Game face is a well-known expression in the sports arena, but it’s also applicable in the wellness profession. Consider this familiar scenario: It’s 8:00 pm. You’ve been working since 6:00 in the morning. This is your last session of the day. Are you ready to give your all?
As a wellness professional, you have to adapt your schedule to meet your clients’ needs. Busy executives, traveling sales representatives, doctors and lawyers want to train either in the early morning hours before work or right after work ─ which may mean 8:00 or 9:00 pm. How do you offer all your clients the same quality instruction, whatever the hour? How do you keep yourself in top condition so that you are able to deliver consistent, high-quality service throughout the days, weeks, months and years of your career?
You are in a helping profession. Although you are not a social worker, psychologist or guidance counselor, neither are you simply a technician with advanced training in Pilates, yoga, biomechanics, program design and assessment methodology. You work with people. You deal in relationships. You strive to promote health and well-being through the medium of physical training, and with a keen sensitivity to individual needs and differences. As you move through your day, your energy ebbs and flows. Yet you want to be as consistent as possible in how you present yourself to clients. You want to manifest the same enthusiasm for your last client as for your first. Projecting through time, you also want to be able to provide high-level support and guidance for clients throughout the years and even decades of your career.
Self-Care Strategies From the Frontline
Giving the same care to yourself that you give to others comes from applying consciously created strategies. What strategies will help you be all you want to be for yourself, your business and the most significant people in your personal world? Lessons from seasoned professionals form simple game plans for providing self-care and preventing burnout while you confront the interpersonal challenges of people in need. Though we could cite “recipes” for self-care from the extensive literature on personal development and psychology, we believe that the voices of your peers will probably say it all, and in a way that has more validity for you.
Draw Energy From Your Work
Diane Buchta from Del Mar, California, talked about the joy of giving as a wellspring of energy. “I have had my own personal ups and downs and have dealt with the issue of trying to be upbeat when I really feel quite the opposite,” Buchta says. One day when life was feeling particularly weighty, a client gave Buchta a gift that continues to inspire her work. The woman, who had been suffering from severe depression, acknowledged that Buchta’s infectious enthusiasm and twice-weekly training helped her come out of depression. At that moment, Buchta says, she realized, “Exercise and how I relate to my clients can change them–mind, body and spirit.” This awareness that training benefits the whole person continues to bring deep meaning to Buchta’s work.
Maintain Health of Body, Mind and Spirit
Lawrence Mazzola, an owner/partner at Demi-Lawrence Body Works, puts in 80-hour weeks and has personal contact with up to 200 clients. His self-care strategy includes eating well (seven to nine small meals throughout the day) and adhering to his own training needs. Demi Mazzola, his partner and wife, similarly advocates the importance of eating well throughout the day and getting sufficient rest. Moreover, they both use a meditative program, Spirit Slide™, which they developed as a way to regain focus and direction throughout the day. The Mazzolas rely strongly on affirmations and guided imagery to reinforce the purpose of their efforts and an awareness of their inner guidance.
Lisa Brisse, the co-owner of State of the Heart Fitness in Santa Monica, California, emphasizes “wholeness on all levels–physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.” In addition to making time for her wellness needs, she keeps a daily journal, explaining, “It is the most therapeutic thing I could ever do. . . . It is my outlet for letting all of my thoughts/feelings out in a safe place.” Brisse sees her work as a kind of spiritual service. She says, “I believe that when we do what our heart calls us to do–to use the gifts and talents we were given–we not only find peace, happiness and joy within ourselves, but we naturally exude [these qualities] to those around us.”
When working with difficult clients, rather than moving into reactivity, Brisse slows herself down through deep breathing and reminds herself, “[It’s] their stuff . . . let them be with it . . . I don’t have to ‘change or fix’ them. I’m just here to help them reach their health and fitness goals in the best and most positive way I can.”
Stay in the Present
Shirley Archer, author of The Pilates Deck and a fitness/wellness professional for over 20 years, says if you stay focused and put your problems aside while working with clients, you’ll end the session in a far better mood than if you carry your worries throughout the session. She also recommends humor, and notes that it is okay if you don’t love “every person every minute of every workday.”
Distilling the Essence
Clearly, many of your peers are keenly aware of the conscious effort required to stay on top of their game. The methods they use make good sense. From the basics of sufficient rest and good nutrition to the mindful practices of meditation, centering and spiritual discipline, their strategies reflect those practiced by the most highly functioning professionals.
It’s game time. How readily can you put on your game face if you haven’t devoted yourself as diligently to your mental preparation as to your physical game? How energized will you be if you have neglected your personal needs? The answers are obvious. The message from your peers is simple. Look around you and you will readily find the elders, mentors or role models in your profession who have not just survived but prospered. Ask them what you need to do to ensure that you will be your very best for as long as possible. They will guide you through their training adventures, telling you tales of what they have done well and the lessons they have learned from missteps along the way.
In studying physical activity’s effect on depression, researchers from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany found that exercise simultaneously lifts mood and…
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