Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

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

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.
 

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!

How coaching helps brain development


When we coach we do more than help our clients create new automatic behaviours. We help their brains develop. As health and wellness coaches, people often assume that we focus on what people do, or don’t do, as the case may be. How they destroy their health by lack of exercise or poor nutrition, yet really our work beings from the top end – in people’s minds. We not only create new behaviors but help people create new mindsets! How do we do this?

Neuroplasticity has shown that our brain has the ability to grow, develop and adapt over time. By helping clients reflect and become more self aware, we start the process of brain change. Add in self compassion, positivity, creativity and we have an environment that makes many things possible!  Not least of all, better health behaviours.  

However, the difference between encouraging a client to “comply” with our recommendations and working with someone who is encouraged to focus on their personal hopes, dreams and ambitions is the difference between allowing their brains to grow, or perhaps shutting them down into a fixed mind set where people have the belief that nothing can change! Which sounds the better?

How can coaching possibly have this much effect on a person?

There are several key aspects of coaching that encourage this brain “growth”.

Envisioning possibilities our first conversation with a client is not about what’s wrong with them, what’s not working but what would it be like if things were better – if they were at their best? This opens the brain up to notion of possibility thinking.  Rather than going into analyzing and planning mode, our brains go into hypothetical thinking, visual imaging and creatively coming up with new ideas for the future!

Mindfulness – when coaches are working, they will be exhibiting high levels of mindfulness. This in turn helps the client become mindful and they will become sensitive to what is going on, both inside and outside of themselves.  They will be experiencing open awareness in a very sensory way and perceptions can shift.

Connecting

– when we deeply engaged in a conversation with another, we give full attention to that communication process and distractions are minimised.  Our brains have an opportunity to tap into various regions and enhance neural activity in the areas that it is required.  

Problem solving – giving clients the solution to their problem cheats them of the chance to creatively solve whatever issue they are facing, whereas good coaching gives them time and space to tap into their own resources and come up with often a far better solution than the “experts” could have thought of who have no knowledge of that person’s particular situation in life.

In coaching clients forge new connections, come up with new interpretations and meanings and create positive energy.

Coaches can truly help client’s change their brains. 

If Multi-tasking is not a good thing, why do we do it?



Things have shifted in the world and the idea of multi-tasking being a positive, admirable way of working has changed as we learn that perhaps it may not be the best way of being productive?

The evidence for this is clear. Whereas we think we’re doing several things at once we are actually just switching from one task to another very quickly.  And every time we do this, there is a cognitive cost!    

Multi-tasking increases our production of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline and both can cause fogginess and lack of clarity in thinking.

A wonderful description of multi-tasking, by Daniel Levitin in his book “The Organised Mind”, is ,“(Multi-tasking is ….like a bad amateur plate-spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of (him) but worried it will come crashing down at any minute!”  We become less efficient and less effective.

So why do we do it? Well, this is where it becomes interesting.  You see, our brains have a novelty bias so that every time we receive new stimulation, we get a shot of dopamine and if there is a choice to be made, our pre-frontal cortex (the part of our brain that we need to focus with ironically) leans towards the new distraction! Which is why we are so often tempted to move from one thing to another!

And of course society encourages this… with all our technology and constant attachment to our devices we are expected to be available at all times.. and there are so many things to distract us!  Email coming in, Facebook to check, the multitude of tasks that await us that sometimes we feel we can just keep an eye on everything at once, or just take a peep at that email while we’re on the phone. 

The result? A somewhat absent person.  

Here’s another interesting point. If we multi-task while trying to study (or learn something new), the information will go to the wrong part of the brain, not the hippocampus where it is organised and able to be retrieved.  

We burn through glucose much quicker when we multi-task, causing us to be exhausted after a short time as the nutrients in our brain are depleted.

And finally, if you’re not convinced, multi-tasking involves making many decisions, and they have found that making even small decisions is hard on your neural resources  - we quickly lose impulse control – making numerous small decisions which may lead to potentially bad important decisions.

Convinced?  I am.

Reflections on being a "Well" Being


Having just spent a wonderful weekend at the Noosa Sports Festival recently I feel inspired to write a few lines about the experience. 

You see the weekend was all about physical effort and challenge. I went along entered into one of the two cycling events, feeling a little concerned about whether I was really up for it!  Not that I was worried I wouldn’t finish, but I just didn’t feel I had the killer instinct that is so important to “do your best”. So my friend and I decided that we’d do it “for fun”.  And fun we had. 

Surprisingly, after comfortably riding our way over the 85k distance, stopping when we felt like it and having the odd conversation with people along the way, we still earned a respectable place in the finishers.

But what really struck me was that the focus on the physical effort and competition side of things was almost secondary to the mental satisfaction of the whole weekend. Once again, this idea of physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing merged together in my mind.

Whilst the effect of the (relatively small) amount of training we did for the race no doubt had a positive effect on cardiovascular fitness, the biggest buzz came from the mental and emotional benefits of the weekend. Enter our good friend Seligman with his definition of what makes a good life:

P ositive emotions. Yes we experienced plenty of those. Excitement, humour, awe at the scenery, elation and pride at the finish line.

E ngagement. No doubt about that. Focusing on covering the distance produced plenty of flow – the sense of absorption and absence of thought.

R elationships were strengthened with the people we went away with, the people we met up with and of course, the people we competed with.

M eaning. What was it all about? What value did I place on the event? Much more than I had anticipated. I had forgotten how joining in a community event like this creates such a strong sense of camaraderie and a statement about how physical fitness is such a wonderful thing to have.  Being outdoors and experiencing scenes of nature that I might not have seen otherwise, was another bonus. Testing myself to the small degree I did reminded me of the satisfaction that comes from having something to strive for.

chievement – no doubt about that feeling. It didn’t matter how many people were in front of us, there were plenty behind. And yes, passing riders felt much better than begin passed. The sense of satisfaction at having completed the distance, but more than that, having met my goal of having fun and not feeling wrecked at the end, were all immensely satisfying.

Just another example of how physical and mental wellbeing can be and should be completely inseparable.

How do we know we're happy?




There’s that word again! Do we often check our happiness meter to see how high it is? I find that I am more likely to ask myself questions at the start and end of the day along the lines of, “How do I feel about today with what’s ahead?”, and, “How good a day have I just had?” When researchers explore this notion of happiness, they have two common ways of measuring it. Firstly, how often do we experience positive feelings over any time period, and how high is our life satisfaction (more of a global measure) at a certain point. These two factors are obviously interlinked as lots of happy feelings through the course of the day may lead to a feeling of contentment when we look back on that time period. But does that then influence a general feeling of life satisfaction? I’d like to think so.  

But back to the issue of our state of happiness. Some people choose to look at life through the proverbial half empty glass filter. That way they don’t get disappointed and manage to exist in a more stable mood perhaps? Others amongst us would like to cultivate positive feelings and, with a sense of optimism, look forward to pleasant events ahead. I have also learnt that I can structure my day so that I end up feeling more satisfied with the overall experience. I’ve come to recognise that this is usually to do with what I choose to do with the day and how much I set myself as tasks to complete. If I manage to plan a balance of activities with plenty of time in nature, and stick to that plan, and set an achievable task list instead of working manically towards a never-ending goal of getting everything done, I will end up in a much happier mood at dinnertime. 

I’ve also learnt that when I experience good feelings I can make them last longer by sharing them. Like hearing my father laugh at a story I told him today on his 85th birthday. If I recount that to other people, the feeling of amusement and love, keep on being reproduced!

There are many things we can’t change in our lives. We experience continual stress with the demands placed on us by others and by ourselves. We could constantly be at the beck and call of everyone through technology that never sleeps. But we do have choices and if we understand what makes us, as individiuals, feel like we’re experiencing a good life, then we can choose accordingly.  

How to Turn Off, Check Out, Tune In




Do you remember the era of the ‘on call’ job?  A time when someone you knew had a beeper (pager) so that their company could contact them on the weekend or after hours, interrupting their ‘down time’ so they could attend to company business? 

I remember a friend who would sigh when her beeper went off, but she was grateful for the extra hourly pay she’d earn for the period she was on call.

These days, being always available – socially and for work - is a way of life, or even an expectation. We’re living in a ‘24/7’ culture and it has a massive influence on how we live, work and relax, and how we relate to others. 

Of course, there are plenty of benefits with being connected and available; convenience, speed and productivity. We can finish our time sheet remotely, call our mother to say we’ll be home a bit late (where is that phone box?) and respond to a client’s email without going into the office. But at the same time, ‘stress’ is becoming the latest lifestyle disease. 

With a growing culture of instant, constant connection, we are always available to others. We can find ourselves bent over our devices, checking, updating, and responding. We are more frequently exposed to light sources that elevate our stress hormone levels. 

Why do we do this? 
Well, aside from the benefits, there are some less positive drivers for constant connection. 
For example, some recent studies indicate the ‘reward’ centres in our brain respond to positive social feedback (e.g. Facebook). And we all like being rewarded, right? So you can end up ‘pushing the pleasure button’ over and over to get more rewards.

There is also the feeling of obligation to be available for or accountable to other people, and of course, there’s FOMO (fear of missing out).

Some chiropractors I know say they are more-frequently treating excessive forward head posture and upper cross syndrome.

Studies are also emerging that show anxious people can becoming more anxious and depressed with excessive internet use.

And of course, in the vein of coaching, it’s hard to be mindful, present and in the moment, if you are ready to respond instantly to a text, email, Facebook notification or instant chat message.

Maybe Tim Leary was on the right path in 1967, when he came up with the famous mantra “turn on, tune in, drop out”. It was all about mindfulness, harmony, focus and attention.

If you feel you are too ‘plugged in’, I highly recommend a digital detox – to Turn Off, Check Out and Tune in. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Turn Off – Do you need to turn off your communication devices and if so, when, and for how long? Write down some ideas to experiment with. 
  2. Check Out – If you decide to ‘turn off’ regularly, what sorts of boundaries would you want set around your use of technology? Who would you need to communicate these with?  In other words, how can you ‘check out’ and be sure nobody will disturb you?
  3. Tune In – What will allow you to be mindful and in the present moment? What do you need to do, or what could you experiment with, to achieve mindful, meditative bliss?

Ways to Achieve Mental Wellbeing


Today we celebrate World Mental Health Day, bringing greater public awareness to mental health education, awareness and advocacy. In the world of Wellness, if we believe wellness is the combination of physical and mental well being, then we need to address both to really live life to the full. 

There is a great deal of information out there on how to be physically well. We know that we have to eat correctly, exercise regularly, keep stress to manageable levels, get sufficient good quality sleep and hydrate.  Simple? Perhaps. Of course it’s never that simple because knowing what we have to do, is not the same as actually doing it. But at least we have an idea.

But what contributes to mental well being? 
The positive psychology movement with Dr Martin Seligman at its helm is all about answering that very question.  Five elements of well being have been identified and they include:

  1. Positive emotions – we need to experience at least 3:1 positive to negative emotions in day to experience a sense of well being and ward off the black dog.
  2. Engagement – we are engaged in whatever we do in our lives – be it personal or professional activities. Ie not bored or switched off or disengaged.
  3. Relationships – the most important factor in good mental health is having supportive, positive relationships in our lives.
  4. Meaning – we understand why we do what we do and have a sense of meaning around our daily routine
  5. Achievement – everyone gets pleasure and satisfaction from occasionally achieving something. No matter how small the achievement, it adds to our mental well being.
If you read that list above, how do you score on each factor?  It can be such a great awareness tool to do a “stock-take” and see if anything comes up for us that says “improvement needed here”! 



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