Few can deny that life can be stressful at times. Even when things are going well, the fast pace of life, busy schedules, and competing demands can feel very overwhelming. And when unexpected curve balls come your way, juggling all those things can be downright daunting, causing physical and emotional stress.
Imagine having your own personal cheerleader to help you navigate these challenges and guide you on a path to a calmer, healthier existence. That’s where a health and wellness coach comes in handy. We can all use a few pointers on balancing our mental and physical selves with the world around us. But what does a health and wellness coach do?
In recent years, the importance of a work-life balance has come into sharper focus. The pace of life has quickened in the past couple of generations, accelerating with the digital age and flow of social media. More numerous opportunities and choices in this environment can also lead to a feeling of over-saturation.
Others describe a feeling of disconnect in modern society where people live insular lives and don’t have the same lasting social connections and sense of place experienced by their parents and grandparents.
These 21st-century dynamics have all increased the demand for professionals who can help busy people better structure or de-structure, their lives to facilitate wellness.
Stress’s negative effects on the body and psyche are well-documented. Not everyone automatically has the tools or knowledge to manage stress, eat the right foods and supplements, exercise properly, get adequate rest, balance work with relaxation, and nurture their mental health.
Health and wellness coaches foster positive habits by encouraging clients to make their own cognitive changes in a way that fits their personalities. They collaborate to help individuals uncover their goals, their needs, and any obstacles in achieving them. Coaches take a holistic view of each person, rather than separate physical health from mental health.
They support clients to play to their strengths and eventually manage good habits on their own, independently.
Health and wellness coaches assist with stress management and provide cognitive strategies to develop resilience. They encourage incremental steps and small, achievable goals to build a foundation and maintain momentum. For example, rather than ask a client to commit to running five miles a day, five days a week, they might suggest starting with two miles a day, two times a week.
By advocating for small steps and incremental gains, health and wellness coaches help clients build confidence from mini-successes and grow even more confident over time. And those gains and strategies effectively reset the person’s brain and daily habits, making them second nature over time.
Each positive behavior change has a ripple effect on brain chemistry and mood, influencing mental as well as physical health. To support a client, health and wellness coaches often work alongside other health professionals such as a nutritionist, psychotherapist, family physician, or physical trainer.
These coaches don’t necessarily replace such specialists, but can be part of an overall treatment plan or routine. They may all be helping a client to work toward a specific set of goals.
Often, the health and wellness coach can tie the work of all these professionals together, acting as almost a program manager for the client, motivating and persuading them to work towards their goals on a variety of fronts. They are trained to ask questions, uncover goals, discover strengths and challenges, probe resources, and help the client develop an overall plan with milestones.
Health and wellness coaches work in a variety of settings, sometimes in a clinical environment alongside doctors, or in community centers, schools, workplaces, gyms, health food stores, and even online. They work one-on-one with individuals, or with groups.
The field is still evolving in terms of standardization and certifications and varies by specialty.
The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching certifies coaches and has created national standards, guidelines, and training requirements for the profession. The organization collaborates with the National Board of Medical Examiners and supports the integration of health and wellness coaches with medical teams.
Health and wellness coaches have many helpful suggestions to offer their clients and can play a very pivotal role in helping to change someone’s life. They are successful because they encourage self-motivation and ownership to ensure the changes stick, for the long term.
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