Step 3: What’s stopping you?
We often realise that a change would do us good, whether it is to work more effectively, exercise regularly or manage our time better. So what stops us making these changes?
Self-regulation and self-care play a role in every step of the coaching process, but it helps to bring our attention to stress, health and well-being in this section.
Self-regulation and self-care have close links to our sense of time, confidence in our own ability and our rational decision-making processes – or the sense that we are lacking some or all of these. What does your inner voice tell you when you don’t make the changes you have identified as necessary?
“I don’t have time …” “I can’t … ” “I need to do [X] first, so no point in doing [Y] yet! “
Factor 5: Self-care – managing our physical, mental and emotional well-being all contribute to maintenance of a positive outlook, both in terms of our own capabilities and in terms of our engagement with the world around us.
Factor 6: Self-regulation – bringing awareness to our physical, mental and emotional states and finding the right balance of pressure, stress and tension. With self-regulation we manage our emotions effectively and don’t get hijacked by strong emotional responses.
Arguably these factors should be in Step 2: “Where do you want to get to?” or in Step 4: “What will you do differently?” However, it makes sense to bring our attention to stress, health and well-being in this section.
Put on your own oxygen mask first …
Perhaps self-care should be right at the start of this series, even before self-awareness. After all, we have basic survival instincts – hunger, fatigue, loneliness – that should tell us when we are running on empty and need to stop to refuel. However, because we are so busy, we no longer listen to our internal signals as well as we should. Poor diet, lack of exercise and lack of sleep all affect our ability to concentrate, impeding our rational decision-making function, our emotional balance and our immune response.
Covey [The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People] talks about focusing not only on production – the work itself and production capacity – but also the ability to keep working in the long-term. In other words, keeping fit and healthy. In an emergency, we are asked to put our own oxygen masks on before helping others – and with good reason!
How important is your health and well-being?
The problem with self-care is that it often falls in the “Important but not Urgent” box, sometimes even until the point that it becomes critical!
It’s relatively easy to work long hours, eat ready meals and survive on less sleep for a short period of time, but when it becomes the norm rather than the exception, it becomes a habit – and we all know how hard those are to break. And, even worse, each one of these reinforces the others unless we bring a great deal of self-control to the table.
When we are tired we tend to eat less well or drink too much (caffeine or alcohol); this, in turn, affects the quality of our sleep. I would recommend this article if you want to find out more about sleeping well.
Maintaining the balance
Self-care and self-regulation are two sides of the same coin; the two are interlinked, since plenty of sleep, good diet and exercise help reduce stress and anxiety and the associated negative impact of those factors. When we are relaxed and feeling healthy, we find it easier to think clearly, respond rationally and avoid worrying. Too much stress over a long period affects our physical, cognitive and emotional well-being.
But it’s important to note that some stress is good for us – hence the need for balance. The Yerkes Dodson graph (below) is a useful reference for this.
How much stress?
At the moment the impact of COVID, particularly the uncertainty it brings into our daily lives, has increased most people’s levels of stress on a day-to-day basis. Add to that increased economic and emotional stress and it’s not surprising that many people are experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety. Never before has self-regulation and self-care been more important.
Don’t forget the other resilience factors …
Ability to self-regulate is also affected by the other resilience factors. Good, supportive connections help us keep things in perspective and rebuild our confidence when our internal voice is stressed and anxious. Self-awareness of our own emotions and feelings forewarns us when we are getting overly stressed. Meaning and purpose help us focus on the future.
So, let’s go back to our coaching question: “What’s stopping you?” Bring your awareness to your internal dialogue – what excuses do you make to yourself as to why something can’t be done, or why now is not the right time to start something different? What is really stopping you?
To spur you on with your 2021 planning … remember (as mentioned above) – in a plane crash you should always put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. So give yourself some oxygen this year!