiety for one person might be the minimum level of responsibility needed to motivate someone else to get out of bed in the morning!  We are different by nature, experience and genetic make up, but understanding more about what causes stress and how we can control it is a great step to harnessing the energy we can get from this powerful “force”.  And it is a force – the fight or flight response that is created from being under stress also creates energy.  Perhaps it appears as negative energy, but can we turn it into something positive?  How can we make ourselves more “stress-hardy”?  Perhaps by understanding the positive that can come out of the stress response.  The fight or flight response is not the only one that can be activated.

At times, the tend and befriend response comes about with the production of certain hormones such as oxytocin that can be released in situations when we feel the need to reach out to loved ones, or strangers, to comfort them and increase our social contacts. This is often seen after tragic events have hit a community and this very connection reduces stress and can assist in recovery.

But we don’t need extreme events to try and turn our mindsets to believe that we are able to handle stress and in fact, can benefit from it.  Some of the following are useful exercises for us to try out:

  • When we notice our heart rate increase before a stressful event, realize that this is happening so that we have more energy to complete the task and use this energy to perform.
  • Ask yourself, “Are nerves caused by the fact that what you are about to do is really important to you?”  Does this situation have value in your life and therefore provide meaning?
  • When stress rears its head, acknowledge it then turn your focus to the task at hand.
  • Is your stress due to the fact that you are setting unrealistic expectations around what you can complete in a set time (day/week etc.)?  Change your deadlines and to-do list so that they are more realistic and you can think clearly about one or two things instead of feeling overwhelmed by an undoable list.
  • Switch your attention to someone else. Do something kind for another to get out of your head.  You will feel differently about your workload.
  • Ensure that you have good social networks.  Communities support each other and caring creates resilience.
  • If small events stress you, like having to wait on the phone for someone, remind yourself why you are doing this – is there a larger purpose?  Are you gaining information for something that has importance in your life?  
  • Question why you are feeling stress and look for positive aspects.   Is it making you stronger, are you feeling energized?  Are you connecting with others?  Are you feeling alive?
Once we start to see stress as merely a challenge that can help us grow, then we can learn to view it a different way and do just that – grow from it!

If you want to learn more about this interesting area, we have a full module of learning with comprehensive information and tools to use. To learn more about our Understanding Stress for you and your Clients course, CLICK HERE.

References: Healthbeat, October 2017 Harvard Medical School
The Upside of Stress, 2016, Kelly McGonigal

The important role that Wellness Coaching can play in treating chronic disease


One of our Level 3 Wellness Coaching graduates, Naomi Irvin from Be In your Element wrote this great blog post recently to highlight the important role that Wellness Coaching can play in treating chronic disease. A great read in better understanding what we do as a practice! She has allowed us to reproduce this blog on our website for you. To find out more about Naomi visit her website www.beinyourelement.com.au



A good friend and colleague of mine posted an article on Facebook recently about how exercise can help to treat chronic disease. I took an apprehensive step up onto my soap box to highlight the important role that Wellness Coaching can play in that process too.My buddy wanted to know my thoughts on the issue but I decided my response would be far too lengthy to write in the comments section, hence, I have taken it upon myself to respond by way of a blog post.

To begin with, let’s start with what Wellness Coach actually is.

The godfather of the current coaching movement, W Timothy Gallwey (who authored a number of books about improving sports and business performance) concisely defines coaching as “the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being, that facilitates the process by which a person can move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.” (M. Moore et al. Coaching Psychology Manual 2010, p3).

In Wellness Coaching the clients’ visions and goals, obstacles and apprehensions are listened to, without judgement. The definition of their ideal personal well being is constructed, and plans, completely created by the client themselves, are put into place.

If we consider the article that my friend posted, let’s presume “Sue” is told by her doctor she is overweight and at risk of developing diabetes, a chronic illness. Appreciating the benefits that exercise can have on that condition the doctor refers Sue to an exercise facility to work with a trainer to get her more active. The trainer writes up a program for Sue that involves some light resistance work, some light cardio work and suggests that Sue attends the gym three times a week and tries to do a 30 minute walk around home on the other days of the week.

The doctor has done a great job in trying to reduce Sue’s likelihood of developing diabetes through physical activity. The trainer has done a great job in prescribing exercises suitable for Sue’s presentation.

But has anyone really asked Sue?

Sue works 5 days a week. She has a sick husband at home. Sue also has a small hobby farm that she needs to attend to and she has grandchildren that she babysits on the weekend. She knows her health needs attention, but she can’t possibly do what the experts have told her to do.

Enter the Wellness Coach.

If Sue was my client I’d be asking her how important her health is to her and why it is important to her. What areas of her life would change if her health was better? What wouldn’t change if she stayed the same? What does she imagine life to be like as a healthier version of herself; how would she feel; what would she do; how would she behave; how would she walk, talk, work? What can she do to create that life? I’d be asking her how confident she is about making lifestyle changes that can improve her health. I’d ask her to tell me what she wants her results to look like in 12 months’ time and 12 weeks’ time. I’d ask her to tell me what she could so this week that might work towards that 12 week goal.

As a result of “creating the environment, through conversation and way of being” Sue may tell me that as a healthier version of herself she has more patience and understanding when caring for her husband. She might tell me that with less weight, she feels confident enough to attend some of the local community events and that means she feels more connected to people and has more support around her. She might tell me that with more patience, less weight, more self-confidence and more community support she has the time and energy to play with the grandkids on the weekend and can take them to special outings because she isn’t worried that she is embarrassing them. She might tell me that this week she can take the long walk around the paddock to feed the sheep.

The numbers that the doctor sees are intangible to Sue. The imminent risk of diabetes doesn’t actually mean that much to Sue. The plan to go to the gym and start walking regularly is unrealistic and unattractive to Sue at the moment. She has no connection to this prescription.

Wellness Coaching however, has unlocked that the relationship with her husband is important to Sue; that feeling confident is important; that feeling connected to and supported by her community is important; that being more present with her grandchildren is important. Changing Sue’s health is now anchored by her values and a vision of herself – that is far more relevant than “numbers” or “risks”.

Sue’s plan to walk the long way around the paddock is her plan towards better health. It fits in with her lifestyle, her time, her interests and her priorities. Not the Doctor’s. Not that trainer’s. It may not produce results as quickly, but it is more likely to be something that she can do indefinitely.

With regular coaching (until Sue reaches a state of “self-efficacy” – where she can manage her well being independently) we’d layer more actions on top of the ones she has already established and feels confident about continuing.  And ta-dah! Sue has made changes to her health so the Doctor is happy. Sue may eventually even feel enthused enough about joining the gym, so the trainer is happy. But most importantly, Sue is happy.

So in summary, of course I support the article that suggests exercise  is a great prescription for chronic illness.

But it doesn’t matter what I think.  The person with the chronic illness needs to think it’s a good idea too. And Wellness Coaching can help initiate that thinking and nurture the change that comes from it.

Yeah, there’s no way that was going to fit in the comments section.


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