Taking a Break from Health Coaching: Part 1 Going on “Vacation”

I have no problem planning a rest day when I create my own workout programming, but I’m terrible about taking a vacation day and completely detaching and essentially taking a rest day from normal life.

I imagine there are many out there like me. We should get t-shirts and form a club.

There have been a few things that I have been navigating, tearing apart and reassembling over the past year.

Relationships, setting and keeping boundaries, figuring out career moves – there have been a lot areas of my health and life that I’ve been working on and through.

I’m going to speak in a silo because I know if I offer empathy to others throughout this post I will start to negate my own feelings and that’s not fair – we are all allowed to have feelings that coexist whether in harmony or in battle.

In the past five months, I have felt a whirlwind of emotions, which has pulled me to some awesome highs, but some terrible lows. Both extremes that I haven’t felt in a while and sometimes felt blindsided by.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I have felt that I am unable to take off my health coaching cap. Obviously, I wear it professionally, but there are times where I haven’t been able to take it off to live my personal life and that has been quite exhausting. This comes from boundary setting, which is something I’ve been working on over the past few years in different ways.

There are definitely areas I’ve noticed a big improvement and others that I still know growth needs to happen.

Personally, I found myself holding the feelings of others and tabling my own. I realized, I’d offer space for others with the understanding that they may never give me that same space, which would often be realized. These relationships are one-sided, exhausting and aren’t healthy.

I’ve talked about my list of tools or things that I use to help me manage and decrease my stress. When I recognize that one doesn’t help, I move on to the next.

But I never really considered what would happen if those tools were no longer available in the same ways or if I ran out of tools in my box. This is something that I’ve worked on with clients and then would find myself digging through and presenting to my therapist for further discussion.

October 2019, Mount Monadnock

All of the feelings culminated in a variety of ways, starting a few weeks ago with a string of anxiety attacks. This steam rolled into flashbacks and exhaustion. I have found it hard to write and read – two things I really enjoy, but notice become very challenging when my stress is significantly high. This happened for a couple of weeks last year and for a month a few years ago.

After speaking with work and my clients, I’ve decided to take a break – a vacation for the week. It’s odd and I can tell you that I panicked thinking about it because my role as a health coach is to help others. But like I tell my clients all the time, if you’re not dealing with your mental health and you are struggling you’re no good to yourself or for others. I also found myself panicking because this is new – I don’t think I’ve ever really taken a vacation. Maybe a couple of days, but not a week and I honestly haven’t disconnected from using my computer.

My average client tenure is 13 months with my oldest client having been with me for over two years and my newest client having joined me this month – the last newest was in April. They know me and support me. It’s an interesting relationship and it’s very different than one you’d have with a therapist. But I offer my honesty so that we can make decisions together and so they can understand decisions I make as well.

They fully supported a week vacation and going forward, I’m going to implement quarterly breaks for myself to recoup.

Last week we had a group call and we spoke candidly and then we brainstormed some ideas of what they could individually focus on within their own unique goals and how they could think critically without me there. Honestly, if I’m a good coach, this is something they can and should be able to do.

One client explained that when she was having a tough time she was going to try to step back and think of some of the questions I would normally ask during a check-in call. She said kind of what would Cristina say? I laughed and then two other clients said yes, exactly! It made me tear up because during our check-ins I can hear confidence in their voices when they tell me about their decision-making processes. I can hear frustration and excitement and joy as they navigate their journey’s and bring me along for the ride as a guide. And here they were talking to each other figuring out what they could do to help themselves continue to focus on those daily things we talk about.

My favorite – they all said that they were going to try to use the same hour that we use each week to focus on themselves even though we wouldn’t be checking in. Regardless if I’m there, they deserve that time and so much more to invest in themselves.

They can still text if they need to, but this week they’re focusing inward on their own and so am I.

Because even those who help others need to help themselves and pause.

So what does “vacation” look like.

It looks like sleeping in instead of waking up to the morning alarm between 6 and 6:30 like we’ve done this whole time. It looks like going hiking on Wednesday and Thursday to get that symbolic freedom feeling by being on a mountain. It looks like giving myself space to read and write without pressure. It looks like making a new recipe and lifting. It also looks like not planning a damn thing on Friday. It looks like bible study with a friend that I haven’t talked to in a few weeks.

These are the things I need to get closer to whole again.

Here’s my empathy, if you’re struggling you’re not alone even when it feels like you are. Remember most people aren’t talking about the crummy things going on, they’re trying to put on a brave face and move forward. But we don’t always need to put it on.