Health, happiness and age

Well it has been an awfully long time since I have written a blog. My last blog was looking back on my Nursing career and looking forward to my new role in Organisational Development and Coaching.

Since that blog I have experienced some minor health issues. I say minor as that is what they appear to be turning out to be. However in the moment these issues were quite unpleasant and me being a dramatic soul felt far from minor. It all started with abdominal and loin pain. The pain woke me up in the early hours of the morning. I have never experienced pain like it. It felt like my insides were being squeezed and blown up at the same time. As I mentioned I am quite dramatic, and have a very limited experience of pain. So I am not ashamed to say I panicked a little, which no doubt made it a lot worse than it was. I spent spent two and a half hours sat on the toilet, sat on the floor hugging the toilet trying to be sick, pacing the living room lying face down on the sofa crying into a cushion. Lisa was fast asleep and gently snoring upstairs. I thought about waking her when it started but thought better of it. I can be difficult when I am in pain, and Lisa doesn’t react well to me when I am being hysterical, so I thought it best that I let it be until I need her to take me to hospital or ring an ambulance. Leaving her asleep allowed me to be in a bad mood with her about not being sensitive enough to notice how much pain I was in, in her sleep. These unrealistic expectations never play well when the accused are present.

Anyway the torture lasted for nearly 3 hours, I was just about to wake Lisa to take me to hospital, when the pain went away. It was a very strange night. The next day was when I started feel unwell, I felt out of sorts, my abdomen and back ached, I was having hot flushes and felt incredibly tired. This lasted intermittently with occasional severe pain for a month. My GP was getting a little fed up with me (I could tell by his exasperated look on his face). I was in his surgery weekly. I had 2 courses of antibiotics with no effect, and a CT scan which showed nothing. There was no infection in my wee. Then he tested my blood. When I went back to get the results, his opening question was…. “Matthew how much do you drink?” I replied “about 6 bottles a week.” Well he nearly fell of his chair. “Of what!!!!?” he asked. “Oh god no, I said not big bottles, small bottles of beer.”

It turns out the bloods indicate that my liver might be fatty and that I drink probably more than I should. Then he pointed out I was carrying a bit of weight, so he wanted to test for diabetes! I was crestfallen. I have become a fat middle aged man, with diabetes, and a fat liver. It was a sudden realisation that stuff doesn’t just happen to other people, and if you don’t pay attention to health, there will be consequences. Yes I know, I have talked about this before, but like most of us I suffer from the habit of separating myself from the reality of life and the marching of time. It has been a wake up call. I don’t know if I have diabetes (I am still waiting for the result), but that is irrelevant really. What is important, is that I start to look after all of me. Going for a little run and paying attention to my well-being are important, but as I get older I need to pay attention to other aspects of my lifestyle, (mainly what I eat and drink). This health scare has made it real.

All this happened in an incredibly busy month. I started my new role, whilst at the same time completing my commitment to Nurse Induction. I don’s think I did either of these things justice. It was a big ask in the first place, but being ill just made it all the more demanding. I just had too much going on. This has caused me some distress, I had finally secured my dream job, and I was struggling to cope. I was exhausted and in both physical and emotional pain. Don’t worry though I got through it. It was difficult and painful, but not a permanent situation. I kept focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. I would get better, there will be a time when I can concentrate on one role without being pulled in other directions. Remembering why I do what I do really helped me.

I am feeling better now, and I have started a plan to pay attention to my physical health. This plan is firmly routed in my purpose and core value. If I need to be useful, I have to become healthier.

Last week was Lisa’s special birthday, (50th but don’t tell anyone). We have spent the week celebrating. On Monday we went to see a band out our now favourite venue, The Polar Bear (a regular of Vialetters). We then spent a couple of days in York, staying in the very fancy Grand, York, and taking in the sights of York and enjoying their food a drink. We ended the week having a meal with some old friends. Speaking for myself, this was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries after a challenging month.

That was a long week!

I think it was the heat, but boy that was a long week! A lot of great stuff happened but I am knackered today,I am certain we had 2 Thursdays this week.

Monday started with some inspirational meetings,talking to some truly brilliant people. There are so many talented and committed people working in the NHS. The first meeting was to discuss the support I could offer to the development of unregistered staff. My next meeting was with the wonderful Louise who is going to support me with the back office functions of our coaching network. That meeting was so positive and was like having a weight lifted off my shoulders. To be honest I was shocked this all happened this week! I was certain this all happened about 2 weeks ago. Such a long week!

I spent Tuesday morning delivering a Insights Discovery workshop. I love delivering. I particularly enjoy challenging peoples perceptions, and helping them connect with themselves. I even managed to sign up a couple of coachees for our coaching network.

I spent the first part of the evening with a private coaching client. It was a great hour, shifting perceptions and introducing the idea of being truly present.

Straight after the coaching session we raced across the city to watch our eldest son’s band (Vialetters), play there first headline gig. They were majestic and truly did live up to their headline status. It was the perfect warm-up for their slot at Humber Street Sesh festival next weekend. for those of you going, they are playing the Strummerville Stage at 4:15. If you are going pop along to see them, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday and Thursday were just hot a sweaty days, and were a struggle, so much so that I am certain we either repeated a day or time just slowed down. The highlight was going to the pub after work on Wednesday.

Friday at last was cooler. I spent the morning with the wonderful Janis and Sandra making plans and setting dates for Clinical Supervision training next year. We didn’t get chance to make work through our planned book on Clinical Supervision, we will get chance soon. In the afternoon I met and contracted with a new internal coachee,which is always a pleasure.

This morning I went for a refreshing run, helped Ben with his student s accommodation application, now writing this blog watching the Challenge Cup semi-final. A restful day.

It has been a long tiring week, but on reflection a really productive and enjoyable week. Yesterday I was feeling a little frazzled and was I think concentrating what was causing me frustration. This exercise today has helped me concentrate on what is positive, and productive in this week. There is an awful lot to be thankful for this week.

Sharing the Coaching Message

It has been a distracting week. I can back from leave on Monday and was still preoccupied with thoughts about the health of a member of my family. They are getting better, but I live and work the other side of the country and I am a natural worrier. I speak to them everyday so I am reassured daily, which is lovely, however it does not stop my emotional brain running riot and jumping to conclusions in between. I have been talking about my worries with friends and close colleagues who have been helping me find perspective, so thank you to all of you. So as I say it has been difficult to keep my focus on other parts of my life (like work). Saying that it has been quite a full on week, in both my roles. I have been doing quite a few one to one coaching and clinical supervision sessions. In times of stress I find these quite therapeutic. When I am stressed and feeling vulnerable I like to move into my comfort zone, and my default setting is compassion and empathy, so entering into a one to one with someone who have stuff to work through is perfect for me. I can sit listen and be a witness to their emotions, offering observations, asking questions to help them get to where they need to be. There are points in our life where we just need to wallow, and just feel sorry for ourselves, with someone we trust alongside us. I know I have certainly done that this week, and I have gladly performed the role of witness/supporter for others. What is important when you are being the witness/supporter is that you suppress the desire to make it better, that is not for you to do. Just by being there and offering your ear and shoulder is all the help they need. Not everything can or needs to be fixed. Well this blog was supposed to be about my day at the HEAT 2019 medical conference, but as what normally happens I have spent half a page sorting my own feelings out.

So back on track! I spent yesterday attending the 8th annual HEAT 2019 Conference. This is a medical education conference for Hull University Hospital NHS Trust. As Coaching Lead for the Trust I was invited to deliver a coaching workshop, which of course I was delighted to accept. The theme for this year’s conference was Health, Well-being and Resilience (right up my street). The key-note speeches were on resilience in the face of adversity, returning to practice, fatigue and the coaching service offered to trainee medical staff. The afternoon were dedicated to workshops including my brief introduction to coaching, mindfulness, and resilience.

As they had, had a very comprehensive introduction to what coaching is, and the documented evidence of it’s usefulness, the workshop was an opportunity for the participants to be coached. Once I had set them up and goal them thinking about a goal they wanted to achieve and provided context to the techniques I would be using, I then coached them using the blind coaching technique, where I ask them all a series of questions that deliver more detail to their goal and starts to populate an action plan with time frames and metrics to measure progress. Each participant is invited to write down their answers to the questions and use their answers as the basis for their action plan going forward. If anything this technique demonstrates that coaching is more than just a conversation and can be quite a challenging relationship, that is focused on achieving results. t

Both the workshops when well, with everyone fully participating and appearing to get something for it. I found it rewarding but mentally tiring. When I am feeling vulnerable like I am this week, I default to my introverted attitude, therefore delivering a workshop for Doctors required a lot of mental energy. All I wanted to do was to sit quietly and listen to others speak. But I stole myself dug deep and put myself in the arena. When it had finished I was spent. I dared greatly and as far as I can tell it paid off.

If you are interested in knowing more about coaching, don’t forget I offer 1:1 coaching skills for leaders and short masterclasses for small groups. If you work for the Trust I run a Manager as Coach course and more dates for next year will be out soon (all this years are fully booked).

If you think you may benefit from being coached get in touch.

Perhaps we should just get on with it?

I know some of my friends will be spitting their coffee over their phones reading this, but stick with me and let me explain what I mean.

I have heard this phrase a lot over the years, often from the mouths of well meaning but exasperated friends and colleagues, it can often be replaced with buck up! Anyone that has suffered from depression of any level of severity has heard those terms and felt that helpless feeling, even self loathing, in response to our inability to just get on with it. But what if was possible to get on with it, that could protect many of us from becoming ill, or that helped us stay off the anti-depressants.

The thing is most of the people that say just get on with it, are being quite sincere, because that is just what they do, with out realising that this is something that does not come naturally to many of us. There are I suppose situations where we all know that we can just get on with it regardless and then other situations where just getting on with it are impossible.

Getting on with it or JFDI (just flippin do it) is reliant on how resilient you are feeling at the moment when that task is required. Now I am debating going for a run this morning, and to be honest I have been struggling to restart running. As we know my resilience has been a little bit low recently, so I wonder if my inability to JFDI is down to this lack of resilience.

That is my point really, to be able to JFDI of get on with it, we need to address our resilience and look after ourselves. I imagine those that do get on with it pay attention to their resilience albeit subconsciously.

So lets examine my inability to no just get on with going for a run, by looking at the three characteristics of resilience described by Coutu (this is just as much for me, as it is for you).

Realism: When I went for a run on Monday evening I had this ridiculous idea that I could run solidly for 15 minutes before walking (I have not really run since December). I lasted a minute, now I did this 7 more times with some spells of walking as per the app I was using, after the 8th run I felt like a wreck. I was terribly unrealistic about my level of fitness. The level of pain and how quickly I got out of breath took be by surprise and quick frankly embarrassed me. I would even go as far to say I was ashamed of myself. Now this is quite ridiculous, I am 48 and overweight and have not run for 3 months, what else should I expect. There we are I have appraised my realism and there is some work I need to do on what I should expect from my running at first. There is clearly a need to manage my level of expectations of what I am going to feel when I run, which is a certain amount of discomfort during the run, which is then replaced with an elation and high when I have finished the run.

Purpose: This I have examined a lot. In the short term I have signed up for a 10k in June. Now going back to my realism, I am convinced I will not be able to run all the way round. What I want to do is run for 15 minutes and walk for 5 minutes on repeat until I have finished. So that is one reason for starting to run again. The other is fitness. I feel unfit, I am nearing 50 and want to be healthy for as long as I can. This stems back to my core value of usefulness. The longer I am healthy for, the longer I can make a useful contribution. It also makes me feel incredible once I have finished. So purpose is not an issue for me. s

Resource: So I have trainers and shorts, somewhere to run and an app. So I have the physical resources to actually go for a run. However whilst I sit here I wonder about my physical and mental resource, in other words the energy and motivation. If I examine the physical resource, I can go back to realism and examine how long I will be running for today. I will only be running for 8 minutes, how much resource do I need to run for 8 minutes in one minute bursts. It will make me breathless and sweaty and my legs will hurt but only for about 20 minutes. If I examine the mental resource I need all I have to do is remember why I am doing it and is that more important than sitting listening to the radio. How useful will listening to the radio make me?

Well I seem to have talked myself into going for a run. I still however have to do it.

Paying attention to your resilience and what my be reducing it, in theory seems quite easy, actually putting it in to practice is a little harder. It requires you to be honest with yourself and maybe address things that may make you feel uncomfortable. Reflecting is not easy and as I say a lot takes practice. I am learning to be more and more reflective, and it is bloody hard work.

If you want to explore this further and are thinking about some one to one coaching get in touch.

I need a re-charge

What is really funny is that over the past couple of weeks I have been writing about and researching resilience, not noticing that I was becoming less and less resilient myself.

For the 2 or 3 weeks now I have been running around tending to others needs and delivering content. Now I get a lot out of both delivering teaching sessions and one to one sessions with people. However I was not noticing my own well-being and listening to my own advice. I was not giving myself time to recover (or sufficient time). I was underestimating how much all of this work takes from me, physically and mentally.

My preferred attitude is to be introverted. I find it very difficult to talk to people I do not know, or embark on new activities that involve speaking to strangers. For instance if I cannot find something in a shop I will walk out rather than asking a shop assistant. Given a choice I prefer to email or text people rather than talk on the phone.

Us humans are complicated so my introversion is not the full story. I also like to be recognised for doing a good job and I like to make a difference to people’s lives. I have learned to enjoy extroversion and I am now happy to stand in front of people to deliver content, and have coaching conversations with people. To get me to that point though requires quite a lot of energy.

This has been the problem recently, I have been coaching and teaching a lot, and I had not noticed how much this was taking from me. That is until this week. By Wednesday I could feel my resilience waning, and by Thursday night I was completely spent, getting up a going to work on Friday morning was so difficult. In fact how I felt on Friday morning reminded me of what I felt like when I was at my lowest and was unable to go to work. Yesterday I went to work. I had a plan.

I had a lovely walk in to work in the sunshine taking in the views and just being in the moment. When I got to work I talked about what was happening to me with people I trust. I could feel myself re-energising. After work I went for tea with my work colleagues. We drank we laughed, we laughed, we drunk some more, laughed some more and then went home.

I am tired this morning, a little hungover, but optimistic. I will when life gets busy, when I am required to be an extrovert, that I need to schedule in extra recovery time. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to recover. Paying attention to yourself allows you to be the best person you can be.

Trying to find inspiration

I have spent most of today and yesterday trying to find some inspiration for chapter 5 of my book. This morning I had books out all over the sofa highlighting quotes and thinking about where I could put them and hoping they would spark something inside of me, just to get the chapter started without being wedded to one particular writer. I kept telling myself and keep telling myself it has to come from me. It has to be my story of how I connect with myself, how I fail to connect with myself, how I connect with others and how I disconnect from others. The title of the chapter is ‘Are you driven by your emotions?’ There is so much written on this subject that it is so hard not to end up just writing what they have said about it. Then my imposter syndrome kicks in and I start thinking emotionally, my armour comes up and I get stuck. I started telling myself that no one will want to read it. Who do you think you are? You don’t know enough.

So these have been my anxieties today. I set myself really, I told myself I was going to spend this week writing. Then when it started I felt this pressure to write. Then I started writing and Foggy popped up to tell me that people like me don’t do this sort of thing. This is why I am writing this, to put Foggy back in his box. I know he is only trying to protect me, but what he forgets is, that I am 48 on Sunday. I am a big boy now, I have an identity and a self worth and none of that is dependent on whether I write a modern classic or a book that never sees the light of day.

Foggy after all is how I describe aspects of my limbic system. I cannot fight him I have to let him have his say, sometimes what he says is helpful, other times he encourages me to wear armour I don’t want or need. Now I have let him have his say and I have shown him that I will not die if I write a book about personal leadership, I can get back to writing about my experience of emotional thinking, which is essentially what I have just done.

You may have noticed that I use this blog to work stuff out, to get things straight in my head, There is something about sharing what is in my head with people, that does not feel like I am bearing my soul. It helps me immensely and I hope that a lot of you find it helpful. The realisation that the anxieties that you have are shared by others is so reassuring.

So thank you for being there and reading this. I now have something to write about in my chapter tomorrow. I now have that personal angle.

Shining a light on the negative

I have been reading a lot about resilience over the past few weeks. Mental health, well being and resilience are hot topics in everyone’s work place at the moment and as a nurse and coach they are close to my heart. I do write about some aspect of mental health on a regular basis. Being resilient is really quite simple, but so difficult to do.

Why is it so difficult for many of us not to slip into negative self talk and pick up on all the negativity behind us. As I have mentioned before being negative is evolutionary necessary. In more perilous times defaulting to the positive was an instant death sentence. Our brains are amazing at threat detection and keeping us alive, however they are rubbish at differentiating between life threatening and or looking silly. Which again in harsher more primitive times was useful, as being perceived as a bit of a tool in could mean you being banished from your group and being left to fend for yourself.

So our factory settings were and can still be lifesaving. However many of the threats we face daily will not result in our death, but are more likely to result in us being criticised or ridiculed. As mentioned before status and esteem were linked to life and death, but this is no longer the case in modern society. This means we have to be conscious of our default setting and make an effort to upgrade our operating system. The upgrade is as mentioned earlier really simple. The problem is we reset to factory settings on a regular basis so we have to manually apply the upgrade every time we encounter a threat. When you think about it, that is quite comforting, if there is a day when you are faced with a life or death situation, your threat sensors will kick in to keep you safe (hopefully, but that perhaps is a blog for someone else to write).

How do you manage your negativity? How do you create a balanced view of your life? As I say it is simple really. Once you have established that what you are facing is not a real emergency that could end with your death or harm, or the death or harm of others, then you need to challenge your perspective.

Apply some critical thinking

The most effective way to challenge the story you are telling yourself about the situation you have or are experiencing, by just asking yourself a few simple questions. You have to be honest with yourself though, if all you are going to do is confirm what you all ready think then there is no point. It is vital that you create an alternative explaination based on what is really happening.

  • What facts do I have about the situation?
  • Is there any more information about the situation in front of me?
  • What assumptions am I making about the situation?
  • In the grand scheme of my life, how important is this?
  • What are the implications of this situation?
  • Is there another way to look at this?
  • In the light of what I have learned, what would be an appropriate response?
  • What impact would your response have on others?
  • What can I learn?
  • Is there anything positive I can take from this?

Now this takes practice, as it will not come naturally. When things get tough and you have to make important decisions about how you respond to certain situations, whether that be at work, or home this stop check can provide a level of perspective and give your rational mind time to catch up with your threat centre.

If you want this to work then getting a coach will certainly help quieten that negative self talk, and if you are a business owner, or a senior leader it is vital that you learn to create a balance between the negative self talk and positivity, when making important decisions.

If you are interested in applying this approach then please get in touch to discuss the subscription offers I have.

matt@mattycoach71.com