I have been doing a great deal of motivation (or lack of) work in coaching sessions with students over the last two months. Some seek professional coaching because of the stress of not knowing what to do with unstructured time (home-based learning). Some feel the overwhelm of not knowing how to juggle the technology-styled learning. And some are struggling with "seeing the light at the end of the tunnel".
As we know it, motivation is the desire to get something done. We can fancy the definition all we want, but when it comes down to it, we get things accomplished based on our motivation and effort. Our levels of motivation fluctuate from day to day and hour to hour. This is natural and to be expected. It is when motivation remains low and begins to effect output that students begin to panic and fall behind.
Some of the things that effect our level of motivation are mood, health, mindset, anxiety and depression, and perspective. Some of us are driven by internal desires and needs to "get on the ball", and some of us are driven by external thoughts and rewards. Any way we butter the bread, our desired outcome depends on our intentions and our efforts - motivation.
These are some of the mentally challenging questions we explore in professional coaching when motivation is low, and energy is elusive. Sometimes frustration rises because there is no answer; no vision; no clarity; no desire. What the student comes to realize is that the simple act of exploring these questions is actually a motivator!
If you are a student experiencing low motivation and cannot visualize finishing the semester (right now), what thought patterns can you shift? How can you rethink and reframe thoughts paralyzing your actions? Is it realistic to remain in your non-motivated state any longer? What emotional and mental snowball effect will your lack of movement create? How will being in this state of being affect you? How can you access positive thinking and forward motion? How will you "raise your frequency?"
To some students, intentionally adjusting your level of motivation may look like:
Of course, obstacles will trip you up; make you question your efforts. The human brain is designed to be negative, so you might doubt every effort you make to move the dial on motivation. It is critical to remind yourself that as you connect and work on increasing your desires to accomplish and succeed, be extremely specific in what this look like for YOU. As Steve Jobs stated, "Let the vision pull you.".
What does it look like to "be done"?
What does it look like to "hit that submit button with confidence"?
What does it feel like to enjoy your break knowing you did the best you could?
What does it feel like to move that "C" to a "B"?
Enjoy these mantras as additional mental motivators (internet sourced):
“The Best Way to Get Started Is to Quit Talking and Begin Doing.” – Walt Disney
“Discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you do not want to.”
“We Generate Fears While We Sit. We Overcome Them by Action.”
“The harder you work for something, the greater you'll feel when you achieve it.”
Planning Backwards is exactly what it sound like. This technique was first introduced as an efficiency tool and military strategy as a means to pursue desired goals. Think backwards to plan forward is the gist. Stephen Covey lists Planning Backwards as "Habit #2" in his famous book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
"To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction."
Basically, starting with your end goal or date and working your way to present day time is the plan of action and necessary steps toward the stated goal. This effective technique for students to use is also called reverse planning or "forward in reverse".
As a stress reduction strategy, student clients and I will try this technique for long term projects. When the student knows exactly what to work on each day as a part of their plan, procrastination is minimized, forward thinking is activated, and the project is completed on time.
Planning Backwards is just one strategy both college and high school students can use to help lessen the stress caused by academics.
As we send our kids back to college in these unparalleled times, we must expect some rocky beginnings. The transition to on-line learning, the lack of social interaction, and the missing out of professor-student relationships are all things that contribute to a thriving college experience (among others). With this new kind of temporary "normal", parents and students, alike, can manage the emotions that accompany the changes.
Parents, we are not new to feeling overwhelmed. We are guilty of falling victim to the circumstances of Covid, especially around the chaos of sending our kids back to college. We speak negatively. We blame the universities. We complain about the money involved for the quality of education. We display feeling exhausted with having to make decisions. We exemplify handling our emotions in all the wrong ways. We are caught in the whirl wind of COVID, in more ways than one.
But, when our students call with concerns, complaints, sadness, and feelings of helplessness, we sometimes feel like we do not have the emotional resources to lend them. This is where things can get better!
Our kids need us. And, we are responsible for and capable of supporting them. Period. Nineteen or twenty-three. It does not matter. Every human needs validation, encouragement and modeled resilience.
Our students have lived with uncertainty for months now. They are literally living day to day (some, on edge) with announcements, changes, and the need to adjust on-the-fly. In addition, they have felt our incertitude for months. After all, we have been struggling with some of the same feelings - sadness, conflicted, helpless, anger, disappointment. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our kids feel our struggles too, and, this is not fair to them as they give everything they have to focus and succeed during this strangeness.
They need more from us.
Our kids need us to speak statements of hope. They need to hear positivity in our voices. They need our encouragement to figure this out on their own (because every other student at every other university is having to do the same). They need us to laugh. They need us to simply ask "How can I help?". Our kids need support and strength from home.
This will be the most powerful motivator in terms of how they maneuver through Fall semester than anything else.
Use the mirror effect (and it is never too late to practice this). Pretend your student is looking into a mirror for some type of positive encouragement and motivation. What would the mirror say to your child? Perhaps - "I know this is one of the toughest situations you will ever be in, but you are all in it together. Talk to your hall mates. I bet they feel the same way." Or maybe - "I am sure your professors will be understanding." "The cafeteria people are having a hard time figuring this out and I bet they will somehow reimburse us for lost meals. Do not worry about this. Let us figure out how you can get food and we will work with the Bursar Office later." Or, simply- "What can I do to help you feel more secure right now?"
Our students do not need to struggle emotionally. We can help them by reminding ourselves.
We can bypass our own feelings about this semester, this YEAR, and this situation to help our students thrive. We are adults who can regulate our feelings. Our students may still be learning this skill and it is our job to help them develop resiliency and acceptance. Life as we all know it is full of disappointments, highs and lows, and unexpected changes. How we model managing LIFE is the truest indicator of how our kids will manage life.
Remember, you are the mirror.
I had a consult this week with a student who is overwhelmed. He is preoccupied with the announcement of where he will continue college this fall (home versus on campus). The unknown of what his (immediate) future looks like is causing him so much anxiety that he is having difficulty making daily decisions. He is not interested in many activities, his self-care is poor, and he describes constant worry. His main worry is that he will fail more classes because he "does not do well learning online."
This student is proactively seeking guidance with figuring out how to manage his current stress and is aware that by August he will not need to worry. He is under the care of other professionals but was curious how a professional stress coach could help him.
Since the exploration call is limited to thirty minutes I did a great deal of listening. This student has significant insight and is expressive about his emotions. He failed some courses last semester and is still reeling himself back in (GPA) as he prepares for a successful semester (2020). He is self-aware enough to know he wants to do better, and recognizes his struggles around remote learning. He is curious about effective stress management strategies for both now and later.
When I come out of exploration calls with prospective clients, I always take a few minutes to reflect on how I can help the student and what specific gain they would receive with coaching. In this case, a professional coach can help the student identify the things he can control today (Circle of Influence - Steven Covey). A coach can help him learn the science behind the stress (fight or flight, adrenal functioning, mindfulness techniques) and how to stay on top of its daily (hourly) impact. And, a stress coach can help the student develop tools (both mentally and physically) that help the thoughts causing the emotions (anxious, scared, overwhelmed) which, in turn, is causing the behaviors (worrying, poor self-care, isolating from interests). Basic CBT. Even with the admission of executive function weaknesses (focus and concentration struggles with online learning), a coach can help the student set in place specific methods and practices for these concerns.
This student's worries are MANY students worries at this time in space. There are many college and high school students caught in the pendulum of campus learning or distance learning. As we are all aware, this is life right now.
The ability to adapt, bounce back, and cope in these circumstance are the factors that will determine success. Students are being asked to flexible when they are unsure how. They are being asked to be patient when waiting is causing the inability to plan and prioritize. They are being asked to understand when they are still learning to understand all that is involved with college life. A great deal of uncertainty is present and causing much anxiety and overwhelm.
When a student can go to college feeling their best, they achieve. They make friends, study hard, ask for help, set personal boundaries, and start thinking about their future. After all, THIS is what college is for, right. In order to "feel your best", there are some things that need to be checked, assessed, evaluated, and adjusted.
Does the student have a strong sense of self? Is their self-esteem healthy? Do there values lead their actions? Can they manage fragile emotional states, like loneliness? Can they prioritize their wellness? Can they manage their academic path forward - do they have an academic vision and can they forward think how to put action with the vision? Do they know the difference between "urgent" and "important"? How well do they function under pressure and respond to multiple deadlines? Do they know how to relax and balance life as a student? What does "balance" even mean? Can they recognize unhealthy situations? Can they correct faulty thinking? Can they reset unhelpful and unhealthy habits? Do they know the difference between stress and anxiety?
After five years of working exclusively with college students on stress management and anxiety "control", themes become noticeable. Believe it or not, these themes stand true from season to season and year to year. For instance, around August freshmen leaving for college start to panic. The stress is something they have never felt. Around October each year, the overwhelm of managing mid-terms is...overwhelming. Students have never had to manage academics at the collegiate level, in conjunction with maintaining wellness necessities (sleep, diet, relaxation, exercise), executing daily skills like managing distractions, prioritizing and forward thinking, deciding social priorities, all while missing family.
One theme that has remained constant in my practice (albeit not EVERY client struggles) is the challenge of feeling self-confident at all times in all situations. Feeling self- confidence and possessing self-esteem.
Are these two "self-entities" the same thing? Can you be "full" of one, and lack in the other?
Let's start with self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the act of or how you value your self. It is how happy you are with yourself (not your abilities). Self-esteem is the degree to which you respect yourself, trust yourself and to a certain extent, love yourself.
Having deep levels or self-doubt, self-worth, and self- limits is proof that your self-esteem is suffering, challenged, compromised or low. This often looks and feels like overthink, perfectionism, avoidance, hyper-criticism, a sense of failure, irritability, depression, anger, afraid, hesitancy, uncertain and a sense of overwhelm, mentally.
Self-esteem is the foundation to building self-confidence.
Self-confidence is a skill, not a personality trait. It is not fixed or constant, and often depends on what situation you might be in.
By definition, self-confidence is your thoughts about your abilities. How capable you feel about navigating yourself in this world. When compromised or in need of development, low self-confidence looks like negative think, mental chaos, thoughts about being flawed and incapable, and feeling exaggerated shortcomings about yourself. If your self-confidence is low, you might downplay or hide your positive attributes and accomplishments. You might under appreciate the good in your life. You might question or not believe your good qualities.
So, there is a distinct difference between self-confidence and self-esteem. While the two co-exist, you can be missing self-esteem yet feel confident about an ability such as maybe how well you can draw. Drawing charcoal portraits may be one area of life where your confidence resides. Other feelings of failure or self-acceptance may be challenging enough that you hesitate to engage in other areas outside of drawing, like... sharing in a relationship, or admitting to feeling sad, or making unhealthy choices in life situations, or feeling "not as good as".
There are all kinds of ways that low self-esteem can manifest itself, and you know when you feel lousy about YOU. You know when you feel inadequate, unworthy, shameful. The most powerful thing to acknowledge is that...
No one feels confident and at the top of the esteem game one hundred percent of the time. It is impossible for humans to walk through every day feeling comfortable with every aspect of their existence.
When, however, you practice self-love, acknowledge that your belief system about yourself may be flawed, and actually learn that emotions can teach you about yourself and not devalue you, you begin to extend yourself in what used to feel like risky situations (going to a restaurant alone, making eye contact with the young lady, asking a group of friends to tag along). Self-esteem is an emergence. It happens when you practice self-awareness and trust your emotions to guide you, not hurt you.
Helping students understand the slight discrepancy between self-confidence and self-esteem is a tool used that jump starts the process of self-acceptance. You CAN have one without the other! Helping students acknowledge skewed perceptions of themselves and tap into their inner guidance system (intuition) is powerful in their journey to growing "the self".
Here are a few ways to do some solo work and begin to accept the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem
5/8/2020 0 Comments
You are at the end of an unusually stressful semester. Spring semester 2020. You will still be talking about these past few months when you are eighty years old. There is no disputing the fact that you have experienced high stress this semester.
Now that finals are here and you are preparing to display how hard you have worked, you may still be experiencing feelings of fear, failure, and overwhelm. At a time when you should be feeling some excitement about the end of a school year, your body and mind are most likely still in an active stress response, in part from your response to Covid-19.
You may find yourself feeling more worried than normal, maybe more anxious than normal, and perhaps more overwhelmed.
Now is the time to become aware of your stress so you can manage and regulate stress levels during exam week (Think: Scale 0-10). You will want to maximize your study efforts with smart planning and organization, a clean mental space, and ramped up wellness practices.
Keep in mind that a little healthy stress (eustress) around exam time is needed. You would not be productive or prepared if you did not feel a little angst in the next few weeks. Note that these feelings will disappear once your exams are over.
Stressing too much about final exams is what you are trying to prevent because raising the level of panic and letting false thoughts about yourself and your efforts during this time serves zero purpose. In fact, allowing yourself to believe that you are not prepared, that you do not really care, or that you are going to fail any way only gives more strength to the already absorbed stress.
Take some time to STOP what you are doing and let those negative thoughts pass through you. Let them exist (do not try to avoid, deny, or ignore them). Let them make their appearance, BUT, do not attach your feeling to the thoughts. They are simply thoughts. Let them be. And, watch them go.
Now, really focus and become aware of what you can do at this very moment to move through this next week with less of an impact of stressful thoughts. This might look like changing your nutritional habits, making a new study schedule, or planning out the next ninety-six hours to the minute with charts, timers, mind maps, or flow charts
If the reality is that you are going to fail a class, that there is no salvation, then move to the next class that gives you the most stress and begin to organize a study schedule and make a study plan (FREE TIPS offered on IG @studentsstresslesscoach), and focus with intention.
Here are TEN physical and mental strategies to help you monitor stress so that it does not interfere with your studying:
1. When you feel yourself getting tense or experiencing some type of physical manifestation of stress, stop and direct your thoughts to what is happening in your immediate environment. What do you see? What can you smell? What can you touch? Rub your hands together to feel your own skin. This technique is an effective strategy called STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed).
Really ground yourself while you practice being present.
2. Several times a day stretch and breathe. Incorporate “4-7-8” or "square breathing". You can do this wherever you are.
3. Seek out or start a conversation with someone. Talking can release ruminated thoughts about failing or fear of being unprepared. Let others support you.
4. Administer self-massage to your face, neck, shoulders arms and hands. Or, apply "third eye" acupressure to the middle of your forehead. (https://www.powerofpositivity.com/heres-happens-massage-point-forehead/.
5. Regain a feeling of control over your situation by reframing your thoughts. Instead of thinking "I'm so mad I left this until the last minute.", slowly move your thoughts to what one action step you can take to make you feel in control of studying the material. There is always an upside to most things in life. It is up to you to take your mind to that place.
6. It is never too late. Never too late to try a new way to study. Never too late to take a quick nap to rejuvenate your brain. Never too late to email the TA. Never too late to try again. Never too late to plan.
7. Accept what is. If you have backed yourself into a corner in a particular class by not attending class, not working harder to bring up a failing grade, not keeping up with assignments, accept your current situation but trade the blame and shame for a more positive acceptance like "this is my eye opener", or "this is a touch lesson". We all learn from our experiences. Use your current situation as motivation to do better at something else.
8. Avoid or monitor caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and sugar drinks including smoothies and energy drinks. You want to maximize the quality of your sleep.
9. Move your body. This can be vigorously or gently. Or, incorporate some of both. The idea is to give your brain a break and your body some love.
10. Believe in yourself. Think of all you had to do to even get to college. Remind yourself of your successes along the way. Life is about "wins and losses", mistakes and lessons. Mostly working through stress in life is about exercising the skill of being resilient. Part of being resilient is accepting what is, loving yourself, and knowing that your college life is only one part of your life experience.
3/30/2020 0 Comments
It appears college students across the country are making this new normal seem easy during these unsettling times. Adjustments are being made. Distance learning is going well. Projects are continuing. And professors who may have been new to total online teaching are now seasoned. The semester rolls on.
This week, I learned from my neighbor who is a professor that as she was recently remote teaching a science related course to her forty-three students at a Florida college, the internet went out during the course. She is a dental hygiene professor and the computer has always played a minimal role in her teaching students…until now. Learning how to implement distance learning tools to teach a practical course and have the internet fail in doing so has required many extra hours of her time and some ingenuity she forgot she had. Despite figuring out these details, she is still unsure how her students will finish clinicals.
On one hand, it seems unimaginable how students and professors all over the world have figured out how to make “this thing” work. Quick adjustments, communication, and a bit of extra effort are just a few of the actions that have squashed panic in academia. Students have remained glued to their computers since they were asked to move home. They have rearranged schedules and set up classrooms at home. They have reached out to peers and found comfort in knowing they are all in this together. They have allowed themselves to feel sad, sentimental, and even angry, but there is one thing they have not done.
Folded. Given up. Or, quit.
For parents, despite how positive and confident we are trying to be, it can be said that we are perhaps the ones who have not adjusted as well. We are trying to make sense of the instant chaos and create some sense of order as the entire household finds a balance. In addition, we are not only experiencing a level of worry that is intense and extensive, but we still feel somewhat in charge of our students’ uncertainty during this pandemic. As parents, we are absorbing another layer of worry in this process.
Our college children are making things happen though. They are picking up the pieces and completing the puzzle. They are using and strengthening their executive function skills, particularly mental flexibility and emotional regulation, to persevere.
“Executive function is the ability to organize and manage our thoughts, actions, and emotions in order to initiate, sustain, and complete a task.” https://www.growinghandsonkids.com/executive-functioning-skills.html
And, our students are sparing us their worries because they recognize their own ability to succeed during this crisis.
When a student can dig deep and rely on themselves in times of change, stress and uncertainty, they feel successful. Each small success, whether it is an emotional win, an academic win, or a social win of some type, builds upon itself. They gain competence and confidence as they overcome, problem solve, and take risks.
For instance, the senior college student who had a “melt down” over not being to walk in graduation ceremonies in May is working to accept that global health and safety are paramount. This same student is relying on hope that there will be a future ceremony and has turned attention on finishing the semester strongly. The architecture student whose entire junior semester is spent in the architecture studio completing a semester project, is trusting that their professor will guide them to completion. And, the music major who was in the middle of a huge campus and community (graded) musical production has had to adjust to an alternate assignment.
One of the things I help students assess (as their personal stress coach) is how they adapt to stressful situations. How resilient are they during the many times in life they are faced with difficulty?
Resiliency is many things. Resiliency is the ability to overcome. It is a skill that can be both learned and practiced as tribulations occur. Think lemons and lemonade. Think elastic. Think silly putty. Resiliency is about how well you bounce back. Other qualities of being resilient: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience
Ten Ways Parents Can Help Their College Student Build Resiliency:
3/24/2020 0 Comments
Suffice it to say most students are not familiar with the job of a professional life coach. Sure, students know the role of therapists, counselors, and psychotherapists. Many of my clients are also receiving services and therapies from a licensed and credentialed medical provider. But professional coaching is somewhat of a mystery.
Professional life coaching is a unique and dynamic field of self-development and growth. It does not involve diagnosis, treatment or any type of "fixing". It does not involve a pathology. It involves and works beautifully when coach and student form an accountability partnership.
Life coaching is a co-creative process in which the coach does not need to know more than the client. We begin work where ever the client presents on any given day. If the student is having trouble making it to class or completing assignment, we trace back a few steps. We investigate. We couple in a way that the coach guides the student to discover the most effective steps to take in order to move the client forward.
When I receive the free consult call from parents, one of my standard questions to parents is, "Is professional coaching something your student wants?" I also ask parents at this first point of contact, "Does your student know you are contacting me?" If the answer is "no", I explain the premise for professional stress coaching and that the student client should initiate some type of desire to grow, change, and overcome. If the answer to the two questions is "yes", I ask the parent to have their student "research" me to learn more about the process of coaching.
So what exactly is professional life coaching? Why do I use the terms "professional stress coaching" and "professional stress coaching" interchangeably?
Coaching for "life" encompasses every area of life that effects you on a daily basis. Since our ultimate goal in life is balance and to thrive, we should strive to nurture every area: finances, social, spiritual, physical, emotional and mental. Life coaching is a mechanism for change and growth within the area of life in which you are struggling or in which you want to enhance.
Imagine feeling "stuck", "lost", and "held back" by something. You're not able to identify what is binding you. All you know is that you feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed to the max, and unable to sleep. You know the consequences of this "dark cloud" but you can't seem to dissipate it on your own. Each day you feel some effect from the blockage.
As a coach, I partner with you to figure this out. It's a lot like a scavenger hunt (with clues). You have the clues within you, and I guide you to each "treasure" by asking powerful and insightful questions. You reveal the answers to yourself as I help you reach the treasure.
The coaching process can be difficult because you will be faced to acknowledge things that might be painful or that scare you. Coaching can also be fun because we never assume something is "wrong" with you. We assume you have all the answers within you but that you're unsure of how to read your own clue.
A life coach can specialize in one part of life struggle. Some coaches specialize in personal development. Some are experts in health and wellness. Some are leaders in the field of ADHD or marriage.
A professional stress coach, like me, is an expert on how to manage stress. A stress coach for students knows the challenges and struggles of high school students and college students and navigates them through all kinds of barriers like academic stress, procrastination, time management, social anxiety, and a looming sense of failure.
Together, we do a lot of exploration in the scavenger hunt of self-awareness, self-esteem, core sense of self, values, strengths and weaknesses of executive functioning, attention to proper wellness practices, and whatever else your clues unveil. Our goal is to help you succeed...on every level, and to thrive again.
More than 60 percent of college students said they had experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year, according to a 2018 report from the American College Health Association. Over 40 percent said they felt so depressed they had difficulty functioning. Social, financial, emotional, physical, and academic issues all cause students to feel overwhelmed.
We actively collaborate to identify goals, obstacles and problematic behaviors. We create proper steps for you overcome and achieve. Then, we design an effective stress management plan for you to feel your best. We even throw in a science lesson so that you know what your brain and body are doing as you feel scattered, unmotivated, anxious, and like you may not succeed.
Now, for how the process works.
We consult for thirty minutes for FREE.
You ask questions and talk. I listen.
YOU decide if I am a good partner for you.
Do you feel comfortable? Do you trust my guidance?
I encourage you to research me on a professional level - LinkedIn, www.studentsstressless.com, all social media.
If you decide on stress management services, you pay, sign a working contract, answer some initial session question.
We get started, remotely or local for Kansas.
We decide on Skype, Zoom, Google Chatroom, Face Time or phone.
I offer two initial sessions to make sure you are going to stay accountable in the process and your parents don't spend more money than you are personally investing yourself.
You then are highly encouraged to sign for four more sessions.
NOTE: You not find another professional coach who operates in this manner. I believe change and desired results can happen in as few as six sessions.
You decide the days and times.
We get started on discovering your HOW.
How will you move forward?
How will you achieve your goals?
How will you feel better?
How will you change your thoughts?
How will change your habits?
How will you develop more effective stress management tools?
How will you succeed in school?
How will you succeed in your personal life?
HOW WILL YOU THRIVE.
Disclaimer: I work in an ancillary fashion to medical professionals. I am not a licensed therapist. I am not a medical professional. I am not, through this article, stating one mode of client/professional work is better than the other.