Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

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


Is Calm a State, or a Skill?


I had planned to write a blog on the topic of “calm” today but this idea was hijacked by an email that appeared from the Global Wellness Institute confirming that coaching is an emerging “trend” for 2020.  They state that:
“Coaching—which finds its origin in positive psychology, therapy and sport—is not strictly categorized as a “wellness” activity, and yet it contributes to the wellbeing of those who benefit from it. According to Carsten Schermuly, a professor of business psychology, coaching “improves the health of people, wellbeing and work satisfaction, performance and self-regulation.” Randomized control tests suggest that coaching also has a “small but significant calming, balancing and responsibility-enhancing effect on personality.
And, of course, while it’s a concept most applied to career and professional development, all kinds of health and wellness coaches are on the rise, from sleep to nutritional coaches.”

Yes, health and wellness coaching is starting to receive attention around its role yet it is still not fully understood. Sleep and nutrition are only two elements of wellness that we as coaches, support people to improve.  I was delighted to read on to an article in the New York Times that was linked, and in particular, a quote from a Doctor working in paediatrics who wrote:
“Though my clinical training is in paediatric medicine, inspired by what I had read, I recently completed a certificate in health coaching myself. The experience was eye-opening and humbling. I learned new ways of communicating with my patients, specifically ways to encourage them to see their own ability to make lifestyle changes while setting manageable goals. I also learned ways to cheer them on when they reach their goals, without shaming them if they relapse: Both pieces are critical to the process of making sustainable change."

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/07/well/live/new-years-resolutions-health-fitness-coaching.html

I think we should celebrate this acknowledgment of our profession and applaud the GWI and NYT for recognising the importance of our growth!

Check out the GWI’s newly launched Wellness Coaching Initiative here.

NOW AFTER THE EXCITEMENT, BACK TO CALM!

It’s one of those words that can sometimes make us feel chastised. We might associate it with the command to “Calm down”! or even connect it with a non-expression of emotion. Yet somehow we all recognise that without calm, we may be in a place of stress or overwhelm! One of the most common goals of our clients is to deal with life’s pressures so the concept of “calm” becomes very relevant in our conversations with them.  Let’s look at a few key points on the topic.

Question 1:  What does CALM mean to you?

The reality is it means different things to different people in different situations.
Is calm a state or a skill?  It can be both.  As a state, we think of feeling a sense of peace and tranquility. We also know that this is not a permanent state (unless we are hiding under a stone or cocooned in a bubble). Calm can be a skill to cultivate - how we relate to life’s difficulties.  Now this is one that has relevance to our coaching!

Calm is about finding a place to restore ourselves so we can feel good about life.  It does not involve a personality transplant.

First identify what calm means to you:

Is it about being less busy?
Is it about getting rid of anxiety and worry?
Is it simply about stopping your brain from whirring?

Calmness allows a clear head and the ability to cope.  
It’s becoming apparent that the opposite of calm can be chronic stress.  Which we know is a killer – of life goals, life quality and good health.  

Question 2:  What is causing your stress?  Really

Here are four possibilities. 
  • Self doubt
  • Self criticism
  • Over thinking 
  • Perfectionism
Try and separate the source from the effects of stress.  Get to the root of the problem. 
Also be aware that we have come to think of busyness and stress as things to be proud of.  They are part of our ego and identity.  What would we do if we weren’t so busy?  This is a hard one to overcome but with time we can come to understand that being seen a certain way is not as important as enjoying our life on our own terms, not other people’s.

It takes time to change ingrained beliefs. Try and get to the heart of the matter and understand what lies beneath the feeling of overwhelm and anxiety?  What is your fear really about?

Question 3:  What can you do to create more CALM in your life?

Slow down – you can’t hurry calm!

If we word our goal as to “feel more calm” we will struggle to achieve it.   That phrase represents more of a value and perhaps would be included in the “why” part of a vision statement.  The question is “how” are we going to achieve.  What changes and strategies can we create?  Like most things worth working for,  it will not be a quick fix.

A few steps might include:

  1. Identify your stressed habits – become are of how you behave when you are not calm – do you snap at people? Does your voice rise? Become aware.
  2. Train your mind to become calm – practice mindfulness and the first step is to have a mindful understanding of yourself.
  3. Is there something you need to heal that is causing you stress?  Deep-seated buried emotions such as grief can filter into our every day lives and destroy our sense of calm.  
  4. Is your life balanced?  - what gives you joy?  
  5. Reframe – at times, learn to describe your anxiety as excitement.  Same symptoms occur!
  6. Calm your communication – speaking rapidly and flitting from one topic to another increases our sense of stress.  Stop and listen to others.
  7. Learn breathing techniques! This is huge.  We tend to breath incorrectly when we are stressed.  Get your body working right and your mind will probably follow.

Being calm is not about being permanently laid back.  It is about living life to the full, having a sense of meaning and engaging in good health habits!  Sound familiar?


References:  Global Wellness Institute
Greaves, S. (2017) (Editor) Real Calm, Psychologies Magazine

4 Signs You’re Blocked in Business and How To Get Unstuck


Being blocked is a big challenge for the solo business owner. It means you have obstacles that wear down your energy and stop you from getting things done. 

You're so busy scrambling to do a thousand little tasks at home and in your business, trying to remember a kajillion details, and feeling desperate to be productive and tick things off your list at the same time.

And in terms of your business, that means you're potentially stagnant, caught in a cul-de-sac.

Here’s a typical week for the blocked entrepreneur, showing you 4 signs you’re blocked in business.....and a simple exercise to help you get UNstuck.

The 4 Signs You're Blocked In Business

Sign #1 – the week starts great, but declines into treacle.


Working from home, you find that the weekend is relaxing time off. Monday is cheerful, Tuesday gets busy, Wednesday becomes hectic and then it’s suddenly Thursday afternoon and once again, you feel overwhelmed and like most of the week has gone, yet you’ve achieved nothing.

NOTHING!

(Although your washing and vacuuming are done.)

But you had a lot to accomplish at work, and now you’re somehow behind.

It’s like you started the week sprinting freely on the tarmac and now somehow, you’re wading through treacle.

Sign #2 – you’re a zombie

In your state of anguish, your become almost catatonic, unable to work effectively and productively, scrambling around at mindless, unimportant things in a vain attempt to get SOMETHING achieved.

But all you’ve really done is delete and answer some emails.

Sign #3 – you feel a bit ripped off

By the time 6pm rolls around, you turn off your computer PC for another day and lament the fact that it’s dinner next, then bed.

You feel ripped off because you haven’t had any fun, exercise, downtime or a decent break. It feels like you’re just working all the time for no tangible outcome.

Sign #4 – your sleep is suffering


You are in bed by 10pm but you know you will be waking up five hours later, mind racing, coming up with ideas and concepts, solving problems and maybe worrying about one or two things that you had trouble solving that day.

After lying awake doing this for four or five hours, you will eventually give up hope of a restful night and start work early….probably to repeat the pattern all over again the next day.

Are You Blocked?

If at least two of these signs resonate with you, then you’re on the way to being blocked.

What’s happening is this: you are getting bogged down in unimportant stuff, losing focus, and becoming anxious.

You are so wound up in this emotional stuff that you’ve lost touch with reality, simplicity and the tools you know will work to get you on track.

Know Yourself, Know Your Clients

It's no surprise that your clients struggle with this stuff, too. That's why they're coming to you in the first place!

They end up feeling this way too after their busy week of work, kids, friends and chores….who can cook a healthy meal or exercise on TOP of all that running around?

If you can help yourself get unstuck, then maybe you will be better positioned to help your clients.

Here are some questions you can use to coach yourself and get unstuck, so you can become energized and productive again.

All you need to do is set aside 30 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time to work through these without pressure or distraction.

Create that time, schedule it in, and do this work. It WILL be worth it.

Simple Questions To Get Unstuck



  1. What, specifically, is overwhelming me?
  2. What’s different on the days that I’m feeling energized, powerful, calm and productive?
  3. What have I really, truly achieved this week? (make a list)
  4. What was my trigger for feeling overwhelmed, busy or anxious? (if you can’t work it out, start keeping a mood/feelings diary)
  5. What happened two steps before that trigger?
  6. What will I do next time I see that trigger or roadblock coming up?
  7. What is missing in my day, that causes me to choose to lie awake at night ruminating?
  8. What are the things I need to do during the day at work, to ensure I get a good night’s sleep?
  9. What is it about my environment or habits that I can change to help me put my mind at rest and allow me to feel calm?
  10. What are the rituals/time requirements I need to put in place, so I can plan and execute tasks more effectively and feel productive?
  11. When do I need to do those things?
  12. What are the specifically steps I need to do, and how do I create the space for that?
  13. How do I know when my week is at comfortable capacity (in terms of responsibilities/tasks) – what does it feel like?
  14. What is the absolute minimum I will be happy to achieve each day at work?
  15. What mental state do I need to create each day to set me up for success – and how do I create it?


What have you learned?

Hopefully by now, you have some inkling of what’s going on for you.

At some point in the week, your energy and enthusiasm seem to turn to dust. These questions aim to help you work out when, why, and what you can do about it.

Perhaps you are a bit like your client who is overenthusiastic and busting to get results NOW. They are so excited that they want to exercise 7 days per week, drink 3L of water per day and eat 21 perfect meals with absolutely no alcohol. 

Check in with yourself and see what's driving you, and what's blocking you.

Your emotional states of enthusiasm and love of your business help to propel you forward.

Your logical reality is what will hold you on a steady, sustainable, productive and fulfilling course.

Both of these need to be nurtured. The trick for you is to work out the structures that will help you combine these two in absolute harmony.

Need help with managing your productivity and energy at work?

Contact me for a 15-minute chat and let’s see if I can help.

A New Slant on Goal Setting


We always encourage coaches to work with clients to create positive goals that take them in the direction of what they want!  This fits with the idea of running towards, rather than away from things in life.  

I recently had an interesting conversation with someone who had been at a conference on death and dying, with one of the speakers raising the idea of having a “Reverse Bucket List”. A very strange notion I thought - where does that go?  

The “Reverse Bucket List” consists of things that a person no longer wants to do!! Now that might mean saying “no” to a number of onerous tasks that drain energy and take precious time away from doing what we do want to do.  

It also might encourage our clients to take a good hard look at what they spend their time on - believing that they enjoy it and yet we come to the realisation that we don’t enjoy it any more!  

This type of “bucket list” can actually be very empowering!  Yes, it might be more meaningful to us as we get older and realise the value of the years left to us, but I think it's worth considering and playing around with. It’s really no different from asking, “What do we want more of?”, and “What do we want less of?” Try asking it of yourself and see what comes up! 

Happy culling of unwanted and unrewarding activities!


Motivation is not all equal



Here we go – 2017 is underway and we all love a fresh start. The new year can give us the opportunity to begin new projects, to make changes, to wipe out any of the less uplifting parts of the previous year.  But what do we need to actually make a change?

There’s no getting away from it – that overused term – “Motivation”!  And if you want to know more about it, there is no shortage of material, books, articles, speakers etc. to fill you in. But really what does it mean to be motivated? The essence of motivation is energy.  Energy to drive us forward to make that change.  Yet motivation can also come from many different areas – some more powerful than others.

Let’s keep it simple and look at two sources. Controlled motivation and autonomous motivation.  Both can be helpful but one more than the other.
Controlled motivation comes from outside.  Often from another person, who may well have the best interests in mind for the person they are pushing to make a change. Health professionals have traditionally been the people who provide “controlled motivation.” They provide all the facts, the dangers and the wisdom of their superior knowledge to convince their clients to make a change. When someone is influenced by this type of motivation, they tend to “comply” with someone else’s desires.  You may have heard this referred to as extrinsic motivation, but “controlled” suggests that there is a third party involved.  Frequently there is an element of fear inherent in the urge to change.

Autonomous motivation has quite a different feeling about it.  This is when a person is motivated by interest, desire and choice. They have a sense of control and value over the change they're about to make.  They are energised in a different way and often feel a sense of excitement about the challenge ahead.  Health and wellness coaches work in this space... Their job is to “unleash” their clients’ own motivation to change.

Why is the latter so much more powerful than the former?  As human beings, we have certain drives that are universal and one is the drive to control our own destiny to be “autonomous” and “self-determining”.  Although the support of a coach or other person may be of great help, ultimately we will become more flexible and creative, persistent and successful when we are driven from within.  

How we do tap into this type of motivation?  Simply by reflecting on the importance of the change we wish to make.  Time spent uncovering our real reasons to change is time well spent and an investment in the outcome of our efforts.  All too often, we rush in to do what others have propounded as being the “right” way to live.  Why not stop and ask yourself:
  • What will this change mean to me?
  • What will happen if I continue the way I am living?
  • What else might change if I am successful?
  • What does the change represent to me?
Then we’re armed with what we need to move forward.  But only then!

Two Words


The new year is well and truly on us and before we know it, we are into the swing of things and are now wondering where the holiday went. But most of us take some time, if only a moment or two, to ponder what lies ahead. What do we want for 2017?  Do we have new directions to travel in? New challenges to enjoy?  Notice I have not once said the word “goal”... Not that there is anything wrong with having goals, as long as we don’t get caught up in a mad rush to achieve them.  

What I prefer to do each year is to find two words that I can focus on that mean something significant to me at this point in time.  And I let those words “colour” my  plans and way of living.  So, for example, my two words for this year are, “Balance” and “Freedom”.  I won’t indulge myself by explaining what they mean to me, but I think you’ll get the general idea. 

So why am I sharing this?  Because I think it is just another creative way of working with clients at a time when most of them are busy, they've set new years’ resolutions (that often are broken by now) and planning to make major changes in their lives, which suggests that things are really not going well.  The reality is, we have all spent the last year growing, learning and experiencing a variety of things.  Hopefully, we have ended up with more information about what we want, what we don’t want and are feeling fairly clear after a nice rest and reset that Xmas and New Year can often give us.  Choosing two words keeps it nice and simple, creates a feeling of control and gives us clarity around what we need most. 

What are your two words?  How do they apply to your life?  How can you bring more of those two elements into your world?  Share this with your clients.  Have fun with them as you invite them to do the same. Spend time talking about what those words mean for your clients.  Coaching does not always have to be delving into the dark stuff.  There is always room for laughter and lightness; for fun and anticipation; for a sense of the unknown whilst feeling grounded in who we are and what we stand for. 

Go lightly into the rest of 2017 and make it a wonderful year. 

Why Measure Happiness?



We often use the terms wellbeing and life satisfaction in favour of the sometimes wrongly interpreted label of “happiness”, yet there is no getting away from the fact that happier people do better in life – on many fronts! But first, how do we measure happiness? There are two commons ways of measuring “happiness” – firstly, subjective wellbeing – people are asked about the degree of life satisfaction they experience and this is matched with a high level of positive emotions and a low level of negative emotions. This is more about a snapshot at any one time. The second way is of a more enduring measure – how much fulfillment we are getting from our relationships, how much meaning we are experiencing in our life and whether we feel we are developing as a person. 

So when we have this “score” what correlating relationships do we then look for?  Well, research has shown that happier people experience the following:

  • Greater productivity at work;
  • Greater creativity;
  • Higher earning and better jobs;
  • More likely to be leaders;
  • More satisfying relationships;
  • Better overall health;
  • More likely to be helpful and generous.
Sonja Lyubomirsky presented at a Coaching conference in September this year and emphasised that the research also showed that happier people tend to be more focused on others, and sadder people more focused on self.  We might question which comes first, for example, if we are not experiencing good health, then surely we will be unhappier.  However, Sonja described a study which exposed people to the cold virus (after measuring their happiness levels).  The virus was actually injected into their nasal passages. And guess what? The happier people were less likely to develop a cold. This gives weight to the notion that happiness is the cause rather than the effect of all these other positive factors.  

So we know that around 40% of our overall happiness can be influenced by the activities we do.  (The other 60% is either genetically determined – 50%, or linked to our circumstances.)  What are those activities?   Well there are many but here are a few tried and tested:

  • Express gratitude;
  • Be physically active;
  • Be mindful and savour experiences;
  • Practice forgiveness;
  • Set life goals;
  • Perform acts of kindness (make someone else happier).
The important thing also to note is that the activity needs to be a good “fit” for the individual. It needs to fit your personality, culture, and even strengths and what might work well for one person may not work for another. We need to remember this when working with clients and at times help them find the source of their unhappiness and come up with an activity that will counteract this.

The Tail of a Wild Dog


It's February!  How did that  happen we ask ourselves?  Weren't we just looking at the first page of our fresh and new diary, thinking what a glorious feeling it was that the year had yet to unfold and what possibilities lay ahead?


Then suddenly, it's February.  I asked a colleague how her week was going the other day.  She responded with, "I feel like I'm hanging on to the tail of a wild dog!" That made me smile as I recognised the feeling.  And I know for a fact that I am not alone.


So why is this one of the most often cited reasons for people feeling, well, less than perfectly in control?  This sense that life races ahead and unless we hang on tight, we get left behind. I have two Labradors. On our morning walk to the park, they are also like wild dogs. After a run, they are calm, well-behaved and willing to be gently led to the next activity.  I want my life to look like that. Calm, obedient, good looking and satisfying!


We could list the many reasons why life today is this chaotic and demanding.  Technology; expectations (our own and others), distractions and multiple roles to mention a few. We need to manage time better. Or do we? Perhaps managing priorities and even our energy is a better place to start?  

Priority Management

How often do people say, "I have no time to exercise"?  Of course, they do.  It's just that exercise is a lower priority than the other things in their life.  And we all have that choice.  If we ask ourselves the simple questions:

What do I want more of?

What do I want less of?

The answers will be revealing.  The things that get in the way will be competing priorities.  What counts is  how much you want that missing aspect of your life.  How  much do you value it?  Worth spending some time thinking about that.


Energy Management

Then there's this question of exhaustion, or simply feeling too flat to be bothered. Try asking:

  • What gives me energy and what drains me?

    When am I at my best? 

With a bit of careful planning it is possible to organise our day so that we play to our strengths. If you do you best thinking in the early morning make sure you have a way to record your ideas. If your energy is low in the mid afternoon, perhaps plan to do mundane tasks that don't require much thought. Or find a way of boosting it by slotting in exercise at a time that gives a flow on effect. Don't leave the things you hate doing for the time you feel the least motivation to do anything! Take time out to work out how your natural energy flows.


Time Management
We can't make 24 hours any longer than it is.  But what we can do is ensure that we get the maximum result from the time we spend on a task/project.

Mind Management


To do this we have to organise our mind rather than live to the clock.  Margaret Moore writes of the six Rules of Order in her latest book "Organising your Mind, Organising your Life" and she stresses the need for developing the ability to focus and cut out distractions at appropriate times.  On the flip side, we also need to cultivate the ability to switch tasks without getting flustered and annoyed.  Very often our emotional state prevents us from being at our best and neuroscience shows that our thoughts can in fact calm the pre-frontal cortex - the part of our brain that  produces emotions that can sweep us along in a positive, or sometimes negative way.  Panic, anxiety, frustration all work against our working in a  relaxed steady state.  If we can start to recognise what patterns we fall into that make that dog run (the one we are trying to hold onto), we can then begin to retrain our brains and regain control.

Wellness Coaching is a rapidly growing field


Contrary to what people think, poor lifestyle habits do not stop at what we ingest, whether we move enough and what tine we go to bed.   Instead we are working with people at a deeper level to help them be more better performers, have more peace of mind, improve the quality of their relationships etc.  Together we set not only physical goals, but mental ones as well.  Exercise, nutrition, managing thoughts and emotions become the tools to create change and much of our work focuses on helping people work out what they want and why they want it and then understanding  why it is difficult to achieve.


This realisation is spreading through the health, fitness and wellness industries and very quickly into the corporate world where the main measure of success has always been financial return on investment.  What is happening now is that companies are recognising that what goes into creating this success is a multitude of factors, many of them concerning the people who work in the organisation and their level of satisfaction or "wellness".  





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