There are times in your life when you feel like you are running a marathon, except you are not physically running, you don’t have the training, the right trainers and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be an end! This is how my life has felt for the last year – I hit the 6 weeks school holidays exhausted. I had been looking after my teenage daughter full time since February and whilst she had been given a place in anew supported school, that wouldn’t start until September. I was hoping she could start before the holidays and I did have a little weep when I found out we still had to wait another 6 weeks. I felt like I had been running a marathon for months and had nothing left (just did a typo and it came out as “mothering left” – rather apt eh?).
I had “Hit The Wall” – HTW in endurance running circles. I can remember Peter Duncan from Blue Peter hitting the wall, when he did a marathon and remember thinking how awful it looked. It’s how I felt though after months of caring for someone with complex problems and not being able to top up my energy sufficiently – I was crashing.
I have been having some coaching myself and found myself saying “It’s like running a marathon and feeling unable to finish” so I decided to explore what experienced runners do to avoid the wall or keep going if they have already hit it. It may sound like a strange thing but in coaching you learn that these metaphors often provide very real help and ideas. So I did a quick google and found this in a piece of research:
“Characteristics and coping responses of HTW (Hitting the Wall) included many physiological and psychological descriptors that led to race-related physical coping efforts (e.g., supplementation/hydration), emotion-focused coping (e.g., social support), and cognitive strategies (e.g., willpower, mental reframing)” http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200802078267
So there we have it – 3 areas for coaching (physical, mental, emotional/social) and some ready-made coaching explorations:
How can I keep physically well? What supplements might I need? What nutrition might be lacking? What might I be imbibing that isn’t terribly helpful? How might I recharge whilst still doing what is necessary? How can I build in small rest periods? What helps me rest?
How can I keep emotionally well? What sort of social support is available to me? What might stop me seeking/accepting help? What usually helps me? Does compassion run out? How can I be compassionate to myself?
How can I strengthen myself mentally? How can I reframe this situation? How can I strengthen my will? Or how can I use my will more skilfully? What thinking patterns might be unhelpful/helpful right now?
As OTs who work with people with all sorts of conditions, disabilities and caring responsibilities, this is very familiar territory. Coaching, however, offers us a way of working with clients natural responses, metaphors etc. and use them to help people find their own answers, rather than us prescribing solutions.