Learn How to Coach in Uncertain Times
Health and wellness coaching during times of uncertainty, like the COVID-19 health pandemic, is uncharted territory for the growing profession. Coaches aren’t the experts in their client’s lives, but rather their partner in creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As such, it is important for coaches to work with clients and meet them where they are – self-quarantined, shelter-in-place, working from home or an essential worker. As clients’ daily routines and responsibilities shift to working remotely, not working, educating their children or worrying about finances, it’s imperative that coaches are prepared to have a positive impact and meet clients in their new realities. Like coaches themselves, clients are facing a multitude of ‘unknowns’ and the individuals coaching them must first and foremost acknowledge and empathize with each client’s situation.
Vicki Bautista, EdD, NBC-HWC, Creighton University assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and assistant program director, Integrative Health and Wellness teamed up with Creighton University Integrative Health and Wellness alumni and health and wellness coach Shannon Wallace to offer the following tips for coaches who are helping their clients navigate these uncertain times.
The American Psychological Association shared that action is one of the best strategies to reduce anxiety and worry. As a coach, helping shift your clients’ focus to healthy lifestyle behaviors they can “take action” on may provide a sense of accomplishment in the midst of our ever-changing world. Listed below are five actionable behaviors that you can suggest your clients implement to help them improve their health and manage their uncertainty during this unprecedented time:
Having the Correct Information – While this would typically fall into the “education” category, not “coaching facilitation”, with so much information in the news and social media about COVID-19, it is important to direct clients to reliable information and sources about how to stay healthy. Once they have accurate information, creating and maintaining healthy lifestyle goals will be easier to co-create. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is to: avoid being exposed to the virus, washing hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home if sick, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing a facemask if sick, and cleaning frequently with household disinfectants. We recommend engaging with clients using the Teach-Back intervention to ensure they understand the CDC recommendations about how to stay healthy.
Daily Routines - Many of our daily routines are created because they help prepare us for transitions throughout our day. It’s important to keep daily routines and office hours when working from home. Encourage clients to set an alarm, get dressed, grab coffee and continue to do whatever their “normal” routine was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This routine will signal that they are starting the workday. Don’t forget about a reminder to take a mid-day lunch break. Lastly, when your client is wrapping up for the day, have them change up their surroundings or make dinner to switch back into home mode. Encourage clients to create a signal that signifies “I’m done with work for the day,” and then stick to it.
Healthy Sleep Habits – According to the National Sleep Foundation, when it comes to overall health and well-being, sleep plays an important role. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system. With so much flexibility in our client’s schedules due to the health pandemic, it is important to address the importance of sleep. Topics to engage with clients about sleep are sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding bright light in the evening and designing a proper sleep environment. Lots of great resources about sleep can be found on the National Sleep Foundation website to use as tools to guide the conversation about the benefits that sleep has on immunity.
Staying Hydrated – Water is important to nearly every part of the human body. Not only will drinking the daily recommended intake help maintain your client’s current state of well-being, it may even improve their overall health. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that men drink 101 ounces of water per day or about 13 cups per day. The IOM suggests that women should drink at least 74 ounces of water per day, which is a little over 9 cups. Some strategies to help your client stay hydrated are keeping a reusable water bottle with them and refilling as needed, setting a timer to remind them to drink water, or downloading a water drinking reminder app.
Mindful Eating – According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, to boost immunity individuals should consume fiber-filled, nutrient dense, antioxidant-rich, plant -based food at every meal. Keeping nutrition in check can be tough when working from home. Unlike in the office, it is easy to graze all day and raid the fridge. Practicing mindful eating strategies can help save your client’s waistline and increase their productivity. Some tips to make mindful eating choices include not working in or near the kitchen; keeping food, the fridge or the pantry out of line of sight while working; thinking through if the urge to eat is coming from hunger or boredom; when eating, just eat. Being distracted while eating can lead to overeating and decreased satisfaction or fullness.
This is an unprecedented time for all of us and it is important for health and wellness coaches to remember our scope of practice and continue to make a positive impact in our client's lives. Always keep in mind, if your client is feeling very overwhelmed and unable to cope, discuss the idea of counseling. Many counselors and employee assistance programs (EAP) have shifted to virtual counseling and resources. As health coaches, we can continue to encourage our clients to concentrate on the healthy lifestyle behaviors that they can control and provide them the opportunity to explore positive change, improve their health and build resilience.