Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury is key for a successful transition. But because it is about you managing your expectations of yourself, it can be one of the hardest things to do.

You are someone who believes in doing a good job. And you will go the extra mile to make that happen. After all, you have high standards and are proud of that and the work you do. It gives you great satisfaction.

You may also feel the need to prove to others that you can still do your job and do it well. And you enjoy your job and are keen to continue in your role.

So you try to do your job as best you can, as close as possible to how you did it before your illness/injury. But despite your best efforts, you are finding you can’t. You’re tired, maybe feeling dejected and not feeling like yourself anymore. You wonder if you can still do your job. And you may be afraid others are thinking you no longer can. You try to find the energy to plough on, to keep going in the hopes your recovery will kick in and you will soon feel like your old self.

Managing expectations of yourself when returning to work after #seriousillness or injury is key for a successful transition. Yet it can be one of the hardest things to do #returntowork tell a friend

 

It’s understandable

 

You don’t know any different. As I often say, you don’t know what you don’t know when you are seriously ill or injured. We know what the doctors and nurses tell us and the messages society gives us around health, illness and disability (the latter which may not be relevant to your situation or correct). We know how different our bodies feel. But we often aren’t given info on how to live well with the ongoing impact of a serious illness or injury including returning to work.

So how can you stay in work doing good work and being happy with that whilst dealing well with the impact of your illness or injury?

As I said up front, managing your expectations of yourself at work is key. There are four things you can do which will help.

  1. Adjust your expectations of yourself
  2. Learn how to live in your changed body
  3. Learn how to manage the impact of stress
  4. Set your boundaries with others on what you can and cannot do and stick to them

 

Four things you can do to manage your expectations of yourself when returning to work

 

These may feel like pretty chunky steps. And they are. This is an ongoing process. Not a tick box exercise where you do steps 1, 2, 3 and voilà you are a new person. So for a start I just give you some key tips for each and refer you to related blogs I have written on related topics. What I do know from my personal experience and that of my clients is that these steps work.

Read about the 4 things you can do to manage your expectations of yourself when returning to work after #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to adjust your expectations

 

Adjusting your expectations of yourself requires you to acknowledge the changes you have experienced as a result of your illness or injury. The changes may include what you are no longer able to do or unable to do as well or as quickly. You may have very much valued what you were once able to do.

They could also be new things you have to do because of your illness/injury. Like having to know where the toilets are where ever you go outside your home due to having bladder and/or bowel issues. Having to inject insulin before every meal due to diabetes. Or eating more healthily and exercising more.

Acknowledging the changes you have had to make may or may not be easy as I mentioned in an earlier blog on returning to work. It depends on the type of change and whether you would have welcomed the change pre-illness/injury.

Adjusting your expectations of yourself at work requires you to acknowledge the changes you have experienced as a result of your #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Linked to this is redefining who you believe yourself to be. This is about change at the core of you, your sense of identity, which is a fundamental change. This is a journey and can take time. Being willing to try on other ways of being and doing in the world can help you move through this stage with more ease and less emotional turmoil.

 

Redefining your identity is a fundamental change in belief about who you are

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to learn how to live in your changed body

 

The blog I wrote on preparing for your return to work has tips which will help you learn how to live in your changed body.

Pacing yourself to manage your energy levels is a key part of this. Clients have said learning to do less at work, not trying to be the hero and fix everything, and taking regular breaks helped. Also, being willing to use aids that helped them manage their symptoms, such as a hot water bottle or a fan to cool themselves. Which aids you use will depend on the ongoing residual symptoms you live with.

Setting goals for your rehabilitation and returning to work will also help. As well as listening closely to your body and making adjustments to your routine as a result.

#pacing yourself to manage your energy levels is a key part of learning to live in a changed body after a #seriousillness or #injury and will help you adjust to the work routine #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to learn how to manage the impact of stress

 

It’s important to manage stress because it can exacerbate any residual symptoms you may be living with. This is stress from external events and self-induced stress.

I’ve seen with clients how stress at work kept then awake at nights, the lack of sleep contributed to their fatigue, the fatigue meant they could not work or work as much as they would like, etc. It became a vicious circle.

Self-induced stress often comes from our habitual ways of being and doing in the world which no longer serve us. But we might have not yet realised that our habitual strategies have outlived their useful life. It’s important to identify these and make changes. One client made changes by identifying what was in her control to do and as a result she reported feeling less pain.

I also recommend you read these two blogs on using your personal power well to manage your health and wellness – part 1 and part 2.

Being very aware of what causes you to feel stressed and managing the impact effectively can reduce any negative impact stress can have. Important when you are returning to work after a #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to set your boundaries with others on what you can and cannot do and stick to them

 

This is so important. And can be so hard to do. Because it means you have to say no to people. And sometimes we don’t like saying no because we feel we aren’t helping the other person and we like to help others. Or we feel obligated to do what other people need from or want of us. Or we feel a need to make others happy by doing what they want from us.

This also requires you to develop the belief (if you haven’t already) that you are important, your needs are valid, you are worth it, and so it is ok for you to put yourself first and look after yourself. AND to operate on that belief in your life.

What I wrote about managing others’ expectations of you in a earlier blog in this series on returning to work helps you to start setting those boundaries on what you can and cannot do.

And remember, boundaries can change for the right reasons during the process of returning to work.

How easy do you find it to set boundaries at work and stick to them when living with the impact of a #seriousillness or #injury? #returntowork tell a friend

 

But something else is key in all of this

 

The willingness to adapt and be flexible.

And being gentle with yourself. Shower yourself with compassion.

 

Picture of a woman showering herself with self-compassion

 

If you try something and it doesn’t work, focus on what you learned and try something else. Also make sure to have good people at work and in your life who encourage you.

Remember, you are doing the best you can in not the easiest of circumstances.

 

Picture summarising what you can do in managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury

A summary of the blog on managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What aspects of the above blog resonate with your situation? What do you find difficult or easy to do? If you have returned to work after a serious illness or injury, what have you done to manage your expectations of yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you will soon be returning to work after a serious illness or injury or are already in the process of doing so and want to work through the recommended steps in this blog with support, 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

How to prepare for returning to work after illness

How to prepare for returning to work after illness

Prepare for returning to work after illness or injury. Is that a thing? You’ve been through a serious illness, perhaps life-changing for you in some ways, treatment has ended, your recovery is going pretty well and returning to work is now on the horizon. Hurrah!

You just want to get back to work. Back to normality! Your regular salary and not sick pay. Being with other people again. Making a contribution. There may be concerns and worries of course. But getting back to normality like work is a key milestone.

Then you get back to work, you go for it, and you crash. Hard. Your body isn’t coping. You have to go back on sick leave. You’re thinking, ‘What the… *insert fruity language*?!?! You feel so disappointed.

 

Pic of someone returning to work after illness and it doesn't go well

When the return to work doesn’t go to plan.

 

I totally understand how that can happen. It’s pretty common actually. If you’ve haven’t been seriously ill before, how would you know how to prepare for returning to work after illness or injury? You don’t necessarily know that stuff. It’s not like your doctor gives you an info sheet on it.

I’m going to share a few tips to help you avoid that. I split them into four categories – Mind, Heart, Body and your Role at work. This is about taking a holistic approach to prepare for returning to work after illness or injury.

Click here on how to prepare your mind, heart and body to return to work after a serious illness or injury. #returntowork #seriousillness #chronicillness tell a friend

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your mind

 

Manage your expectations of yourself.

We often expect our return to work after illness to go like this.

Person returning to work after illness expecting a smooth return to work

People’s expectations for returning to work can often look like this

 

It’s more often like this.

Pic of a graph demonstrating that the return to work after illness is not smooth

A return to work after illness often looks like this.

 

Be gentle with yourself.

It’s very easy for your pre-illness expectations of yourself to come to the fore when you start returning to every day normal activities. It’s normal for this to happen because your pre-illness expectations of yourself are all you know. But I often see clients battle to live up to those expectations. And I use that word ‘battle’ on purpose. It’s like a fight, ‘I will not let this illness and these symptoms beat me. I will WIN! I WILL last the whole day at work!’

This kind of fight is a negative fight as you have actually handed over control to your pre-illness expectations. You have become their slave. It can be a very unhappy and frustrating place to be in when you find that no matter what you do, you can’t live up to those expectations.

The thing is, your pre-illness expectations may no longer match your body’s capabilities. Your body has changed. Therefore, your expectations of what your body can do also need to change. They need to align with your new capabilities.

Being able to adapt is key for this to happen. But with adaptation comes acknowledgement of what has happened to you. For some, this process of acknowledging the change can be hard.

This brings us to your Heart.

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your heart

 

Losing valued levels of physical and/or mental functioning can be hard. Your body and/or mind no longer do what it used to do. What you need it to do. What you want it to do. It can feel like your body has betrayed you. And that you are at war with it. You may be feeling very angry.

You feel like you are no longer you. But you also know you are you. You can feel so contradictory. Your heart hurts.

It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. To give your feelings some expression, to spend some time with them. As I’ve said previously, you don’t have to unpack and live in those feelings forever and ever. You just visit. And the length of that visit is up to you. If how you feel can feel overwhelming, get support from someone who can help you spend a little time with the feelings to understand what they want to tell you.

Picture of person coping with unpleasant feelings

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

 

Also, speak gently and compassionately to yourself. You’ve been through a lot. It’s ok to move more slowly, to do less, to not do things as perfectly, to not achieve as much. Focus your energies on the things that matter to you.

Your heart will thank you for this. And you will feel better.

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your body

 

Finally, it’s important to gently prepare your body to return to work. Returning to work after an extended period of probably not being very physically active can be very draining physically and mentally.

Think through your typical work activities and ways you can simulate them at home. The purpose of doing this is to really feel how you your body copes with them and learn where your limits are.

If you are returning to work gradually, for example, 3 days a week for 2 hours each day at the start, set up that routine at home.

Make sure you get up at the same time you will need to when you return to work. Wash, get dressed, eat. Go through that routine to see how your body copes. Set yourself activities to do in the time frame you will be at work – say 2 hours of paying bills, work on the computer, some errands (if you can do them), a bit of light cleaning, tidying, calling people.

You can simulate a meeting. For example, meet a friend for coffee and notice what it’s like for you to get to the coffee house, visit with your friend, deal with the noise around you and being in public, and return home.

Do these activities at different times of the day to see how your body responds.

As you do this, notice how your body feels. Do you feel really tired? Do your symptoms get worse? Or do you find the activities distract you from the symptoms? Do you find it doable? Or too much? Do you find you cope better in the morning or afternoon?

This will give you an idea of what your body is capable of and the tasks you can and may not be able to do back at work. Of course, what you can and cannot do may change the longer you simulate work activities at home and then when you are back at work.

Before returning to work, get your body ready by simulating your work routine at home. You will learn how your body copes, its limits, and what adjustments you may need back at work. Read more about it here. #returntowork… tell a friend

 

What does this all mean for your role at work?

 

After having simulated your work routine at home, think of your work environment. First, think about the physical environment: how furniture is arranged, is it open plan, do you not have a desk, the lights, getting to the different areas within the office you will need to go, etc. Is there anything there which may be an obstacle? Do you need to make a request for a reasonable adjustment? I wrote about what reasonable adjustments are last week and you can read more about that topic here.

Also think of the non-physical aspects of the environment. Does your work have a recommended time frame by which they expect you to return to work full-time? How flexible can that time frame be? (The after effects of illness and injury don’t often work to others’ time frames including your expected time frame.)

What is the culture like? Are your teammates helpful? Is your line manager understanding, and their line manager? And HR? Do you have people at work who can help you look after your interests, whether formally or informally? What support will you need? How will you manage the pressure?

I appreciate these are a lot of questions so take your time in thinking them through. I have just a few more questions about your role at work

What tasks can you currently do, cannot do at the moment, or you may no longer be able to do ever? This is important to consider because if you have an idea on this, you can communicate this to your employer at the appropriate time to help them help you return to work. Also, if you cannot do the significant tasks in your role, then you may need to consider doing a different role.

Let me give you an example. I once knew someone who worked in a department store arranging their displays. They were affected by an illness which affected their balance and mobility. So they were no longer able to climb up a ladder. This significantly impacted their ability to do their role. They had to change roles in the organisation which did not require them to climb up ladders and carry heavy items.

If you think you are no longer able to do your current role, or only a part of it, are there other roles you could and would like to do in your organisation? You may not have to ask yourself this question, but I ask it just in case you do. I’ve had people say to me if they had only thought that there could be alternatives, they would have thought them through. So think through possible alternatives if that is what you feel you will need.

Prepare for returning to work

Questions to ask yourself as part of your preparation for returning to work after a serious illness or injury.

 

Those are my key tips how to prepare for returning to work after illness. All the very best with your return. And come back next week when I will be sharing what to say to whom and managing your own and others’ expectations at work.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What key tips do you have to share with someone preparing to return to work after illness or injury? Has anything in particular worked for you? Or do you have questions about your situation? 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, and will soon be or have returned to work and would like support to ensure it is an effective transition, 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

 

Support for carers – 4 things to consider to help you care effectively

Support for carers – 4 things to consider to help you care effectively

There is good support for carers out there, but I’ve found there are some things which aren’t always explicitly talked about. And if carers knew about them, which are often of a psychological nature, they would realise what they are experiencing is normal. This awareness would also reduce the chances of the carer operating from the dark side of helping.

So I am going to share 4 things to consider as a carer to help you in your caring role. (There is more I am sure, but this is a good enough start.) This is the last post in a blog series about the dark side of helping people whose capabilities are limited by illness or injury. It is meant to support those of you in a caring role whether you are a spouse, partner, another family member, friend, colleague.

 

But a quick recap on what the dark side of helping is

 

In the first post, I explained that the dark side of helping is when someone helps another, and the person helping hasn’t asked if it’s needed. It’s a proactive form of help, which is deemed to be a good thing in our society. But it has been assumed on the part of the helper that the person being helped needs or wants it. The person being helped hasn’t asked for it, so it may not be wanted or needed.

Pic of man insisting on helping a person who uses is sticks and is carrying a bag, the dark side of helping

 

In the second post, I wrote about the impact the dark side of helping has on the people on the receiving end of such help, their views of it and the reasons for that. The third post focused on proactive strategies you can use to manage situations where you are holding on to their anger and getting angry yourself.

So let’s move on to the four phenomena which happen but aren’t often talked about and what it means for you as the carer.

 

Support for carers 1 – Being able to withstand difference to support effectively

 

So much is required of you to enable you to support someone effectively. It can take a lot of patience on your part. It is so important that you have good support from people you trust, respite breaks when you can, and your own life. This all enables you to top of your inner-resources so you can stay with and keep going without wearing yourself out.

Pic of a carer's balance account of inner resources getting low and people offering to help

It’s important to keep your balance account of inner resources topped up.

 

If you’ve known the person you are caring for for years, it can be very hard to see them so different. This is a big test for some. Can you withstand standing before this difference that feels uncomfortable for you? Can you give yourself the time to become more comfortable with it? Support from others can help you do that.

 

Support for carers 2 – Being able to notice and sit with your discomfort and anxiety

 

Sometimes when we are very uncomfortable with a person or situation which is so different from what we once knew, it can highlight the anxieties we consciously or unconsciously hold about the difference. For example, seeing someone formerly physically active who no longer is due to an illness or injury. We can feel (even on an unconscious level), ‘That can be me one day,’ and that can be hard for some people to experience. Or you could be thinking, ‘I didn’t sign up for this. This wasn’t in my life plan!’

It can also highlight our assumptions of illness, health, disability and capabilities. For example, some in society think that if you have a disability, you are no longer capable, or being ill is somehow a bad thing. But others feel that a disability means being differently abled. (I opt for the latter as it is the realistic scenario. Just because your body doesn’t work like other people’s, it doesn’t mean you are deficient in any way. You have the same dreams, hopes and fears as everyone does. You have a difference and finding ways to adapt your approach to do what you want in life is key.)

When we help from a place of anxiety and assumptions which discount the abilities and desires of the person we are helping, we often do it to calm our anxiety and reduce our stress levels. That ends up taking precedence over the needs of the person we are helping rather than there being a reciprocal relationship where the needs of both people are met.

To help effectively we have to learn to recognise when our anxiety and unhelpful assumptions are triggered and be able to hold that whilst helping people in the way they wish to be helped.

To help effectively we have to learn to recognise when our anxiety and unhelpful assumptions are triggered and be able to hold that whilst helping people in the way they wish to be helped. tell a friend

 

Support for carers 3 – Getting to know the ‘new’ person, getting to know yourself now

 

Linked to this, you may feel that they are a different person. They are to some extent because of the all the change they are dealing with. Yet they are still the same person they were before the illness or injury. You know that too. It can feel like a contradiction and I’ll explain why.

When a loved one has a life-changing #seriousillness or injury they often feel like they don’t know themselves anymore. This is normal. Read the reasons why here. tell a friend

 

The person who has become ill or injured is going through a process of re-defining themselves. They may not be fully aware they are going through this process. It involves figuring out who they are now as a result of the illness/injury and who and what they want to become. That unfolds as they go about living their life with the consequences of the illness or injury, figuring out what they are capable of now, etc. And this is the only way to do it. It’s not a process where you arrive at an end destination, find your new self, put it on and go, ‘Ta da! Here I am world! The NEW ME!’

 

Pic of person trying to buy their new self-identity and sales person telling them it's free out there in the world

Finding your sense of self again isn’t like buying something. You have to live your life to discover your new identity.

 

Also, many of their personal traits, characteristics, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, etc. that existed before the illness/injury are still there. This also needs to be integrated with who they are becoming.

This process of redefining themselves is about integrating the person they were before with the person they are becoming so they can function in their life in the way they want. It is no small psychological effort. We aren’t given a handbook when we get ill or injured on how to go through this process.

As the supporter, you too are going through a similar process. Your life and relationship are also different after the person’s illness/injury.

When you are supporting someone, particularly if you live with them, there are two of you going through this process at the same time (more or less) in addition to dealing with the realities of the person’s illness or injury. That’s a lot.

And if you have children, they too are going through a variation of this. Everyone is evolving and adjusting, trying to figure things out. It’s no wonder there can be an upheaval in family relationships after an illness/injury/disability enters the family.

 

Support for carers 4 – Giving new meaning to the relationship

 

The person who has acquired an illness or injury may no longer be able to participate in activities that were a key feature of your relationship – taking turns on doing everyday activities like running errands, cleaning or mowing the lawn, cuddling together on the couch on a Friday night, sex, spending a leisurely weekend afternoon in a pub drinking, walking up a mountain, etc.

You may be wondering what does the relationship consist of now? What gives it meaning?

The relationship can feel like it is in a very uncertain no-man’s land. Not everyone can exist in such a place and travel though it to come to a new place regarding the relationship. It’s important that you both find ways to talk about it with each other and you both have a variety of support (keep in mind that it’s very hard to be everything to one person). Working together to adapt how you approach activities you used to do together and finding new activities can help ensure your relationship stays on a path you are both satisfied with.

Pic of support for carers 4 things to consider in the caring role

Support for carers – 4 things for carers to consider

 

And more support for carers…

 

Finally, whilst writing this series, I came across this report called ‘Good and bad help: How purpose and confidence transform lives’. It echoes ideas I have been sharing across this series on the dark side of helping.

This report focuses on providing good help at the organisational level: NHS services, social care, or help in the community. Yet the ideas contained within can be applied at the individual level. Have a read! It’s very good.

The report was published by Nesta, a UK charity which is an innovation foundation working on the big challenges of our time in partnership with governments, businesses and charities. I’m including it here on my own initiative, Nesta hasn’t asked me to. But they are aware I am mentioning it.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

Do you recognise these four phenomena? What has your experience been like in dealing with them? Is there any other support for carers you found helpful? 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 for yourself, 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 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

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

 

Does your self-doubt kill your New Year’s resolutions?

Does your self-doubt kill your New Year’s resolutions?

Setting New Year’s resolutions, or goals, objectives, priorities, dreams call it what you will, is all over the internet at the moment. And there is a lot of good advice out there. But it can be tough when you have a serious health issue.

You may want to do and achieve different things for yourself, your health, family, relationships, work, etc. in 2018. You have dreams too. But doing that within the reality of a health condition takes consideration. The constraints you live within are more pronounced when compared to many others. And your concerns about them are very real and important. However, it’s important to not let them consistently get in the way of you going after what you want for yourself.

So read on to find out that one thing that can get in the way of your dreams, and the three things I recommend to move beyond it.

 

What kills your New Year’s resolutions?

 

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever well picture

Don’t let doubt get in the way of your dreams. Pic taken by B Babcock.

 

Doubt

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will #NewYearsResolutions #wellness #makeyourdreamshappen tell a friend

 

I came across this saying in a London restaurant and it resonated with me. Doubt is the one thing which can often prevent us from really going for something we want for ourselves or even starting to go for it. It often stops people from setting New Year’s resolutions.

Living with the impact of serious health issue, you know how fragile and precious life can be. So your dreams are especially important. Don’t let doubt get in the way of achieving them. Here are three things which helps keep doubt from taking over.

 

1. Break your New Year’s resolution into smaller steps that build on one another

 

Take into account the health constraints and any other constraints you live with. It’s ok to take small actions. Small actions can be so much more achievable. They also allow us to practice and through that strengthen our commitment to our New Year’s resolution.

Also, pace your goals as you pace your energy. It’s ok if a New Year’s resolution is spread over more than one year.

It’s great practice to break your #NewYearsResolutions into smaller goals and actions. That makes it so much more achievable #wellness #makeyourdreamshappen tell a friend

 

2. Get support

 

You need your cheerleaders. These are the people who love and support you, who believe in you when sometimes you start to doubt yourself.

Some people may be able to support you for some things but not others. We each have our strengths and so one person may not be able to be all the things you need. That’s why you need a team of people to support you. Keep this in mind when asking people for help particularly when they say no.

Support is also about support mechanisms, which can be a favourite quote or picture which inspires you, an alarm to remind you to do something or something else. You can read more about that here.

 

Matrix of people's capability and willingness to help picture

When asking people for support, consider their capability and willingness to help.

 

3. Be gently persistent with your New Year’s resolutions

 

This one is particularly important. Our dreams often don’t happen overnight. You build and manifest them over time. The emphasis here is on you. You will make this happen, no one else is going to do it for you. So be gently persistent. Persistent in your intention, focus and action, gentle with yourself, and pace your goals.

Being gently persistent is also about discipline, which is so important to making your new year’s resolutions happen. It’s about keeping doing what you want to be doing. I wrote about this in more detail last year and the year before, so definitely give them a read as the ideas are helpful.

Here are another two other hints regarding discipline.

We often self-sabotage ourselves. You know yourself best so give some thought as to what can derail you – what you do to yourself and what others may do – and develop a plan for addressing it if it happens.

Self-sabotage often stops us implementing our New Year’s resolutions. So have a think about how you get in your own way and develop a plan for dealing with it if it happens #NewYearsResolutions #wellness #makeyourdreamshappen tell a friend

 

For example, when I see bad weather I think I don’t need to go walking. So I take a break! But that doesn’t help me achieve my physical wellness goals. What I could be doing instead is getting on the exercise bike in the warmth of my house.

Wanting things to be perfect can also get in the way. Screw perfectionism. What I found helpful in this regard is thinking that everything is iterative, i.e. in draft form. So just do it and put it out there. Learn from it and take that learning into account when you have another go.

 

Be disciplined by being gently persistent picture

How to be disciplined with yourself to achieve your dreams.

 

I’m sure there is a whole host of other things which can support you to achieve your New Year’s resolutions. But you know what, this is a good enough start.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What else do you think can contribute to not following through on a new year’s resolutions? And what do you find helps you keep to them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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 turn your new year’s resolutions for 2018 into reality, 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 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.

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