A client approaches you with the question below. As the coach, how would you assist this client? Below is a script from Zahava Starak, LCI’s Master Coach. 

What tools and resources should I use to help me become more relaxed and enjoy my life more?

The first word that comes into my mind when I read this question is the word “balanced”. By maintaining a balanced life-style; introducing relaxation strategies and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms we can be assured of optimising our ability to cope with the demands of our modern life-style and finding the enjoyment we so desperately want.

Clients who ask this question are usually on that ‘notorious’ treadmill and see the life they want passing them by but don’t know how to stop the machine and go for it!

They are no longer controlling their lives (although they may think so) and are so stressed that they do not know how to relax and enjoy anymore.

Case Study: Joe Charles

A case in point is that of Joe Charles. Joe is a 35 year old married man with 2 boys five and seven years of age. He is a highly sought-after electrician.  His success is largely due to the high standards that he sets for himself and he himself states that “he feels that he is driven by the need to make sure everything is perfect” so that “everyone will praise him for his work”.

Joe owns up that he occasionally subjects his wife and two sons to his perfectionist needs. Besides working he in the past has enjoyed making model planes but has found lately that he has not got the patience for this anymore. Besides that he claims that he has no time for fun as he needs to earn a living to support his family.

Joe’s life is comprised of a 50-hour work week, evenings dedicated to paper work and weekends to chauffeuring his children and visiting various family members. Joe admits that with his wife working part time there is not that much pressure on him to work as hard -but he does not know how to stop. He feels stressed!

Joe has sought coaching as he wants to be more relaxed and start enjoying his life. In this case as Joe’s coach I could venture down any number of paths to help Joe in his quest. I could start by asking Joe what he has done in the past to help him relax and enjoy himself and determine what is stopping him from doing this.

Joe has already told me a little about what he likes to do and about his attitude so I could continue along this line. Or  I could tackle the problem by determining what Joe’s values are and help him see that part of his inability to relax and enjoy is due to an imbalance in the life he is living and the values he holds. I could have Joe then look at creating a vision for the future in which he can live by his values and sets goals to attain his more enjoyable life.

What I would like to do is have at my ready the above strategies but would also like to introduce Joe to the concepts of stress and the need of a balanced life in order to be able to relax and enjoy. My plan is quite simple: If Joe is to have a balanced life we need to see how unbalanced his present life is. Secondly we need to determine what this balanced life will look like and then we can introduce the tools required to achieve this balance.

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In this process Joe will hopefully begin to realise that the greatest resource he has to reach his objective is himself and all that he really needs are a few strategies and tools.

Where do I start? In this case I might employ the “wheel of life exercise” to help Joe get a clear picture of the present state of ‘balance’ in his life.

In this exercise Joe is presented with a huge circle representing the wheel of life. The wheel is divided into eight sections each depicting an aspect of life.

They are:

  • physical environment;
  • career;
  • money;
  • health;
  • friends and family; 
  • significant other/romance;
  • personal growth;
  • fun and recreation. 

Joe is asked to regard the centre of the wheel as zero and the outer end of each spoke as 10. He is then to put a cross on each spoke to represent a mark out of 10 for how satisfied he is with each aspect of his life (0=not satisfied at all and 10= completely satisfied).

Joe is then asked to join the crosses he marked with a curved or straight line. The new perimeter of the circle represents Joe’s Wheel of Life. With the wheel complete, the question is: How bumpy would Joe’s ride be if this were a real wheel?

We can probably answer – very bumpy – but at least Joe now has a visual picture of his life and can take some steps to smooth out the wheel.

It becomes clear to Joe while viewing his wheel that the balance is most missing in the areas of: fun and recreation; health; friends and family, significant others and to a lesser extent in the other aspects.

And it is now possible to take concrete steps to rectify this and determine what for Joe is a balanced life in which stress is controlled and he can relax and enjoy. To begin with we might set specific goals for each section.

We could also introduce another approach. For each aspect of Joe’s life that is out of balance we can determine what specific changes he can make. For Joe a time map is a perfect start as he can look at his daily and weekly routine, he can prioritise his time and set enough time for the activities that support the goals in each segment of his life.
 
This also prevents activities from spilling over into others and ruining Joe’s ability to concentrate and enjoy the moment he is in.

With goals and time map Joe can determine what he needs to change in each aspect of his life to reach the desired balance. For example, Joe has decided to add more hours to fun and recreation and reduce work hours- or more specifically make his work hours more efficient.

To this end he is learning how to delegate jobs – he is allowing his staff to undertake jobs requiring less expertise thereby freeing himself to do the more challenging jobs and the ones that do require a more perfectionist attitude. As well with the hours gained Joe is setting aside one evening a week to attend a modelling class he has always wanted to attend.

He can now do his paper work during the day and has more evening time for himself and his family. Changes in each aspect of Joe’s life will allow more time for relaxation and fun.

In addition, Joe is beginning to realise that in order to take control of his life and reduce stress he needs to work on his attitude and his belief system in which every thing has to be perfect and there is no room for failure. As long as he holds this view Joe will not be able to relax and let go enough to enjoy himself.

As Joe’s coach I can challenge Joe’s cognitive distortions and work with him to change self-defeating thoughts into more constructive ones. Joe can explore his self talk and learn how to move from negative talk to more positive. This change in attitude will not only relieve Joe of the pressures he puts on himself at work it will allow him to relax more with his two boys and enjoy his family time.

To complete this program we introduce stress management techniques that Joe will readily do. There is no point adding stress.  Joe is clear in that meditation and yoga are not for him. He however sees the merit in learning some relaxation strategies particularly ones he can do when he feels he is becoming stressed.

He is therefore taught two stress exercises. Although Joe is physically active he does sit a lot while doing paper work which he finds stressful. Joe is therefore taught two relaxation exercises to use at work and elsewhere – deep breathing and stretching exercises.

The breathing will allow Joe to put aside conscious stress and focus on relaxation- visualisation exercises can be added to this. The stretching coupled with progressive muscle relaxation will help alleviate the physical effects of stress.

Once Joe begins to see the merits of these exercises he will be encouraged to add them onto his time map as a daily activity to prevent stress