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Surviving the overwhelm roller coaster

Ever feel like you’re on a roller coaster that won’t stop?

I can’t decide if the last 3 weeks feels like 3 years or 3 minutes – or both rolled up into one.

All I know I is from starting up Coach GP in February, life has absolutely snowballed- or something.

It’s true it’s good to be busy – but it feels like I have no time to breathe between clients to prepare for and see, meetings with colleagues, probono work, projects to research and complete – oh yeah and FAMILY (who are they again?)…

Must be time to practice what I preach and engage in some serious self care

So here’s my very public plan:

1. Get enough sleep. Sleep is good.

2. Keep moving. It’s good to use up excess energy in physical activity

3. Breathe

4. Focus on what I’m doing right now and only that. If I’m not working on it-it doesn’t exist.

5. Find opportunities to laugh and be kind

6. Have time out every day

7. Be grateful- being too busy is far preferable to boredom

8. Connect with people who give me joy and touch my heart

9. Remember my meaning and purpose in all of this

10. Focus on process and let go of the outcomes (which are not in my control)

11. I forgot what 11 is – so it must mean to write things down so I don’t need to clutter my head with remembering things to do

12. Have faith and trust in myself that I can do this – I can cope- in fact I can do far more than I think

13. Ask for help (of whatever sort) – no need for me to be a hero or a martyr about this

14. Blog – writing is therapeutic and calming for me.

15. Remind myself to do all of the above.

That should do it I think to keep the stress under control and ensure I’m in the best possible place to get all this done.

So that’s my strategy to getting through this intact. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

What do you do to survive overwhelm??

Like a phoenix we rise

Some thoughts for all the people across the world who are in pain…

The forces beyond our control

Push us

Push us

Relentless

Toss us around

Lift our feet off the ground

Till we land in a new dimension that bears no relation to Kansas

And we

Caught up in a sea of emotions

Trapped in the eddies of disturbed space time

Knowing nothing more than our broken heartedness

Our brokenness

And what can we do but sit among the shattered pieces of life we thought we knew

That life

The one we had in the past we can but grieve it

And grieve it we must

Honour it as a testament that can never be taken from us – but remains ours eternally

And what of our dreams and foolish fantasies of the life we thought we’d have

We ought to have

The way things would have been

Should have been

Could have been

Only now can never be

And so like a Phoenix we rise

Out of the broken bits of ourselves

And hold each piece up to the light until they begin to glow with an as yet unseen light

A light that connects the remembered past with the unknown future through the prism of now

And as you look into the light you see in yourself a strength you never knew you had.

And a world that needs you more than ever.

Sorry, not everything is DIY

Autonomy, self-sufficiency, independence are highly valued in our society. Not only is doing things for ourselves seen as practical, but we think we can save money and get as good a result as if we paid a professional. There’s also a sense of moral high ground about doing things for ourselves – as if people who ask or pay for help are needy, dependent or just plain lazy.

We have whole hardware stores and YouTube channels set up on the idea of DIY. It’s as if a quick video and we are ready to conquer the world. And yes, I confess that I built this website myself (along with associated headaches) using one of the popular DIY platforms – and for professional web designers it probably shows.

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You too can build your own website…aarrgghh

When it comes to wellbeing the ‘self help’ industry is worth billions of dollars each year. That’s right billions. It’s hard to find the exact data – but probably at least $10 billion in the US alone if Google can be relied on.

I have contributed to some of that revenue – I’ve lost track of how many self-help books I’ve bought over the years. Each one promising to deliver me quickly and assuredly to some form of happiness – which is the promise many people are really buying when they look to self-help for personal or professional development.

But hands-on-hearts – how many of us really go through an entire book on our own, do every exercise and feel that has resolves all our problems and created real and lasting change? I confess to being a bit of a self-help failure in this regard despite the number of books I own – and I suspect I’m not alone.

Where ‘self-help’ goes wrong

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Oopppsss

It’s true, empowerment and autonomy are very important for our mental health and wellbeing. The self-help industry of course capitalises on this and sells us the idea that autonomy is all we need. That armed with no more than a book, app or video we can change every habit, fix every flaw, become a kind of resilient and happy superhuman – all from the safety and privacy of our own living room. But it’s just not true.

It’s not true for web building – and it’s not true for personal development and behaviour change. What us self-helpers consistently forget is the need for other people and the wisdom they bring and that’s why it can’t live up to the promises it makes.

One thing to build a bit of a clunky website – I can see where it’s not doing what I wanted it to do – and eventually will call for expert help. But for personal development and change its a different story – because we simply cant see our own blindspots. No matter how well we know ourselves, there are things about our own functioning and wellbeing that we just can’t see.

Don’t get me wrong – independence is a good thing. For sure, that’s what we spend our adolescence and early adulthood learning. But independence has its limits where we reach of the edge of our understanding. It reaches its limits when we suffer in stoic silence for fear of being seen as weak for the mere act of asking for help.

The ‘right’ type of self-help

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Are you blind to your own blindspots?

Asking for help and needing help does not mean we are helpless. But it does mean we are human.

The truth is we just don’t know what we don’t know. And we most certainly cannot see our own blind spots – in fact we are often blind to our blind spots being there. And, being human, we are prone to bias when it comes to assessing our strengths or situation.

We really need the wisdom of others to help us see what we can’t see alone. To hold a mirror up to us so we can see around hidden corners of our psyches and souls. And that’s why asking for help shows our strength and courage and wisdom.

The true task of adulthood is not in learning to be as independent as we can – but learning the art of interdependence – and acknowledging with a growing humility that we cannot do everything by ourselves without input from others.

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Talk it through you must…

So here’s my suggested road map for change

First think everything through to the best of your ability.

Then talk the issue out with someone else – friends, family, coach, counsellor, or psychologist. But talk it through you must.

Be smart about who you ask for help. Choose somebody who: you trust; has your best interests at heart, is unbiased and can set their own needs to the side; takes the time to listen to your perspective and understand that with respect and compassion; brings their whole self to helping you – not in a way of fixing – but in way of providing a service to you; can see the big picture and the details; can help you develop your ideas; can keep your confidentiality; will empower you to make your own decisions and truly help yourself

Only then create an action plan and make sure you know what success looks like – and how you will monitor how you are going.

Then pause. Before  you get started wait a little, sleep on it a bit. And then think everything through again. Making changes takes commitment and not only changes you – but changes the world. So you want to give yourself the best chances of success.

Now you are ready to get started on carrying out what’s in your action plan and monitor how you are going and make needed changes.

So go ahead – buy self-help books, download apps or whatever … but talk it through with someone first…then you’ll know you’re on the right path to change. Where the thoughtfulness you bring can be seen in your actions. And where all the thought and talk in the world are turned from dreams into reality.

From GP to Coach…to Both. How ‘Coach GP’ was born

It was 2001 – I’d already been a doctor for 7 years, was working in General Practice and enrolled in the RACGP training program. And I was not happy. Nothing about standard general practice felt right to me. And I didn’t know what to do. When I looked around at all the traditional specialty pathways none of them felt right either.

To be honest – leaving medicine at that point was very tempting. But I did feel a sense of responsibility to use my training and experience to improve health -and to give back to society which had, after all, supported and subsidised my training.

But what to do????

So, a bit like Goldilocks, I embarked on an exploration trying to find something that was ‘just right’.

I did a lot of medical writing for a whole range of organisations (and I still do that and have a successful health and medical writing consultancy) – but as wonderful as writing is, there was always something nagging at me that I could be (should be) doing more to fulfil my potential and responsibility. Something unique I had to offer.

I did a public health degree and worked for close to a decade in helping hospitals improve their quality use of medicines. It was here I started to realise the importance of involving people themselves in their own healthcare that would improve quality, safety and health outcomes.

And then I moved on to Bupa where I became more immersed in the concepts of shared decision making slowly moving away from the concept of doctor as the expert to the idea that shared expertise between doctors and patients was truly needed to help people better manage their health.

But it wasn’t until I hired a coach for myself that I started to tie all this together a build a vision for my own unique contribution to health.

Not one to do anything by half, I enrolled in one coaching degree – and then another and at the time of writing have almost completed my MSc in coaching psychology. With coaching I had found a positive, future-solution-strengths focused way of being that I wish I’d known about as a junior doctor and that we’d learned about in medical school. Here, all of a sudden was an evidence-based way of helping people function better, reach goals, manage stress, build wellbeing and positive mental health.

So I started coaching doctors in managing their careers – and providing others with the type of support I wish I’d had decades ago. I hadn’t been so happy at work in a long time. I was starting to feel like I’d finally found my thing.

It wasn’t until a close family member was diagnosed with a chronic disease that I realised how helpful coaching methods were in helping me cope with and manage the sudden changes in life – the identity challenges and shifts in family functioning that come with chronic disease.

And so my idea of Coach GP was born – I could bring together my knowledge of medicine, coaching and life experience to help people become more empowered in the choices they make for health, work and overall life.

This, finally, was ‘just right’ for me.

So you’ve heard of coaching – but what is it anyway? And does it really work?

Just the other day I was challenged by another doctor that coaching is not evidence-based and that I’m convincing people to buy a service that’s no better than snake oil. This to me is the equivalent of being called a charlatan.

However, it’s not a bad question to ask because coaching is not regulated and anybody can say they are coach.

So, for the curious or skeptical, I thought I’d address here what coaching is, who it can help, the evidence behind it, similarities and differences to therapy, my qualifications to provide coaching.

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What is coaching anyway?

There are many different definitions of coaching as it is a new and rapidly evolving discipline that is not yet regulated. However, most definitions have a number of elements broadly as follows (1):

Coaching is a unique discipline drawn from elements of therapy, mentoring and consulting – however these are put together in a way where coaching has quite a different ‘flavour’ to the disciplines it has emerged from.

Importantly, coaching is NOT therapy and is not designed to directly ‘fix’ psychological problems or directly manage distressing symptoms. Rather, coaching is focused outwards and designed to help people set goals and create positive and purposeful change through developing new insights and actively experimenting on new ways of being in the world. Depending on the training of the coach it utilises well researched and established theories and methodologies grounded in psychological and behavioral science. This is known as ‘evidence-based’ coaching.

Studies consistently show evidence-based coaching helps people better manage stress, reduce anxiety and improve mood as well as have a greater feeling of wellbeing. Therefore, even though coaching is not therapy, evidence-based coaching can end up being therapeutic with a common ‘side-effect’ of improved psychological functioning.

OK – got that! So what is coaching for health and wellbeing?

Coaching for health and wellbeing involves (2):

  • Client directed goal-setting – as my client you are firmly in the drivers’ seat and you set the agenda
  • Conversation to build self-discovery and new insights into self and the world that can inform change and new ways of acting and being in the worlds
  • Building the appropriate knowledge and skills needed to meet your goals
  • Development of self-management and accountability to promote sustained change.

hipster-358479_12801.jpgA geeky bit for those who are evidence minded (but still super interesting)

Evidence-based coaching approaches, can help people make behaviour changes and improve health outcomes in people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. (3-6) This is of growing global importance for helping people prevent and managing lifestyle related chronic diseases (3).

Coaching vs Therapy ??

Now, even through I said above coaching is not therapy, the evidence is that coaching can also be appropriate for  helping people manage their mental health (3, 7). And the key here is the word manage.

This is not so much about symptom reduction but as helping people develop and strive for appropriate goals and build things like connectedness, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment – which are things needed for recovery from mental illness and positive mental health. (8-9)  Evidence-based coaching approaches can also be used to support ‘distressed but functional’ people strive towards their goals and build positive mental health in addition to addressing symptoms. (10-11) Remember – Coaching is NOT therapy. It does not seek to replace psychology, psychiatry or general practice. Rather, it can be a great complement to therapy.

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Therefore, in a simplistic way you can consider that the priority of therapy is to help people manage symptoms and as a result people are better equipped to manage life. Whereas the priority of coaching is to help people manage life and as a result symptoms improve.

So perhaps we could say, the end goal is the same – improved health and wellbeing. But the way of getting there is different. Broadly speaking therapy focuses on fixing what is broken, whereas coaching focuses on strengthening what is working well.

Again – remember there are shades of grey and overlap here – but the idea is that just as goulash and curry both contain very similar ingredients, and both can be nutritious and relieve hunger very  – the spices and emphasis on different ingredients and proportions means the end result is a quite different. You couldn’t say one is objectively better than the other – it comes down to personal preference. And so too with coaching.

Who can benefit from coaching?

Coaching can help a broad range of people and may be particularly useful for people who want to try a different way of personal development. It is a real option and pathway for people wanting to improve their wellbeing, manage their health, manage stress and improve coping etc.

It’s also a good option for people who are NOT sick but need help coping with a challenging or distressing life or work situation. What they need is not therapy – but new skills, information and perspectives so that can better manage themselves in that particular situation.

pexels-photo-356086.jpegSo am I qualified to do all this

Well first of all I have been a doctor for nearly 25 years which means I really understand how health conditions affect peoples lives and the physical functioning of the body – and the types of lifestyle changes often required for good health.

Secondly, I have undertaken focused post-graduate study in evidence-based coaching and counselling. This means I have learnt the techniques of coaching along with a sophisticated understanding of motivational and behavioural science of how people function, grow and change. This is critically important for helping people make and sustain healthy lifestyle changes.

Thirdly, I am currently studying meaning-centred therapy (logotherapy) which is a more ‘spiritually’ focused approach.

All this means I can tie physical, psychological and ‘spiritual’ health together and see people as a whole – rather than just focusing on one part.

I fundamentally believe that you are the expert in your own life and my goal as coach is to to empower you to take charge of your health, work and life – so you can build a positively healthy life. My role is to create a safe and trusting space and provide options, tools and frameworks for you to explore, question and grow.

Intrigued and interested? Want to know more?

Contact me to book your first session now. 

 

References: 

  1. Grant AM. An integrated model of goal-focused coaching: An evidence-based framework for teaching and practice. International Coaching Psychology Review. 2012;7(2):146-65.
  2. Wolever, R. Q., Simmons, L. A., Sforzo, G. A., Dill, D., Kaye, M., Bechard, E. M., . . . Yang, N. (2013). A Systematic Review of the Literature on Health and Wellness Coaching: Defining a Key Behavioral intervention in Healthcare. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2(4), 38-57.
  3. Moore, M., & Jackson, E. (2014). Health and wellness coaching. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (Second ed.). London: SAGE Publications.
  4. Newnham-Kanas, C., Morrow, D., & Irwin, J. D. (2010). Motivational Coaching: A Functional Juxtaposition of Three Methods for Health Behaviour Change: Motivational Interviewing, Coaching, and Skilled Helping. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring, 8(2), 27-48.
  5. Olsen, J. M., & Nesbitt, B. J. (2010). Health Coaching to Improve Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors: An Integrative Review. American Journal of Health Promotion, 25(1), e1-e12.
  6. Wennberg, D. E., Marr, A., Lang, L., O’Malley, S., & Bennett, G. (2010). A Randomized Trial of a Telephone Care-Management Strategy. The New England Journal of Medicine, 363(13), 1245-1255.
  7. Oades, L., Crowe, T., & Nguyen, M. (2009). Leadership coaching transforming mental health systems from the inside out: The Collaborative Recovery Model as person-centred strengths based coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 4(1), 25-36.
  8. Andresen, R., Oades, L., & Caputi, P. (2011). Psychological Recovery: Beyond Mental Illness. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell
  9. Leamy, M., Bird, V., Le Boutillier, C., Williams, J., & Slade, M. (2011). Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 199(6), 445-452.
  10. Grant, A (2007). A model of goal striving and mental health for coaching populations. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2(3), 248-262.
  11. Keyes, C. (2003). Complete Mental Health: An Agenda for the 21st Century. In C. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.