Recently while on a run, I was processing my frustration over changes that have been forced upon my life by the pandemic. The longevity of the quarantine is taking its toll on the strongest among us and I was nearing my own breaking point.
As I ran along the dirt trail near my house, I remembered the book Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss that I had read to my kids many times. I could see a specific page in my mind and I could hear my own voice reading the words: “The Waiting Place… for people just waiting… waiting for the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, waiting for a Yes or No, waiting for their hair to grow….Everyone is just waiting.”
I could see my stubborn self in my mind’s eye: holding my breath and waiting, doing my best not to think too much or feel too much.
Committing to Living Your Best During the Pandemic
During this perpetual pause, we are collectively holding our breath and waiting. We have been doing this for months now and it’s not working. We are stressed, depressed and utterly numb. This unhealthy waiting place is taking a toll on our minds and bodies.
With the longevity of the pandemic looming out before us, it may be time to stop waiting and start figuring out how to live abundant, healthy lives inside the new normal. Even if that means embracing the stuff that sucks, sitting with the discomfort of the losses, pain and lack of control, and finding a new path forward that rekindles the thrill of living.
A new perspective may be just the catalyst you need for change. With this in mind, I’d like to explore four game-changing reasons to hire a wellness coach that will revolutionize the way you approach transformation, giving you your life back.
Coaching Reason#1: Commit to Live Your Life
Commitment, not choice. Making the commitment to live your life is more powerful than simply making a choice. Choice is a decision between pizza or salad, but commitment is willfully aligning yourself to what matters most to you. It means saying yes to what brings a full and healthy life, while also saying no to the things that don’t work anymore. It’s easy to rush into commitment and to forget that with every yes, we are also accepting an impending no.
I often ask my clients, “And now what will you be saying no to?”
Say yes to living. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t say yes to living. They drone on in a partial existence choosing between things of lesser importance without committing to a path that leads to health and fulfillment. They pretend to be living on the outside when they are literally dying on the inside.
Producing an amazing life on the outside is grounded in healing your life on the inside.
You Have to Inhale Before You Can Exhale
I often remind my clients that they have to inhale before they can exhale.
Highly productive, resilient, creative people come to me for coaching in mid-life when they have repeatedly tried and failed at overcoming their health-related challenges. Or they are buckling under the stress of poor work/life balance.
They are caught in the cycle of meaninglessly choosing between pizza and salad, and they’ve lost touch with the power of keeping their commitment to themselves.
These same successful, tenacious individuals feel hopeless, defeated, and stuck trying to make changes in this particular area of their lives because the demands of committing to good health don’t align with their current lifestyle. In many cases, their fear is mounting and their prescriptions are multiplying because they have received a medical diagnosis like diabetes or heart disease.
As time marches on, their health becomes increasingly burdensome and even begins to feel out of control. Fear is building because they lack confidence in their ability to turn around their failing health .
I honor these courageous clients and I understand that there are many obstacles that get in the way when it comes time to make life altering changes. Rather than talking about all of these obstacles, I am going to go straight to the biggest one.
The Most Profound and Inescapable Obstacle to Living a Healthy Lifestyle Is Dying!
Yes, I am stating the obvious, but you can’t live a great life if you aren’t here! In fact, research suggests that even with the threat of dying, nine out of ten people don’t change their lifestyle. More than 60 billion dollars a year are spent on patients undergoing painful and traumatic coronary bypass graft or angioplasty procedures that can cost upwards of $100,000 to the patient.
What is stunning is that in only 3% of cases, will these expensive and difficult procedures shield patients from future heart attacks and prolong their lives. In fact, two years after having heart surgery, ninety percent of these folks have not made lifestyle changes.
A vast majority of the U.S. healthcare budget is consumed by conditions that are “behavioral,” which means people are sick because of how they are living their lives. these illnesses are referred to as “lifestyle-related diseases.” Dr. Raphael Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, said that “eighty percent of our health care budget is consumed by five behavioral issues.”
What are the five behavioral issues that could be eroding your life?
Too much smoking, drinking, eating, and stress and too little exercise.
People are dying because they have stopped living. Look around the COVID world and notice the increase in stress, depression and anxiety that are directly linked to the “go-to numbing behaviors” of smoking, drinking, and eating.
When we are in stress, depression, and anxiety, regular exercise seems daunting. Numbing is a faux escape from stress, pain, and the prevalent loss of control many of us are feeling in a global pandemic. Numbing is a quick fix tethered to a false sense of control.
The problem is that we can’t selectively numb; we numb all the bad AND the good.
Numbing comes at a price. You stop feeling, thinking, and passionately living your life. In the volley to balance this numbed-out state, we stimulate our senses with caffeine and sugar. We stretch our bodies, like tight rubber bands, across the inexhaustible tension between the demanding highs and lows of both wanting to feel something and wanting to feel nothing–all at once, in the very same day.
Maybe this sounds familiar to you: At 8am you ask caffeine to make you feel alive and productive and at 6pm you ask alcohol to make you stop thinking and feeling.
Yes, it’s okay to have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. I am honoring what we all know—that these chemicals aren’t beneficial coping mechanisms to get through the day. There is a vast difference between enjoying a glass of wine with dinner and having half a bottle or more to quiet your COVID stress.
The problem lies in the excess paired with the motivation to numb out. This daily tug-o-war separates us from what our bodies truly need, pushing our minds and bodies further out of alignment. This tension is literally killing us.
I have learned from experience in coaching many clients that the biggest obstacle between you and optimal health is your willingness to focus your energy on living well, rather than exhausting your precious resources on numbing out your life.
Coaching Reason#2: First “Be” Then “Do”
If your first response to living your life well is to make a list of behavioral changes, like go on a diet, exercise more, or do a daily meditation, then you’re normal. It’s true that what does prolong your years and bring lasting change are simple and essential lifestyle changes, such as eating good food, not drinking and smoking, reducing stress, and moving your body in exercise. But knowing that and doing them consistently and successfully are two vastly different things. Hence, one of the more motivating reasons to hire a wellness coach!
Living begins in your heart and head. Lasting change, life balance, and personal fulfillment begin in the heart and mind before you jump into action. Actions, strategies, goals, and behaviors are what you DO when you want to make lifestyle changes. What is often overlooked is who you are at your core; what you really want, what you need, and what you value.
Get clear on what you want. Before you take off on an expedition to passionately live your life, coaching brings clarity to where you are going and how you plan to get there. We start with your heart and your head before we jump into action.
I often ask clients,“If you woke up tomorrow and the weight/disease was no longer an issue, who would you be? What would change for you and what would remain the same?”
Recently, after posing that question, a new client responded: “I don’t want to talk about my life. All I care about is losing this weight. Just tell me what to do and I will do it.”
Many people want solutions and quick fixes, especially when it comes to health-related changes. This plea for help is driven by cultural norms that suggest that success is hinged on how well you can do what needs to be done. It’s only natural to assume that the solutions are based in an action, like a diet, a cleanse, a detox, an exercise routine, a cooking class, an app, a pill, and in severe cases, a complex and expensive weight loss surgery.
Actions and behaviors are necessary and life-changing, and they absolutely will save your life! What I am saying is that, in every case, jumping into action before you have your heart and your head on board is like getting into the driver’s seat and letting your fear punch the gas before you were clear on exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there.
How many times have you plunged into action, ignoring your heart and your head, only to have your determination to revolutionize your health fizzle out and disappear?
This loss of momentum isn’t because you aren’t strong, disciplined, or capable. You were speeding on the road to nowhere and eventually you conceded to being lost and gave up.
Reconnect with who you are. In wellness coaching, we work together to map out your path to successful lifestyle changes by getting crystal clear on who you are now by reconnecting you to your strengths, your pride, your deepest assets and values, and your abundant internal resources. We look at where you’ve already been successful, and how you got there.
Coaching Reason#3: Learn to Be with Yourself
Look inside not outside. When change is necessary, vital, and even life-threatening, the first place many people turn for solutions is outside of themselves. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if a pill, a supplement, or a diet would be the golden ticket to their transformation, I would be wealthy!
When something isn’t working inside your body, as in the case of lifestyle-related diseases, many folks begin a frantic search outside of their bodies for a solution. In fact, the most valuable tools for change already exist inside of you.
Sit with the discomfort of your pain. Being inside yourself looking for answers means sitting with the shame, pain, loss, and discomfort that you’ve been numbing for so long. Embracing your messy parts and being with them doesn’t mean you’re broken—it means your human.
Part of our shared humanity is embracing the mess, our own mess, without beating ourselves up with shame and judgement. Working with a therapist to heal past trauma while working with a coach to create a vibrant future is an amazing way to start feeling alive again and embracing what it means to live and be human.
One of the Best Reasons to Hire a Wellness Coach: Unleash Your Motivation to Live
Fear is not motivation. Clients often come to me knowing the cold, hard “facts” about their health condition. In a desperate attempt to motivate them, their doctor has hit them with the fear of what might happen if they don’t turn their health around.
For example, many of my clients have Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), or pre-diabetes. They often know that this diabetes diagnosis will take an average of seven years off their life span and that the treatment for T2D is oral medication, then eventually insulin. They seek out my wellness practice because they have realized that even with all of the treatments, unless they lose the excess weight, they are going to resign their quality of life to the complications of diabetes.
Fear, force and facts are not going to produce meaningful change.
At times like this, when a client asks for clarification, I occasionally put on my “teaching hat” to fill in the gaps of what they don’t yet understand.
Teaching the realities around disease might incite some fear, but using that fear to force a person into action is a mistake and it doesn’t work. Fear of dying will motivate people for a time, but more often than not, this gripping motivation will become hazy with time.
Connect with what makes you feel alive. Uncovering deep motivation is a transformative reason to hire a wellness coach. In my sessions, we work together to discover what thrills you, what makes you feel alive, what you look forward to, and what you long for. This clarity unleashes your power to live your life.
The compelling force of your own vision provides your primary momentum that has previously been dulled by numbing and disconnection. Uncovering new motivation is energizing, expansive, and freeing while simultaneously tapping into the life-giving resources of your creativity and problems solving skills.
My biggest discovery as a wellness coach is realizing that people aren’t motivated by dying, but they are motivated by living!
Attach to your big picture. In order for actions to have consistency and meaning, they need to be attached to your big picture. This isn’t manufactured out of fear, but has evolved from the foundation of who you are at your core. Your big picture is created by you and is drawn from your essence: your personality, your strengths, your values, your dreams, and your deepest desires.
The work of wellness coaching includes exploring these four solutions before you plunge into a list of to-dos, thus avoiding the common and costly mistakes of putting actions into place before doing the work in your heart and mind.
When your heart and mind are on board, you have the freedom to commit to the courageous challenge of living well, both on the inside and on the outside.
You can stop waiting, stop holding your breath, and live in a way that is beautiful, healthy and thrilling! You can begin to say no to things that are robbing you of your life. You can get your heart, head and body into alignment, all moving towards the same goal with a clear motivation and purpose. You can embrace that the path forward is messy but you know you have what it takes to get up each time you fall.
Inhale. Feel the life in your lungs and commit to live it.
Cathy Dunford is a certified Health and Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer. Her approach to coaching is centered on meeting the unique needs of each individual client to bring about improved health, greater life satisfaction, and work/life balance. She utilizes her extensive background in health and wellness, paired with coaching psychology methods from Harvard Health, to define her holistic approach. Her coaching is grounded by the latest research in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry models, self-determination theory, and emotional intelligence.