Where are you on the Illness – Wellness Continuum?
The graphic illustration below, first proposed by John W Travis in 1972, is a great way of explaining wellness on a sliding scale and when coaching can be useful.This continuum echoes the view of the World Health Organisation and that of the coaching profession.
When an individual is at the neutral point on the continuum, where there is no discernible illness or wellness, they are often at a point where they are aware that some changes have to be made to keep them from entering the left side or ‘the red zone’. People at this point have often been further to the left in the past and have, through a range of lifestyle changes and support from family and health professionals, been able to make some significant changes. On the other hand people at this neutral point may have been further to the right on the continuum but have slipped, due to changing life circumstances, lifestyle, behaviors or the exacerbation of underlying mental or physical health issues.
Coaching is most commonly used with people, who at a specific time, are on the right hand side of the continuum (the normal healthy range). Having support from a coach allows the coachee to move through the stages of awareness, education and growth – towards becoming their best possible self.
Coaching can also be helpful for people who are placed on the left hand side of the continuum, as a multidisciplinary approach to health care. The support of a coach in conjunction with other health professionals such as doctors, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists, ensures the best possible chance at making sustained changes.
An individual who is not experiencing any signs, symptoms or disability associated with illness is not necessarily moving towards wellness. Increased awareness of your body and mind is the first step in the right direction (excuse the pun) and involves noticing bodily cues and taking mindful action. Knowing when you are truly hungry, feeling stressed or in need of rest is what self-awareness is all about. Awareness can be built by learning mindfulness skills that can allow you to be aware of what you really need, without the stories your mind might be telling you.
For example; you’re feeling tired and stressed and your mind tells you that drinking a bottle of wine will help you get a good night’s sleep. Taking mindful action involves knowing that the story your mind is telling you is just a story, and will probably not be the best course of action. Instead you choose a course of action that is more beneficial to your health and wellness.
Awareness coupled with education and continued self development leads to personal growth. Learning more about your body and mind pays dividends as you go through life for a number of reasons. Some of these include:
– Increased awareness of, and better coping strategies for stress, anxiety and unhelpful thoughts and feelings.
– Knowing when and where to get support or help when you need it.
– Consuming foods that are right for you, that will nourish rather than suck life out of you.
– Exercising frequently and looking after your body when it needs rest.
– Becoming a more present and consistent friend, lover, mother, father etc.
– Taking steps towards being your best possible self and living the life you truly want to live.