Article: How Health Coaches Can Address Common Wellness-Related Themes Coming Up During the Pandemic
How Health Coaches Can Address Common Wellness-Related Themes Coming Up During the Pandemic
Navigating Where Health Coaches Fit into the Equation
Certainly, the pandemic has given rise to many clinical challenges in wellness. It can be difficult to discern which themes are best suited for expert assistance and which ones should be left to qualified clinicians. There are many issues in group wellbeing that can be addressed with an integrative approach after compiling months worth of community sharing. Aftercare is another area where health coaches can be a valuable resource to clients.
It is also important to remember that health coaches work with medical professionals in order to create a more successful recovery and prevention relationship. While this article provides opportunities for health coaches in times of pandemics, it also acknowledges that they are responsible to determine when to liaise or not with physicians.
To determine what level of proficiency a coach has, one must assess each patient's symptoms and signs. Similar to the stages of burnout, here are some of the key indicators that a condition is still within reach of health coach-generated solutions:
- Is the wellness challenge anticipatory or predictive? Do you have any other strategies to prevent the inevitable?
- Is there heightened evidence of the wellness challenge that is affecting the client’s ability to focus or show up?
- Are the symptoms of the wellness problem becoming so severe/permanent that it is requiring medical attention in addition to holistic treatment?
Should support be needed beyond steps 1-3, such as with severe mental health issues and/or a complete overtaking of the client’s life, it makes sense in these phases of ascending intensity to refer out, too.
5 Common Wellness-Related Themes During the Pandemic
You’ll want to run these categories through the three aforementioned questions to see the degree in which they’re showing up in your client’s life and health. Based on the degree of intensity, you can choose your level of involvement:
Anxiety and Depression Caused By Pandemic Stress
In “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use,” Nirmita Plancha et al. (2021) report how “During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from 1 in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.” More specifically, much of that anxiety and depression is related to worrying about COVID-19 itself (regardless of whether someone has had it or not). It is worth conducting an intake interview to gain a deeper understanding of your clients' concerns and their experiences with it. Further, there are natural ways to reduce anxiety as well as methods to strategically target and heal anxiety about COVID-19.
High Levels of Isolation
Isolation on any normal day or period of life can feel debilitating. In fact, “Hawkley points to evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life” in “Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach” (Hawkley, 2015). The isolation we experience is now a common, severe, and possibly life-threatening phenomenon. We have to be careful about COVID-19. The net effect is a sort of compound isolation that may endure past the body and mind’s capacity to integrate it.
The human body has adapted and changed as best it can to deal with the pandemic. It can lead to problems with weight gain and loss, nutritional satiation, and proper nutrition. The American Psychological Association detailed how “61% of U.S. adults reported undesired weight change since the pandemic began” and prompted pieces such as our very own “8 Ways Personal Trainers May Design Healthier Post-Pandemic Weight Loss Programs.” Adapted from “How Stress Depletes Essential Nutrients, and What You Can Do About It,” the following is a list of nutrients depleted by stress that can influence fitness results:
- B-Complex Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc
A Special Note to Mothers and Other Disproportionately Affected Populations
According to NPR and countless other sources, “Increased household responsibilities have forced many working mothers—and especially Black and Latinx mothers—to scale back on their hours or leave the workforce entirely during the pandemic, further widening economic and racial disparities.” This finding really encapsulates the larger picture that the wellness of not only mothers but also certain cultural and socioeconomic groups is even more challenged by the pandemic. As definitions, signs, and symptoms of wellness and its practices can vary across genders, cultures, etc., it is a more important time than ever for holistic health coaches to make themselves aware of diverse populations and the spectrum that is health itself.
Putting Health Coaching into “Pandemic Practice”
As noted before, the importance of assessing client needs and comparing them to your level of involvement is crucial for success. A simple intake interview may suffice to accomplish this or using any of the below AFPA resources can assist health coaches as they navigate this juncture:
- 6 Email Templates to Encourage and Check-In With Your Clients
- 11 Apps to Improve Communication with Clients
- Client Interviewing Forms and Techniques Learned in the Holistic Nutrition Course
Perhaps via the above communication, a holistic health coach identifies anxiety and depression caused by pandemic stress and wants to know whether or not to address it from a holistic standpoint. Answering the guiding questions may look something like this:
- Client shows some signs of stress, such as lacking boundaries at work, that prevents exercise and pre-planned nutritional choices from taking priority.
- Client mentions that they have more anxiety and depression, which may be affecting their sleeping patterns. Specifically, client keeps waking up early “for no reason” and is unable to fall back to sleep despite being tired.
- It is not possible to provide any evidence. According to clients, they experience this 1-2 times per months.
In the above sample, there’s no question a health coach can have a significant impact and likely does not yet have to make a clinical referral (though decisions made on that are case by case). The holistic health coach can help their client here to sleep better and eat better as a start.
If anxiety or depression are imminently or have reached feelings of despair or hopelessness or chronic sleep problems, agitation and agitation and possibly suicidal thoughts, the coach could refer the client to a specialist or bring them additional medical attention. It will be helpful to illustrate the differences in intensity between the questions that revolve around the wellness issues, especially those related to the pandemic.
Health coaches play an integral role in client wellness and, with an eye for particular wellness challenges during the pandemic, can be a huge support system. The article also describes the need for discernment. In addition to the description of Module 1 of the Holistic Health Coach Course which states, “Exploring the many facets of personal health and self-responsibility, while focusing on the basic principles of physical, mental, and spiritual health. You’ll learn the tools you need to make informed health decisions that promote lifelong wellness for yourself, your family, and your clients. The lessons encourage personal responsibility to health-related behaviors and outline how to improve overall health through nutrition, fitness, stress management, and the maintenance of an all-encompassing healthy lifestyle,” another way to describe the health coach role is listed on our website for further clarity as follows:
- Coach and educate clients on how to achieve and sustain healthy habits as part of a daily routine that includes eating healthy, exercising, managing triggers and eliminating stress, maintaining healthy relationships, and more.
- Your clients can achieve long-lasting and optimal health through educating them about how to address any issues caused by poor nutrition, stress, lack of exercise and bad sleep habits.
- Help clients identify the root causes of their ill-health and how they can be addressed.
- Start a program that will help clients reach their health and wellness goals.
- Learn how to recognize when clients need to be referred to their primary physicians for treatment and/or diagnosis.
Health coaches can help you achieve healing in areas that are not possible with your skills and goals.