Health coaching is one of the approaches that helps people set and meet their goals. It looks to the future rather than the past and is a valuable tool for addiction recovery.
If you want to improve your health in the new year, the road ahead can look daunting. You may want to lose a few pounds to feel better or perhaps your doctor has told you that you have a serious health condition that could be life-threatening if you don’t make changes to your lifestyle.
You don’t have to walk the road alone. Taos is full of health professionals, many of whom offer free or low-cost services. Health coaching is one of the approaches that helps people set and meet their goals. It looks to the future rather than the past and can address issues beyond physical health to include challenges with finances and career. It is a valuable tool for addiction recovery.
With health coaching, it is up to each individual to set his or her own goals and decide how to achieve them.
Why people seek health coaching
Alana Grier of 365 Well offers integrative health coaching to help her clients achieve their own vision of good health. Many of her clients find her through referrals from doctors especially cardiologists. “Even though a client may come to me through a doctor referral, the process is self-directed, the client decides which goals to pursue,” explains Grier.
People seek out advice for things like problems with sleeping and for suggestions on improving their diets, especially important for people who are learning to manage their diabetes. Others need to make changes to their lifestyle to help them lose weight or change addictive behaviors.
“I’ve helped a lot of people quit smoking. I began working with smoking cessation years ago in nursing school. Sometimes people try to quit smoking due to pressure from their families or others, but ultimately the person themselves must want to quit,” says Grier. Through coaching discussions, people are able to connect with their deepest values, which provides the motivation to continue the effort to quit smoking. “People identify with what is important to them. They may want to be role models for their families or be there when their grandchildren are born. These values are the most powerful reason that people are successful. “
She explains that mindfulness can be an important tool for addiction recovery. Meditation, yoga and other tools that help us stay in the moment can become coping mechanisms to break the addiction cycle. “These tools help us handle all the challenges that life throws at us rather than using tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Together we identify times of day and other cues that might be triggers for the desire to use and we replace bad habits with good habits.”
Grier credits her early experiences at massage school in Boston for helping her learn about practices such as yoga and chi qigong, an ancient Chinese system of coordinated movements and breathing. “I’m so grateful for that experience. I learned about self-care at the same time I learned about caring for others. It has helped me raise my five kids and stay in balance. It is the most rewarding experience to be able to share these habits with others. We are all feeling beings and we need tools to deal with our feelings,” she says.
How coaching works
Health coaching begins with a short initial discussion. Grier offers a free 20-minute consultation to explore whether the health coaching she offers is a good fit with someone’s goals.
“We always start with defining their values to set the context for the discussion,” says Grier. “Although people come with health concerns, through the initial discussion it may become clear that there are some financial or relationship issues that need to be addressed before beginning to work on the health concerns. There may be high levels of stress coming from these other factors that are impacting health.”
After setting goals, follow-up meetings with a coach can be used to measure progress. According to Grier, the sense of accountability that comes with coaching is a reason that people are successful.
One important function of a health coach is to help their clients find the resources they need to reach their goals. Grier has a wide network of massage therapists, trainers, gyms and holistic health resources to offer. “I help people find what they need – for instance perhaps free fitness programs for seniors. We look at the best fit for people based on their interests, where they live and what is affordable,” says Grier. “My goal is to help them build a support system.”
Setting realistic goals
Bob Johnson of Zia Community Services trained with Grier to become a health coach. He also offers an initial free consultation. After focusing on values identified by the client such as family, honesty or love, Johnson and his clients look at the eight dimensions of wellness, which include emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual factors. The clients determine their level of satisfaction with each area and decides where they would like to create better balance.
“People come to me to talk about diet, nutrition and exercise, along with family relationships and jobs. Some only need the initial meeting to figure out how to move forward but others want to work with me to make more progress,” says Johnson.
He brings his own life experience to the process. In 2017, Johnson weighed 226 pounds. As a veteran, he was able to work with a Veteran’s Administration dietician to lose more than 60 pounds. “I was introduced to a ketogenic approach, which is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. I try not to include sugar in my diet and eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer enchiladas,” he says.
When working with his clients, Johnson listens first to their needs and then helps to identify small and easy steps that they can take to improve their lives. “Setting realistic and flexible goals is key,” he says. “People may feel like they need to go to the gym every day, but three times a week may be more realistic and can make a big difference.”
In his own goals, Johnson tries to maintain some flexibility. In the past, he ran a marathon in Hawaii and wanted to do so again. However, he decided it would be more realistic to run some 5K races this year starting in April, so he made that his goal.
As a person in recovery himself, Johnson has served as a certified peer worker to help others on the road to recovery from addiction. He has worked with Inside Out Recovery which helps those who may come out of jail needing food, clothes and assistance with recovery from addiction. When people have been sober for about a year, it is a good time to begin to look at other issues in their lives such as overall health, work and relationships, observes Johnson.
He volunteers with Compostela Community and Family Cultural Institute and plans to facilitate peer support groups for their clients in substance abuse recovery when the service is funded by a grant. Hoping to further his own education, Johnson has applied to begin the master’s in public health program at New Mexico State University this fall.
“My purpose is to help bring about emotional healing,” says Johnson. “It has taken me this long to figure out my path. Coaching helps with mental and physical health. Everything is connected, as one area improves, everything improves. I’ve made it through some hard times in my life. I lost my wife eight years ago and have had my own struggles. I help people not give up on themselves; to see that they can get through their struggles. If you choose life, then addictive behaviors are not an option.”
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