It seems that every major global economy has a burgeoning, National Health system that is a financial drain on the Nation’s economy. An untapped resource that could revolutionise health care and aid National Health Systems , is by bringing the mind–body methodologies such as health coaching, developmental coaching, psychology and therapy off the doctors shelf and onto the forefront of the doctor’s prescription pad. Stress related conditions are amongst the most frequent daily diagnosis of a doctor. These methodologies have the potential for filling a major gap in contemporary health care. Because drugs and surgery have such dramatic effects, the medical profession has tended to focus on these methods to the virtual exclusion of mind-body approaches, which can provide a much needed complement, particularly in the treatment of stress-related diseases.
One of the most common types of stress is job stress. Worksafe, an Australian Government Agency, reports that stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia. According to the National Health and Safety Commission, job stress accounts for the longest stretches of absenteeism.
Job stress has many causes:
Logistical: Heavy workload, threat of job security, location of workplace.
Relational: Relationship dynamics with co-workers and bosses.
Cognitive: What one person perceives as stressful may be perceived as challenging or irrelevant by another. Our perceptions are merely an interpretation of reality. If you are a pessimist, you are more likely to perceive an event negatively. If you tend to personalise then you are more likely to assume that you didn’t get the pay rise or your boss’s angry moods somehow have something to do with you, which may or may not be true. Our perception is NOT, however, reality itself.
The manifestations of work related stress can be fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations, stuttering, skin disorders, sleep difficulties, diarrhoea and constipation. Over an extended period of time, these symptoms can develop into more advanced health issues.
Recently, a 43 year old professional, Duncan, came to see me about his personal development and stress levels so that he could advance in his career. What we found were high levels of anxiety that caused an ongoing nervousness, stuttering, 23 year history of asthma-like symptoms, severe addiction to Ventolin, fatigue, a withdrawn persona, fear of driving and a pessimistic attitude. Duncan’s personality also attracted regular antagonism and public put downs from his boss.
Through Health Coaching, we used herbal medicine to support his body, made some minor changes to his diet, namely reducing his sugar intake and including 3 x 30 minute exercise sessions per week. The main transformation came from coaching his perception of reality around him and exploring his unique processing styles, as well as building up his self esteem so that we transformed his stress response, which reduced or eradicated his symptoms.
Duncan has this to say: “Before coaching I had what I thought was severe asthma but now I know that it was anxiety and stress induced asthma. I have reduced my puffer usage from approximately 20 puffs per day to none, which included before meetings, driving, socialising, and coaching unless it is true asthma which is very uncommon. I no longer stutter, I have also let go of my fear of driving”. Duncan literally learnt to run his brain so he could run his body.
Another interesting example is Angelo. Angelo had suffered ulcerative colitis, a serious chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine for 9 years and the condition was so severe that he was on daily immunosuppressant drugs to keep his symptoms in check. Amongst the relevant lifestyle and specific dietary changes, we coached Angelo to explore his frames of mind and perception of stressful people and situations from his past and present. Angelo reflects “The most defining moment for me was the coaching question: when did you make the decision to create this disease for yourself? I realised that if I had created this disease then I could un-create it, and that is what I set out to do.” Through Health Coaching, Angelo is now off all medication, is symptom free and has been for the last 7 years.
The point here is that, about 60% of visits to the doctor are stress related of which a portion will need medicating but of which plenty can be helped with mind-body interventions. I think that it is incredible that we have inside our mind the potential to generate a response that is the opposite of the stress response. That has an impact on health and wellbeing, that is within our locus of control and is drug-free. Why wouldn’t you use it?
Sarah is a Senior Coach at Equilibrio and works with professionals, business owners and senior managers who are keen on experiencing the gratifying rewards of dove tailing their professional and personal lives. Sarah also works with stress related chronic ill health.