You can find an emotional balance after illness or injury

You can find an emotional balance after illness or injury

Learning how to find an emotional balance after illness or injury can sometimes take a back seat. Your focus is often on recovery, rehabilitation, and figuring out how to live your life in your changed body.

Time moves on and you’ve started doing things you used to do before the illness or injury. You’ve worked hard to get to this point. You tell yourself you should feel grateful. But you don’t. You don’t feel that sense of emotional balance.

You may be quick to anger, tears or both, feel like you’re hiding away from people and life, and feel guilt. You feel what you’ve lost: your old life, a sense of control, confidence, etc. It’s taking a toll on your mental health. You wonder if you will ever feel well again, find an emotional balance and be happy. And is that even possible given all the (unwanted and un-asked for) change you’ve been through.

 

Pic of a woman with a stick due to having a disability and looking at the health lottery ticket she won but she didn't even know she was playing.

It’s not uncommon to lose one’s sense of emotional balance when you find out you won a health lottery you didn’t even know you were playing.

 

This is a common scenario I come across in my work as a coach and facilitator and it’s clear why. Recovery and rehabilitation along with your regular day-to-day life can be a full-time job. You may not have the energy to focus on the emotional side of things. But it can also feel really scary and too big to deal with. And knowing how to deal with it can be an issue. It may feel easier to use your energy to keep the lid firmly shut on it. Yet the issues keep bubbling up pushing the lid off.

 

Pic of a person trying to keep a lid on the sadness they feel.

Pushing down your sadness means it will keep coming up to the surface and spilling out.

 

So I want to share with you two important things you can do which will help you find an emotional balance after illness or injury.

 

Learn the two things you can do to find an emotional balance again after a life-changing illness or injury #seriousillness #chronicillness #invisibleillness #seriousinjury #healthcoaching #wellness tell a friend

 

1. Integrate your experience of the illness/injury into your life story to find an emotional balance

 

You have a story of your life. When and where you were born, what it was like for you growing up and becoming an adult, who your best mates are, what you enjoy doing, your education, the work you do, key events in your life, etc.

The key thing is to integrate your experience(s) of the illness or injury so it is a part of your life story rather than dominating it – the negative and positive experiences. (And yes, you may have experience some positives such as the kindness of a stranger, a good friend standing by you, something else.) Your illness or injury experience will shape you as a person, but you’ve experienced a lot of other events, emotions, relationships, jobs, experiences, etc. which have also shaped you. And will continue to do so.

 

The illness/ injury/ disability is one part of your life, not the whole of it.

 

Your #seriousillness #chronicillness #invisibleillness #seriousinjury is one part of your life, not the whole of it #healthcoaching #wellness tell a friend

 

I find what helps you to do this is acknowledging, owning, and finding a way to express the feelings you experience in relation to the illness/injury. Even the unfamiliar and unpleasant ones like sadness, grief, anger, isolation, etc.

Clients often describe being in touch with these unpleasant feelings as moving through a swamp. People find the prospect scary and so avoid the swamp as they fear they will drown in it. As I wrote in other blogs, it’s not about unpacking and drowning in the swamp forever and ever. There are ways to acknowledge these feelings so that does not happen to you.

 

Woman flailing in a swamp of unpleasant emotions and there is a woman on the bank saying that the swamp isn't deep, the woman can stand and trying to help get her out.

Paradoxically, to find an emotional balance often means wading through the swamp of unfamiliar and sometimes scary emotions and feelings.

 

These unpleasant feelings are actually really normal to experience in the scheme of life. It is unfortunate that society has stigmatised them as not normal. They are part of a spectrum of feelings and acknowledging that we feel them demonstrates our human-ness.

 

2. Integrate the person you were before the illness/injury with the person you are now and are becoming to find an emotional balance

 

This is the second thing you can do which will help.

Before the life-changing illness/injury, you knew who you were and what you were about: your likes, dislikes, you had plans for the future and dreams, you had your friends, work, routine, etc. Things felt stable and you ticked along happy and confident that if you put the effort in, you would get the results you wanted for yourself.

But after the life-changing illness or injury, you may feel like you are not you anymore, whilst knowing you are still you. You feel like a contradiction and this can feel destabilising, hence why people try to find an emotional balance. Many people feel this so it’s entirely normal. It’s also true that you are you and not you.

 

After a life-changing #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury you may feel you are still you but not you. It’s true. You are you and not you. Read why here. #healthcoaching #wellness tell a friend

 

The reason why is you are evolving.

 

The direction your life is taking is completely different from what you thought it was prior to your illness or injury. In a sense, you are living a new life. And there is no visible, well-trodden path to living this new life. No one gives you a handbook on how to find an emotional balance.** There are a lot of unknowns before you. And the unknown is uncertain, which can be worrisome, and it can feel like you are in the swamp again.

Part of this process of integration is being very conscious of how you are now and how you are changing, taking a proactive and deliberate role in it, and determining the direction you are moving in.

As you take considered action, what you are doing is building your path of wellness as you are walking/rolling on it. And as you are building your path, you know what is going into it. That creates a level of certainty. Do this and you find an emotional balance you have been seeking. It’s possible.

 

Pic of two women building one of the women's path of well so she can find an emotional balance

Building your own path of wellness will enable you to find an emotional balance.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What has it been like for you when trying to find an emotional balance after a life-changing illness or injury? What has helped you to find an emotional balance again?

If you are living with a chronic illness, or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to build that firm path back to wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

** My blogs are meant to be the handbook on how to find an emotional balance and more after a life-changing illness or injury. You can sign up to my newsletter below to get them direct to your inbox.

 

If you want to leave a comment privately, complete this form. If you want to leave it publicly, keep scrolling.

Why adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury helps

Why adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury helps

Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. So when clients say to me they have personal high standards for themselves, they are proud of them because they have enabled them to achieve so much, I get that. And I also make a note of it. (and I still make a note when I notice my own high standards) Here’s why.

Adjusting your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. tell a friend

 

Usually these clients have done bucket loads to help their recovery. Regularly doing physiotherapy, learning about the medical condition, reading books, taking up new hobbies and more. But they find they still aren’t where they want and expect to be.

 

Pic of a person with a disability sitting, crying and wondering why they still don't feel good even though they have been doing a lot to help themselves.

 

That is often when we start working together. I can see how their high standards are one of the things getting in the way of them finding a sense of peace in living in their changed bodies. Here is a typical example of what that looks like in action.

 

Personal high standards can create a vicious cycle

 

Client decides on a task or an activity to do or sets herself a goal.

She has to put in more physical effort to complete the task, activity or goal than in her pre-illness days.

Client worries about having the physical ability and stamina to finish the activity or task.

She compares herself and abilities to her pre-illness self. (This is where pre-illness high standards take over.)

Client continues trying to complete the task, activity or goal to the same standards as pre-illness.

But it’s taking a long time and it’s a lot harder.

She feels anxiety as a result.

Client does not relax.

She therefore does not enjoy the activity.

The client gets upset with herself.

You can see how the high standards from her pre-illness days were making were making her life difficult. They can lead to a vicious cycle and get in the way of a person making the change they want for themselves.

When your body has changed considerably, you end up putting a lot more physical, mental and emotional effort to do things you once did. And that can make it difficult for you to meet your pre-illness high standards. The high standards suited your body and capabilities as they were then, not now.

 

Pic of a person trying to push a heavy rock of personal high standards up a hill but not getting anywhere. Another person tells them that they adjusted their standards and they have been easier to carry ever since.

 

I’ve noticed that when people realise this and importantly, acknowledge this is their reality, that can then free up their energy to do something different to help themselves get to where they want to be.

 

Acknowledging your high standards are no longer achievable or difficult to achieve may not be an easy process

 

This needs to be respected I feel. The person is experiencing a HUGE change, often a life-changing change, which they may be finding traumatic. How their illness or injury occurred could also have been a traumatic event for them. Gentleness and compassion are needed.

I want to explain why this process of acknowledging their reality and adjusting personal high standards after illness or injury is not always easy for people.

 

1. When you experience a life-changing illness or injury, you don’t know what you don’t know

 

As I’ve said in previous blogs, it’s not like you get a handbook on how to deal with the change, adjust, move on with your life and be happy. So of course, you will be operating to your pre-illness or pre-injury standards. It is what you know.

 

2. Your willingness in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury plays an important role

 

Your willingness will have an impact on how you adapt to living with the impact. Unwillingness to adjust can take several forms.

Your willingness to adjust your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury plays an important role. Read more here. tell a friend

 

2a. You don’t give yourself choices

 

Some people can operate in a such a way where they don’t give themselves choices in adjusting their personal high standards after illness or injury. For example, ‘I can be like I was or not. Not being like I used to be is not an option. So I’m going to do things as I used to do.’

This can feel a very black and white approach to the situation where only one way is acceptable.

 

2b. You associate your high standards with who you are as a person

 

If you associate your high standards with the sense of who you are as a person, your sense of identity, this can make it difficult to adjust them. For example,

I am a high-achiever.’

When we say I am such-and-such, the I am is fixed. There isn’t much movement to it.

Instead, have a go at saying, 

I work hard and put in a lot of effort to do a lot of things very well.’

That is more process-based, which means it is based on behaviours, i.e. working hard, putting in a lot of effort. When you make your way of being in the world based more on behaviours, there is more movement and flexibility. You can start to adjust how hard you work, how much effort you put in to things. (I am really hoping this makes sense, but if not, leave a question in the comments and I’ll respond.)

If you also place a high value on being this way as a person, this too can contribute to less willingness to adjust your high standards. For example,

am a high-achiever and it’s a great way for me to be.’

This can be hard to let go of. And I get why. Being the high achiever could have served you very well and you’ve done great things with it. There can also be that fear of,

‘If I let go of this, will it mean I am any less great/good as a person?’

Not only are we adjusting our high standards of ourselves, we are also adjusting the value we place on those standards and the value we place on ourselves as a consequence of living to those standards. It’s about adjusting your high standards and maintaining your self-worth.

 

2c. Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury means you are acknowledging what has happened

 

When adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury, it also means you are acknowledging the change you’ve experienced. If the change was unwelcomed and not wanted, which most serious illnesses and injuries are, acknowledging the change can be harder.

 

Pic of a person with a disability sitting down and crying about having to deal with the change they never would have chosen for themselves and not being able to accept it.

 

I am using the word acknowledgement on purpose. Many times I hear people say accept. Re-read the previous paragraph using the word accepting instead of acknowledging. Notice any differences you feel.

Sometimes the meaning people give to the word accept can have a not-very-helpful impact on their adjustment process. (I will be writing more about this in the future, but for now if you want to share with me your experience of acceptance in the context of living with a serious health issue, there’s more on that below.)

The above three reasons explain why being willing to adjust our high standards can be hard and why this process must be handled with respect, care and compassion.

 

But having high standards isn’t a bad thing

 

I am not saying having high standards are bad and you can no longer have them. They can have a positive impact:

  • Motivating you to set goals and strive to meet them, which is great for your psychological health (provided the goals and the process are striving towards them are not harming you or others physically or psychologically).
  • Enabling you to achieve more than you originally thought possible.
  • The sense of achievement can feed your self-worth.

All good stuff.

Important Tangent: It’s recommended that your sense of self-worth comes from many sources, not just achieving things particularly if it’s to gain the approval of others.

Having personal high standards when living with #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury isn’t a bad thing. The key thing is being able to adjust them as and when you need to. tell a friend

 

The key thing is adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury to the person you are now physically and psychologically. This is one of the things which helps to bring that sense of peace back into your life. And it’s an ongoing process. You can continue to adjust your personal high standards throughout your life.

 

A mind map of what helps you to adjust your high standards of yourself after illness or injury. Being wiling to adjust them is key.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

Does any of this resonate with you? What has helped you in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

I appreciate though leaving a comment publicly about your health situation may not be your thing. So if you want to share it with me privately, complete the contact form below and I will respond.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to adjust your personal standards, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

If you want to leave a comment privately, complete this form. If you want to leave it publicly, keep scrolling.

 

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness or injury is reckoned not to be a good combination. Being positive is often seen to be the better choice.

For example, I often hear people say, ‘Well, you can either get depressed and upset or you can be positive,’ in relation to living with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Many times, the person presents it as being happy is the right choice. Because who wants to be depressed and upset, right?

I get that. The fear that depression and sadness can overwhelm us and once we go there, we won’t be able to get out, is very real. So, we don’t go there at all. We shut that door and double lock it. Depression and serious illness won’t get us.

Picture of a person trying to lock out the depression and sadness of their serious illness

Locking depression and sadness out

 

I acknowledge this works for people.

I also want to acknowledge that for others, ignoring how sad and/or depressed they feel and striving to focus only on being positive may not. And I want to tell you why.

If you are one of these people, you may find what I share here will help your thinking around this and restore calm in how you feel about yourself.

Is it wrong to feel depressed when living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury? Is it better to focus on feeling positive? What are your thoughts? tell a friend

 

Why the choice between depression and serious illness or being positive may not work for you

 

It’s a choice between two ways of being. An either-or choice. Be sad or be positive.

You only have two options.

On top of this, depression and sadness can have a negative connotation in our society so being positive is the ‘correct’ choice.

 

Your choices are laced with judgement

 

Have you selected the right choice or the wrong choice?

It’s not fun to be seen as the person who selected the ‘wrong’ choice, i.e. being sad and depressed. It also assumes that is an active choice we make. But sadness and depression doesn’t work like that. They can creep up on your unnoticed. Or come unexpectedly to be your new companion.

Pic of a person telling a sad person to snap out of it

If you only you could just snap out of depression and serious illness. But it doesn’t work like that.

 

So of course you plough on, trying your damndest to be positive, because you can’t let the illness or injury ‘win’. Yet inside, there is a well of sadness filling up that you keep trying to push down.

Pic of a person trying to keep a lid on the sadness they feel.

Pushing down your sadness means it will keep coming up to the surface and spilling out.

 

You are expending your often times limited amounts of energy in these opposing directions. How long will your energy last? In my experience, not forever. Here’s an alternative.

 

Rather than give yourself a dilemma, give yourself a trilemma

 

This is what a tutor from my first coaching qualification told me. This was an important learning that has helped me (and others) in coping with difficult situations like a serious illness.

When we say we have a choice between this or that – being sad or positive for example – we give ourselves two choices, or a dilemma. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘black and white thinking’.

What if you gave yourself a third choice? Or a fourth choice? So you have a trilemma or a quadlemma.

This is about moving from

either this or that

to

either this or that or that or…

You can give yourself as many choices as you wish.

Pic of the either-or dilemma and giving yourself more choices

Giving yourself more choices

 

When you have more than two choices, you give yourself more possibilities.

When you have more than two #choices, you are giving yourself more possibilities. #seriousillness #seriousinjury #chronicillness tell a friend

 

These possibilities open up new ways of being and doing which may better meet your needs. You are no longer stuck with two choices neither which may be right for you.

When you have several possibilities, you have a choice to select one that is appropriate for you at that time. This helps to build your muscle of flexibility. And the ability to be flexible and move among choices is so important to living well with the impact of a serious illness or injury.

More possibilities also help to take away the judgement of seeing your choice as being right or wrong. It becomes the best choice for you in that moment.

 

Giving ourselves choices acknowledges the many ways we feel

 

Importantly, when we give ourselves choices, we are acknowledging that there are many ways we can feel at any particular time.

If we just give ourselves only two choices laced with the judgement that one choice is correct and the other wrong, then we discount something very real we may be feeling.

It is NORMAL to feel incredibly sad when we are dealing with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Acknowledging how you feel gives validity to your experience. This validity can be very healing.

Acknowledging how you feel about living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury gives validity to your experience. Validity helps the healing process tell a friend

 

Acknowledging your sadness, depression and serious illness also develops your self-awareness. You are in a better position to recognise what you need and then make a choice to meet that need.

When you meet your needs, then you are much less likely to end up unpacking and living in the sadness and depression.

So I encourage you to acknowledge the many ways you feel – desperately sad some moments or days, hugely depressed on others, sad but not huge amounts at other times, pretty good on other days, downright happy and thrilled in other moments, etc, etc.

Give yourself choices in how you feel, your needs and how you meet those needs.

Pic of a person saying that acknowledging their feelings brings benefits of validity and choices

 

What’s it like for you?

 

How do the thoughts in this article resonate with you? How are you at acknowledging the many ways you feel in relation to your, or a loved one’s, serious illness, serious injury or chronic illness?

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

What health coaching is like for people with serious health issues

What health coaching is like for people with serious health issues

A former client, Wendy H., has graciously shared her health coaching journey to give you a taster of what it is like and how it can support someone to live well with the impact of the health issue they have. Wendy starts her story before we started working together, sharing with you the serious health issue she lives with and everything she tried to help herself before trying health coaching. She then shares what health coaching was like for her. 

I made very little changes to what Wendy wrote. I added in a word here and there and the titles, and moved some sentences. I also drew the pictures. At the end of this article I provide a link to the questions referred to by Wendy. They will help you think about your own situation and what you want to be different. There is also the opportunity to try coaching for yourself for free.

 

Return to wellness: My health coaching experience

 

When my life changed forever

 

It was 7 years ago – in another life – since I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM), resulting in a weakened left leg with inevitable muscle wasting, dropped foot and a multitude of other symptoms associated with the condition such as bladder and bowel issues and fatigue.

I had always been sporty and active so over the past few years my rehabilitative journey took on a multitude of self-help strategies, importantly, finding out as much as I could about the condition.  I read books on neuroplasticity, brain training and mindfulness. I joined exercise programmes, the gym, saw a sports physiotherapist, neuro physiotherapist, trained how to do Nordic walking, which led to me taking up hippotherapy (horse therapy, or simply put, horse riding).

I have been measured for orthotic insoles and used a Functional Electrical Stimulation device (FES). I even went to acupuncture for weeks. I was on the verge of sinking into depression so was referred to a clinical psychologist, resulting in a short course of anti-depressants.

 

The irony….

 

Even after all this determination and sheer will power to get back to my previous life, it wasn’t really working.  I did a reasonable job at maintaining my physical strength. However, it seemed I was fighting a losing battle and began to feel ‘exercised out’.  I would put pressure on myself to exercise and scold myself if I didn’t.

I’d watch people running and walking in the street or on TV.  I found myself analysing their gait. How do they do this simple activity…. automatically?

I obsessed about how TM had affected me, was consumed with frustration, anger, loss, depression.

Finally, a few months ago I realized I had become STUCK.

After all this effort.

I was STUCK.

Everything became a mammoth task or a hassle. I’d stopped exercising. I became anxious and tearful.  I lost motivation, interest and confidence in almost everything. I couldn’t move on or come to terms with or adjust to how my world was now.

I still fretted about my past life. I was still angry and frustrated. This mountain was in front of me and I didn’t have the energy to climb it again.

Then it occurred to me – I had been focussing mostly on my physical state and been neglecting my mental health state. I really hadn’t learned how to adjust, accept or come to terms with this long-term medical condition Transverse Myelitis.

Picture of a person with a serious health issue stuck between their old life and the mountain (i.e. figuring out their new life)

Wishing for your old life but starting a new one feels like a large mountain to climb

 

You've done everything you can to live well w/ your #serioushealthissue #seriousinjury #chronicillness but you’re still stuck. Imagine this. A magic wand is waved as you sleep. In the morning, you still have the health issue, but… tell a friend

 

The turning point

 

At this time, an article in a newsletter from the Transverse Myelitis Society reminded members about a bursary to provide health coaching, guided by Barbara Babcock. I did have some apprehension and wondered whether this would be another fruitless journey.

However, having plucked up the courage to contact Barbara, she reassured me about the process and that we would have telephone contact at times to suit us both.  She also provided lots of preparatory articles and questions to think about prior to our first communication, so I felt somewhat relieved and prepared.

 

Health coaching journey – One of enlightenment, empowerment and self-awareness

 

Over the weeks that followed, my health coaching journey became one of enlightenment, empowerment and self-awareness.  I was amazed with how comfortable it was talking to Barbara on the phone and I soon realized that she didn’t put pressure on me to fulfil her agenda.

This was totally me guiding the script and pouring out my anxieties, stresses, frustration and anger. And importantly, we tackled the obstacles in my way, with a much more energetic and positive attitude.

I learned how to recognise my feelings within my body, not just the negatives, but the positives too.  It was frightening that I rarely felt these ‘positives’ because I had focussed on the negatives for so long.  It took practice, but I now consciously recognise when something feels ‘good’ and that this is the ‘anchor’ I needed.

I became more attuned to acknowledging anger and anxiety and importantly, how to manage, process and take control.  With Barbara’s guidance and simple strategies, I learned how to ‘feel’ where in my body the emotion was and what thoughts arose.

By simply giving the emotion a name and spending time with it, enabled me to process these thoughts and feelings.  This may sound daunting, but the nature of talking about your underlying feelings, in this safe environment, or writing them down was incredibly powerful.

Picture of a person writing about their feelings which is a powerful thing to do

The power of writing about your feelings.

 

The nature of talking about your underlying feelings in this safe environment of #health #coaching, or writing them down, was incredibly powerful. #serioushealthissue #chronicillness #spinalcordinjury #TransverseMyelitis tell a friend

 

 

Health coaching empowered me to focus on what I can do

 

My health coaching journey has now ended, but my journey to wellness and normality continues.  This is my new philosophy.

If you feel you have a mountain to climb or feel ‘stuck’ and have determination and the willpower to want to take your first steps, I would strongly recommend health coaching.

Be prepared to be open and honest and be aware that emotions may become overwhelming and distressful. And be prepared to work at it.

Barbara will pose unexpected questions and prompt when you are off your guard. If you expect Barbara to tell you what to do and how to do it, you will realise that this is not how it works and you will not reap the benefits.

I am learning to focus on what I can do now, and although I still have a mountain to climb, I can tackle it in smaller chunks.  I am more positive and less fatalistic. I am able to recognise anger. I am now able to move on. I am managing fatigue. I have resumed physical activities and registered for a one-mile open water swim.  I no longer feel ‘stuck’.

Wendy H, York

 

Picture of a person having found her path to wellness and a new normality because of health coaching

Finding your own path towards wellness and your new normality

 

What’s it like for you?

 

In what ways did Wendy’s story mirror your own or someone you know? How do you think health coaching could help you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

You can also download the questions I sent to Wendy for her to think about ahead of our first session via this blog post.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

How to transform the struggle of a serious health issue into acceptance – Part 3

How to transform the struggle of a serious health issue into acceptance – Part 3

Accepting a serious health issue can be hard so for the past few weeks, I’ve been describing strategies you can implement to transform that struggle into acceptance. The strategies have focused on mindfulness, how to be the fly-on-the-wall of your life, dealing with unhelpful thoughts and what acceptance really means. These strategies come from Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). This week I explain the final two strategies: how taking Committed Action aligned to your Values are integral to getting to a place of acceptance with your health issue.

This is incredibly important. When we know what is truly important to us, we can more easily make decisions and take action in line with that. And that leads to living a meaningful life, which is what we all want for ourselves.

I’ll recap the ideas of Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) here and its benefits so you can see how all the strategies hang together. If you wish to read the series in full, you can find the first post here and the second post here. In fact, I encourage you to because it has useful ideas and strategies you can start implementing immediately. It will also give you the full picture of ACT thereby demonstrating the benefits of this talking form of help.

Taking action which aligns with what is important to us enables us to live a meaningful life #AcceptanceCommitmentTherapy tell a friend

 

Accepting a serious health issue – Using ACT

 

The official definition of Acceptance Commitment Therapy, referred to as ACT (say it as the word ‘act’), is:

‘The goal of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility: the ability to contact the present moment and the psychological reaction it produces, as a fully conscious human being, and based on the situation, to persist with or change behaviour for valued ends.’ (Harris, 2007; Mindfulness Training Ltd., 2017)

Or to put it simply – To create a rich, full and meaningful life whilst accepting the pain and suffering which goes along with it.

You may read ‘accept the pain and suffering’ and think, ‘I’ve already got accepting this serious health issue to deal with!! What the hell is she on about?!’

Let me explain. Of course, we want to be happy more than we are sad or upset, yet sometimes life throws unpleasant or downright awful things our way. Sh*t happens as they say and it’s not fun. So when I say ‘accept’ this, I am not advocating saying ‘yes, this is such a great thing to have happened!’ It’s about acknowledging that yes, this sh*t thing has happened, this is how it has impacted me, this is how I feel about it.

As a society, we tend to push away and suppress bad things which happen to us or ‘bad’ feelings. So much so, anything ‘bad’ has become stigmatised. It is as if we ‘should never’ feel bad and ‘should always’ be happy. Yet when we suppress the ‘bad’ feelings, we don’t acknowledge them. And the ‘bad’ and unpleasant feelings so want to be acknowledged, they will leak out. The strategies used in Acceptance Commitment Therapy help you to visit with those feelings and acknowledge them so they become recognised as a normal aspect of your life. This all helps the process of accepting a serious health issue.

Accepting a serious health issue means coping with unpleasant feelings

You don’t have to unpack and live with overwhelming feelings.

 

The key aspects of ACT are referred to in the above definitions:

  1. The ability to contact the present moment is being able to bring our attention openly, non-judgementally and with curiosity to what is happening in the here and now to ourselves, to others around us, to the situation. This is also known as mindfulness.
  2. Another side to contacting the present moment is being able to step outside of and observe ourselves. This is the first step in learning how ‘to stand in another person’s shoes’ and experiencing empathy with and for another. This can be learned.
  3. Become aware of our psychological reactions to the present moment and identify whether these are helpful to ourselves or not.
  4. Pain and suffering is a normal part of life, including unpleasant reactions we have to our here and now experiences, and it is important that we accept that. And accept the good things too.
  5. If our reactions are not helpful, then we may wish to change our behaviour.
  6. We change our behaviour to obtain what it is we value and want, i.e. our valued ends. But we need to know what it is we value to ensure our behaviour and actions we take align with that.

The following diagram shows these themes:

Key components of acceptance commitment therapy picture

The Key Components of Acceptance Commitment Therapy

 

Let’s move on to talking about the last two principles of ACT, Values and Committed Action.

 

Values

 

Values are:

  • What you believe and value in life like learning, having integrity, fairness, security, etc. You may make decisions based on our values. For example, some people preferred to be employed because they value the security of the pay check every month. Others may prefer to work for themselves because they value freedom of choice. When you make decisions which aren’t aligned with your values, there can be that sense of disquiet that something is not quite right.
  • What you want for yourself in various areas of your life, the direction you want your life to take. These are the implicit or explicit goals you have for yourself regarding your:
    • Physical health
    • Psychological/ Emotional health
    • Occupational – Your work, career, education whether paid or unpaid
    • Relationships with family, friends, your social life
    • Hobbies, personal interests, fun
    • Finances
    • Where you live – home, town, city, state, county, country
    • Spirituality, religion, faith
    • Culture
    • Personal growth

This values exercise in this picture will help you learn more about what you value in life.

Accepting a serious health issues is easier when you know your values picture

Clarifying your values so you can take action which aligns with them can help in accepting a serious health issue.

 

And to identify the direction you want to take in various areas of your life, get the Wellness Assessment which will help you do just that.

 

Committed Action

 

Committed Action means to take action to help you move in a valued direction in your life. Action can be something you say or do, a behavioural action for example. Or something you think or feel inside.

The Wellness Assessment I just mentioned will help you to start identifying some early action you can take in important areas of your life.

This is about committing to something for yourself. And that’s a lovely thing to be doing!

It is not about being perfect. Or expecting everything to happen perfectly.

It’s not about achieving everything by tomorrow. Small, even tiny goals that build on one another over time are great.

You will make mistakes, go off track, etc. That is part of life. It’s about learning from that and getting back on the track of your valued direction in life.

Small even tiny goals that build on one another and are aligned to our values can become the tidal wave of change we have been seeking. #AcceptanceCommitmentTherapy tell a friend

So taking action which aligns with what you value will result in you living the meaningful life you want even with the health issue you have. And that helps so much in accepting a serious health issue. I often find when clients do this, the good things in their life take priority.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What is most important to you in your life? If you were living your life as you wanted whilst still having the serious health issue, what would you be doing?

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness or injury, or are caring for someone who is and would like support identify what is important to you so the action you take in 2018 aligns with that, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Special offer for Christmas and the New Year – 20% off all coaching packages between now and 31st January 2018. Quote code #XMAS17NY18

If you were living your life in 2018 as you wanted whilst still having #healthissue you have, what would you be doing? tell a friend

 

Have a happy, relaxing and joyful holiday season and all the very best for your 2018!

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, share using the icons below.

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

 

References

Harris, R. (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Introductory Workshop Handout. Available here, (2017, November 20).

Whitfield H. (2011), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Handbook, ACT Four Day Skills Intensive Part 1 & 2. London: Mindfulness Training Ltd.

How to transform the struggle of a serious health issue into acceptance – Part 1

How to transform the struggle of a serious health issue into acceptance – Part 1

Acceptance. I hear this word a lot in relation to living with a serious health issue, whether that be an illness, injury and/or disability. I often here clients say,

I can’t accept this.

I just got to get to a place where I can accept this.

I think my issue is accepting what has happened.

Or a variant thereof. There is a lot of meaning wrapped up in the word ‘acceptance’ for my clients. And struggle. Emotions. Hope. For them, it’s often about finding a way back to a place of peace and calmness in relation to living with the impact of their illness, injury and/or disability. And experiencing a quality of life and sense of wellness.

Some years ago I came across Acceptance Commitment Therapy and wondered if this was a therapy that helped people get to that place of acceptance. I read more about it. And earlier this year I completed an 8-day course on it. I learned that it can help you transform the struggle of living with a serious health issue into energy you can apply to what you value in your life.

In this post and the next two, I will explain how Acceptance Commitment Therapy can help you do that. It has so many useful nuggets and ways of thinking that can help you to create the life you want whilst living with a serious health issue. And I’ll be sharing those strategies which you can start implementing immediately to get yourself and your life going in a direction you value.

Also, when you decide to get help adapting to living with a serious health issue, you may be wondering what the potential benefits are, how the process works, what is expected of you, and will it work. Experiencing some concerns, anxiety and just wanting to make sure your money is well spent is normal. This post and the next two will also help answer those questions too.

First, I have a disclaimer. You see Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) and wonder if I am a therapist. I am not a trained therapist and so I do not practice therapy. I am a trained coach and you can see my qualifications here. You can also learn more about coaching and my approach here.

Even though ACT originated in the therapy world, there are aspects which can be used by professionals in other helping professions. In fact, on my training there were other coaches and Human Resources and Learning & Development professionals in addition to therapists. Supervision is important to ensure this is done within the professional’s skillset and competence. And that I have.

Disclaimer done.

 

So, what is Acceptance Commitment Therapy?

 

The official definition of Acceptance Commitment Therapy, referred to as ACT, is:

The goal of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility: the ability to contact the present moment and the psychological reaction it produces, as a fully conscious human being, and based on the situation, to persist with or change behaviour for valued ends. (Harris, 2007; Mindfulness Training Ltd., 2017)

Or to put it simply – To create a rich, full and meaningful life whilst accepting the pain and suffering which inevitably goes along with it.

The key aspects of ACT are referred to in the above definitions:

  1. The ability to contact the present moment is being able to bring our attention openly, non-judgementally and with curiosity to what is happening in the here and now to ourselves, to others around us, to the situation. This is also known as mindfulness.
  2. Another side to contacting the present moment is being able to step outside of and observe ourselves. This is the first step in learning how ‘to stand in another person’s shoes’ and experiencing empathy with and for another. This can be learned.
  3. Become aware of our psychological reactions to the present moment and identify whether these are helping us or not.
  4. Pain and suffering is a normal part of life, including unpleasant reactions we have to our here and now experiences, and it is important that we accept that. And accept the good things too.
  5. If our reactions are not helpful, then we may wish to change our behaviour.
  6. We change our behaviour to obtain what it is we value and want, i.e. our valued ends. But we need to know what it is we value to ensure our behaviour and actions align with that.

The following diagram, referred to as the hexaflex, refers to these themes.

key components of acceptance commitment therapy

The Key Components of Acceptance Commitment Therapy

 

How will Acceptance Commitment Therapy help me?

 

The best way to share the benefits of ACT is to give you a taster of it following the hexaflex above. Today’s post will focus on points 1 and 2 above – Contact with the Present Moment and The Observer Self.

 

Contact with the present moment (mindfulness)

 

This is something you can easily practice throughout your day. When you are drinking a cup of tea, walking/rolling somewhere, eating lunch, brushing your teeth, changing your clothes, etc. Whatever it is you are doing, deliberately notice the experience.

Feel your hand cupping the warm mug, or your hands as they push the wheels of your wheelchair or power its control. Feel the sensation of the cool air on your cheeks, the feel of toothpaste in your mouth. Notice everything in exquisite detail. Notice it as you do the activity.

If you start thinking of something else, that is ok. There’s no need to get upset with yourself. Just bring your attention back to the activity and notice what it feels like as you do the activity. I have to bring my attention back a lot!

mindfulness acceptance commitment therapy

Mindfulness is the process of refocusing your mind’s attention

 

Keep practicing. Notice when you feel upset, angry with someone, rejected by someone, and other unpleasant emotions and feelings. Notice what you are telling yourself, what you are thinking.

Notice where the unpleasant sensations are in your body. Describe them or even draw a picture of them. Sometimes people feel a heavy weight on their shoulders, or a fluttering in their chest, or a ball of knots in their stomach.

Also notice when you are being kind to yourself and when good things happen – what you tell yourself, how you feel, where you feel those pleasant feelings and sensations in your body and what they are like. That is equally important.

 

The Observer Self

 

This is about stepping outside of yourself (figuratively) so you can notice what you are doing, saying, thinking and feeling. You start to do it by getting in touch with the present moment (mindfulness).

A great analogy is being the fly on the wall of your own life so you see everything that you do, the impact on others, their impact on you, etc. When you are the fly on the wall, you have stepped into your Observer Self.

fly on the wall acceptance commitment therapy

You are you and the fly on the wall.

 

Another analogy is chess. The black and white pieces are playing a game, or fighting a battle with the aim of winning. The chessboard hosts the game but is not invested in the outcome. It doesn’t care about who will win; it just hosts the game of chess.

In this analogy, you are the chessboard, not the pieces. You host the game. You notice what is going on in the game. But like the chessboard, you are not invested in who wins or loses. You are not invested in the struggle.

When you step into your Observer Self, you step into a place of being and you notice what you are doing, saying, thinking and feeling, and there isn’t the concern of winning or losing, of giving in or resignation.

Observer Self Acceptance Commitment Therapy

The advantages of being the chessboard in your life

 

Imagine what that would be like. To notice, to let go of the concern of winning, giving in or resignation, to just be and feel that sense of calmness that comes with it. To live in the present moment.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What helps you to turn your attention from the past or future and live in the present moment? What are your thoughts of the analogies of being a fly on the wall or the chessboard? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness or injury, or are caring for someone who is and would like support to help you objectively look at your life and live a valued life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

I also have a special offer on for Christmas and the New Year – 20% off all coaching packages between now and 31st January 2018. Just quote the code #XMAS17NY18.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, share using the icons.

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

 

References

Harris, R. (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Introductory Workshop Handout. Available

https://thehappinesstrap.com/upimages/2007%20Introductory%20ACT%20Workshop%20Handout%20-%20%20Russ%20Harris.pdf, (2017, November 20).

Whitfield H. (2011), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Handbook, ACT Four Day Skills Intensive Part 1 & 2. London: Mindfulness Training Ltd.

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