Health Transitions

What IS a health transition?

What IS a health transition? Most of us have experienced it ourselves, or have someone close to us who has gone through it.  At some point in our lives it is inevitable that we will go through a change in our health or be diagnosed with an illness or disease.

It can happen in different ways. Perhaps:

  • You’re humming along, life is good, when you experience acute pain and are diagnosed with an illness, disease, condition, syndrome.
  • You’re humming along, life is good, you go for your annual physical (if you are allowed to have one annually) and one of the routine test results comes back “abnormal”. After further testing you are told that you have a diagnosis of ___________ (fill in the blank).
  • You’re humming along when you notice, feel, or sense something is not alright with your body, (finally) go to the doctor who after running various tests, confirms your suspicions that you have an illness, disease, condition.

That moment of hearing a diagnosis or being diagnosed can come as a a relief, comforting, as well as devastating and shocking.

Cold fingers of dread clutch at the heart, breath accelerates, skin prickly, gut constricts, whirls and twirls, this moment etched in memory, in history, in the body’s fibers. Life Before. Life After. Life Then. Life Now. Me Before. Me After. Me Then. Me Now.

The demarcation between the Former you and the Present you comes with a pain that won’t go away, abnormal test results, a diagnosis, a new label.

This is one stage, one part, one moment of a health transition.

Moving through this change in our physical health also means experiencing a psychological, emotional, and spiritual transition. And that can include a transition in self-identity, our relationship to our body, the meaning of health to us among others. They are interconnected and impact each other.

A health transition involves the change in experiencing your health and your body as normal, satisfying, and working for you to something else. Something new. Something you do not understand.

As with all types of transitions, with it comes loss, grief, mourning and a kind of death. Moving through a health transition involves letting go of who we were before the diagnosis and accepting who we are and who we will become with it.

Who will you become with it? Who do you want to become?

Copyrighted 2014 Life Changes Blog Ruth Tamari

What is your body telling you about your work?

Waking up in the morning feeling unrested, pushing the snooze button a couple of times, wishing more than anything that it was Friday or better yet Saturday. Forcing yourself with all your might to get out of bed and start the washing and dressing rituals to get to work. Ugh. Work. You just know that something is out of whack here. We know how closely our bodies, health and work interconnect. We can tell after spending many hours working. And we can especially tell when we are not feeling good or even really bad about our careers or work.

Health doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It ebbs and flows with different life events, with positive and negative experiences. Certainly stressful work environments and relationships can wreak havoc on our physical, emotional and mental health.

There can be many moments during our work or career history when neither our body nor our health feel well and robust.

Sometimes it can happen because we feel bored and not challenged enough. For many of us, boredom is not conducive, maybe even harmful, to mental, physical and emotional well-being.

It might be because of our work hours. Working challenging shifts or long hours can be draining and taxing on our health.

It might be because of the physical environment where we work: no windows, no fresh air, poor lighting, tiny office spaces or little if any privacy.

It might be because of the social environment where we work: our boss or colleague is abrasive, maybe adversarial. Challenging work relationships can be stressful for our emotional, psychological and physical health.

It might be because of our work lifestyle. Not enough routine, not enough predictability, or too long a commute. Our work lifestyle can be wearying on body and well-being.

Some of us feel so stuck in our jobs, in our careers, in our lives that we are sick of it. We feel sick of it. And we sometimes become sick from it.

Our body might be telling us to make a change. Perhaps it is even yelling at us and forcing us to make a change — for our physical well-being, our mental health and sometimes for our very life.

When our work is stressful, unsatisfying or unfulfilling, our body lets us know pretty quickly. It usually speaks to us — through our sleep, our gut, our breathing, our emotions or a lack of vitality — only we do not pay attention or choose not to attend.

Sometimes it feels easier to stay with what is familiar and the status quo, stay silent and ignore, avoid or deny what your body is telling you.

The body is a powerful messenger. It has deep wisdom and knowledge that we can access at every moment. What change might your body be telling you, asking you, whispering to you, even screaming to you to consider. Are you listening?

What is your body telling you as you commute to work or get ready to start your work day? Maybe you feel anxious or uninspired about your workday. Perhaps your shoulders are hunched over, ready to protect you from the onslaught of abrasiveness, meetings, or deadlines.

What is your body telling you mid-day? Maybe that your legs and back are needing to move and stretch. Maybe that you feel tense or that your thoughts or emotions are in overdrive or overwhelm.

What is your body telling you as you leave your work or workplace? Maybe it feels tense or depleted, overstimulated or bored into super-comfort-zone.

Listen to the wisdom of your body. It knows. Its wisdom is true. It will guide you to take steps, to take care of yourself and your career.

Life Coaching, Health and Wellness: Early Research Findings

Why would someone seek out a life coach for weight loss? It’s probably not the first professional who comes to mind when you think of making a health or lifestyle change. And yet why not?

“...I took part in a study and you were my life coach during my first year of university (almost 2 years ago now). I was going through my older emails and I still had many of yours between us. I was looking at my goals I set out with you those many months ago, and I can't believe how far I have come since then.

Since I have spoken to you last, I went out and connected with a personal trainer, I work out 5-7 days a week and am now regularly attending a co-ed gym.  I have lost a little over 60 pounds and am well on my way to hitting the 100lb mark.  I eat whole foods now, and barely keep any processed food in my fridge anymore.

I am in a healthy relationship and am living with my significant other and find myself happier every day.  I am now able to stand up for myself and I do not let my friends pressure me or push me around anymore.  I am in my third year of university and just had my first article published on my school’s website so I have been much better with my school work.

I think that you were one of the major turning points in my life, and although we only talked for a short time I wanted to thank you for helping me change my life…"                                                                  CHANGE study participant

Our health is complex. It’s layered among our emotional, spiritual, mental, physical and sexual selves. It’s connected to our relationships with others, with our work and with money. It shows up in our self-image, our self-expression, and our self-esteem. Our state of health is a reflection of our inner sense of peace, inner knowing and self-acceptance.

Traditionally, the way to good health has been reduced to fitness and nutrition. We know the physicality of our health is important and current research now confirms that the issue is recognized as far more complex. Our world is more complex, our experience as human beings is more complex and managing our health is increasingly complex.

Health may be many things. It can be: - Waking up in the morning feeling a lightness in your body and spirit, - Making space during your day to savour your meal and nourish yourself, - Taking time to move your body to refresh, restore, challenge and pleasure your body, - Knowing what you’re feeling, allowing it, experiencing it and moving through it, - Feeling love and appreciation for another being, a friend or relative, - Having the confidence to take a risk outside of your comfort zone, - and many other possibilities that are unique to you.

Starting in September 2010 I participated as a life coach in a research project on coaching and obesity.  The purpose of the project was to compare two different modalities for their efficacy with health outcomes related to obesity. The two modalities were the interactive life coaching approach and the prescriptive LEARN program, which has been used for weight loss for 30 years and has already proven itself to be statistically-significant in research.

All the certified life coaches were trained through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). For the research participants who were randomly selected to the life coaching modality, they were asked to commit to 12 weeks of life coaching over the phone for 30 minutes each week. After coaching was completed, there were 3-month and 6-month follow-up meetings with the researchers to assess the participants’ progress and outcomes.

I coached four people over the course of the research study. After the preliminary introductory call to connect, answer questions about the coaching process and learn what the participant wanted to achieve by the end of the 12 weeks, s/he decided on goals for their health + well-being. The life coaching approach meant that they also explored parts of their life that connected to their well-being: their academic, career and work, their relationships with family, friends and lovers, their physical space or home, or wherever they wanted to focus on and create change in their health and life.

So what were the results of the research study? That life coaching is as statistically significant a method as the prescriptive LEARN program for an obesity intervention. Here is the published study: The CHANGE Program: Comparing an Interactive versus Prescriptive Obesity Intervention on University Students' Self-Esteem and Quality of Life, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Volume 4, Issue 3, pages 369–389, November 2012.

During their 12 weeks of life coaching, participants had new insights about their health and became aware of the many things that impacted it. They learned to coach themselves and how to get out of their own way. Successful coaching is when clients continue to work towards their goals without the coach!

Learning about what we need to be healthy takes us on a powerful journey into ourselves. If you’re interested in taking that next step but feel overwhelmed or stuck, contact me for a free consultation and find out how you can create the sense of well-being you dream of.

"Our Thoughts on Aging" Interview Project

In June 2010 I started an independent research project called “Our Thoughts on Aging”. It seemed to me, as a woman going through mid-life, as a geriatric clinician, and as a life transitions coach, that there was something important lying beneath ageism and ant-aging asking to be explored: our experience, fears, and perceptions of aging and growing older. So I started this new project – and it’s about exactly that: our lived experience, ideas, and thoughts about aging, including death and dying.  When in your life have you had an opportunity to talk about this, to consider what it is you want for your 50’s, 70’s and 90’s?  And what is it that you fear about it too?

One of my goals for this interview project is for it to generate conversations about these very topics, ones that are not usually discussed openly or comfortably. The name of this project is “Our Thoughts on Aging” as it is intended to reflect our collective thoughts on aging. 

Here are the guidelines about the interview process. 

  1. I am interviewing 100 adults - men and women over the age of 21, of varying cultural and religious backgrounds and professions.
  2. The interviews are conducted via phone and audio-recorded. I transcribe each interview to maximize privacy and confidentiality for the interviewee.
  3. Each interviewee receives the transcribed interview and edits it to his/her satisfaction.
  4. The goal is to complete the project by December 2015.

All of the transcribed interviews are posted on this blog, Life Changes. You can receive new interviews as they are posted by clicking on the email subscription to the right side of this page.

If you’re interested in being interviewed, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at info@ruthtamari.com