One year ago I was blessed lucky to meet life coach, Alice Martin. We had WellBeing Week at work and Alice kindly signed up to offer stressed charity workers free life coach sessions for the day. I arrived late and flustered and spilled the contents of my very messy life to her. Since then, she has been continuously working with me for free as she appreciates how hard I am trying to feel well again and push my life in the direction I'd like to go. Her support and empowerment has led to some very big and very positive decisions about my health and path; here she explains what it's like to support a woman with endometriosis and how life coaching tools can help.
You have worked with a client who has endometriosis before, what do you think are the most common challenges a woman with this condition faces?
The two most common challenges a woman with this condition faces are learning to take time to have fun and putting their health first, not compromising themselves for other commitments. These may sound ridiculous given the severity of symptoms and the consequences endometriosis has on individuals and their friends and families. However, these two aspects are so often neglected. When anyone suffers long term these are two things that could make your life a more positive and wholesome existence. When you are feeling at your worst having fun seems a million miles away that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a necessity. When you have to work a 9-5 and you feel terrible and go home and manage your home, fun doesn’t seem possible when this is all you do day in and day out. Scheduling in fun may not be possible, but when you have the chance do it! Do what ever it is that makes you happy. This feeds into my second challenge, not letting taking time for work, friends or family compromise you. Yes they are necessities and the most important things in your life, but you are no doubt the most important person in someone else’s life so taking time, real uninterrupted time to heal and rest and be peaceful is essential.
Women with endometriosis often have difficulty managing a normal 9 – 5 or running their business if self-employed, whilst looking after their health. Are there any tools you can recommend to help a woman make their work life balance a bit easier?
Firstly I think be honest with your colleagues and employer. I know you aren’t looking for sympathy and they won’t either. The fact is there will be times you don’t feel good and having the pressure taken off because your colleagues have no idea you are in pain can ease if they know your situation.
Secondly take each day at a time and each section of the day at a time. Do the hard stuff when you feel strongest and the simpler tasks when you don’t have the energy.
Thirdly, make your holidays work for you and use the days as and when you need them.
Finally, look at your day at work, what can you do to prepare so you can get through the hard bits with more ease. Can you bring healthy snacks, warm clothes, take breaks or go for a gentle walk?
Some women may want to transition out of full time work in order to manage their health, but this can be a stressful period with job applications, finances or getting their own personal work recognised so this can be their other source of income. What questions do you think a woman should ask herself when trying to change their work life and how could they manage this best?
They need to really think about the reasons they are deciding to make this change. What are the benefits and what are the challenges you will face? When it comes to managing the transition best that is up to the person and their situation. Who can help? What are the obstacles and how are you going to adapt to each?
A common issue with endometriosis sufferers is a lack of a social life – friends do not often understand, women have to cancel plans last minute because they’re unwell and the low moods that can accompany the condition can prevent women from wanting to go out. Additionally, endo can mean women are less able to do the same things their friends can, so they might opt out to prevent looking ‘fussy’. What do you think women could do to overcome these issues and try to maintain some kind of social life?
First of all be honest - your good friends should understand your situation. Tell them the truth and don’t water it down for them in case you think you look like you are whining or complaining. They should be able to understand that there are certain things that don’t suit your life and you can still be social with out having to compromise your friendships. Unfortunately you can’t help having those days you feel unwell when you have something planned. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be more spontaneous and do something with your friends when the time feels right.
A woman usually has a lot going on when she has endometriosis. This can be overwhelming and lead to women burning out or having no time to look after themselves or just find some ‘me’ time that isn’t ‘sick’ time. What can you suggest women do to help prioritise and find some balance in their lives?
The main thing is to prioritise time for yourself. ‘Sick’ time is ‘sick’ time. You are not being indulgent by using this time to get better. It is a necessity not a pleasure. As is ‘me’ time. For those that find this distinction difficult really think about the importance of taking time for yourself. To enjoy yourself in better health without as much worry is so crucial to every person. If your friend was in the same position I am sure you would tell her she needs ‘me’ time too. Think of those hobbies, activities and pleasures you love doing. Whether its sleeping till 3, going swimming or dancing the night away, make it a priority, like eating well and resting when you are unwell.
Endometriosis can get in the way of women achieving goals they may have. From physically preventing them to life being so overwhelming that they can’t start – what approach can you recommend to take when it comes to goal setting and achieving these?
Whether you have a goal in mind or you have been so preoccupied you haven’t even begun to think about your future, you need to start by doing just that. Goal setting and achieving is the same for everyone but the answers are different. Follow the simple steps below and answer the following questions.
Whilst remaining realistic think ‘where do you want to be in five years?’ ‘What do I want to have done, achieved and who do I want to be?’ This may take a while to think over, maybe a few weeks. You may be surprised at how many people, understandably, only think in the short term.
Once you have this clear in your mind think ‘where do I want to be in a year?’ With this set out in front of you break down which is the most important goal. From here think which is the most realistic goal to achieve in the next month. If it’s a goal that takes longer that’s fine. If it is a goal that you have already thought of that’s fine. With this goal in mind think about why you want to do this? Who will it benefit? What are the challenges? Realistically where am I now? Where do I want to be? What have I done already? What can I do to achieve this? Who can help me? What have I tried already that hasn’t worked? What can I do differently? ‘What am I going to do to get started?’ And finally, remind yourself ‘Why am I doing this and what are the benefits?’
By answering these simple questions you should become clearer on a goal and the steps you can take to achieve it. The most important thing is to figure out a way of achieving your goal without having to compromise your life away. Through planning and real thought you should be able to start achieving the goals you set yourself whilst keeping your health in mind.
You can read more about Alice Martin, her services and life coaching on her website.