I just got off the phone with a client and I feel a great sense of lightness. A smile spreads throughout my whole body, filling my chest with the warmth of met purpose.
In our call, she first shared her intense stress headache that she had only just recovered from. With my guidance, she described how it felt in her body, how it impacted her day, and how she has grown to create loving recovery time for these moments. In the past, she would have tried barreling straight through the day, regardless of the pain.
Together, we embarked on a curious-based journey of what she knew about her experience with headaches. She was able to carve a mental path toward an entangled and heavy collection of thoughts that seemed to be at the base of her stress: “I should have done ___. I need to do ____. What’s wrong with you, you were supposed to do _____, you’re so bad.” And on and on it seemed to go.
I commended her for catching those thoughts, regardless of how tangled they seemed to be. When the thoughts are caught, I explained, we can then truly recognize them, listen to them, and then give them the space to create new, more helpful thoughts.
“How can I embrace new thoughts, though?” she asked.
And so, she practiced with me.
Taking a thought she typically has, she chose one around exercise (“Exercise is a punishment”). She named it aloud, thus catching it.
Then, instead of throwing it away like a caught baseball toward home plate, she gently validated the thought, like soothing a small child: “Of course I think this, my experience with exercise has been challenging and yes, at times, punishing. I have been protecting myself.”
From that gentle place of validation, she dropped into where she felt the ensuing emotion connected to this thought in her body: her tight chest and clamped jaw and hardened shoulders (areas that could be connected to my headaches, she shared). I guided her to breath a sense of calm to those areas, offering a release of tension.
In a state of more relaxed being, we then worked together to reframe the thought into a new, more helpful one. At first, she stated “I want to exercise for me, for my wellbeing.” I gently encouraged her to take that beautiful desire and see how it felt to claim it in the present tense: “I exercise for me, for my well-being.”
This exercise opened up a brand new pathway in her brain. Being brand new, it was not as deeply embedded as the old thought. Bringing awareness to this, I offered her the notion of neuroplasticity — the brain has the ability to grow, change, and evolve well into our adulthood! — and the recognition that this takes repetition and time. This is why something like a mantra can be so crucial! We can literally change our brains, neural pathways and what we think, through repetition of a thought. (And a thought repeated over and over and over again becomes a belief.)
She honestly shared that this overwhelmed her — the idea that it will take time and effort to repeat this new way of thinking. So together, we determined what a feasible first step might be toward reshaping her mentality around exercise.
Because exercise has always been a team-based concept for her, she knew it would be helpful for her mentality to loop in her husband. “If he can help me repeat this new way of thinking together, for my own wellbeing and for our wellbeing as a couple, I think it will be a lot easier for me to get this idea started.”
She hung up with a plan: talk with her husband, share what she learned, and request his support in her journey toward re-shaping her mentality!
So there you have it — as a coach, I am filled with lightness and a sense of purpose as I sit with the knowing that my client has embraced a way of thinking — slowly and with a slight sense of caution! — that will ultimately serve her wellbeing and (I hope) her confidence in the years to come. I’m curious to see what unfolds.
Big love to you all as you navigate thoughts, emotions, and the ways you might be holding yourself back from taking just a step forward.
I love you and I see you.
(I’ve taken out any details that may identify my client, including our more delicate conversational moments, to maintain confidentiality and privacy.)