In today’s overstimulating world, the need for better mental health support is greater than ever. It’s hard to deny that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are on the rise.
Consequently, health coaching for mental health is an emerging niche, though it’s not to be confused with therapy. Health coaching with a focus on mental health takes an integrated approach to helping people deal with depression, anxiety, and overall lack of motivation, without directly addressing any specific mental health disease or illness. Coaching is positioned to create more awareness about how to support your mental well-being, rediscover a sense of purpose, and implement healthier choices to thrive in your daily life.
Why Health Coaches?
Health coaches approach wellness by looking at clients as multidimensional beings, which means considering all the areas of life that impact health, from foods on the plate to relationships, workplace stress, joy, and creativity. These are what IIN refers to as primary food, and by using a tool called the IIN Circle of Life Tool, Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches empower clients to look at 12 key areas where people experience hunger and determine where more balance and fulfillment are needed.
The fundamental skills of a Health Coach – such as empathy, active listening, reflection, and open-ended questions – go a long way toward supporting not only physical issues but mental health as well. Health Coaches are appropriately skilled to fill this niche while at the same time trained to identify high-risk or red flag behavior that would make it necessary to refer their client to a mental health specialist, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, when necessary.
Health coaching facilitates healing by offering client-centered support, guiding clients toward greater resilience by empowering them to nourish their mental well-being. And when resilience increases, people are better equipped to handle difficult emotions and bounce back from challenges. According to the Mayo Clinic, “lacking resilience causes people to dwell on problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, eating disorders or risky behaviors.”
How a Health Coach Can Address Mental Health
Coaches create a safe space to release difficult and deeply held emotions. Feeling heard in a world where feeling heard is hard to come by holds a unique power and helps soften repressed feelings that often lead to anxiety and distress.
Focus on strengths.
Asking clients, “What’s going well?” and engaging in positively driven dialogue helps them set goals to become more positive and focus on their strengths and accomplishments as opposed to seeing only the negatives.
Reframe setbacks into opportunities.
By empowering clients to reframe their challenges into learning opportunities, coaches enable them to see things differently by embracing the teachable moments in their experiences.
Tap into resources and support.
Coaches encourage clients to build the kind of support system that works best for them as individuals, whether it’s nurturing a relationship with a friend or family member or finding established communities of like-minded people, such as a spiritual group.
Helping clients become aware of when they need to say no and set realistic boundaries places greater importance on self-love and self-care and allows for clients to reestablish what they must do to maintain their mental health.
Many Health Coaches use mindfulness practices in their own lives and help clients to create some for themselves. IIN visiting faculty member Deepak Chopra, MD, has said that people experience 68,000 thoughts each day, which can contribute to harsh self-judgment and anxiety. Observing one’s thoughts rather than fighting against them, he says, would help decrease the overwhelming constant activity of the mind and create a greater place of calm.
The Bottom Line
Eating healthy, being active, and getting restful sleep also support mental health to facilitate a complete healing experience. Many people are struggling with the overwhelm of daily life, from taking care of family members to working an unfulfilling job. Mental health support, especially that which can be provided by a Health Coach, is finding greater acceptance as a new and important niche in the health and wellness arena.