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E#207 Sleep Hacks for Insomniacs

Sleep Hacks for Insomniacs

If you’re like me, sleep can be hit and miss at times and getting enough sleep can become a drain that affects your performance and productivity. In this episode, we’ll cover a few sleep hacks recommended by leading neurobiologists that can help you to improve your chance of falling asleep and staying asleep.

In the last episode of this podcast, we discussed sleep chronobiology and its impact on health and wellbeing, along with a few simple tips to identify your chronobiology and how to align your routines to your personal type.

Now let’s get specific with some hacks! Many recent (2022) journal articles have revealed how ocular light exposure – that is, light entering the eyes – affects our circadian rhythms and sleep, endocrine function, and cognitive function, which in turn influence human health and wellbeing.

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* Evening sleep hacks for winding down at night
* Sleep hacks for falling asleep and staying asleep
* Tips for setting your sleep clock

This conversation is partly based around “melanopic light”, which describes the way that blue light frequencies restrict melatonin production in your body until after dusk, after which time melatonin washes through the body to help you sleep.

The recent advances in our understanding of the relationship between light exposure and sleep have led to the development of new standards and practices. By understanding how different light sources and timing of exposure work, neurobiologists have been able to develop recommendations for improving sleep quality and quantity.

Let’s take a look at some of the hacks that you can use, for free, to improve your sleep.

Evening sleep hacks for winding down

An interesting hack is the recommendation for morning sun exposure (outdoors) which can mitigate any undesirable effects of indoor light exposure (during the day and at night), so that you can wind down more easily and sleep better.

We also need to dim the lights in our houses. Recent advances in our understanding of circadian rhythms means that light manufacturers have been able to produce blue light components so that artificial lighting systems in our homes and offices are very similar to actual daylight.

But while this is great for productivity during the day, it is not so good at night when we want to wind down and fall asleep. In that sense, after sunset, the experts recommend dimming the lights in your home, in the evening at least 3 hours before bedtime. This reduces the amount of light entering your eyes and helps allow the melatonin wash to occur.

This also applies to electronic devices. Televisions, computer screens, tablets or mobile phones all emit blue light and are often close to your eyes, so turning off in the around sunset might help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

While we’re talking about sunset, one interesting study showed that when you couple daytime outdoor light exposure with early evening light exposure (e.g. sunset), it can help to decrease the sleep disruptive effects of nighttime light exposure.

And if you have bright lights on late at night, you will suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps you relax and feel sleepy, which obviously affects your quality and duration of sleep.

Aside from light, there are other things that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Food and exercise can affect your ability to fall asleep.

People who are early risers (see episode 206) might do better with an earlier dinner, exercising earlier in the day, and minimising socialising at night so as not to disrupt sleep.

In contrast, people who are night owls (see episode 206) could eat later without disrupting sleep but might need a lighter dinner, and to finish exercise before 7pm so as not to disrupt sleep.

Otherwise, and more generally, alcohol intake at night might help you fall asleep but might wake you up between 1 – 3am.

For some people, a high-carb meal (more specifically, higher in simple carbs) might delay sleep onset – in other words, it takes longer to fall asleep – or cause them to wake up hungry.

Similarly, caffeine or other stimulants after 3pm might disrupt sleep in some people, as it takes 3 – 15 hours to metabolise and excrete caffeine.

A heavy meal at night or overeating at night often disrupts sleep. Either can cause indigestion, heartburn, or simple discomfort before bed or during sleep. That’s because, during sleep, our digestive processes slow down but can also create competition for resources in the body if you have an undigested meal in your stomach.

Eating a heavy meal or too much food may cause you to wake up the next day without an appetite or even feeling heavy or sluggish because you’re still working through last night’s meal.

The remedy for this is simple – and twofold:

1. it takes around 4 hours to digest a meal, so finish eating at least 3 hours before you go to bed, and

2. eat a lighter meal before bed with lots of vegetables, and the right amount of complex carbs, fats and/or proteins for your HealthType.

Sleep hacks for falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up energized

The science shows that inadequate daytime light exposure is as detrimental as too much electric light exposure at night, with both of these having adverse effects on your sleep, circadian rhythms and health outcomes.

So, in order to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, the experts recommend that you get outdoors and get daytime light exposure within 30 – 60 minutes of waking up, if possible during the day, and also around sunset.

During the day (before sunset), aim for at least 2.5 hours of bright light exposure including your early morning exposure, and another hour in the late afternoon or evening.

In terms of light exposure while you’re asleep, the experts recommend that your sleep environment is as dark as possible. If you do need to get up for the bathroom during the night, the recommended

maximum exposure to light is 10 lux (which is a unit of measure of light). You can download an app on your phone that measures light as a rough guide to help you determine exposure.

That aside, anxiety and worry can add to sleep issues. I have discussed this extensively in other episodes but it’s worth mentioning here – get some help, keep a worry diary and/or get on top of your task list to help you sleep easy at night.

Having some light, fun activities that aren’t too stimulating in the early evening can help you switch off!

Shift workers – a special case

Light exposure for shift workers is still an area of study and a challenge that neurobiologists haven’t yet been able to solve.

At this time, there is evidence that increasing melanopic light levels at work (e.g. office lighting) can improve alertness, as measured subjectively (e.g. questionnaire) and/or objectively, but this requires further study in the shift work population.

In any case, I speculate that even shift workers can create some improvements in sleep, and we will look at that in another episode in more detail.

For now, let’s assume that eating and exercise can be modified to improve the chance of a good night’s sleep, and further, block out curtains and getting the timing of light exposure right might help to create a rhythm that facilitates sleep.

Setting your circadian rhythm

In the previous episode of this podcast I talked about determining your sleep chronotype – in other words – the time you wake up and the time you go to bed. Whether you’re an early riser, a night owl or an in betweener, being consistent with wake and sleep times can help you establish a regular daily light-dark cycle which can further benefit sleep, cognition and health.

And as described earlier in this episode, getting outdoor light exposure soon after waking and again late afternoon can help you to sleep more soundly, and wake refreshed.

Summary

And as described earlier in this episode, getting outdoor light exposure soon after waking and again late afternoon can help you to sleep more soundly, and wake refreshed.

If you want to sleep well, also consider the timing, quantity, and quality of food and exercise in the context of your chronotype – nothing within 3 hours of sleep, and reducing or avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and high glycemic foods or heavy meals.

Think about switching off devices after sunset and dimming your house lights.

There is so much coming out about sleep right now, and today’s summary of research includes a few tips to help you manage your sleep better.

References

Brown TM, Brainard GC, Cajochen C, Czeisler CA, Hanifin JP, et al. (2022) Recommendations for daytime, evening, and nighttime indoor light exposure to best support physiology, sleep, and wakefulness in healthy adults. PLOS Biology 20(3): e3001571. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001571

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E#206 Understanding Sleep Chronotypes

Understanding sleep chronotypes

Are you intrigued by the concept of chronotypes and want to know how it can help you (or your clients) to optimise sleep, performance, health and wellbeing?

Your sleep chronotype indicates whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, and helps you optimise your sleep patterns for better focus, performance and productivity.

As someone in menopause, I want to get rid of night sweats, insomnia and brain fog as well as anxiety and low mood. For me, the research indicates that aligning with my sleep and other chronotypes will help me to reduce or eliminate these pesky symptoms.

I am trained in assessing and understanding chronotypes, so stick around to the end or check the show notes to find out how about a specific test I can help you with, to determine your chronotypes for sleep but also other areas of life like eating, exercise, focused work and so on.

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* What Sleep Chronotypes Are
* Are you a night owl or an early bird?
* Benefits of knowing your sleep chronotype
* Aligning to your sleep chronotype

What Are Sleep Chronotypes?

Feeling tired all the time has a massive impact on your mood, work performance, motivation to exercise, and willingness to get out and socialise.

We hear a lot about sleep hygiene and pre-bed routines to work out how to sleep better, but nobody is talking about chronotypes.

Chronotypes are what make us unique. Specifically, your chronotype is the behavioural manifestation of your circadian rhythm (also known as your ‘body clock’), such as when you prefer to sleep and when you are most alert and energetic.

Your natural rhythm also affects the timing of other events in your body like hormone release, meal timing, exercise timing and bowel movements.

In the dawning era of personalised healthcare, we are realising that the old, general rules like “you must get 8 hours of sleep per night” or “we should go to bed by 9pm” are not true.

The truth is – sleep is personal. You are unique in terms of your sleep needs. Emerging evidence suggests that there is a strong genetic component to sleep chronotypes, and that variations in chronotypes might have evolved in hunter gatherers who took turns sleeping so there was always someone to keep watch.

And once you know your needs, certain elements of your lifestyle affect your sleep and should be considered as part of the solution.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

While there are several quizzes available that can indicate your sleep chronotype, your own personal experience is the key.

It can be challenging to identify your chronotype if your body is ‘out of whack’ for example if you are a shift worker, if you are carrying a sleep debt, or if you are going through menopause or acute stress that is affecting your sleep.

A simple way to work it out is to keep a diary over a week or two, perhaps when you’re on holiday, without work stress, deadlines, over exposure to devices or stressful travel to and from work.

During this holiday time, notice when you naturally feel sleepy and record the time.

Complete your usual pre-bed routine and let yourself fall asleep naturally.

Then in the morning, notice what time you naturally wake up, and record the time.

Over a period of days, without the normal external pressures and influences, you will start to see consistent sleep and wake times, and your natural sleep chronotype will be revealed.

Although we often hear the term night owl or early bird, there are four recognised chronotypes in a quiz by Dr Michael Breus, which are:

1. Lion – the early bird who likes to wake up early and be productive in the morning

2. Bear – accounting for about 55% of the population, their sleep and wake times tend to follow the sun

3. Wolf – the night owl, thought to make up 15% of the population

4. Dolphin – tend to be insomniacs

This is just one chronotype classification systems.

Benefits of knowing your sleep chronotype

If you know your sleep chronotype, you’ll be better able to manage your daily schedule and be alert, productive and focused at the right time.

Imagine of you knew how to structure your day so that you could get things done, get enough rest, feel motivated to exercise, and feel energized and at peace – and then have a good night’s sleep? That’s the power of knowing your sleep chronotype.

Sleep has a huge impact on your appetite, exercise and core temperature, so it also affects your ability to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Various studies show that your chronotype is also associated with some of the ‘Big 5’ personality traits. Lions or early birds (‘morningness’) tend to be associated with conscientiousness and agreeableness, while neuroticism and openness, impulsivity, anger, anxiety and using substances tend to be more common in Wolves or night owls (‘eveningness’). The same studies show that morning people tend to do better in school, and evening people might be better at creative thinking and musicality.

Evening people also tend to be less physically active and sleep less during the week, and more on weekends which can lead to a higher stress response, elevated cortisol levels and a higher resting HR which are risk factors for a variety of sleep, metabolic and mental health concerns.

These are trends, not set in stone, because each person is subject to various external influences that might affect their sleep patterns and overall wellbeing.

Having said that, by aligning your schedule with your chronotype, you will more easily reduce adverse outcomes and be more productive, energized and calm.

Aligning your schedule to your sleep chronotype

Once you know your sleep chronotype, how do you align your schedule so that you can optimise focus, sleep, performance, productivity and recuperation?

While I’ll cover some specific hacks and tips in the next episode, these are some general guidelines to start implementing.

A good starting point is to experiment with going to bed at the time that suits you best, for example, 10pm every night.

Once you establish this time, work backwards and start experimenting with pre-bed routines that will help you have a good night’s sleep and allow you to actually get into bed by this time.

When you have a handle on those two things, your wake-up time should naturally set itself, and you’ll start waking up at a set time every day.

From there, you can work with your energy during the day to adjust your schedule if you can.

For example, early risers might have more energy first thing in the morning and so might do better with exercise, detailed thinking work and any sort of focused action-taking early in the day and could try scheduling those things in the morning if possible. You might also find it better to socialise in the daytime or late afternoon rather than at night as you’ll be winding down.

In contrast, night owls who go to bed later e.g. 11pm might have more energy late in the day, and so could need a more relaxed morning, where you ease into the day slowly, leaving exercise, socialising and intense work for the afternoon and early evening.

If you’re an in-betweener, you may find your energy peak is closer to the middle of the day and could prioritise focused work and exercise from late morning to mid-to-late afternoon.

It may be possible to rearrange your work duties to fit with these frameworks.

A key takeaway is that we are all unique, so experimenting is key as is a need to remove the overlay of stressors, overwork and responsibility that often get in the way of us living our best lives.

Summary

Sleep chronotypes are about more than just optimal bedtime, sleep quality and quantity. By understanding and aligning with your sleep chronotype, you can unlock your full potential in terms of productivity, focus, mental health, motivation to exercise, getting your eating right, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Contact me for support with determining your personal chronotype.

References

David A. Kalmbach, PhD, Logan D. Schneider, MD, Joseph Cheung, MD MS, Sarah J. Bertrand, PhD, Thiruchelvam Kariharan, PhD, Allan I. Pack, MBChB PhD, Philip R. Gehrman, PhD, Genetic Basis of Chronotype in Humans: Insights From Three Landmark GWAS, Sleep, Volume 40, Issue 2, 1 February 2017, zsw048, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsw048

Gjermunds, N., Brechan, I., Johnsen, S.Å.K. and Watten, R.G., 2019. Musicians: Larks, Owls or Hummingbirds?. Journal of Circadian Rhythms, 17(1), p.4. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jcr.173

Tristan Enright & Roberto Refinetti (2017) Chronotype, class times, and academic achievement of university students, Chronobiology International, 34:4, 445-450, DOI: 10.1080/07420528.2017.1281287

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

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E#201 Alcohol and Mental Health

This episode is about alcohol and mental health

Let’s face it – Australia has a drinking culture, which started in colonial times when convicts were partially paid with rum. (1, 2)

Most of us associate drinking alcohol with relaxing, celebrating, sport and ‘fitting in’ with social norms. We might feel that alcohol helps us cope better with stress and anxiety, but is alcohol good for mental health?

How We Think Alcohol Helps

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that drinking alcohol can make you feel calmer and more relaxed. Some people say it helps them manage anxiety in social situations. Others use alcohol to ‘blunt’ their heightened emotions at the end of a stressful day, or to fall asleep easier.

It’s tempting to think that alcohol is helpful, but is it really?

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* How We Think Alcohol Helps
* The Physical and Mental Effects of Alcohol
* Longer Term Impacts of Alcohol Use and Misuse
* Who is Most at Risk of Alcohol-Related Health Issues?
* What We Can Do

The Physical and Mental Effects of Alcohol

While you might feel that alcohol is relaxing you, it’s doing the opposite. There is overwhelming research on the effects of alcohol on mental health and physical health – and the news isn’t good.

A 2021 study shows that binge drinking increases muscle sympathetic nerve activity (fight or flight response), reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, reduces sleep quality overall and increases morning-after blood pressure and heart rate. (3)

In other words, alcohol intake in the evening causes ‘stress’ while you’re sleeping. For example, you might think you fall asleep easily after a few drinks, but then you wake up between 1am and 3am and can’t get back to sleep, or you have ‘night sweats.’

As Head of Growth at Philia Labs,’ I’ve certainly seen these sorts of results in our 2022 data collection studies, in participants who consumed alcohol. Even though they felt more relaxed after drinking, their heart rates were higher and they had a lower amount of deep sleep on the nights they consumed alcohol.

Adding insult to injury, this overnight stress disrupts your body’s natural rest and recovery process that occur during sleep. These processes include physical recovery, blood sugar regulation, brain

detoxification, immune system regulation, learning and emotional processing, and memory consolidation.

And depending on your intake, you might wake up to the symptoms of drinking too much alcohol.

These include elevated heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, irritability, mood swings, lower energy levels, reduced memory, poor focus and impaired work performance.

In other words, you’re starting the next day ‘behind the 8-ball’ in a ‘fight or flight’ state.

Longer Term Impacts of Alcohol Use and Misuse

Research shows that alcohol use and misuse accounts for 3.3 million deaths each year (6% of deaths worldwide) related to accidents, violence, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other diseases. (4, 5)

We also know that mental health tends to have a reciprocal relationship with alcohol. That is, people who are dependent on alcohol are more likely to have mental health issues, and people with mental health issues may drink to self-medicate. (4)

This was reinforced in a cross-sectional study of alcohol intake and mental health during COVID-19 lockdowns. The study found significant links between increased alcohol consumption and poor overall mental health, depressive symptoms and lower mental wellbeing. (6)

The long-term mental health impacts can include increases in aggressive and/or risky behaviours, self-harm, anxiety and depression. (6, 7)

Other risks of alcohol use include the increased chance of having an accident or injuring yourself or others, poorer job performance and negative effects on relationships.

Who is Most at Risk of Alcohol-Related Health Issues?

Certain groups of people may be more likely to drink, or drink more, and therefore be at greater risk of (physical and) mental health problems. Research on US populations (4) shows that:

– men are more likely to drink heavily or binge drink than women,

– Caucasians tend to drink more overall,

– people of higher socio-economic status tend to drink more frequently, and

– lower socioeconomic groups tend to drink larger quantities of alcohol.

Isolation is another risk factor for increased alcohol consumption and related mental health issues, particularly for some age groups.

In 2021, a study of alcohol consumption during COVID-19 lockdown (self-isolation) in the UK showed that increased alcohol consumption was most prevalent in 18–34-year-old people compared with older age groups, and that poorer mental health was significantly related to increased alcohol intake (versus no increase during the study). (6)

Certain work sectors are also in the higher risk category, such as remote mine sites. The fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce experiences stressors including isolation, extreme environments and shift work disorder. Levels of psychological distress are significantly higher compared to the general population (8). Drinking is also part of the mining culture. Recent studies in the FIFO workforce in Australia indicate that the odds of risky and harmful alcohol use are much higher in certain groups (8, 9, 10):

  • males,
  • younger workers,
  • smokers,
  • people working primarily for higher income,
  • working in underground mining (vs open cut)
  • those with previous alcohol and other drug problems
  • those who report psychological distress, and
  • those with a history of anxiety and/or depression.

Advertising, marketing and cultural norms (including in the workplace) all play a role in drinking habits, as do lack of support and exposure to stressors.

What Can We Do?

Alcohol intake is a cultural norm in many countries, and it is linked with a complex array of individual and societal factors. There are several ways we can reduce the impacts of alcohol on health and mental health.

Firstly, education on the risks of drinking and binge drinking is important. Knowing the recommended drinking guidelines is a good starting point to work out whether you have risky drinking behaviour. You can use these yourself or share them with others.

Secondly, being self-aware of your drinking habits and after-effects is important for identifying your own risky behaviours and it might help you feel motivated to change your habits or get some support to do so. There are various levels of support available. Alcoholics Anonymous is one association, but also, several health and wellness coaches offer support and behaviour change for grey-area drinkers – those people who aren’t alcoholics but are concerned about their drinking habits. Sarah Rusbatch in WA is a leader in this area and has a free community. You can also ask a trusted friend, family, mentor or colleague for support.

Workplace culture is another place that can support positive change. A lot of workplaces support, condone or endorse a drinking culture that can be uncomfortable and create pressure for people who don’t want to drink.

As an individual, you can approach your HR department to discuss initiatives, find ambassadors and request support to change the workplace culture. As a business owner, you can review employee behaviour and social drinking norms to look for opportunities to better support your organisation.

Whatever you do, by drinking less, you will feel better for it, you will look better, and you will reduce your risks of chronic and acute disease.

Summary

The message is clear – drinking alcohol can seem to have benefits in certain situations, but the reality is, it’s putting stress on your body that can impact your physical and mental health.

There can be flow on effects to your work performance, career opportunities, relationships, and life satisfaction.

Self-awareness is always the starting point for change, so by understanding the guidelines and reflecting honestly on your own drinking habits, you are better equipped to know whether you need help, and what sort of help you might need to make some positive and more healthful changes.

1. VicHealth. Exploring the Role of Alcohol in Victorians’ Lives. Website accessed 16.6.22

2. Moodie, Prof. R. 2013. A Brief History of Alcohol Consumption in Australia. The Conversation Website, accessed 16.6.22.

3. Greenlund, I.M. et al. 2021. Morning sympathetic activity after evening binge alcohol consumption. Am. J. Phys Heart Circ Phys 310(1), H305-H315.

4. Sunhinaraset, M. 2016. Social and Cultural Contexts of Alcohol Use. Alcohol Res 2016; 38(1); 35-40.

5. Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2021. Every alcoholic drink increases your risk of cancer. Website accessed 16.6.22.

6. Jacob, Louis, et al. Alcohol Use and Mental Health during Covid-19 Lockdown: A Cross-Sectional Study in a Sample of UK Adults. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 219, 2021, pp. 108488–108488., doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108488.

7. Headspace. How does alcohol affect mental health? Headspace website accessed 16.6.22.

8. James, Carole et al. Correlates of psychological distress among workers in the mining industry in remote Australia: Evidence from a multi-site cross-sectional survey. PloS one vol. 13,12 e0209377. 20 Dec. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0209377

9. James, Carole L., et al. Alcohol Consumption in the Australian Mining Industry: The Role of Workplace, Social, and Individual Factors. Workplace Health & Safety, vol. 69, no. 9, Sept. 2021, pp. 423–434, doi:10.1177/21650799211005768.

10. James, Carole et al. Factors associated with patterns of psychological distress, alcohol use and social network among Australian mineworkers. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health vol. 44,5 (2020): 390-396. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.13037

11. Alcohol and Drug Foundation Australia. Australian Alcohol Guidelines. Website accessed 5.7.22.

12. Alcoholics Anonymous. Zoom Meeting attendance information. Website accessed 5.7.22.

13. Sarah Rusbatch – Grey Area Drinking Coach. Website accessed 5.7.22.

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

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E#200 How to Coach Around Nutrition and Eating Habits

This episode is about how to coach around nutrition and eating habits

I was recently asked, ‘how do you coach around nutrition and eating habits without being an expert’? Today I’ll illustrate a few ways to do this with some examples.

When Clients Ask You What They Should Eat

Let’s say a client comes to you and wants to be told what to eat, and whether she should follow a diet plan.

A good starting point is to ask what the client already knows and acknowledge why that matters to them – what is behind this change in eating and how will that impact their life? Their answers may reveal some important values that will help them to create a compelling vision.

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* When Clients Ask You What They Should Eat
* How to Discuss Portion Sizes
* Coaching for Weight Loss

Next, you would explore what they know already about healthy eating. Most clients have a reasonable amount of knowledge – just not how to fit it into their busy lives. But if your client doesn’t know much, you might point them to relevant guidelines, or refer them to a professional who is qualified to help.

The most important thing is that you are not here to educate clients or tell them what to do. Instead, your role is to draw out what your client knows and help them make sense of it, identify any knowledge gaps that require referral, and otherwise help them to create safe and effective goals to achieve their vision.

How to Discuss Portion Sizes

Let’s say your client isn’t clear about portion sizes or serving sizes but sees this as an important part of eating well. How do you tackle that?

Firstly, there are published guidelines on these aspects that you can share with a client. The way to introduce them is to ask permission – would you be interested in looking at the guidelines on portion sizes and serving sizes?

In sharing the information, you can ask the client questions that will raise their self awareness. These might include questions like:

How much of this did you already know?

What surprised you?

What have you learned?

How might you use this information?

What would you like to experiment with?

There is much to be learnt about healthy eating and there is also a lot of mis-information out there. Your job is to support your clients as they consider changes they may to make, provide well documented information when required and step in if they are planning to set goals that are unsafe in any way.

Coaching For Weight Loss

People might want to change their eating habits and diets for many reasons including to reduce arthritis or other inflammatory conditions, to lower blood pressure, or address a chronic illness like type 2 diabetes or an autoimmune condition, or to boost their energy.

But a lot of clients who want to change their eating habits are concerned about weight loss, either as a stand-alone concern, or coupled with one of the other aspects.

So how do you have conversations about plateaus, popular diet trends and supplements?

The starting point is always about finding out what the client knows already, and what their perception is about this area.

What do they know about this diet trend or supplement, it’s safety and efficacy?

Or in the case of a plateau, what do they know about energy balance?

What is attractive about the solution they’ve found?

And what’s behind that?

Often clients are drawn toward things that seem to offer a quick solution to their challenges. Unpacking conversations can reveal underlying fears, concerns or motivators, and awareness of these can lead a client to reasonably assess whether their thought processes are helpful.

If there are any remaining concerns or desires to try certain approaches, you can easily refer a client to a doctor or dietician for more specific advice.

But often, you get the chance to turn the conversation back toward the longer term goals, the sustainable habits they are doing, how they feel about the habits, and also, basic principles about mindful eating and tuning into natural hunger and satiety signals.

You may invite a client to watch their thoughts and/or track their responses to food, any ‘rules’ they set around eating, how they feel in social eating settings, what thoughts they are having about other people’s results etc. In doing this self-reflection, the client can learn the valuable skill of critical thinking to help them work out for themselves if they have legitimate concerns or not.

A little information and some self-reflection can be used to help your clients develop the skill of understanding what their bodies are telling them, so that they can self-regulate their behaviour more easily.

Two key drivers of unhealthy eating habits and weight concerns are stress, and faulty thinking patterns that lead to unhelpful feelings and beliefs. In that sense, while the initial work in weight loss

coaching is around more superficial topics like what to eat and how to get organised, the deeper work for lasting change is around the individual’s ability to set boundaries, manage their lives and their emotions.

Summary

Today I shared three examples of how to coach around nutrition. We covered:

1. What to do if a client wants to be told what to eat

2. How to coach around portion sizes, and

3. Coaching for weight loss including popular diets, supplements and other people’s success.

We’ve only just skimmed the surface of weight loss coaching, but these are three common questions that I have been asked by coaches who want to coach clients around nutrition and eating habits.

I hope this episode was useful. Please subscribe to my podcast on iTunes and I’d appreciate your rating and feedback if you are enjoying this!

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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E#199 How Does Diet Impact Mental Health

This episode is about how does diet impact mental health

In the 20th Century, we have seen global shifts in dietary intakes, with people eating more sugary, fatty, high-energy food and snack foods, and a decrease in fibre-rich and nutrient-dense foods, especially in younger generations and those who are ‘busy’ and looking for convenience.

But what impact does diet have on mental health?

Today I want to explore the latest research that links diet and mental health, and to discuss some opportunities for health coaching in this space.

 

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* Global Research from Nutritional Psychiatry
* What the Research Means for Mental Health
* How Employers Can Support Better Nutritional Health

Nutrition and Mental Health – Global Research from Nutritional Psychiatry

We know that many ‘common’ mental health disorders are associated with chronic health conditions. We also know that lifestyle behaviours including eating habits are intrinsically linked to physical health. Recent research is defining these relationships and revealing opportunities to improve mental health through diet.

Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging field that recognises the consistent link between better quality diets and a reduced risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

Most of us are familiar with the longevity and good mental health associations with Blue Zone diets – think the centenarians from Ikaria and Okinawa – and this association is supported by research. Here are some examples.

A study of Norwegian men and women who followed a traditional Norwegian diet reported more favourable mental health compared to those on a typical Western diet, even after adjustment for variables including age, education, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption (1).

An Australian study of 8,660 healthy men and women showed that a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with lower psychological distress as measured by a K10 score (2).

A systematic review of both observational and interventional studies of nutrition and bipolar disorder found that the intake of certain nutrients is associated with a reduction of bipolar disorder

symptoms. Those nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and zinc. Promising results were also indicated for coenzyme Q10 and probiotics (3).

Many studies show that lower socioeconomic circumstances partly explain poor eating habits and depressive symptoms, but there is also evidence that depression is directly associated with long-term exposure to an unhealthy diet, independent of socioeconomic status (4).

What Does This Mean for Mental Health?

Medication, exercise and psychological intervention are well-known approaches that play an important role in treating and managing mental health disorders.

The research findings from nutritional psychiatry show that healthy eating is another impactful ingredient in maintaining brain health and mental health. It is important that we recognise these links with the rise in mental health disorders and body weight during the Covid 19 pandemic, and, that we apply these learnings in practice.

To that end, it is promising to see that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry guidelines (2020) and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (UK) guidelines (2022) now recommend dietary improvement and other lifestyle modifications as a foundational treatment for mood disorders.

This is a positive starting point to augment the existing approaches to mental health. Yet there is still more that can be done on a day-to-day basis to improve eating habits and food choices toward better health, lifestyle and productivity.

Can Employers Play a Role in Better Eating Habits?

Dietary changes typically happen in our own households or via a medical setting, but there are also opportunities for workplaces to be involved in improving eating habits of the workforce for better mental wellbeing, productivity, focus, concentration and general health.

These days, it is an employee’s market with thousands of job vacancies on the market. This means that employees are looking for workplace benefits to entice them into a workplace, or to make it worth their while staying in an existing workplace.

Any opportunity to improve health could be seen as a value add, and a sign that the employer cares about their workforce.

What might this look like in a workplace?

Well, assuming you would do a needs assessment first and find out what sort of service is desired, there are a few ways you can package up your services for a corporate market. In other words, there are a variety of ways you can add value to workplaces in terms of employee nutrition.

Firstly, educational and coaching programs can be offered to any employees to help them understand the benefits of healthy eating and to empower employees to develop of healthier eating habits. If you don’t have a dietetics or nutrition qualification, education can be based around published government guidelines in an interactive, workshop style arrangement.

If you’re working with a rural or remote workplaces where the workplace provides meal, one offering you could make is to help them develop a strategy to improve the nutritional quality of foods on offer at the workplace and reduce the availability of unhealthy options. This is an important consideration where employees don’t have access to healthy food other than at the workplace.

Routine medical clearance and fitness for work checks can monitor body weight and waist-to-hip ratio as one indicator of nutritional health and can facilitate referral to a dietician or health coach to support behaviour change. Partnering with the EAP or medical service that the employer uses is another way to add value to the company.

In some cases, running workplace challenges can also offer individuals the chance to improve their nutrition in a supportive team environment.

Of course, individual coaching is also appropriate as an on-sell from or adjunct to any of these types of initiatives.

The evidence is clear – eating habits play a significant role in brain health and mental health.

And aside from medical and psychological support programs, there are many other opportunities for coaches to help organisations to improve the eating habits of their workforce, and consequently, improve their quality of life, health and work performance.

The Opportunity for Coaches

If you are a coach running a business that focuses on either nutrition, mental health or both, there are opportunities for you to approach workplaces to implement education and coaching strategies that will boost employee health, wellbeing, focus, productivity and performance.

Citing the statistics and research is a great way to position your services to employers and gain their buy in. It answers the ‘what’s in it for me’ question – why should I invest in your services?

Summary

Today we covered some of the groundbreaking research in nutritional psychiatry that demonstrates the links between nutrition and mental health.

I also talked about some opportunities for employers to have an impact on employee wellbeing – especially important in times when employers are trying desperately to retain their talent.

By presenting the facts and figures on the impact of nutrition on mental health and performance, and by outlining affordable opportunities for employers to offer a value add, you can position your coaching business to enter the corporate space more easily.

If you have questions on this episode, hit me up on my contact page.

(1) Jacka, F.N et. al (2011). The association between habitual diet quality and the common mental disorders in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21715296/

(2) Hodge, A. et al (2013) Patterns of dietary intake and psychological distress in older Australians: benefits not just from a Mediterranean diet. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23199436/

(3) Fernanda, C Gabriel et al. (2022). Nutrition and bipolar disorder: a systematic review. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1028415X.2022.2077031

(4) Jacka, F.N et al. (2014) Dietary patterns and depressive symptoms over time: examining the relationships with socioeconomic position, health behaviours and cardiovascular risk. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24489946/

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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E#180 Engaging Clients With an All-In-One Community-building Platform

This episode is about engaging clients with an all-in-one community-building platform

Do you want to start an online group or membership, but aren’t sure where to start?

Are you sick of Facebook and want something independent and more personal?

Are you trying to work out payment systems, landing pages, booking software and all the other things that go with an online business, and aren’t sure how it all works and how they connect?

Then today’s episode is for you. I’ll walk you through a tour of the latest low-cost all-in-one platforms that you can use to build and host a connected, engaged community, promote events, book appointments, and even sell services through – without all the noise and ads.

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* Why People Love Communities
* Why Businesses Need Communities
* Two Platforms to Consider – That AREN’T Facebook

Why People Love Communities

At the tribal level, humans want to be part of a tribe because we have an innate need to belong.

In years past, we lived in large tribes for our whole lives. These days, our tribe is often our immediate family. Our tribe is much smaller than it used to be, we’re working from home, or have moved away, so we seek connection in the online space to meet this basic, primal need.

Being part of a group helps to give you a sense of self and of identity, and common purpose and support. A group of like-minded people gives us protection from others who challenge us, and it helps us avoid loneliness.

As a collective, we share ideas, gain new perspectives and build confidence and strength with the backing of those who support us, champion us, and believe in us. It gives us happiness and emotional resilience.

Why Businesses Need Communities 

Smart businesses target a niche because it’s easier to be specific about who you help and how, and therefore, it’s easier for the right people to relate to you, and buy from you. 

I see communities as a great way to bring your niche clients together into a place where they can support and connect with each other, where you can learn about what they want, where you can have more intimate conversations with them, build trust and relationship, and offer value to them (free and paid). 

It totally makes sense for businesses to leverage this intrinsic human need and build a community of like-minded people who come together for a common purpose. 

With that said, let’s look at some platforms where you can build a community that AREN’T Facebook. 

Two Platforms to Consider – That AREN’T Facebook 

I will give you an overview of two platforms that you might like to explore. 

Some common features include spaces or topics for separate discussions, increasing amounts of storage with the more expensive plans, group chat function, posting, member profiles, and integration with other software. 

But more than that, the great thing about these new platforms is that they are starting to offer more features so that you don’t have to have multiple systems running at once. 

For example, right now you might be using an email program like MailChimp or Gmail to send stuff out to your email list. Some of these new community platforms have built-in email. 

Similarly, you might be wondering about building a website and the cost of that, or how to set up booking software. Some of these new community platforms have features that will allow your members to book and pay, so you may not need separate software for that. 

When looking at these options and their pricing, consider these sorts of features that could save you some money and help you have an all-in-one solution, rather than multiple payments and platforms. 

Regardless, I suggest you sign up for the free trials offered and set aside at least 3 hours to explore and learn about each platform, watch some YouTube clips about the platforms, and check the ratings and examples before you decide. 

That’s because if you don’t like the layout, features, look and feel etc, you won’t want to keep using the platform! Try before you buy! 

Mighty networks – Build Communities, Courses and Memberships 

Mighty Network is a platform for building an independent online community or business. It was founded by entrepreneurs who wanted to offer a framework for people to build their own social networks and run businesses from them. 

Mighty networks have three plans:  

  1. Community (includes a website plus Livestream and video, chat, zoom integration and paid memberships),  
  2. Business (includes online course options, live course creation and analytics), and  
  3. Mighty Pro plan (app listing in Apple App and Google Play stores, account management and support). 

Their value proposition is that you own your members (as opposed to the platform), you invest in a community (not an audience), and you build your own network effect (not just a content conveyor belt). 

Their basic plan includes a website, plus a community function with live streaming and video function, chat and messaging, an app, unlimited members, event and zoom integration (e.g. from separate platforms) and the option to offer paid memberships. Higher paid subscriptions include an online course add-on. 

Community messaging is available but there is no native email, so you’d need to run that separately. Otherwise, you can use Zapier (which has a small cost per transaction) to integrate Mighty Networks with MailChimp, ConvertKit and other programs. 

I’ve used this platform for a pilot test group and found it easy to navigate, with plenty of helpful tips and hints delivered along the way in the trial.  

Circle – the all-in-one community platform for creators and brands 

I first learned about Circle through a community I was in, that migrated from Mighty Networks to this platform. 

The look and feel of Circle is similar to Mighty Networks, and the pricing is similar, but the features available at each pricing level are slightly “rearranged”. 

Circle has three plans: 

  1. Basic (simple community with essential features),  
  2. Professional (live stream and video with higher usage limits), and  
  3. Enterprise (including concierge, dedicated support team). 

Their basic plan includes a community function, iOS app, a community function with chat and messaging, unlimited events and up to 1,000 members. Higher paid options include live streaming and video function, and advanced analytics. 

You can also offer tiers of membership and include ‘gated’ access to paid or VIP groups or content and have a range of member subscription options including free trials and upsells. 

The Circle group I am in loves using this platform as they say it’s easier to use and seamless. 

Summary

Today, we looked at the innate human need to belong, and how you can leverage that to build a community of niche clients around your business, building and maintaining a relationship based on trust, purpose and aligned values. 

I talked briefly about two new so-called all-in-one platforms that are great alternatives to Facebook, where you can create, host and own your own community, app and membership/service offerings. 

If you’re interested in creating an online community around your business, I recommend you set aside a couple of hours to trial each platform to see if either will suit your needs. 

If you have feedback on these, please leave a comment on this episode for the benefit of others! 

References and Links 

Melanie White’s Passion to Profit program – foundational business building to create a profitable, purposeful business. 

Winch, Dr Guy. The Importance of Belonging to a Tribe. Psychology Today website https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/202002/the-importance-belonging-tribe accessed 10.2.22 

Mighty Networks 

Circle – the all-in-one community platform

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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E#178 8 Important Business Boundaries to Beat Burnout

This episode is about 8 important business boundaries to beat burnout

Are you a business owner who is feeling a bit stressed and like you might be heading for burnt-out? Today, I want to talk about 8 important business boundaries – boundaries that you set during your working day – that can help you to beat burnout, so you can maintain flow and productivity at work, with ease.

Burnout is the state of mental, emotional and often physical exhaustion that is created by prolonged or repeated stress.

 

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* What burnout in business is all about
* Planning, Boundaries and Burnout
* Parkinson’s Law
* 8 Important business boundaries to help you maintain resilience

Burnout is the state of mental, emotional and often physical exhaustion that is created by prolonged or repeated stress.

In other words, it’s when we are regularly stretched beyond our capacity and resources that we start to feel burned out.

Burnout is an important topic that’s relevant right now to so many people. Let’s explore how it can happen, and then, look at 8 work boundaries to help you beat burnout.

Burnout in Business – It’s About More Than Just Self-Care

I have been talking to a lot of people recently about burnout in business and it’s clear that burnout is about more than just self-care.

One story stands out in my mind as an example. She is a business owner who says she has learned to set strong boundaries in her personal life and has been maintaining reasonable self-care, but still feels burnt out, and for quite a while, she couldn’t figure out why.

It turns out that she had mastered boundary setting and goals in her personal life but hadn’t translated these skills into her business.

In her personal life, she is exercising, eating well, meditating, reading and learning, going to bed early and spending time with friends and loved ones.

Yet it’s been the opposite in her business until fairly recently.

In the past, she had been pushing herself hard each day, overbooking herself, setting unrealistic deadlines, rushing through tasks in order to feel productive, using coffee to

maintain her momentum, comparing herself with the perceived success of others, and striving for exorbitant goals.

Because of these behaviours and habits, she’d often been working late and sometimes on weekends without any defined need or purpose and feeling increasingly anxious and stressed.

And previously, she might notice these signs and think she just needed a holiday. She’d have a wonderfully restful break and then, promise herself that she’d take things easier when she got back to work. But pretty soon, things would ramp up again and she’d be back on the road to burnout.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

This is just one version of how burnout can happen. I have been forming some concepts about some of the contributing factors over the past couple of years which I’d like to share with you now.

Planning, Boundaries and Burnout

We all know that beliefs and thought patterns contribute to the behaviours that cause burnout.

But that aside, I have noticed that there is a clear relationship between your planning skills, ability to set boundaries and burnout.

If you’re interested, I have touched on some elements of this in my previous podcast episodes 112, 113, 114, 149 and 150 (if you want to go back and visit those).

Here’s how I see that they are related.

Firstly, if your planning isn’t effective, it can be hard to set and maintain healthy boundaries around the plan in order to deliver on it.

Think about that for a moment in this example. Let’s say you are brand new to business and you make an ambitious plan to service 50 clients by the end of this year.

What happens if you haven’t got clarity on the steps, processes and tasks to get there, and haven’t mapped them out clearly enough?

Chances are, you won’t identify the skills or support you might need to reach your goal.

You’ll struggle to gauge whether your plan is realistic and achievable.

Your poorly mapped tasks might take 3 times as long as you thought.

You might get stuck in the minutiae of putting out fires as you desperately try to wade through your plan.

And as you creep closer to the 12-month mark, determined to stick to your plan, you might start to break some of your own rules in order to achieve the 12-month goal at all costs.

Like working past 5pm. Like working weekends. Like lying awake at night and losing a lot of precious sleep as you ruminate on your to-do list.

Hopefully you can see that good planning can help you to be better with your business boundaries – that they are largely intertwined – and that if you can do well with planning, then boundaries are easier and burnout is less likely.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to dive too deep into the psychology and beliefs, but I do want to mention the phenomenon known as Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law is a term coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1955 to describe the negative relationship between bureaucracy and productivity. Later, it was translated into an adage that “work expands or contracts so as to fill the time available for completion.”

In other words, if you have a 38-hour work week available, your natural tendency is to fill all the gaps with work.

Similarly, if you have a deadline, you can enjoy the luxury of procrastinating for weeks and then finally get the job done in the last hour before it’s due.

This law can apply to money and household items too!

It’s clear that setting time boundaries at work is critical for your ability to be productive and effective. The success of Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-hour Work Week is a testament to this; it’s basically a manual on how to manipulate Parkinson’s Law.

Overall, in this discussion about boundaries and burnout, it’s clear that humans are good at creating work for themselves, whether it is necessary or not, and that is also something that can lead to burnout.

If you have your self-care and personal boundaries in order – great! If not, go back to my previous podcasts I mentioned and take a listen.

Now, let’s talk about 8 important business boundaries that you can set to maintain flow and productivity at work, with ease.

8 Important Business Boundaries

1. Scheduling – one key task per day

Scheduling is the most important part of planning, and it relates to the planning step I mentioned earlier. If you schedule properly, your finish work boundaries and lunch break boundaries are much easier to uphold!

When scheduling your week, remember that new tasks or project tasks invariably take longer than you planned, you will get blindsided by unexpected events, people will cancel, and you will get new and or urgent invitations.

When running a business, accept that you will constantly pivot to some degree, whether you like it or not.

So with all that said, the best way to accommodate this is to set only one key task to complete per day (more is a bonus) and leave a chunk of white space in your diary for the unforeseen or under-scoped tasks.

This is a challenging boundary at first, but it gets easier as you start reaping the benefits of a calm mind and more productivity than you thought possible.

2. Scheduling – one free day (or half day) per week

Building on the planning theme, I find that one full day with no meetings – absolutely not negotiable – is a great chance to catch up, work at a slower pace, and be creative.

Without the urgency or interruption of meetings and appointments, you can be super productive and feel like a champion. Try it.

The boundary is to resist the temptation to squeeze in that meeting or phone call so it’s out of the way. Challenge yourself; stay strong.

3. Maximum meetings

One final point on planning – this is my personal favourite – limit the total number of meetings or client appointments you have each week.

Meetings can be energizing, but too many can be draining, or even frustrating, and they can rob time from tasks that require focus and critical thinking.

Humans are wired to distract themselves, so a day peppered with meetings gives you a mental ‘excuse’ not to start a task because you ‘don’t have time’.

After a good year of observing myself, I realised that my capacity is 10 meetings per week.

More than this, and I start to panic that I won’t get any work done, or I can’t get enough focused time to do the project or other desk work I must do.

Learning to postpone or reschedule fits into this category too – it’s a good boundary to have to help you maintain flow, energy and productivity.

4. Work with your energy

Related to scheduling, and in the vein of David Allen’s model called Getting Things Done, it makes sense to work with your natural energy cycles and make the most of the highs and lows.

The way it works is like this. Let’s say you have 2 – 3 tasks you need to do on a particular day, and a meeting.

If possible, set the meeting at a time when you know you feel calm and present, like 11am.

For your other tasks, you can predict how your energy will be and plan accordingly, and feel free to shuffle around on the day in case anything has changed.

It’s order and disorder in harmony.

For me, I often feel creative first thing on a Monday and it’s a great time to map out podcast topics.

But some Mondays I know I have a deadline and I can’t think creatively, so I’ll do the urgent stuff first, take a break, and relax and get creative in the afternoon.

Honouring your body’s basic needs is a trickier boundary to set as it relies on self-observation and a willingness to adjust last minute. But once again, the reward is greater than the cost.

Imagine feeling like you are in flow every day, making the most of how you are feeling in each moment?

5. Watch your caffeine intake

Putting my health coach hat on, coffee is delightful and it’s a stimulant and diuretic.

There is a t-shirt that says coffee: energy to do stupid things faster. The t-shirt is right.

If coffee makes you speed up, your sense of urgency will increase, you might start rushing, panicking, feeling like you’re short on time….and then comes the frenzy.

Calm the farm and watch your caffeine. It is found in green, white and black tea to a lesser extent, nootropic drinks and coffee, energy drinks and cola drinks.

Most people can stay calm at one or maybe two cups per day. Don’t push the friendship; keep your boundary on simulants at work so you can remain calm and focused.

6. Drink enough water

I created a 50-day program for myself in 2021 and the life-changing moment was realising the impact that hydration has on my energy, focus, mental clarity and cognitive function. I was in a better mood and more motivated.

The boundary is simply this – do something to remember to drink enough water.

My simple trick is to fill my 750mL bottle first thing, put it next to my mouse, and aim to finish it by the time I eat my lunch, and refill it then to finish the second one by 6pm. Works a treat.

Your needs are affected by your age, gender, size, activity levels and temperature, but generally most people need 2 – 2.5L/day (women need slightly less).

If you are thirsty or often hungry, you are definitely dehydrated. Water is a game changer and a great business boundary to uphold.

7. Saying no when you’re tired

So many people try to push through to finish a task, or to be efficient, or to get meetings done. If you can recognise when you’re tired and are at capacity, then you can more easily set a boundary and say no to yourself and others so you can rejuvenate and avoid the slippery slope to burnout.

Let’s face it – tired people tend to make mistakes, do shoddy work or lose concentration and focus, then may try to compensate by pushing themselves. All of that is counterproductive.

Saying no gives you breathing space to re-energize and create true value in your business.

Finishing work at a set time falls into this category – but be flexible enough to finish early if you need to.

8. Step back and review urgency

If you’re busy, tired, have a flood of emails or meeting requests, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of urgency for unimportant things, that aren’t really that urgent at all.

Stepping back or as I call it, zooming out each day to review the urgency of tasks is a really helpful way to prioritize time, reschedule and stay calm. I have often caught myself feeling a rising sense of panic, and then ‘zoomed out’ to look logically at the tasks I am working on to ask myself – how urgent is this REALLY?

It’s an eye-opening thought interrupt that helps you calm down, re-assess your priorities and make the changes you need to stay on top of your game.

The boundary is having the discipline to step back and review rather than forge ahead.

Summary

Wow, we covered a lot today.

We talked about how all the personal boundaries in the world don’t prevent burnout – you need to transfer the skills of planning and boundary-setting to your business if you want to remain calm, focused, productive and resilient.

I mentioned the complicating factor of Parkinson’s Law, which is our innate desire to expand our work to fill the allocated schedule.

And I covered 8 business boundaries that might help you to regain your balance, focus, optimism and avoid burnout. They are:

  1. Schedule 1 key task per day
  2. Schedule 1 free day per week
  3. Set maximum meetings per week
  4. Match your work to your energy
  5. Manage your caffeine intake at work
  6. Drink enough water at work
  7. Say no when you’re tired
  8. Step back and review task urgency

These are what works for me, and I encourage you to have a try. And I’d love to hear your feedback – which business boundaries work for you?

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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E#177 Tragic Optimism

This episode is about tragic optimism 

Are you sick of the relentless stream of drama and bad news and just wish you could find something positive to read and share? 

Then you might be interested in tragic optimism and the opportunities it might bring you to feel more positive and purposeful in these challenging times.

What is Tragic Optimism? 

If you’ve read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, you will know that he discusses this concept through the lens of life in a concentration camp.  

He talks about making suffering meaningful, seeing guilt as a chance to improve ourselves, and interpreting life’s fragility and unpredictability as motivation to find meaning.  

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* What Tragic Optimism means, and the research behind it
* Avoiding the ‘happiness trap’

He found a way to transcend suffering through his own inner decision-making. 

Frankl defined ‘tragic optimism’ as a state of optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which, at its best, always allows for: 

  1. turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment 
  2. out of guilt, defining the opportunity to change oneself for the better, and 
  3. out of life’s transitoriness, defining an incentive to take responsible action. 

He doesn’t claim that we must suffer to discover meaning, but rather, that meaning can be found despite or because of suffering. 

Where does real happiness come from? 

Frankl says it comes from finding meaning in our lives because this is what provides our reason to be happy.  

More recently with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, research by Anna Gotlib (1) backs Viktor Frankl’s concept of tragic optimism.  

Her study indicates that people who cope better in crisis can do so because they can acknowledge suffering without being pulled under by it.  

Gotlib says it’s not about finding happiness or even distraction from sadness. It is about repairing our narratives and our lives – about learning to let go of the stories around isolation, defeat, loss of control and worthlessness – and to create new narratives and recast a more meaningful future where hope exists. 

I would consider myself to be a tragic optimist in many ways. I believe that the negative stories we tell ourselves are instructions on how to act. It is only when we define new stories that we provide clear instructions to our bodies and brains on how to step into our future selves and flourish. 

Let’s be clear – this is not a ‘don’t’ worry, be happy’ concept. 

It is about honouring uncertainty and encouraging hopefulness. It is about recognising that we can turn inwards to find new words, ideas and valuations, and then share them outwardly and begin again. 

So, how do we do this?

Avoiding The Happiness Trap 

Well, for starters, we can avoid the Happiness Trap. 

What is that? Well, it’s a concept offered by Dr Russ Harris (2).  

In his book of the same name, Russ describes an empirically supported model known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an effective model that can help you to address suffering and find meaning. 

And sure, there are many ways and disciplines that can help you to tackle suffering and find meaning, such as self-compassion, mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy. 

ACT includes aspects of all of these and more.  

Rather than focussing on striving for happiness, it teaches you to undermine struggle, avoidance and loss using mindfulness, acceptance, cognitive defusion and a focus on values-based living. 

ACT has over 35 years of evidence in treating conditions from anxiety and chronic pain to weight loss and performance enhancement, and over 300 randomised controlled trials that support the efficacy of ACT in alleviating suffering and promoting human flourishing.

Isn’t it amazing to think that by changing your relationship with your thoughts and feelings, you can transcend both physical and emotional pain? 

In my opinion, if you want to find meaning and become a tragic optimist whose life is based on meaning and fulfilment, I think Russ is the best person to help. 

He teaches you how to blow your own mind, so to speak, by naming your stories and becoming a better storyteller, by separating yourself from unhelpful thoughts, and by learning simple tricks and techniques to defusing those thoughts and find true acceptance. 

By doing this, you can stop chasing happiness (which is the trap he describes) and transform your relationship with painful thoughts and feelings to lessen their impact and influence over your life. 

In turn, you create space for a rich and meaningful life, a sense of vitality and fulfilment that is satisfying and long lasting.   

Now I know that some people might rail at the thought of having to ‘accept’ things.  

But have you considered the true definition of acceptance? 

It’s not tolerating or putting up with things – it literally means taking what is offered. It is opening yourself up to what is happening right now.   

And it is your first firm foothold to stop suffering and to start taking action toward more of what you want in life. 

Summary

In these uncertain times, it can be hard to feel positive or find hope in the difficult circumstances that are affecting us all. 

But there are pioneers and researchers such as Viktor Frankl, Anna Gotlib and Russell Harris who have done great work to prove that we can rise above the painful thoughts and feelings we have, to become tragic optimists – people who are able to transcend the unhelpful thought loops and re-craft stories that give us more meaning, purpose and ultimately, freedom. 

References 

  1. Gotlib A. Letting Go of Familiar Narratives as Tragic Optimism in the Era of COVID-19. J Med Humanit. 2021;42(1):81-101. doi:10.1007/s10912-021-09680-8 
  1. Harris, Russell. The Science. The Happiness Trap Website accessed 26.1.22. https://thehappinesstrap.com/the-science/ 

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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E#176 Burnout and Rust Out – Are You At Risk?

This episode is about burnout and rust out – are you at risk?

Have you been working at home, including supporting your clients or teams through mental issues, over the past two years? Let’s talk about some of the mental health impacts that people in supporting roles may face – burnout or rust out – so you can understand and identify these two elements that have the potential to impact your role as a leader, manager, mentor or coach.

This is the first in a series of conversations I’d like to have with you about understanding burnout and anxiety, and how to recover and build resilience.

These are such important topics because our working world has been turned upside down and this has impacted our mental health – and let’s face it – our mental health underpins both our personal and professional success

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* Burnout, Rust Out, and Consequences
* Risk factors for burnout and rust out
* Managing or Reducing Burnout and Rust Out

Background

Over the past two years, we have seen significant changes in both working conditions and the mental health of workers and business owners.

If you are an employee, or if you are a manager leading customers or teams, your daily role has invariably expanded to include dealing with other people’s emotional challenges.

If you are a business owner and especially those in coaching businesses, it’s been more than just business as usual – you have faced a multi-pronged challenge of running your business while supporting your clients through greater than usual mental health challenges related to lockdown, home schooling, isolation, separation, loss of income, grief and the consequent depression and anxiety.

On top of this, all of us have been dealing with our own emotional and situational challenges that potentially lead to mental health issues like anxiety or burnout.

In simpler terms, it’s difficult to support others when your cup is empty.

It’s hard to be an effective listener, leader and coach if you are struggling with anxiety.

It’s hard to think clearly and make decisions if you’re overwhelmed.

It’s difficult to be effective if you have lost purpose and direction.

We need to understand what’s going on so we can deal with things more effectively and thrive in spite of what is going on around us.

Burnout, Rust Out, and Consequences

We all recognise the risks of burning out in such circumstances, but there is also the risk of something called ‘rust out’.

At a simple level, we can describe burnout and rust out in terms of the number of challenges being faced, versus the resources we have available to meet those challenges.

In the case of burnout, you may be facing substantial challenges but few resources to cope.

Consider the effect of the pandemic. So many people are dealing with more stress, grief, isolation above and beyond what we they normally experience, or may be in roles where there are high levels of physical and/or emotional demand.

Examples might include mental health counsellors who are trying to cope with an increase in emotionally challenged calls or clients, or on the other hand, there businesses that are thriving in the pandemic and may be working long hours, struggling to keep up with demand.

In either case, workers may eventually lose the energy or ability to meet those demands, and this puts them on the road to burnout.

And the result?

Chronic and excess stress that leads to a sense of overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment, a sense of ineffectiveness, and a lack of accomplishment (professional efficacy) (1). These are the hallmarks of burnout.

Compare that with its’ opposite, rust out, where you may be facing few challenges but have plenty of resources to cope.

Consider again, the effect of the pandemic. Perhaps your work has dried up to the point where you have very little to do, and you’ve started clock watching at 10am. Perhaps your career prospects have dwindled and you’re doing mostly menial work, shuffling papers and attending endless meetings.

The result?

You may become bored, disheartened and directionless. Your day feels monotonous, and you are developing a sense of dissatisfaction with a career. You are also at risk of anxiety – a sense of – where is this all heading? – or depression.

It’s pretty clear that your ability to identify the risks and warning signs of either burnout or rust out means you can adjust, course correct, and stay on top of your mental health and thrive, in spite of what is going on around you.

Risk factors for burnout and rust out

In various studies, burnout risk factors are cited as gender, age, tenure and occupation, but there is variability in each of these.

Generally, though, burnout seems to affect all industries and since the pandemic, it has occurred on a larger scale. In a report by Microsoft, interviews with 9,600 frontline workers revealed that some workers reported feeling an increased sense of connection with co-workers due to shared stress from the pandemic, but many felt underappreciated by supervisors and that lack of communication had contributed to their burnout.

Further, 51% of non-management position frontline workers did not feel valued and wanted help to address physical exhaustion and mental health.

In the mining industry in Western Australia, a pre-pandemic (2018) survey of fly in, fly out (FIFO) workers showed that 1/3 of workers surveyed experienced high or very high feelings of anxiety and depression, and burnout was significantly higher for FIFO workers than the benchmark group.

Within the FIFO-based occupations of all mining employees, highest risk groups were makes 30 – 34 and 40 – 44 years of age, with eight people per week taking their lives in Western Australia.

Other factors contributing to burnout in FIFO workers higher workload, high job demands, reduced engagement, work-family conflict (which had a negative impact).

Burnout was found to be detrimental for safety compliance, contributing to more accidents and unsafe behaviours.

The most influential resources for burnout were social support, leadership and a positive safety culture, good management skills and reasonable job demands.

Looking at these two specific occupations, it’s clear that burnout is more than just about the demands of the job. It’s as much about isolation, loneliness, relationships and leadership.

Managing or Reducing Burnout and Rust Out

There are many strategies to avoid, manage and reduce burnout and rust out.

I will cover many of those in future articles, but for now, I would like to quote my colleague and friend, David Carroll, a Trainer and Leadership Consultant who has extensive experience in this area.

David says:

“It’s important to differentiate between regular work-related stress and the state of being burned out. Stress is usually temporary and easily overcome. Stress is usually short-lived or tied to a specific goal. And when that goal is accomplished, the stress usually goes away.

On the other hand, burnout is an extended period of stress accompanied by emotional changes. Burnout is a long-lasting condition that may need the help of a professional to treat. Regular stress, on its own, is not harmful. Burnout is damaging to both the individual who feels the burnout and those involved in that individual’s life.

Developing your self-awareness and establishing coping mechanisms are the keys to building resilience, replenishing your energy reserves and regaining your passion and purpose in life. It’s all about establishing a healthy business mindset, healthy business body, healthy business relationships and healthy business development tools.”

Summary

The past two years of the pandemic have thrust change up on the way we work and have exposed us to greater, chronic stressors.

Today, we talked about how changes at work may add to the intrinsic mental health risks we face at work and could result in burnout or rust out.

Burnout is a situation of lacking resources to cope with too many challenges, leading to overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment, a sense of ineffectiveness, and a lack of accomplishment (professional efficacy).

Rust out is a situation where your work had diminished and/or become menial, resulting to a sense of boredom, monotony and dissatisfaction which may lead to anxiety and/or depression.

We know that healthy relationships, supportive leadership, and personal care are critical to resolving both of these. I look forward to diving into those topics in coming episodes.

1. Boring-Bray, W. 2020. Behavioural Health Providers are Burning Out or Rusting Out. Psychology Today website accessed 17.1.22

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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E#175 Does Your Business Need a Website?

This episode is about if your business needs a website?

A lot of graduate coaches get focused on having and launching a website because we are told that having an online presence is essential to business success.

But is this important? Does your business need a website?

Let’s talk honestly about this so you can take a breather and get clear on exactly what you need to do, and when.

The Reality

There are two realities when it comes to business websites.

Firstly, you need to know a lot about your intended audience, and you need to have spent enough time on income-generating activities to know the value you bring to your audience.

In this episode, I’ll talk about 
* The two realities of business websites
* A simple website readiness quiz to work out if you’re even ready for a website
* Some ‘for now’ options that are just as good, if not better!

Secondly, when you hit ‘publish’ on the website, it will end up on page 7 gazillion on a Google search. Nobody will know it’s there – so you will need to have a plan to promote and market your website.

What this means is that if you are fairly new to the business, and/or lack client experience, you have a lot of work to do before even considering building a website.

Otherwise, you risk spending a huge amount of time and money on something that won’t generate you any income, delays your getting experience and reviews, and isn’t visible to the outside world.

I have prepared a website readiness quiz to help you get clarity on where you are at. See how you go with answering these questions and check your score at the end.

Website Readiness Quiz

Let me ask you a few questions before we answer this question.

1. How long have you been running your business – or are you brand new?

2. Do people know what you are capable of?

3. What sort of people do you attract?

4. What does your business stand for?

5. Do you have clarity on your niche?

6. Do you truly know and understand your niche client?

7. Can you describe your niche client’s problem and solution clearly, in their words?

8. Do you know their specific desired outcomes in their words?

9. What format is your program?

10. Which dates are you running your program this year?

11. What is your lead magnet for the program?

12. When are your marketing campaigns running – and on which channels?

13. How and where will you promote your website?

Here’s how to score yourself for these questions.

If you could answer all 13 questions clearly and easily, then your business is probably ready for a website. You have a clear offering, clarity on your market, what they want help with, and probably some level of traction and proof of success.

If you could answer 7 or more questions clearly and easily, your business is not quite ready for a website. You need to do some pilot or beta testing, market research and/or planning to truly understand how to position your business on a website, and/or where to promote it.

If you struggled to answer even 7 of these questions, your business is clearly not ready for a website. You need to do or get help with many of the business basics, to develop a blueprint for success, get some experience and start earning an income before you are ready to create a website.

So, If Not a Website, Then What?

It’s super easy to create an online presence and credibility without the time and expense of a website.

Three cheap, very effective options are:

1. Create a professional-looking LinkedIn profile for your business, with good quality photos and descriptions of how you help your clients. You can also ask clients to give reviews on this platform which lends credibility, trust and social proof.

This option is great if your business targets clients in professional roles or corporate settings, or where your leads come from professional networks such as allied health.

In these cases, professionalism is especially important, and a good LinkedIn profile can convey this.

2. Create a professional-looking Google My Business profile for your business, same as above. You can ask clients to give 5-star ratings on this platform which boost your Google visibility.

This option is great for businesses targeting a local area (e.g. your local shire) and/or if your marketing strategy will focus on publishing, guest blogging, blogging, SEO or other online strategies.

It can be an easy entry point for more introverted people who feel exhausted at the thought of daily interaction on a social media platform, or for those who are not on social media.

3. Start a social media following (e.g. Facebook or Instagram).

This option is great if you love being on social media and are a people person, love being in groups, and are extraverted or get a lot of energy from others.

It suits clients who are extraverted and love engaging online, being active in groups, and getting value from a lot of support and interaction from you and their peers.

Summary

Does your business need a website? As you can see, it depends on which stage of business you are in.

If you are brand new, without a track record, it makes sense that you choose a quicker, easier option to gain online visibility.

Then, when you have a track record, experience, a better understanding of your niche, and some social proof – you will have all the information and clarity you need to launch a website that will actually work for your business.

If you need help with understanding your audience, enquire about my February or June Passion to Profit Course intakes, where we go through the foundational work behind understanding your clients, your best marketing strategies and marketing channels.

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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E#118 Rehearsal Loop

This episode is about the rehearsal loop. Have you heard of it? 

You know when you’re laying in bed (if you’re a night owl) or it could be through the day, and you’re making mental lists and organising the next day because you don’t want to forget anything, so you keep mentally going over your to-do list again and again. 

Sound familiar? 

That’s the rehearsal loop.

You can be 200% more productive when you stay focused and centred rather than getting stuck in this loop.

When you’re in this loop, you’re constantly tossing around your thoughts because you’re afraid of forgetting something and want to remember all the moving parts. It’s something that happens in our brains and it’s ruminating to remind us what we need to do. Obviously, this can keep you awake at night if there are too many things on the list or if you’re just in the habit of being a busy thinker.

In this episode, I’ll talk about – 
* Why the rehearsal loop happens
* How to break the rehearsal loop habit
* How to be more clear-headed and productive

Let’s think about why we enter the rehearsal loop? If you haven’t figured it out yet. . . It’s because if you don’t have some kind of external storage system it’s going to stay in your head and take up valuable real estate and that’s going to create the fear that you’ll forget something. So the need for you to constantly rehearse the list or remember the lists becomes so much greater than if you were to physically write a list. Because if you haven’t written your todo lists down you don’t have any visual cues and a sense of security that nothing will be forgotten.

This will force things to keep whizzing around in your brain, hence the rehearsal loop keeps going on and on. This is such an ineffective way to manage tasks (I know because I’ve done it too) and you’re at a higher risk of forgetting a step or entire task, making a mistake and becoming unnecessarily fatigued.

If you don’t like writing things down, there are other ways to do it like an app. But it’s important that you find a way to get all of your lists out of your mind otherwise you’re going to stay in the rehearsal loop.

If you’re in the habit of storing your lists in your brain you’re going to rob your brain’s ability to do any of the critical thinking tasks that you need to do each day, like making decisions.

Ask yourself how you feel when you’re constantly churning over all of the things you need to do all of the time. You’ll probably feel overloaded and overwhelmed and be more likely to procrastinate.

Start listening so you can declutter and clear valuable real estate in your mind. 

Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?

Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 114: Client and Work Boundaries

In this episode, I talk about setting boundaries with clients and at work so that you can feel in control, confident and create cash flow and greater client success

Running your business in a 24/7 world, how do you maintain work life balance? 

In this episode, I talk about setting boundaries with clients and at work so that you can feel in control, confident and create cash flow and greater client success.

Modern World Work

Pre internet, small businesses set up as bricks and mortar businesses that relied on print marketing in the physical world and pounding the pavement to find new clients. 

Businesses were open to the public during standard trading hours and probably worked more than this, but there was a defined window of client time.

Now, the internet has created a virtual world that operates globally, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

And small businesses seem to be feeling the pressure and buying into it.

Small Business

A lot of my clients are running small businesses but they feel compelled to act like global businesses, answering emails and messages at all hours of the day and night in case they lose a client.

They’re showing up live on social media at all hours, trying to engage people. 

They’re comparing themselves to others who seem to be, in my clients’ words, ‘more organised, all over it, very productive, getting lots of business, showing up consistently all over the place and nailing it, with loads of happy clients.’

That, my friends, is a point of view, not necessarily a fact. 

We all know that things are often different than they seem to be.

But even if it were true, and that person you’re watching is seemingly everywhere and all over it, how do they do it?

Work Boundaries for Small Business

Having been in business for over 25 years, I can say that with a few well-placed boundaries, you can be the owner of an efficient, effective and profitable business.

Here are some important work boundaries that will help small businesses get established, grow and thrive.

Only Work with High Chemistry Clients

Firstly, not everyone is your ideal client. I learned early on that by saying yes to everyone who enquires, I’d have great chemistry with some clients and not so great chemistry with others.

The chemistry you have with a client DIRECTLY impacts their results, so when you work with anyone, then your business may not appear as successful.

With low chemistry clients, they’re less committed, less engaged, less motivated and the rapport is lower, so they are less likely to achieve their goals.

Now picture how that changes if you only work with high-chemistry clients. A higher portion of them will succeed, they will be more connected and engaged, they will rave about their results (and you), and your business reputation and referrals will soar.

It’s a basic formula that works.

So how do you attract and work with high chemistry clients?

Quite simply, you need to be selective by setting some boundaries about who you do and don’t work with.

You can do this by putting some filtering mechanisms in place to screen out anyone who isn’t the right fit for you or your services.

Here are three steps to follow.

Step 1: When it comes to marketing, you can attract high chemistry clients by being specific, and talking about what they are interested in, and using their specific language, pain points and desired outcomes.

Do this, and you’re more likely to build a tribe of high chemistry leads who are engaged and interested.

Step 2: When you make formal offers for a program or other service, you can list criteria – who this is for – to help them qualify themselves as a good fit.

That way, most of the work is done by them, before they even reach for the phone or message you!

Step 3: before working with any client, have a good fit call with them right up front to see if the person who wants to do your program is the right kind of person.

If they’re not, you can refer them to another coach or practitioner, or simply tell them that you don’t think you can give them the right sort of help.

Imagine yourself as the client – would you rather someone be honest up front, or find out half way through a program that this isn’t really your jam? 

In marketing, this process is often referred to as ‘creating touch points’ because the more interactions you have with clients, the more easily they will build trust and potentially buy.

I want to challenge that idea and flip it on it’s head.

I prefer to call this process as Chemistry 101 because the clearer you are about what you do and who you serve, the more enjoyable your business will be, the more enriching your work, and the more satisfied your clients will be and the better results they will get.

It just makes sense.

Establish Working Hours

I often see exhausted coaches who are working scattered hours, nights and weekends, trying to fit clients in at any given time slot. These coaches have no down time and are constantly thinking about work.

Imagine how hard it is to coach when you feel like that!

It’s so important to optimise your energy and set boundaries that allow you to do that.

Here are two things to think about.

1. Working Hours

Think about a big store like Harvey Norman. They advertise specific opening and closing hours. You can’t buy a dining room table at 9pm on a Sunday!

Establishing set working hours is setting a boundary. 

Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, ‘yeah, but I might lose clients if I am strict with my working hours!’

Here’s the truth.

When you work with low chemistry clients, they tend to be the types of clients who are too busy, cancel repeatedly, aren’t committed, can’t fit you in and turn up late, or want you to work odd hours. 

Here’s the truth.

When you work with low chemistry clients, they tend to be the types of clients who are too busy, cancel repeatedly, aren’t committed, can’t fit you in and turn up late, or want you to work odd hours. 

You end up running yourself ragged trying to keep up with their demands and changing goal posts.

On the other hand, when you work with high chemistry clients, then your availability will probably align with theirs. They will show up on time, every time, and only cancel if something unforeseen and major happens. They are more willing to negotiate the session times and find something to suit.

Why?

BECAUSE of the chemistry – and the value they place on your service, and the respect they have for you.

2. Non Working Hours

Here’s the second part of that. Having dedicated, not-negotiable time off from work is setting a boundary.

Why?

Because if you are constantly working, not sleeping well, giving up fun for the sake of your business and clients, you’ll feel tired and start feeling resentful, disillusioned and you may start questioning your ability.

I’ve seen this way too often.

When you set a boundary around your time off, it shows off your integrity. It positions you as a role model for work life balance. It commands respect.

And more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to rest, relax and replenish your energy so that you can show up and be your best for your high chemistry clients.

Those are the people you value, and want to serve best. You can only do that if you take adequate time off.

By serving yourself in this way, you are serving your clients and offering them premium value – your best self. 

Do What You’re Good At, Let Go of The Rest

Do you know anybody who is good at EVERYTHING?

I don’t.

As a small business owner, one of the boundaries you might need to set for yourself is to focus on doing what you’re good at, and say no to the things you don’t do well. 

You might tell yourself you can’t afford to outsource things, or to buy systems that do it for you, but here’s a different perspective.

How do you feel when you are constantly doing things that you don’t enjoy, aren’t skilled at and don’t do very well?

How does that energy affect the running of your business and servicing customers?

I offer that by investing in the right support, you will more likely do a better job servicing customers and getting referrals as a result.

You will stop wasting hours on Canva, or Facebook, or MailChimp, or any other thing that you wish you could do, but can’t master, and you will have heaps more time to do important business building activities like networking, blogging or interacting in groups.

This was a turning point in my coaching business.

As soon as I outsourced design work, Facebook ads and email campaigns, I stopped spending money on courses I never finished and then felt irritated about spending on.

I stopped stressing about getting things done, or taking hours to do something that takes someone else minutes.

I figured it was way easier to pay someone $70 to do a task in one hour, rather than me spending several hours over several days, procrastinating and feeling overwhelmed that it wasn’t right, didn’t look good or might not work. For ALL of that time, I was useless to everyone and not coaching at capacity.

I can’t express what a relief it was to find someone who was like me (a high chemistry contractor) to turn my ideas in reality before I’d had a chance to even transfer the money.

Setting that boundary with myself was SO worth it.

And even if you can do it all, it doesn’t mean that you should.

Summary

Today we discussed three areas for setting boundaries in business that will make a big difference to your energy, motivation, self-confidence and ability to show up for your client.

Those boundaries are:

  1. Only working with high chemistry clients
  2. Establish working hours, and
  3. Do what you’re good at, let the rest go.

Think about your own business situation and imagine what would happen if you started moving toward these boundaries?

Setting boundaries in business will make a big difference to your energy, motivation, self-confidence and ability to show up for your client.

How would you feel if you could operate like this?

What might open up for you?

What else could change?

I invite you to consider what’s possible, and to map out a couple of first steps you can take to get there over the next 8 weeks, so you can regain control, confidence and create cash flow and better-served clients in your business.

Ready to strike the right balance?

Being clear about your boundaries will give you more time and improve what you are able to offer. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 113: The Benefits of Boundaries

Today we’ll discuss how setting boundaries around your habits, and meet your own needs first, can lead to integrity, feeling happier with life, and finding greater meaning and purpose.

Do you have one of those friends who seems to be ‘disciplined’ and ‘motivated’ to do their exercise, not work weekends, prepare their meals and spend time supporting their community – and wondered just how they manage to do it?

Do you wish you could be more like that yourself?

In this episode, I am going to unpack this with you, and talk about how learning to set healthy boundaries can create a more fulfilling, authentic and purposeful life.

Values, beliefs, standards come first

Let’s set the scene by recapping the last episode.

When you know who you are and what you want, and what’s important to you – that is, when you are clear on your identity, values and opinions – then it’s easy to define your own related standards of behaviour and living.

For example your values around health and community might mean you’re committed to walking every day no matter what, exercising 3-4 days per week at the gym no matter what, and being active in networks and groups for causes that matter to you.

With those standards clearly in your mind, you can more easily identify what you want to say no to, and how to set boundaries with other people.

It’s clear that if you want to walk daily no matter what, you’ll say no to things that get in the way. You’ll feel motivated to do it and will set yourself up for success. It’s unlikely that you’d go into work early and miss your walk, or that you’d sleep in and not be bothered.

Or if you want to spend quality time with your kids on the weekend no matter what, you’ll more easily say no to social events, switch off from work and complete chores during the week so that you have the time available for the kids.

These are just a couple of examples of what standards and related boundaries might look like.

Notice how strongly held values and beliefs set you up for consistent behaviour in the areas that matter most to you.

What does this tell you about becoming that disciplined, motivated person?

What I see in these examples – and in the thousands of hours of coaching I’ve done – is that if you want to become a certain way, you can get there by digging into your values, purpose, meaning and beliefs.

When you understand and change your mind, it’s a catalyst for massive changes in your life. 

If you’re on the fence with this – wanting to make change but unsure about whether it’s worth it, or too hard, or that you might fail, let’s examine what it takes to get there.

The ‘Do Nothing’ Approach

Firstly, let’s talk about the do nothing approach. 

We know that the human brain is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. 

That is, our brains tend to believe something is impossible if we lack proof – that is, if you’ve never tried or if you have failed in the past.

In those circumstances, you let your brain’s natural response take over, then you get to stay where you are in the safe, comfortable and familiar – even if it’s unsatisfying and unfulfilling.

But what happens if you choose the ‘do something’ approach?

What if you decide to do the work on your mind, to understand your values, examine and shift your beliefs and change your standards of behaviour, and start setting healthy boundaries around your new behaviours?

What You Might Say No To

Setting boundaries around new behaviours, so that they can become entrenched, automatic habits, probably means you’ll have to say no to some things.

For starters, you might have to say no to yourself. Let’s look at how this might play out in three different areas – health, work and relationships.

If it’s health behaviours that you’re working on, then you might have to set boundaries by saying no to sleeping in, that extra drink, the second serving of dessert, the block of rocky road chocolate, staying up late to watch Netflix, or that big boozy party the night before a big presentation at work.

What would you be missing out on if you said no? 

Well, you’d be missing out on stress, excess weight, insomnia, food cravings, tiredness, indifference and sluggishness.

If it’s work-related behaviours that you’re working on, then you might have to set boundaries by saying no to working after hours and on weekends, your big to-do list, and messaging clients at all hours of the day, night and weekend. Maybe you’ll have to say no to those coaching clients who want you to do sessions with them at 9pm Wednesday, or 7am Sunday  morning. You might have to accept that you’re not superhuman after all. 

What would you be missing out on if you said no, and set boundaries around your work behaviours?

Strongly held values and beliefs set you up for consistent behaviour in the areas that matter most to you.

You would probably miss out on competing priorities, disorganisation, overwhelm, stress, resentment, frustration, impatience, procrastination, self-doubt, anxiety, insomnia and feelings of helplessness.

If it’s behaviours in relationships that you’re working on, then you might have to say no to requests for help, the demands of others, tantrums, engaging in pointless arguments, and giving all your time and energy to others.

What would you be missing out on if you said no, and set boundaries within your relationships?

You’d miss out on a range of things including fear of judgement, being affected by criticism, toxic situations, eroded self-confidence, diminished self-worth. 

In addition, no matter which area you’re working on, by making change, you will probably lose overwhelm, fear, self-doubt and anxiety.

All of those things are borne in your mind, after all, and by working on your mind you will reduce the spring of negative thinking patterns that currently hold you back and start standing up for yourself, meeting your own needs and feeling better about yourself.

What You Stand to Gain

If you do this work, what do you stand to gain?

Let’s look at those three areas – health, work and relationships.

In terms of health, by setting boundaries around your new habits, you’d create the space to be consistent with those new healthy habits so you’d become more self-confident in the first instance because you’d be winning and improving. 

You’d start losing weight. Your skin would look better. You’d be energised, feeling alive and vital. Your eyes would be sparkling. 

You’d feel lighter, freer. You’d be happier within yourself because of the investment in yourself. 

You’d gain a sense of self respect, hope and optimism. You’d feel more in control of yourself, more assertive, and your confidence would build. You’d gain a sense of gratitude, and an abundance of energy and love that you could then give back to others.

In terms of work, by setting boundaries around your working hours and other work-related behaviours, you’d create the space to be more efficient, saving lots of time and probably money, too.

You’d feel more relaxed and in control as a result. That means you’d probably perform better at work, finding more creative headspace and presence to bring to your clients. You’d serve them better, and they’d feel better around you, and likely get better outcomes.

You’d get more done in less time, attract more business, and be able to grow your business for greater impact and income.

In terms of relationships, by setting boundaries you’d gain more respect from others. You’d be less affected by the opinions of others, and feel more confident about who you are and your value. 

You’d feel calmer and better able to respond to other people rather than reacting, and you’d be able to disengage from toxic situations, and handle conflict in a more balanced way. You’d be sleeping better at night. 

In all of these cases, there might be some break-ups as the differences in your values become clear. The people who are not your people may rebel against your changes, like the ‘old you’ better, or be upset that you’re no longer investing so much in their demands.

But trust me – you’d feel ok about that – because you’ve probably had enough of feeling worn down by the demands of people that you may not like, agree with or want to spend time with.

And no matter which area you’re working on, by making change, you will probably gain clarity, certainty, confidence, a sense of identity, meaning, purpose, inspiration and motivation. You will feel challenged, accomplished, satisfied and content.

Summary

There’s a lot to think about here. 

The question to ask yourself is this – if you were to start setting clear boundaries, how would your life be different?

What could be possible for your own health?

What might happen at work?

How might your relationships change?

When you understand and change your mind, it’s a catalyst for massive changes in your life. 

A couple of things are clear – when you start setting boundaries around your new habits, and meet your own needs first, then you are better equipped to act with integrity, to feel happier with life, and to find more meaning and purpose.

If you need help with your identity, values or boundaries, then hit up my contact page and waitlist for a short course I’m developing, called ‘Get To Know Yourself and Build Integrity.’ It’s a 21 day program for people who need some guidance to do this important work.

Ready to work on your boundaries?

Setting boundaries can give you more time to do what feels good and meaningful to you. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 109: Overdrinking Coaching with Sarah Rusbatch

Today I interview Sarah Rusbatch about alcohol consumption and how and why she is developing her coaching business in this space.

Melanie: Hi, Suzanne, lovely to have you here on the podcast today.

Sarah: Hi, Melanie, it’s lovely to be here.

Melanie: Thank you, and I’m really interested in talking to you, because you’re developing your coaching business at the moment, and you have a niche that you’re quite connected with, and it sounds like you’re very passionate about making a difference in this area. So, I thought it would be a great way to illustrate one of the many ways that coaching can be applied and also to find out a little bit more about your vision, and we’d like to take your business. Does that sound okay?

Sarah: Yeah, sure, that’s fine.

Melanie: Alright, so could you tell us a little bit about your niche to start with?

Sarah: Sure. So my niche is working predominantly with women because I guess that’s what relates to my own story. That’s where I can kind of picture my ideal clients sort of being in that same area as where I was, who have got to a point where perhaps they’re drinking more than they want to. They’re drinking to a point that isn’t making them feel so good about themselves anymore, but because we do live in such an alcohol centric society, it’s actually really hard to, to stop doing that when it’s become quite a habit. When it’s become something that everyone around you is doing all of the time, and that everyone expects you to be doing when you’re socializing. It’s something that I addressed in myself, I stopped drinking about 18 months ago.

 

Sarah: And it really did have a massive impact on my life in so many ways, and I’m now really passionate about spreading that word and letting people know that there is actually another way to live.  Of course, I appreciate that for some people, they’re absolutely happy with the level that they’re drinking, and they don’t want to change that. Of course, I’m not preaching and that’s definitely not my philosophy. But when I was contemplating and giving up alcohol, I didn’t have anyone at that point talking in the way that I’m talking now and showing me the way I had to really look for that. So I want to be that person for other people who perhaps do want a bit of help and a bit of support with addressing how much they’re drinking and how to reframe that.

Melanie: Right. And as you describe that I’m hearing, it’s clearly not somebody who’s ready for Alcoholics Anonymous, and it’s not somebody that’s enjoying a bit of social drinking. It’s somebody that you said, I think is feeling like within themselves, they are just drinking a little bit too much and it’s having an impact on how they feel about themselves.

Sarah: And it’s something that’s where I’m from in the UK, it’s been talked about a lot, and they call it an alcohol use disorder, or grey area drinking. So it’s that whole area where people don’t identify themselves perhaps as alcoholics, which I think is a whole other conversation of what IS an alcoholic. But I think that people who are not drinking every single day, they don’t have a physical dependence to drink every single day, but they are definitely drinking more than the recommended guidelines. And they’re definitely using alcohol as a crutch to perhaps help either relieve stress or escape emotions that they’re feeling that they don’t want to be feeling, or finding that once they start drinking, they really struggled to stop, and they’re always having more than they ever set out or intended to for that kind of area, which is definitely where I was before I thought.

Melanie: Okay, so it’s just that little bit past the comfortable level, and noticing that it is a problem. And I think one other thing I heard you say was that they’re people who are going out socially, and there are these expectations of others that perhaps they don’t know how to manage. They don’t know how to set boundaries, in a social context, perhaps.

Sarah: That was one of the hardest things for me was how other people reacted to me, and I was really shocked. I didn’t think it was anybody else’s business, or that anyone would be in any way concerned as to whether I was drinking or not. But they really were, and people had a lot to say on the matter. And I would get told, “let’s catch up when you’re drinking again”, and “when are you going to stop being so boring?” Yeah, things along those lines. And because I think that we are just in a society where it is just expected that any social occasion will have alcohol. And I think that there’s a stigma around if you don’t have alcohol, you’re not going to have a good time. And that’s what I’m really keen to show people that you can still have a really active and full social life without alcohol.

Melanie: Mmm, interesting. And how did she feel when people were saying those things to you?

Sarah: Horrified. It was… it was really hard. It’s hard to, to not drink. And it’s really hard when your friends are making you feel like they don’t approve of you not drinking, and they’re not being fully supportive. There was a lot of debate around, a lot of people would say to me: “but why don’t you just have one?” I was like, “Well, A why is it any of your business, whether I have one or not? And B and I’ve never been someone that really wanted to ever just have one.” Like, I’ve always loved having a few drinks, and I’ve always had one or two more and more. And for me, it was so much easier to have none than to just have one or two. But people… some people just really didn’t get that at all.

Melanie: It’s interesting, isn’t it? It says more about them than it does about you. It’s they’re uncomfortable with you’re not drinking, and they feel like they need to do something to make themselves feel better, is how I kind of look at that.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely.

Melanie: Yeah, I can think of two occasions a bit like that, that stand out for me and not for me directly, but with others. I remember maybe seven or eight years ago when Facebook groups were first a thing, I was in this group called “Clean Eating”, I think it was called. And one of the moderators came into the group, and she had 30,000 members, it was a huge group. And she said she’d gone out on the weekend and said she didn’t want to drink and was trying to drink less alcohol. And one of the friends said, “What are you pregnant?” And “what’s wrong with you?”, “Why aren’t you drinking?” and “What’s wrong with you?” And I thought, wow, that’s that’s amazing. And  then we had this whole discussion on the thread about judgment. And then, more recently, one of my clients stopped drinking for eight weeks, because she was eating a special way trying to lose some weight. And one of her friends was pressuring her and saying, “Why are you drinking?” And she said, “Well, I don’t want to drink for eight weeks.” And she said, “Well, why not? Why can’t you just have one?” – that same thing you’ve said, and she was saying: “Because I don’t want to.” And they ended up having a falling out. They’d been friends for 20 years. And the friend could not accept that her friend was not drinking for eight weeks. Yeah, she took it personally. It was incredible.

Sarah:  Yep. And I just wasn’t expecting that, when I stopped drinking. It was it was my journey, and my thing. And in quite a lot of sober groups that I in, people say, well, if you turn around and said that you were stopping smoking, people would be like, “Good on you! Well done!” Or if you said, “I’m giving up cocaine,” I would be like, “Well, good for you.” As soon as you say alcohol, it’s the only thing that you can give up and people say “Oh go on!” It’s quite astonishing, isn’t it?

Melanie: I agree. And actually, to be fair, I have heard this same conversation in my in my weight loss program that I’ve run in the past where people would come in and say, “I don’t eat that food” or “I don’t want any cake,” and people say “Go on, Just a skinny slice won’t hurt… why no? What’s wrong with you?”And so I’ve have heard that’s similar conversation around food. And once again, I think it’s more about the person who is not is eating the food or drinking the drink that feels uncomfortable about are now it’s just me, they’ve got no one to share the guilt, as I call it.

Sarah: Absolutely, absolutely. And at the beginning, I used to have to kind of get my readymade little black book of excuses, though, that I was prepared for when I would start to get grilled and sometimes I couldn’t be bothered. And I’ll just say “I’m on antibiotics.” Or I’d say “I’m training for a triathlon.” And “I just don’t want to drink for a little while because I’ve got to get up early to train.” But I just got to the point where I was like, why should I be having to justify in that way and actually lie about the fact that I just don’t want to drink just so others can accept my reason? If it’s a reason that they can understand that they’re okay with it. But if you’re just saying I’m choosing not to drink, a lot of people don’t understand that.

Melanie: It’s almost like just saying “no thanks,” is really all you need to say, I guess is what you’re saying.

Sarah: Yeah. So that was definitely an interesting part of the process for me.

Melanie: And what sorts of symptoms were you experiencing? Like, if you’re thinking about the types of people you’re working with? And they are, where you were in the past? What sorts of things would they be noticing as signs or symptoms that they need to do something or that they are ready to do something?

Sarah: Yeah, so I think for me, and as soon as I hit 40, it was that typical thing of I started to get really bad hangovers. I’ve never really got hangovers in my 20s and 30s. I had pretty much sail through it. And then it was as if I as soon as I hit 40 I started to get really bad hangovers. It was really affecting my sleep. So I would just have even just having two glasses of wine, I would be awake at 3am and just restless and just couldn’t get back to sleep. And depending on how much I had had to drink, I might have a dry mouth need to get up and have water, but it was really affecting me. And I’m someone that really needs my sleep. So that was having been a real negative impact the next day because I was tired and grumpy. I definitely started to feel a little bit depressed The next day, which I’d never had before, I would have a bit of anxiety. And I would sometimes worry about what I’d said the night before. And I would sit kind of ruminating over it, which I’ve never done before. And it was just something that just in my 40s It felt like it had gone from drinking had been something that had been fun, and something that I did with all of my friends. But then I could see that my body was starting to give me signs that that there had to be some other way.

And I just felt like even just having a small amount of alcohol, I would feel so rubbish the next day, and I wasn’t being the mom that I wanted to be I wasn’t being the wife that I wanted to be. I was kind of getting through the weekend, but not being present in the weekend, if that makes sense. And then it would be back to school back to work.

I never really drank during the week. So that was that. But you’re so busy, you know, keeping your head above water with kid’s activities and work and pick up and everything else. So the week would go by and then it would be the weekend again. And there has to be another way to live than just having this low level feeling of a bit of anxiety, a bit of depression and bad sleep tired making bad food choices, because I was a little bit hungover. So not eating the food that I wanted to be eating that I knew made me feel good. Then with that came a bit of guilt. So all of that started to happen and that was when I kind of had those first signs of going, maybe this the alcohol is the thing that needs to change, because everything led back to that.

Melanie: It’s interesting, you mentioned food, there was the food or consequence of being too tired to want to make healthy food? Or was that while you were drinking, you are making unhealthy choices or combination or something different?

Sarah: No, it was definitely the next day. So I was never someone that ate and drank at the same time – I just drank. So I wasn’t someone who would sit, you know and get out all the biscuits and the crisps. Alcohol just never made me hungry. Whereas I know with others, they get munchies and chips. But for me it was the next day. And maybe because I hadn’t eaten much like before. And the next day, I would just crave really bad food. And because I was tired and feeling a bit rubbish I couldn’t not give into that craving. And so it was, you know, eating the foods that I would never normally eat, and that that didn’t make me feel good about myself either.

Melanie: Mm hmm. Yeah, I can relate to that. I can think of times where I’ve, but but not exactly that way, like the next day, I may not eat that well. But for me when I have too much alcohol, then I want carbs, I want sugar, which obviously makes the sleep worse. So I remember even as a young person drinking one night with my boyfriend, and we’d had a full dinner, it was midnight, and I ate a whole family pizza to myself.

Sarah: Yeah.

Melanie: At midnight, like, that’s a lot of pizza. And yeah, I just had this intense craving for carbs  – I couldn’t stop eating it, I was so full, but I just kept going and going. And I think part of it was that maybe the lack of inhibition around the alcohol, which is something you’ve alluded to in it maybe in social context as well. But then this craving as well as not having an off switch was a diabolical combination.

Sarah: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Melanie: And so how much do you think? Well, maybe it’s not possible to put a limit on our amount on it, but what does somebody in this zone actually drink? Is it… How many standard drinks a day? Or is it sit number days? Or does it not really matter is in a particular trend you’ve noticed?

Sarah: I don’t think it matters. I think it just is whatever is the number for you. That is crossing the line of being taking you feeling comfortable and happy with how much you’re drinking to the point where it’s having a terrible effect, and that might that number will be different for everyone. And some people drink every single day and a bottle or two of wine a night. Some people might only drink on a Friday and have two or three bottles and then feel so terrible for the three days after. So I don’t think there’s any rule around that.

I think it’s just when you are questioning yourself. Am I drinking too much? That probably means you are if it’s even come up as a question at all.

Melanie: Yeah, that’s a great, great way of looking at a great indicator is your own concern that you feel yourself stretched outside your Yeah, healthyzone ort your comfortable zone or whatever that is. And I heard you say earlier you’d have a couple of glasses of wine only and then not be able to sleep from three o’clock. Yeah, so that’s an indication to I guess there’s also as you’re in that, or if you’re in that perimenopause, or menopause age, you’ve got all of this other stuff going on. And it just seems to compound things like the hot flashes. I know if I have alcohol, one glass of anything. I’m gonna get hot that night, at least once my cup of tea flushed.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. ‘ve just finished reading a book on perimenopause that pretty much says that if you want to kind of have the least impact of some of those symptoms, then cutting out alcohol is one of the first things to do. Because when your hormones are so imbalanced, and your body just can’t also cope with having to break down the alcohol that you’re taking in, and that will then have, you know, more of a knock on effect on things like hot flashes, and impact of sleep, impacting mood, things like that.

Melanie: It’s quite an important time of life, I suppose to I mean, if you’re going through hormonal changes, and that’s women and men go through menopause, you know, in their 40s, or 50s. You kind of feel like you’re at a crossroads, you’re saying: “Am I going to continue doing what I’m doing and head down the path of setting myself up for chronic disease? Or am I going to take the initiative now and nip things in the bud?”

What are your thoughts on that?

Sarah: I totally agree. And I think that most people who I know, who are asking themselves that question are in their 40s, or 50s and have just to have got to that point where perhaps the hangovers haven’t been as bad before, and then they’re starting to feel worse, or what might be a whole host of reasons… it might be that they’re wanting to lose weight, it might be in lots of different reasons. But it definitely has got to the point where alcohol is not serving them anymore in the way that it used to just be a fun social aid to increase your fun on a night out. It just then becomes a bit different, and you start to see the negatives of it, whereas before you haven’t.

Melanie: Right, so that the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives. Yeah. Feel good in the moment and feel terrible for the next three days?

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And that was one of my techniques, which now that I’ve started learning and doing the coaching qualification, I’ve realized I was using but I didn’t, couldn’t put it into words at the time, which was always talking that in many of those sober groups or playing it forward. So when you have that real craving of wanting to have a drink, play it forward, how are you going to feel that next morning, like when you wake up, with the hangover? You’re not going to get all the things done that you wanted to do, you’re going to feel all these different things. So that was always the thing that I would do was, you know, the cravings still come even now.

And it’s been 18 months since I have a drink and you know, in a certain situation after that glass of wine now, but then all I have to do is think how nice it will be at three in the morning when you’re wide awake, and think about when the kids are jumping on the bed and think you know, and then when you start to do that you actually realize for the fleeting moment of happiness or joy or whatever it is that you get from that glass of wine… Is it worth it? And in the end, for me, it passed that tipping point where it wasn’t worth it.

Melanie: So good. So you’re talking about really looking at the longer term gain rather than the short term? Fix or, or benefit? Yeah, yeah, looking longer term and how it’s affecting you.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. But I wish that I’d had more support to articulate some of that when I was going through it. Because I’ve realized now through the coaching that I’ve been doing that that’s exactly what I was doing, and there’s so many of the coaching techniques that I’ve realized now can be applied to this situation. And that’s why it’s got me so passionate and excited about it, because I can see how much support it could give to other people who were in the same situation that I was.

Melanie: Yeah, absolutely. And just building on that something you said is that you still have cravings now and I guess that what came to mind when you said that is that whole micro habits or atomic habits, as James Clear calls them. You know, if you think about something like smoking and all of the situations in which someone smokes, when they wake up after a meal when they’re drinking, when they’re stressed before bed, you know, there are all those little tiny situations where someone might be triggered to have a cigarette or want to crave one. And all of those are micro habits that need to be unraveled and rewired.

And it’s the same with alcohol, right? You drink when you’re tired you drink when you’re stressed. You drink when you’re this or that and you get this immediate feeling good feeling and your brains fighting with you saying I want that good feeling and you’re going no you can’t have it and then there’s deprivation… but there are all of those many situations that you may not even realize are a trigger for you. Not just the visible ones, but the unconscious ones too. Right?

Sarah: Absolutely. And I think that it’s the more that you practice –  we call it like flexing that silver muscle -it’s kind of like the more you practice “The Firsts” all those firsts – the first Christmas, the first holiday, the first girls night out, the first hen weekend, just any of those things. And once you get through it, it’s just another thing that you’ve done to kind of retrain your brain to, to condition yourself that you can go and do those things without alcohol and you can still have a really good time.

Melanie: And so Suzanne, how are you feeling now that you’ve been sober for 18 months? What’s the difference in your life?

Sarah: So many! So the differences are, I think we’ve lost a lot of weight because I haven’t had the Sunday morning trips to Maccas, for the Bacon and Egg Mcmuffins and the rest of it. So I think I’ve lost about 12 kilos now. And I have always been an an exerciser. But I am definitely getting more of the results from the exercise and enjoying it more. I think before I was exercising, as a kind of punishment for the alcoholics, you know what I mean?

Whereas now I think I exercise as something that I just absolutely love and enjoy. I would say that I sleep so much better, I have more energy, and more present and more connected to my kids. I’ve done a lot more work on myself, to understand myself and what things trigger me and what doesn’t, because I think when you stop … And, and so, yeah, all around I’d say that I’m just a more content person than I was before.

Melanie: It sounds like the only cost really has been that occasionally. There’s a sense of missing out. Absolutely.

Sarah:  Yeah, and I have to make that decision.

Melanie: It’s an interesting topic, and I love that you’re working in this space. I think so many people don’t have much else in their lives. And I remember it other than alcohol and social occasions around it. And I remember going to do a job once. And I met a girl who would who’s 18 and when there was a lull in conversation, she would start talking about this awesome time when she got so drunk and so sick. And so this and I thought “Is that all you got?” All she could talk about were all these famous war stories of when she’d drunk too much and vomited everywhere. And, yeah, that wow, that’s the conversation you’ve got. Yeah, you know, to me, that was a really important moment to say, do I want to be like that? Or I’ve been like that myself in the past and had that kind of a conversation. But to hearing it from the other side, I thought, yeah, I think I could aspire to something better.

Sarah: And that was definitely it for me as well. I’m 42 years old, I thought,  is that all I’ve got? I just like going out and getting drunk on a Saturday afternoon is like, is that my hobby, like just drinking? And that was definitely, you know, a question to ask. Myself, and then stopping drinking, it’s definitely allowed me to explore the things that I love doing and want to do more of. I’m just devouring books all the time and, and lots of friends in my sober circles if have taken up theater, one has started learning tap dancing… people have gone back to uni, but like everyone is just having this whole new lease of life, energy and time that they just never had before.

Melanie: And so I guess, apart from strategies that you would help people to discover and develop, I’m guessing a lot of your work is also helping people to build confidence and courage to set boundaries, to help them come up with safe ways to be a little bit uncomfortable in social situations and still feel okay about not drinking. And there would be a lot of work around that area I’d imagine.

Sarah: There is and I think that if you’re prepared for the obstacle before it happens, you’re halfway there already. I definitely think that’s an area that I would be looking to help people identify what the obstacles will be before they reach them so that they’re better prepared to deal with them when they arrive.

Melanie: And it makes me think that one of the great benefits is that you become a role model for others, and you help others find if you’re a non drinker in a social situation. It’s like you help others to find their voice and their courage to stand with you. If they’re kind of feeling the same. And you’re saying, hey, well, I’m not drinking tonight, but I’m still gonna have fun. That just might help somebody else who’s been feeling the same way. Right?

Sarah: Yeah, and the massive sober community online, like through Instagram, and through various Facebook groups, I’ve met people who I’ve just instantly connected with I can reach out to them anytime. I’ve never met them in real life, but I’ve just been on such a journey with them over the last 18 months or so. And even if it’s not physical, but just knowing that there’s someone there that you can send a quick message and that that definitely helps.

Melanie: And so Suzanne, thank you for explaining what you’re passionate about why and what difference it’s made to alive. And it’s really clear to me, and I hope to everyone that listens to this, how many ways people may need support, and now can get support going on a journey to drink less or to stop drinking. And so if people are interested in finding out more about what you do about joining your Facebook group, or getting on your email list, or whatever that is, what what’s the best place for them to go to get in touch?

Sarah: So I’m running a challenge at the moment, sober October, and which is I think we’ve got about 3540 people in the challenge. Everyone’s been hugely supportive of each other, some people have never gone more than three or four days without alcohol before. So it’s their first time of doing something like this. So that’s called the SLR wellness, sober October challenge. And I’m on Instagram, SLR wellness. And then I’ve got a Facebook group called the Women’s Wellbeing Collective, and that group was looking at everything to do with health issues for women in their 40s. So that’s looking at pre menopause hormone imbalance, nutrition exercise, and then for those that want to talk about it, and the area of alcohol free as well.

Melanie: Fantastic. So lots of ways that you’re available to get to know people and support them to get started on a journey of getting healthier. Thank you so much for being here today, Suzanne, and I’ll put all those links in the notes and hopefully, some people who are on the fence thinking about their relationship with alcohol, especially in the lead up to Christmas, they’re gonna reach out to you and have a chat.

Where you can connect with Sarah:

Sarah’s facebook group “the women’s wellbeing collective” – https://www.facebook.com/groups/342319476897067/?ref=share

Link to sober October: SLR wellness sober October 2020 https://www.facebook.com/groups/870302750042381/?ref=share

Link to the Perth meet up group for ladies who want to socialise without alcohol: SLR wellness Perth meet up group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1093211501076062/?ref=share

Link to Sarah’s Instagram page @slrwellness – install the app to follow her photos and videos.

https://www.instagram.com/invites/contact/?i=jyvp6068ofy9&utm_content=gygtk7h

 

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Episode 108: AmIOK?

This episode is about taking care of your own mental well-being. 

 I want to start by talking about the RU OK campaign in Australia and then to talk about the need to manage our own mental well-being as well.

RUOK?

R U OK? is an organisation whose vision is a world where we’re all connected and are protected from suicide.

Their mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

Their goals are to: 

  1. Boost our confidence to meaningfully connect and ask about life’s ups and downs
  2. Nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
  3. Strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
  4. Be relevant, strong and dynamic

I love that the RU okay campaign exists. It gives us all an opportunity to think about the people around us and consider how we can offer support. 

It means that we are proactively reaching out to check in with people and to help them to speak up about what’s going on for them so they can get help.

I had a conversation with somebody one-day who I knew was severely depressed and going through a major incident and I had reached out to say are you okay. 

It was a difficult conversation because I hadn’t yet trained as a coach and this person was very upset but I was concerned about their mental well-being so I did the best that I could with the skills that I had at the time. 

Months later that person phoned me and said they were considering suicide the day I had called – they were getting ready to do it – and the conversation we had stopped them from taking action and caused them to reach out for help. 

Truly, I was taken aback that the conversation had had such a powerful impact on that person and it made me thankful that I’ve been able to help but also concerned about my skills and education and knowledge in this area.

So where and how do you start getting these skills?

What if you’re not a coach or working in a support capacity but want some basic understanding and skills?

Mental Health First Aid

It’s worth mentioning the mental first aid course.

Several organisations deliver this course: Mental Health First Aid Australia says that: 

Each year 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. Many people are not knowledgeable or confident to offer assistance. Physical first aid is accepted and widespread in our community, however most do not cover mental health problems. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) teaches people the skills to help someone who they’re concerned about.

What About Me?

All of this got me thinking recently about the fact that there are many campaigns that are outward directed – helping us to check in with the other people about their own mental health and well-being.

But just as important is the ability to be self-aware and identify our own mental health challenges.

As a coach, I know that one of the main reasons people hire coaches is simply that they lack self-awareness of how they are thinking and operating in the world, and what their habits are.

People are either too busy to notice themselves and reflect on their behaviour, needs and wants, OR, they notice an issue coming up for themselves but say ‘she’ll be right, I’ll just push through.’

The old ‘she’ll be right attitude’ is a mask that many Australians have been wearing for a long time.

In either case, most people simply don’t know HOW to check in with themselves or to ask for help.

They say, I’m okay, don’t worry about me, everything is fine. I don’t need any help, I’ll put on my big girl pants or I’ll pull up my boots and I’ll just get on with it. 

I can totally see how we came to be that way. That attitude comes from the hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, hard-working people who founded modern society in our nation.

Think about it – once upon a time, not that long ago, we were a nation of pioneers in a new country who travelled long distances, lived off the land and managed many hardships to establish towns and cities. We were the kind of people that pitched in and did things and got on with things and to build a great nation.

But these days, there is a changing of the guard.

We have the rise of Gen Y (with more of a values focus, in my opinion) as dominant players in the workforce and leadership positions. 

We have an increase in multiculturalism in our society, and a need to consider people with different cultures, ethics and values.

And we are giving more attention to well-being, health and mindfulness. 

With all of this going on, we are starting to realise that the old ‘she’ll be right attitude’ is a mask that many Australians have been wearing for a long time.

The old stigma around mental health issues, not wanting to show any weakness or to be judged, has to come off.

We have to learn how to ask for help.

But first of all, we must be self-aware enough, to know when we need to get that help.

AmIok – a new paradigm 

I propose a concept that sits alongside RUOK, to acknowledge that it’s just as important to check in with yourself rather than to ignore the warning signs and push through. 

I want to ask you to think about a new paradigm. 

The AmIOK paradigm. 

Certainly check in with the others and ask are you okay, but at the same time give yourself the attention to – how am I travelling? 

Am I ok? 

And if not, what do I need, how am I feeling, what’s my capacity, and what do I need to do differently? 

I had this experience myself recently. 

I noticed a few things were becoming difficult for me. 

I was starting to avoid certain situations and certain tasks that I didn’t like. 

Normally I can do tasks that I don’t like or don’t enjoy, but when I’m stressed, under a lot of pressure then I go into avoidance of those basic tasks. And to me that is a sign that I need to step back and check in with myself. 

Other signs that I need a break or to get help are that my cooking is boring, I’m not sleeping well, and I feel frustrated, and starting to look for more coffee.

Basically, I lose my enthusiasm and creativity. 

When those things start to ebb, I know it’s time to take a break or to get help.

Summary

RUOK is a wonderful initiative that helps us to lower the risk and rate of suicide, by reaching out to others.

It’s important to check in with yourself rather than to ignore the warning signs and push through. 

Mental Health First Aid is a great training course to gain basic skills.

I propose a new paradigm – AmIOK? – as a means of learning to give our own needs more attention and to get help sooner rather than later.

Ready to pay more attention to your own needs?

It’s OK to be not OK, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. If you need help to feel more in charge of your life, I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 97: Defining a New Normal in Business

As a result of lock down, a lot of people and businesses have been re-thinking what’s important to them, their values, and how they want their business to run.

Today, we’ll look at these related aspects and walk you through a simple process for defining a new normal.

The Need for Change

Before lockdown you were probably doing what you loved, had business goals and aspirations, a plan of attack, and you were using some marketing processes that allowed your business to hum along.

But since lockdown, our clients’ priorities have changed, and so have ours. 

Think firstly of your ideal client. 

They may no longer want a body transformation, but have decided their priority is to be healthy and mentally stable enough to support their families. 

They may have decided not to go out for coffee or food and to rather cook at home or, they may be working at home such that going out for food is no longer part of their work day.

They may be afraid of going back to the gym in case they become ill.

On the other flipside, some people may want to get outdoors to connect with nature, to grab a take away, or to redefine their health goals and weight loss approach.

To sum it up, business the ‘old way’ may not suit your customer anymore. Your business may need to rebuild customer trust if they are reluctant to attend businesses in person or you may need to pivot your messaging and products or services to speak to what’s important right now to your customer.

Also, think about what’s changed for you as a business owner.

Maybe you have realised you need more work life balance, so the way you do business needs to change.

Perhaps you’ve been forced to downsize, leave your premises or shift the balance of your work to a more online format.

Or even further, maybe you’ve decided to pivot at a bigger scale and pursue a different type of business model or a different niche.

In any case, because of all that’s changed for both you and your ideal client, you’ll need to rethink your business vision and what you want your new normal looks like, and map a clear path to get there.

What’s Important to Your Clients

A lot of people have realised that their families and significant relationships, self-care and health are more important than they used to be.

They are more aware of, and focused on, their mental health.

As a result, people are looking at at-home solutions for health, fitness and wellbeing.

People are talking about taking the pressure off, doing less, and being more mindful. There has been a shift away from the idea of big goals and more into maintaining what they have.

Since lockdown, our clients’ priorities have changed, and so have ours. 

They are shopping more online, but may be more mindful about their purchases and more price sensitive due to economic uncertainty.

They are seeking contactless or more efficient ways of buying.

Consumers may be more ready to leave their old brands and try new things.

They are more willing to buy local and support local businesses and economies, and are looking for ‘value’.

They are more values-driven in their purchases, looking for safety, equality, environmental stewardship, and businesses who are giving back or supporting their community.

In any case, the businesses who’ve done best during lockdown have been those who are actively supporting their communities.

People are risk averse and generally avoiding public social events, but may be engaging more in online communities with like-minded people to feel connected.

They are spending more time viewing media, especially video.

What’s Important for You

Remember that business owners are also consumers. You have probably exhibited a lot of the shifts in thinking and action around your purchases as your customers have.

This puts you in a perfect position to pivot, move sideways or reinvent the way you do business.

You may be ready to shrink or scale your business, to shift to an online presence, to engage with your clients on different platforms, or to rethink your value proposition.

Whatever your situation, it’s time to rethink your business vision, strategy and goals.

Defining Your New (Business) Normal

It’s typical to start any business with a vision of what you want it to stand for and become, and how you will operate going forward.

I think exactly the same process is useful here and I’d like to walk you through it.

Step 1 – Define What’s Important (to you and your customer)

Let’s start with you.

Considering what you’ve gone through, your skills and your strengths, what’s important to you right now?

How will that play out in your business?

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you run a cafe. And let’s say that you’ve realised how important family and your health are to you and in your life. That your strengths are warmth, connection and giving back.

Looking at your old business vision, you might decide that you want to pivot to a delivery or take-away model, offering a healthier menu of family-sized meals, along with a personal hand-written note of thanks for supporting a local business and some staff training on customer service and care.

Or perhaps you run a fitness studio, or work as a coach in a face to face setting. Your strengths are compassion, zest and vitality. The personal connection with clients is important to you, but is difficult in lockdown.

Perhaps your new business model will be to shift from 80% face to face services, to 80% zoom services so that your clients can connect with you from their home, and altered work hours so that you can get enough downtime from the screen.

You could still offer services or events in an outdoor setting with social distancing as allowed, or organise online fitness community events that support your clients around motivation, energy and fear.

So, what about your customer?

We know that pricing is a consideration, yet they want connection and a values-driven approach.

Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes will help you work out the best way forward. 

Perhaps you need to shift your messaging. Perhaps they no longer want a “body transformation”, but are looking to “stay on track” with their eating or exercise or to be kinder to themselves, or develop consistent self-care rituals.

I had this conversation with a coach today, who has seen a shift in clients away from the idea of transformation and into staying on track and self-care, and into more of mental well- being habits than eating and exercise.

Customers want safety and convenience right now; how can you deliver that?

Customers want positivity and some fun; what could you do that offers that?

Creative thinking is required, and so your own resilience and self-care are essentials for facilitating that. After all, nothing creative comes out of a stressed brain.

Step 2 – Ask Your Customer

In my experience, most business owners don’t consult with their clients to find out what they want and need.

But the purpose of any business is to find out what customers want, and then give it to them.

Phone surveys, email surveys, written surveys, competitions with survey questions and other methods can be used to ask your customers what they want and need.

You can ask simple questions like; 

  1. How do you prefer to buy from us? 
  2. What do you like best about working with us? 
  3. What can we do better? 
  4. Is there something we don’t currently offer, that you’d like to buy from us?

I worked with a business once who added $100K revenue to their business and saved $50K on an unnecessary software just by doing a survey like this of their existing customers.

Surveys are part of your marketing; they demonstrate that you care enough about your customer to find out what they want and need, and how you can serve them.

Even better, post a thank you note to their address as a personal touch for participating in the survey.

Your customers feel heard, appreciated and valued. And they will stick with you, possibly spending more, or referring others.

Step 3 – Develop a Strategy

Most of the time, it’s best to make only one or two changes, or a few small changes to your business at a time.

If you survey your clients first, it gives them advance warning that changes may be coming.

Gaining their feedback means you can start working out a strategy that is feasible.

Your strategy could include one or two of the following:

  1. Changing your pricing strategy e.g. 
    1. discount, 
    2. packaging, 
    3. bonuses
  2. Adding a new service or product line e.g. 
    1. smaller purchase, 
    2. product to suit the at-home arrangements, 
    3. product or service to suit their altered priorities
    4. delivering services via video or 
    5. offering a low cost community membership
  3. Collaborating e.g. adding perceived value and/or convenience
  4. Convenience e.g. home delivery, online delivery

It’s important at this stage to see what others are doing and what’s working, not for the sake of comparison, but to validate the idea and give some certainty that it could work for you. 

The final steps would be to get clear on your support, resources and partners that you might need to bring it into action, and then develop a plan.

I’ll cover that in the next episode.

Summary

Today, I’ve talked about how our world and our priorities and values have shifted.

This has undoubtedly changed the way we buy, and the way we sell.

Business the ‘old way’ may not suit your customer anymore.

I’ve outlined the first three steps in a process to review and revise your business vision, to find out what your customers want from you right now, and to brainstorm some strategies to achieve it.

Hopefully, you’re clear that consulting with your customers will tell you most of what you need to know.

And if that aligns with what you want and can deliver, it’s time to pivot and make it happen.

Ready to find your new normal?

Considering what you’ve gone through, your skills and your strengths, what’s important to you right now? If you’re ready to break old habits and move forward I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 96: 5 Tips For Coping With Uncertainty

Resilience is your ability to bounce back from stress and it’s something you need to be able to cope with uncertainty in a healthy way. 

It’s not until you’re tested that you realise how much resilience you actually have, or not.

In this episode, I’ll define resilience, and talk about five things you can do to better cope with uncertainty and build resilience.

Here are three definitions:

  1. “Advancing despite adversity”
  2. “Recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”
  3. “The capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way

When you’re resilient, you’re better equipped to cope with uncertainty.

Resilience is built by using a set of skills and doing certain habits consistently.

If resilience was money, it would be like having $50,000 in your account as a buffer. Just like savings in the bank, resilience is a kind of personal wealth that must be built over time.

Firstly, I’d like to talk about the skills of coping with uncertainty.

Then I’d like to talk about habits you can develop to build resilience and help you cope better.

5 Tips for Coping With Uncertainty

1. It’s normal to feel stressed

As we have seen, uncertainty is a normal and unavoidable part of life. 

We have control over many things, but we can’t control everything that happens to us. Life throws us all curve balls at times. We lose our jobs, people pass away, our kids leave home, and relationships change.

We may feel stressed about what we can’t control, and that is normal.

Stress is a response that helps us to survive. Healthy or positive stress allows us to adapt and make good out of situations.

It’s unhealthy or negative stress that feels difficult and needs attention.

Recognising and accepting that you feel stress, and understanding which type it is, is a first step to being able to cope and build resilience. 

It can give a sense of relief to recognise that you’re feeling something right now, that is normal and will pass.

2. Process negative emotions (feel the feelings)

 

For a lot of adults processing the emotions around these types of events is difficult. Many of us have forgotten how to do it, or we are too busy to give this attention. 

It’s a really important skill to have because we cannot suppress negative emotions. They hang around in the background and eventually come out like a big volcano when you least expect it or, when something stressful happens.

If you want to learn how to process emotions properly, watch your kids. Think about the last time your child fell over or got in a verbal fight with a sibling or friend. 

They probably talked about how they felt, they probably cried a lot, and eventually the crying would have stopped and they would have settled down and moved on.

Making time and space to acknowledge and process your emotions, with self-compassion, can help you to cope better with stress.

3. Focus on what you can control to dial down stress and emotional intensity.

Please know that stress is caused in your own brain, and therefore, you can use your brain to resolve stress.

What I’m saying is that we are the ones that decide how we will react to life’s circumstances.

While your brain can tell you a big story about how bad things are, realise that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts come into your head, but they are not necessarily facts.

Rather than get bogged down with your thoughts, it can help you to see the flipside – what I call factualising.

By focusing on the things that you can control, you can shift out of an emotional state and back into some logical thinking which can help to calm things down.

This could include:

  • Listing things that you do have control of
  • Identifying all the things that ARE stable in your life right now
  • Recognising how you have succeeded in the past

4. Use Your existing skills

Think about any uncertain times you’ve faced in life, and what you learned from those times.

What skills did you use? How did you use them? What was the outcome?

Here’s an example.

A client of mine said she had struggled with uncertainty around her job. Every week she was told a different thing, and she felt a lack of control over her future, and even her ability to make a weekly plan.

When we discussed this further, she identified that one of her skills was organising and another was persistence, and a third was being able to ask for help.

She realised that in the past, she had been able to develop a week by week schedule to help her cope with the uncertainty, and she realised she could do this again, and reach out for help to make sure it was the right thing for her.

By focusing on using her skills, she was able to get through her period of uncertainty.

5. Self Care

 

Self care simply means doing things that boost your physical, mental or emotional health.

Most of us don’t make enough time to do these important things, but they help to create healthy hormonal responses, remove us from the uncomfortable situation, give us an outlet for stress, and help us feel mentally and emotionally replenished.

Self-care activities can also feel like an achievement, even when life is uncertain.

Some self-care activities tick all of those boxes, for example, exercise.

Let’s say that you’re able to go out into your yard and use a skipping rope for a few minutes. You break a sweat. You release some tension and you release endorphins.

Your mind is on the present moment, not tripping over the jump rope and staying upright, or counting your reps.

Meanwhile, you’re outside in nature. You experience physical sensations that distract your mental worries. You remember what it’s like to be outside again. 

After all that, you feel like you’ve achieved something and you have something to show for it – an elevated heart rate, knowing you’ve done some good for yourself, and you’re feeling calmer and more in control.

As you can see, self-care is a way of building and maintaining resilience. It’s what puts credits in the bank for when you need them.

If you actively practice self-care activities each week you can keep building your mental and emotional savings account.

Summary

Resilience is your ability to bounce back from stress and it’s something you need to be able to cope with uncertainty in a healthy way. 

Resilience is your ability to bounce back from stress and it’s something you need to be able to cope with uncertainty in a healthy way. 

It’s often not until your busy life is disrupted that you realise that you’re not coping well and need to build your resilience.

I described five ways to cope with uncertainty and start building resilience:

  1. To acknowledge it’s normal to feel stressed 
  2. Processing negative emotions – feeling the feelings and letting go
  3. Focus on what you can control 
  4. Identify your existing skills and decide how to use them
  5. Develop a consistent self-care practice

Ready to build resilience?

Resilience is built by using a set of skills and doing certain habits consistently. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 95: Validation and Profit

This episode shows you why and how validation using rigorous, high quality data is your secret weapon for helping your clients to get better results and make long lasting change, and to create more value, more sales, higher prices and better profit.

Today’s episode is called validation, and I’m talking in relation to results that your clients get in your coaching business.

In my last episode I talked about how to sell more coaching programs with the inclusion of monitoring data, and that’s the backstory for today’s episode.

I’ve chosen the title ‘validation’ because I want to show you why and how rigorous, high quality data is your secret weapon for helping your clients to get better results and make long lasting change, and to create more value, sales and higher prices.

What is validation?

Let’s start with a simple definition.

  • The action of checking or proving the accuracy of something.
  • The recognition or affirmation that something is valid or worthwhile.

 Change is hard for our brains, and data gives our brains the validation they need to decide a habit is worth continuing.

Why Validation Matters

Let’s start by talking about why validation is important.

Let’s say that your client is living a stressful life, and she quite likes the idea of regular meditation and wants to start up a regular habit to help her relieve stress.

To create a consistent habit, you know she’ll need to convince her brain that it’s worth it.

That’s because the human brain prefers to run efficiently, on autopilot, doing the things it already knows how to do well, so it can focus on threat, survival and fun stuff.

Therefore, according to your client’s brain, having to bring focus on developing a new habit is a chore and possibly a risk. 

Change is hard for our brains, and data gives our brains the validation they need to decide a habit is worth continuing.

Aside from learning how to do the habit, her brain requires a process of ‘learning’ a whole bunch of micro habits and rewiring entrenched behaviours that happen before and after the meditation, before it can get the habit to happen automatically.

For example, she’ll have to learn to stop what she’s doing, say no to people, set aside time, stop saying she’s too busy, and then do the darn 10 minutes of meditation.

As she juggles her competing priorities and her already entrained habits that create stress, her brain will start to realise that starting a simple habit like 10 minutes of meditation is actually hard to fit in, commit to, and do consistently. 

That will probably feel uncomfortable. She’ll have the urge to continue with her ‘more important’ stuff.

And a day after she meditates, she may feel totally stressed again, so her brain will question how effective it really is, because the results may not be huge or immediate. 

Her belief system could jump on the bandwagon. She might start telling herself that this is too hard. She might tell herself that I might as well give up, because I am probably going to fail anyway.

This is why validation with evidence-based data is so important.

It does more than just prove to your client’s brain that a habit is safe and worth the effort. 

It also provides tangible evidence that your client is capable of change and that the results are worth pursuing.

This is especially important for habits that have little to no visible, immediate impact.

For example, there are habits like physical exercise where you feel the endorphin rush and sweat afterwards. There’s a tangible impact.

Compare that with deep breathing exercises to lower your blood pressure and stress hormones. Those are two pretty invisible measures that your habits had a gradual, positive impact. No immediate reward there.

That begs the question – how do we help our clients monitor and measure progress? What kind of data are going to be meaningful?

Let’s look at two types of data – qualitative, and quantitative.

As she juggles her competing priorities and her already entrained habits that create stress, her brain will start to realise that starting a simple habit like 10 minutes of meditation is actually hard to fit in, commit to, and do consistently. 

That will probably feel uncomfortable. She’ll have the urge to continue with her ‘more important’ stuff.

And a day after she meditates, she may feel totally stressed again, so her brain will question how effective it really is, because the results may not be huge or immediate. 

Her belief system could jump on the bandwagon. She might start telling herself that this is too hard. She might tell herself that I might as well give up, because I am probably going to fail anyway.

This is why validation with evidence-based data is so important.

It does more than just prove to your client’s brain that a habit is safe and worth the effort. 

It also provides tangible evidence that your client is capable of change and that the results are worth pursuing.

This is especially important for habits that have little to no visible, immediate impact.

For example, there are habits like physical exercise where you feel the endorphin rush and sweat afterwards. There’s a tangible impact.

Compare that with deep breathing exercises to lower your blood pressure and stress hormones. Those are two pretty invisible measures that your habits had a gradual, positive impact. No immediate reward there.

That begs the question – how do we help our clients monitor and measure progress? What kind of data are going to be meaningful?

Let’s look at two types of data – qualitative, and quantitative.

Qualitative (subjective) data

Normally coaches use tools that are subjective, that is, where the client rates themselves.

We use various quizzes, questionnaires, 1 – 10 rulers, sleep diaries, logging sheets and other self-rating tools to help clients understand what they feel, who they are and what’s changing for them.

They use these to rate hunger, energy, mood, stress, sleep quality, response to food and similar types of information.

Qualitative data is very important because it captures how the client feels at any given moment. The problem is, that information is subject to bias.

A client who self-rates may feel exuberant one day, and miserable two days later, so their mood will skew the data.

Even the more high level, scientifically validated questionnaires can be influenced by bias.

I had a client do a quiz several times because she wasn’t sure that her answers were accurate and she got a different answer every time.

How would you feel about the data if that was you? 

How much would you trust it? 

Could you rely on it?

That’s why coaching programs can be bolstered by rigorous data collected in an accurate way.

This kind of data provides the validation our clients need to believe that they can do something, and to believe that their new habits are ‘working’ and ‘getting results.’

Quantitative (objective) data

This is essentially what quantitative data is – objective data that is measured accurately using numbers.

Even better, using calibrated devices to measure physiological data that shows the impact of our habits on our bodies and minds.

One of the best examples is the bioimpedance scale which measures body composition – in other words – bone, fat, muscle and water. 

While not as accurate as a Dexa scan, bioimpedance is an easy and accessible method to quantify body weight, muscle mass, bone mass, hydration and body fat percentage.

Obviously the more expensive models give more accurate data, and a Dexa scan is the most accurate.

I used this scale early in my business – from 2005 onwards – as a marketing tool. At health expos I had lines of people out the door wanting to get their body composition measured, while other vendors stood at empty stands, wondering what was going on.

 

Data provides tangible evidence that your client is capable of change and that the results are worth pursuing.

I used this scale in my coaching program to help clients see tangible changes in their bodies – inside and out – in conjunction with other qualitative and quantitative measures.

These methods gave my clients plenty of evidence that their bodies and minds were changing and, it gave me a huge data set that could be used to demonstrate typical client outcomes in my marketing.

For example, I could specify that 99% of my clients lost weight during my program, ranging from 3 – 15kg, and with the majority of that being body fat based on the numbers recorded.

These were all things that they measured during the life of their program, so they had great awareness of what had changed.

They loved the physiological data as it proved their lifestyle changes were having an impact and it validated how they felt.

You can imagine what that did for my marketing!

My clients would say things like – “there is real science behind this”, and “I have gotten so much more out of this program than I ever expected!”

That’s just with a simple scale.

More recently, some higher tech options have come up to get even better quality data.

One that comes to mind is the heart rate strap and watch that measure exercise performance.

There are a variety of wearable watches that measure various physiological data. 

I can imagine what my clients will say in future when I use these devices as part of their coaching program and I’m very excited about the value, precision and accurate response measurement that can be developed.

It will help us to add tangibility to our somewhat intangible services.

It will help your clients to quickly identify which of their habit based interventions are having the greatest impact, and help them pinpoint where to focus their energy.

They will have a greater appreciation for the effectiveness of habit-based intervention, and a greater awareness of their own best solutions for managing physical and mental health.

And finally, it will give coaches a competitive advantage over others, help them to sell more programs, at higher prices and retain clients for a longer period, as has been my own experience in my own coaching business.

I am excited to share some new research in this area in coming months.

For now, if you would like to know more about monitoring and measuring, please get in touch at melaniejwhite.com/contact.

Ready to use data to improve your coaching business?

Knowing howto use data effectively can make all the difference. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 91: Being Authentic

If you want to be more authentic, there are three things you need to do – create courage, be honest and act with integrity.

Nearly everyone I speak to wants to be more authentic. Authenticity is something most people value, and it is a key part of building strong personal and professional relationships.

But what does being authentic mean, and what does it involve?

I created this episode to help you understand what being authentic really means, the squeamish parts of being authentic, and the three things you need to do to start being more authentic.

What is Authenticity?

Authenticity means being yourself. It’s when your actions and words are congruent with your beliefs and values.

The VIA Institute on Character describes authenticity with this statement:

“I am honest to myself and others, I try to present myself and my reactions accurately to each person, and I take responsibility for my actions.”

VIA Institute on Character 

In other words, courage, honesty, and integrity are the three skills that create authenticity.

Here’s an example of what being authentic looks like.

One day I made a biriyani for dinner. My first one ever. We ate the meal and at the end, I asked my husband how he enjoyed it.

He said, firmly but kindly, “I really appreciate the effort you went to in making dinner, but I would prefer not to have this again. I don’t really like it, but I’m glad you tried it and am thankful you took the time to make a lovely meal.”

My first reaction was to feel deflated. He saw my face drop, and we talked about the importance of honesty.

It turned out that he didn’t want to pretend to like a meal then lie to about it later. It would mean that I’d made it again, thinking he liked it, and he’d have to lie again. He might become frustrated, or resentful about that.

It totally made sense to me, and I appreciated his honesty and courage and I could see that he was genuinely speaking with empathy and giving feedback from a place of love.

This one conversation opened a whole new way of thinking and personal growth for me.

It deepened our relationship and helped me to examine my own beliefs, thoughts and actions about honesty and integrity.

It helped me to identify the skills that I wanted to develop, so I could be more authentic.

As you can see it might be easy to assume that authenticity just happens.

But it doesn’t.

It’s more than just appearing to say something nice, or honest. 

Have you heard of the smell of fear? It’s a real thing. When we are afraid, we give off chemicals that send a warning to others.

If you have any fears, doubts or lack conviction in your beliefs and values, or are ‘faking it’ or hiding something, then you will be given away by your body chemistry, posture, tone of voice and facial expressions. Your body will contradict your so-called authenticity. 

Have you ever heard people say one thing and seen them do another?

Or have you ever had the sense that someone was lying to you?

How did that feel? 

And how did that affect your opinion of that person?

Authenticity is a wonderful thing but the fact is, being authentic can be challenging.

That’s because being authentic means that you need to be honest, to speak up for yourself, to voice an opinion, perhaps to be vulnerable, to expose something or to face a challenge.

Being authentic often requires us to develop certain skills, like courage.

If building relationships is important in your business and life, then it will serve you to improve your authenticity skills.

Let’s look at the three main skills of being authentic.

Courage

In interpersonal relationships, it’s courage that allows you to name what is happening to raise awareness, acceptance and understanding.

It’s when you can express observations, feelings, needs and requests and to shake up the status quo without offending, violating, blaming, shaming, or demeaning others.

For example: I don’t like it when you do X, it makes me feel Y. I would like it if you didn’t do that around me anymore.

If you have been in a cycle of people pleasing, it can be hard to find the language of courage, especially knowing that the other person may feel sad, disappointed or angry.

It’s about being able to stay on the right side of that fine line.

And let’s be clear: people pleasing is dishonest because it usually involves pretending to be someone that you’re not to meet someone else’s needs. It involves putting your own feelings and needs aside.

As you could guess, it takes courage to break out of that cycle and say no, or to be clear about what you will or won’t, can or can’t do.

If you have been in a cycle of people pleasing, it can be hard to find the language of courage, especially knowing that the other person may feel sad, disappointed or angry.

You will also need to learn to be ok with other people’s discomfort.

But courage is a powerful skill that can transform your relationships and build personal integrity.

I recommend that to build courage, you start with some small challenging situation in your life where you want to speak up for yourself or set a boundary, or a place in your business where you need to ‘show up’. 

Choose something that is just a little uncomfortable.

Then rehearse what you will say in that situation and how you will say it in a way that is calm, rational and non-judgemental.

Then schedule that into your diary and do it. Reflect on how it felt. Reflect on what you learned.

I promise you, if you do this one small thing, and do it regularly, you will build phenomenal courage, diplomacy, self-assurance and emotional balance.

Honesty

The second part of being authentic is being honest.

Honesty goes hand in hand with courage.

It means you are speaking the truth and more broadly, it means that you are presenting yourself in a genuine and sincere way, without pretence.

The research shows that honesty achieves more than just trust and positive relationships – it also helps you to set more accurate goals – in other words, goals that reflect your true values and interests.

When you set realistic goals, you can more easily achieve them, and this in turn builds self-confidence.

Honesty can be challenging because we are often afraid of the consequences; of hurting other people’s feelings, or of letting others down.

The most important thing you can be, though, is honest with yourself. If you aren’t happy about something, or if you are living out of alignment with what you believe in, then it’s going to create more tension within you than if you lie to protect the feelings of others.

This is worth thinking about.

And the truth is, if people can’t handle your honest and tactful truth, spoken diplomatically, then they are probably not your people.

Integrity

The third part of being authentic is integrity.

Integrity is when you are who you say you are and act consistently across all areas of your life, rather than behaving differently around different people.

Integrity is when you live your life in alignment with your values, morals and ethics.

It’s been described as ‘doing the right thing, even when no-one is looking.’

In other words, integrity is a personal choice.

And it is a choice that builds confidence, courage, and authenticity.

Here’s why.

When you live with integrity, you never have to question yourself or doubt yourself. You are doing what you know is right for you. 

And when you take responsibility and are accountable for your actions, other people will trust you and respect you.

You become a role model and develop a positive reputation.

I feel that it’s easier to forgive someone’s mistakes if they have integrity, because you know that they are coming from an authentic, honest place.

Integrity directly impacts on your success in life because it improves your chance of promotion, leadership and attractiveness, generally.

Right now, think about someone you know who seems to have a lot of integrity.

How do you feel about that person?

How much do you trust them?

What is it specifically that causes you to feel this way about them?

You can hone your integrity by being clear on your core values, your decisions and by developing your strengths.

For example, if your strongest values are around family, community, contribution, love and responsibility, then it makes sense that you will cultivate thoughts and actions that align with those values.

In another example, if your strongest values are around achievement, competitiveness, courage, hard work and helping society, then it makes sense that you would cultivate thoughts and actions that align more with those values.

Neither of those two people is better than the other, they are just different.

But if person B presented to be family-oriented, but was more interested in creating ventures that helped communities, you would easily identify the incongruence between words and actions.

Similarly, if person A said that they badly wanted to get promoted at work, they might secretly rather prefer to focus on their family and loved ones, and might not be able to get the promotion they say they want.

As you can see, one of the foundations of being authentic is being self-aware.

When you understand what your values are and what drives you, then it’s way easier to act congruently and to be authentic.

When you take responsibility and are accountable for your actions, other people will trust you and respect you.

Summary

Being authentic is a wonderful way to build personal and business relationships, to feel fulfilled, and to follow your purpose.

But it’s more than just saying certain things or acting in a way that impresses others.

Being authentic requires three core skills; courage, honesty and integrity.

When you are self-aware, and act consistently with your values across all areas of life, with honesty, you are well on the way to being authentic.

Ready to be more authentic?

When you understand what your values are and what drives you, then it’s way easier to act congruently and to be authentic. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 86: The Central Governor Theory

As we enter the so-called third phase of isolation, what can we learn from Dr Tim Noake’s Central Governor Theory to help us cope better and go the distance?

I was reading an article on the ABC news, where they were talking about the stages of isolation, and that we are entering the third stage of isolation right now.

A pile of studies have been conducted Into the mental health of people who live in Antarctica and in other isolated areas such as submarines and polar bunkers and they’ve worked out what happens when these people are in isolation. 

Apparently in the beginning when you are isolated there is this period of anxiety and confusion – which we on dry land but in isolation, have seen as ‘panic buying.’

It’s followed by the second phase they call the ‘honeymoon period’- a stage where we settle into a routine that feels a bit novel and different. 

For example, you may revel in the opportunity to work in your pyjamas and not battle morning traffic and it feels good, a little bit special.

The ABC article says we are entering a third quarter of “hollow-eyed stares, odd fixations and brooding resentment. Where time grows sludgy, day blurs into night, and weekdays into weekends as you start to become lonely and to feel more offended and a bit desperate.”

In psychological studies of extreme confinement it’s called the third quarter phenomenon and apparently it’s where we may see a rise of emotional outburst, aggression and rowdy behaviour, as we anticipate the end of isolation but it does not come. 

As the article rolled on, I could see the parallels with a phenomenon called the central governor theory – described in 1997 by Dr Tim Noakes, an emeritus professor in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

The Central Governor Theory

The theory applies to exercise but I believe our brains could be operating under the same model right now, while we are in isolation.

Here’s how it works. The premise of the model is that your brain will override your physical ability to run and “shut the body down” before you’re able to do serious or permanent damage to yourself.

And I would like to explain how this works in the context of running, then you will see how it also works and applies to the context of regular life.

CGT in Running

Runnersconnect.net describes CGT really well so I will quote them directly here:

“At around mile 8 of a marathon, the race pace becomes difficult and the thought of running further seems impossible even for just a minute. Yet within a few hundred metres of the finish line, you are somehow able to summon a kick that finds you running minutes per mile faster than goal pace.

Once your brain realises it won’t die if you pick up the pace, the biological pathways open up so you can run faster.

That’s not to say that the physiological demands of a race aren’t real. Rather, the central governor theory posits that racing is a balance between: 

(1) physical preparation and biological systems; 

(2) emotional components, such as motivation and pain tolerance; 

(3) and self-preservation. 

The exact combination of these factors is what leads to how hard you’re able to push during a race.

I love the way they describe the central governor theory in running and break it down into those three elements – which you can see are totally applicable to our lives right now.

CGT in Isolation

The parallels with the so-called third stage of isolation seems to tie in with that 8 mile mark of a marathon.

We knew isolation was coming so we went through some physical preparation.

We may see a rise of emotional outburst, aggression and rowdy behaviour, as we anticipate the end of isolation but it does not come. 

Now we are needing to manage the emotional components, like motivation and tolerance.

We anticipate the end but it seems so far away, it’s uncertain, and we can’t judge how long there is to go. As a result, we feel stuck, flat, in pain and unable to cope for just another minute.

We also have the element of self preservation, where we want to protect ourselves from harm, and also to manage our own expectations and avoid disappointment. We are trying to temper both our enthusiasm and our frustration as we await the lifting of restrictions.

But when we have a date around when the restrictions will be lifted, and what that entails, we will feel safe and confident about moving forward enthusiastically to that finish line.

I think the question here is not so much ‘when will this all end’ – because that keeps us in a lost, stuck and catatonic state.

The question is really – ‘how can we move through the current pain and uncertainty, and just keep running?’

Tricking Your Brain

It’s clear to me that the central governor theory applies as much to life as it does to running. 

Maybe we can discover a solution from the runner’s world.

The problem that many runners face on race day is that they try to push themselves beyond their comfort zone when their mind is telling them that they can’t go any faster.

Here are three techniques that runners use, and how we can apply them to our own brains in the context of isolation.

1. Workouts

In the running world, regular workouts don’t normally train you to give it your all at the end of a session, but you can integrate bursts of energy that push through the barriers at the end.

In an isolation context, we can persist with our daily lives without holding back, and continue to do what we can, when we can, without falling into fear. 

The next two steps will help you with that!

2. Mental training

In the racing world, they say that no matter how well rested or prepared the body is, racing hurts, so you need to prepare for that mentally so that your brain doesn’t override your physical abilities at the end.

In an isolation context, the same applies. Be prepared for it to be challenging at times, but remember that our bodies and brains are wired to push through challenges and succeed. 

Recall a time when you have felt this way, and visualize yourself pushing through that moment. Remember what it felt like to push through the challenges and how it felt to make it to the other side.

This will help you to deal with any difficult times in the months ahead.

3. Pacing

In the racing world, there is a focus on improving your sense of pace, because pacing is one of the ways the brain self-regulates the central governor. 

That is, your brain “anticipates” all the known variables of a race and calculates an optimal pace that will get you to the finish without dying.

If the path deviates from what you anticipate, that is, if you try to go faster on race day, the brain reacts by forcing you to slow down. 

In an isolation context, you also need to pace yourself and in this case, it is difficult to anticipate the end without information about what it will be like and when it will occur.

However, you can anticipate how you will operate based on what you know right now.

It may help you to focus on smaller, more immediate periods of time, such as next week, so that your brain has something concrete to anticipate.

Summary

The central governor theory, first proposed by Dr Tim Noakes in 1997, describes how our brain tries to protect our body when things don’t go as we anticipate them.

You can anticipate how you will operate based on what you know right now.

In the context of social isolation during the current period of self-isolation, our brains are doing the same thing.

We can learn from what marathon runners do to outwit their brains, and stay strong until the finish, with a burst of energy as the finish line approaches.

If you need help to manage your emotions at this trying time, contact me on https://melaniejwhite.com/

Ready to cope better?

You can train your brain to better manage your emotions. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here: