Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Four Ways of Living Through this Quieter Time




I have purposely not referred to the term that is appearing in every publication, as information on the virus that is changing the world is abundant and to be honest, I think we all can feel a bit bombarded at times - reading about what is happening and what we should be doing.  Instead, in this short article I will focus on four areas that seem to be relevant for most people.  I realise that we are all having very different experiences of what I like to think of as a “quieter time”.  There is so much sadness and loss occurring which will take us time to recover from and emerge into the new normal - whatever that looks like.  As coaches, we like to look at the positive and reframe where we can, but it is not always possible and grief is inevitable and necessary.  However, let’s consider some of the phenomena, (skill sets, qualities) that have come to the forefront during this unusual period of history!

The need to adapt –adaptability has been a buzz word in the popular field of resilience for some time and never has the need to adapt to change been more essential. We have heard some wonderful stories of how people have reinvented their businesses into new and profitable concepts that have filled a need that has suddenly been created due to our new restrictions. 
The creativity that is involved here is inspiring and generative.  The demise of one thing has led to the birth of something new. In a similar vein, I wonder how many of us have thought of “re-inventing” some part of our own lives – be it personal or professional? The advantages of being adaptable are many, not least of which is the growth of new neural pathways as we are forced to do something in a different way!  Out of change comes courage.

Compassion – the world seems to be overflowing with it.  What an unexpected outcome!  Sadness breeds empathy and a desire to reach out and connect. There are many stories of how the public are honouring the healthcare workers, how people are supporting their elderly neighbours, how we are watching countries around the world handle their unique situation and our hearts are full of love for those people. It has been said that this disease knows no boundaries and our common humanity is bringing us together – in a way that religion (and politics) have never been able to do. The other side of compassion is self- compassion. And it is something that is also very important as we struggle to take on a new set of values, be they temporary. There is now no need to measure up to the next person. We recognise that it is the luck of the draw whether we have jobs, businesses or are left with a big gap in our previously busy and purposeful lives. It makes it easier to be kind to ourselves (and others) when we know that feeling guilty is inappropriate.  Our only choice is what to do with the new situation. But starting with self love and self care are great places to begin. Our conversations with clients are going to be inevitably drawn into discussions about how we can look after ourselves with love and kindness.

Slowing down – how interesting that many of us have a sense of the world turning more slowly on its axis. Even if our routine is the same and the pressures of work and study remain, there is an innate need to take each day easier, to calm the busyness, to stop and linger.  What’s with the butterflies? The butterfly is a symbol of hope and regeneration and there is something awe-inspiring to watch them fly past in their hundreds. Were they always there? Or have we just got time to appreciate what’s going on in nature.  

We are now spending more time with friends and family (even if over zoom) than ever before!!  We’re getting to know the minor details of each others’ lives, sharing the challenges and the small wins and connecting more than ever with both empathy and humour!  Yes, when did we ever have time to watch those videos that are sent our way? Now we are amazed at the cleverness of everyday folk who can put together something that is entertaining without taking anything away from the seriousness of the situation. How many times did you cry this week when you watched a tribute to Captain Tom or heard an artist share their talents by sending a message of love and hope through their song or film making skills?

Reflection – finally, there seems to be time to reflect. Being introspective and getting to the heart of how we are feeling, looking back to the way we have been living and daring to hope that things could be different is a daily occurrence for many. Establishing what is important to us - really? And wondering (metaphorically) whether those “butterflies” will still feature in our lives when this is all over. How can we hold on to the lessons learnt, continue to live with the quietness if only in our minds?

This is a very personal account of my experience in the last five weeks. There is also disappointment, sadness and worry ever present but it comes and goes. Our conversations with clients cannot help but change and go into a much deeper exploration of what they are feeling. What they are learning from this experience?  How they are growing, what they need to come through it intact. We can’t work with clients without, at times, sharing our experiences. This is the time to work together, to share our thoughts and feelings and to help each other stay well.  

Supporting and Upskilling Fitness Professionals during COVID-19


As I finished my last work out at my gym last Monday, I felt so very sad for all the gym owners, personal trainers, instructors and members who were about to lose, hopefully temporarily, their incomes, their interest and for many, their community. As a former club owner and fitness professional I could empathise and only imagine how hard that would be to face.  

How do we fill those gaps?  I can speak from the experience of transitioning from club owner and trainer to Health and Wellness Coach Trainer and Coach (HWC).  

There are challenges for many in today’s current crisis, but I want to focus on two.

Firstly, what do our clients need in this worrying time? We know they still need to continue their fitness program, or as close to it as they can. Technology allows a wonderful opportunity of sharing group workouts and helping people create a way of bringing regular exercise into their new routine, be it at home or outdoors (in a big spacious area). Exercise professionals can help here by providing information and support remotely. But will that be enough?

There will be many people struggling with finances with worry about parents, with fear of the future and this can lead quickly to poor eating, sleeping or movement patterns. Stress can be a big obstacle to healthy living. This is where a Health and Wellness Coach can step in. HWC’S are trained not only in safe guidelines around areas of healthy living but in understanding the need for regular connection and support at the right time, and being skilled in knowing how to have those in depth conversations. 

In the UK there is a move to train health professionals in “Better conversations”.  One website stated that “Better conversations enable people to thrive by feeling more motivated, confident and in control of managing their own health and care.” (https://www.betterconversation.co.uk.). But there is a gap between telling people how to get fit and pushing them to train harder and talking to them about more personal information. Health and Wellness Coaching fills this gap. 

The second need is for exercise professionals to supplement the income that has probably been lost with the closure of their club or gym. There has never been a better time to upskill and learn how to coach people through this enforced lock out while recognising that the complexity of COVID-19 is going to raise many questions and concerns. Sometimes they may just need to talk about these concerns and a trained ear can help them make decisions about actions they take to protect both their physical and mental health. This is where training in Health and Wellness Coaching is so very valuable and can help immediately with little investment in time and money for both the trainer and the client.  


Working with the National Disability Insurance Scheme framework


Are you a certified Health and Wellness Coach who:

  • Has experience with, OR wants to work with, disabled people?
  • Is willing to network with local allied health professionals?
  • Is happy to work for a set hourly rate?
  • Is fairly good at working in a structured and organised way?
If so, there's a good chance that you can be paid to work as a coach within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) framework.
This blog explains how it works, what the fee pre-requisites are, and how to apply.

Overview of NDIS process

Very simply, the NDIS supports people by way of funding if they have a permanent and significant disability that affects their ability to take part in everyday activities.

They may access NDIS funding if they:
  • have a permanent disability that limits participation in everyday activities 
  • are aged less than 65 when they first access the scheme 
  • Are an Australian citizen, live in Australia and hold a permanent visa or hold a Protected Special Category Visa.
Once an application for funding has been lodged, the NDIS: 
  • considers their existing support and how well it’s working (could include family, friend support);
  • looks at the person’s needs and goals, then identifies any gaps in existing services; 
  • works out if existing support networks (family, friends, other) can fill those gaps; and
  • fund reasonable and necessary supports to help the disabled person achieve their goals.
These ‘supports’ (services) being funded by the NDIS can be broad or specific and may include therapies, equipment, home modifications, mobility equipment, taking part in community activities or assistance with employment. 
Once appropriate services are identified, a tailored plan is created for the individual, considering their needs and goals.

Creating a Plan for Funding

Here is an overview of how it works.

The tailored plan is developed by either:
  • the NDIS governing body (either Uniting, St Vincent De Paul) or 
  • a contracted NDIS planner (an individual contractor or an Agency like the Disability Trust). 

  • The services and service providers are approved and allocated by the planner. 
  • Once funding is allocated, the service providers are formally approached by either the disabled individual or their planning coordinator/consultant; 
  • The plan (delivery of services) is implemented by the person, their family and sometimes a support coordinator, and is reviewed and revised annually.

The overarching aim of these plans is that the disabled individual becomes more capable and competent over time and their needs for services change and/or diminish.
Service providers can be registered with NDIS, or not (more on that later).

NDIS Service Categories

Professional services that are covered by the NDIS fall into one of three broad areas:
  • CORE SUPPORTS – which enable the individual to complete activities of daily living and work towards their goals and objectives. 
  • CAPITAL SUPPORTS – an investment such as technology, equipment and home or vehicle modifications, capital costs (e.g. Specialist Disability Accommodation). 
  • CAPACITY BUILDING – includes support that enables a participant to build their independence and skills. 
Health and Wellness Coaches may be eligible to provide services under the specific categories within the Core and Capacity Building areas:
  • Core Supports: 1.04 Assistance with Social and Community Participation
This could include paying for after school care, vacation care or a training course or camp.
  • Capacity Building: 3.07. Coordination of support
This is more of an administrative role, where the service provider helps to coordinate the booking of and interaction with various service providers outlined in the individual’s plan.  
  • Capacity Building: 3.09 Increased Social and Community Participation
This item covers tuition fees, art classes, sports coaching, camps or groups that build a person’s relationship and other skills and independence.
  • Capacity Building: 3.11 Improved relationships 
This item is more for experienced degree-qualified professionals (e.g. psychologists) who work to reduce or eliminate behaviours of concern. There may be an opportunity for Health and Wellness Coaches to help build individual social skills. 
  • Capacity Building: 3.12 Improved health and wellbeing
This includes all activities to support and maintain wellbeing such as personal training, exercise physiology, exercise, health diets and dietetic. Service providers in this category are typically qualified as a personal trainer, exercise physiologist or dietician. 
  • Capacity Building: 3.14 Improved life choices
There are several areas within this category that may be relevant for Health and Wellness Coaches, within Planning and Plan Management (that is, their own NDIS plan), or Therapy Services.
There are many ‘line items’ within each category and the full list is available on the NDIS website.

As you can see, there is no necessity to have a Health-related qualification for some of these items. For example, if you're not a personal trainer or a nutritionist, you can still work with NDIS clients in areas such as community participation, relationships, planning or plan management support and coordinating support.
 

Fund Management and Service Providers

The NDIS funding for a disabled person is managed in one of three ways. It is either:
  • NDIS managed – the NDIS pays service providers, and they must be approved, NDIS-registered providers
  • Agency managed – An NDIS agency like Workability or the Disability Trust pays service providers, and funding is available to either registered NDIS OR unregistered providers
  • Self-managed – the individual, their carer or their family pays service providers, and funding is available to either registered NDIS OR unregistered providers.
In any of these situations, the person who manages and distributes NDIS funding for a disabled person takes responsibility for the individuals choice of provider, according to which services have been approved in the plan. 

The criteria for choosing a service and service provider are that they must be:
  • Safe
  • Allowed within the NDIS framework
  • A competent person and provider
  • They can't be a member of the individual’s family
They may only want to use NDIS-registered providers, or may only want to use providers with specific qualifications or experience.

Pay rates

The pay rate you receive as a NDIS service provider (registered or unregistered) depends on: 
  • whether the client has low, standard or high intensity needs
  • the service category chosen, and 
  • your qualifications.
Pay rates start at $42.79 per hour, and may range up to $92.53 per hour for different services categories and/or working on weekends or public holidays.
Degree-qualified coaches (e.g. exercise physiologists) may earn up to $143 per hour depending on the service.

How Providers Get Work

While you don’t have to register as a provider, it certainly gives you a better chance of being chosen to provide services, because you: 
  • can advertise yourself as a registered provider
  • are eligible for all levels of funding management (from NDIS-managed to personally managed plans).
  • will be listed on the NDIS website as a registered provider. 
Whether approved or not, service providers may be approached by disabled individuals, the NDIS, or a support coordinator or agency to provide services. 

But at the end of the day, the more people in the industry that you know, the more likely you will be chosen to support someone. 

That means your best chance is to get out there and network! 

Find out who your local disability service providers and agencies are, meet them and introduce yourself. Let them know what you can do and how you could provide support in a positive and empowering way.

Considerations

As you can tell, the NDIS is fairly complicated and there is an application process to go through.
There is another consideration, too.

Mental health issues are often a comorbidity with disability. 
It means you may be dealing with individuals in complex situations and with complex needs. You may need to coordinate with other providers and be available at odd hours. 
You would probably need to be fairly clear on the boundaries of your role, and to communicate those boundaries clearly from the beginning.

Application Process

Are you interested in becoming a registered provider?
Click here to learn more and start the application process!

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 Underside of Wellness


The Underside of Wellness

We assume that we work in a field that has appeal to anyone on this planet. Who doesn’t want to improve their health and wellness?  What could possibly be bad about working towards this outcome?

Well, think again.  Wherever there is a strong argument for one approach, there will be someone who argues against it!  (Remember the fitness movement and the articles and books sending the message that “Exercise can kill”?)

Of course, freedom of speech, sharing ideas, playing devil’s advocate etc. are all good things so when I came across the following interview, I listened, (non judgmentally) and attempted to filter out the learning or awareness that came out of what Dr. Spicer had to say.  

Dr Spicer was interviewed on Life Matters radio program and was promoting his book The Wellness Syndrome where sure enough, the main message was “Wellness is simply the latest obsession”. I will sum up Dr Spicer’s comments (and a bit of his rationale) and then counter them with a few of my own.

  • Wellness has become something else to worry and feel guilty about (consider the bloggers whose daily routine is something we can never aspire to).
  • Wellness trends are associated with abstinence and possibly self punishment.
  • Wellness encourages too much self-obsession (think of all the ways we have of monitoring everything we do.
  • Wellness behaviours are time stealers and take up huge amounts of our day.
  • Corporate wellness programs are becoming a way of discriminating against new employees who are not fit and thin.
  • Organisations are taking the view that a successful CEO must be able to run a marathon or climb a mountain and  productivity and wellness are inaccurately linked.  
  • Pressure is being put on employees to train.
  • Wellness is becoming a cult.
Yes you are probably thinking, “wow”! but let’s face it there are some things we recognize as being, if not problems, potential problems and this is what we must be aware of and accept that some of what he says could have merit.

However….

First, all the above points are referring to extremes.  

“Bloggers who have huge followings and expound living the perfect, rigorous healthy life with rules around everything could well make people feel somewhat inadequate.”   
My response – choose who you follow!  We need to take some responsibility over what we expose ourselves to.  What motivates that blogger?  Are they boasting or helping?

“Wellness behaviours are cultish and like religious rituals.” 
My response – anything taken to extremes can be sinister.  If a ritual is a habit, then that sounds like a positive way of incorporating a few new ones into our daily routine.  Becoming aware of what we do automatically is the first step to changing it.

 “Corporate wellness has become a way of discriminating.”
My response – taken to extremes yes, but high energy that comes from being well is definitely associated with productivity.  Anything that our society can do to encourage healthy behaviours as being the “norm” is a good thing.  If an individual does not want to consider their health as important, go and find an organisastion who doesn't care about this aspect of their employees’ lives.

Dr Spicer’s final comments are about the backlash that the wellness movement is having.  “Dude food” is increasing where people can eat as much as they want and eat real, high fat meals.”
My respose - Hey, if that’s your choice, it’s your body.

 “People are looking for meaning rather than happiness.”
My response – Agree (finally) - and we need to be.  If we search for happiness, it will elude us. If we try and find meaning in our lives, the incidence of depression will decrease.

 “The rise of neo-stocism – the belief that gains can only be made through pain and suffering and fight clubs, extreme work outs, tough mudders etc. are now becoming very popular.”
My response – there will always be people who want these things. Let everyone find what works for them.. There are plenty of softer “wellness” options out there!

In conclusion, I respect many of Dr. Spicer’s views but worry about the way people might interpret his message as encouraging a total lack of regard for whether we have healthy lifestyle habits and a continuation of the growth of lifestyle related illnesses.  

At least we’re doing something to try and slow it down.

The recording of Dr Andre Spicer was found at this link 

https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pg9G1mr82G?play=true



Bringing People Together


Last night, after riding up a mountain, I spent an evening that I will remember with warmth for many years to come. Now and again we get to experience something that is outside of our normal life and gives us an insight into a different way of “being” in the world. This occurred in the little town of Albarabella in the South of Italy where I have been riding for the last week. If anyone has been to this particular town, they will remember the first sight of the white “trullis”, white conical homes with pointed roofs that give the impression that you have stepped into either a Disney land set or perhaps a scene from Lord of the Rings! The weather was superb which added to the experience.. but what really made the impact was what happened in the evening. 

As we ate dinner at an outdoor café at the piazza, town centre suddenly came to life.  First, I noted the families, and the way there were dressed – on a Monday night, all in their Sunday best strolling up and town, kids running everywhere, while the adults conversed with each other. Yes, talked.  They didn’t rush up and down with a purpose.  Then arches that we had seen and were curious about were lit up and the scene became another fairyland scene.  Basket weavers pulled up chairs and began their craft, all wearing traditional costume; opera singing interspersed a pantomime of people creating the scene harvesting their crops with scythes, and other implements – all also in traditional dress.  Older people together with young children took part in this festival and it lasted about three hours. The final section incorporated a play with full stage set and the small crowd watched, thoroughly enjoying what must have been a comedy as they all laughed regularly. We didn’t understand a word of what went on but it didn’t matter.  We felt transported to another world and privileged to witness this extraordinary spectacle.  What was even more incredible was that we discovered that this wasn’t the actual festival – it began the following  week!  So this was merely a rehearsal!!  I am sure that Albarabella has its problems, its feuds, its disagreements but I have never and am never likely to see again, such a a shared sense of connection to celebrate something we take for granted – the creation of food to eat.  It truly was community wellness at its best.



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