Coaching Podcast: Getting Back on Track After a Major Setback

April 17, 2020
Life Coaching Podcast

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring JRNI Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. In this episode of the Everything Life Coaching Podcast, we discuss how to get back on track after a major setback. Subscribe to get all our episodes!


Every now and then, life throws us a curveball and we experience a major setback. It happens to the best of us. For some, getting back on track is easy. For others, it takes a lot of time. 

Sometimes the setback is so big we need to do some major changes to adjust. Other times, it’s small; just enough to shake us a bit and remind us to look at where we are and what we’re doing with our life. Setbacks happen and they’re not the enemy. They have their own purpose, which is to tap us on the shoulder and remind us to take notice of the things and emotions we have been avoiding.

Concept of Avoidance

So, when people experience negative emotions like fear, sadness, and loss, the natural response is to avoid these feelings. This is also referred to as experiential avoidance. People go to incredible lengths to avoid discomfort and the sensations of feeling poorly. Suppression is the way your brain tries to get rid of bad news. And sure, avoidance may work in the short-term but it doesn’t work long-term.

Combating the Habit of Avoidance

Know that our bodies are ecosystems. We need physical equilibrium in our bodies in order to reach a peak state where we can flourish and have new ideas and see new possibilities. We have to tend to our mind and body in equal measure. 

Also, connect to your body. And by that, we mean actually feel it, not just think it. Because when you’re thinking, you’re in your ruminating brain. You’re playing through different scenarios, you’re calculating, you’re thinking about the past, you’re agitated and basically spinning. 

When we’re talking about true mind and body connection and equilibrium, we’re asking you to accept your inner state. Rather than avoid yourself, we’re asking you to engage with whatever adverse state you’re experiencing. Negative emotions are strong and it can be very difficult to accept them and avoidance offers a quick solution. When we don’t let ourselves feel pain, when we numb with food or alcohol, or just trying to run from our feelings, that’s when we compound our negative state.

Another way to combat the habit of avoidance is to acknowledge that, occasionally, you feel terrible -- it happens to the best of us! Learn how to sit in discomfort. One way to process is to move your body. Don’t stay stuck in your room, spinning. Get up, move around, change your physical environment. Get out of your own head. Fifteen minutes of cardiovascular exercise would deliver a huge relief and chemical punch. 

It’s also healthy to remember that you have senses for a reason. Using your physical senses grounds you in your physical reality. The practice here is to dig into your sensory experience and start getting really clear on the fact that you are a human who is existing on a planet suspended in a universe. Lay off of social media, go for a walk, engage with real humans. It will help you get out of your head.

Coping Mechanisms Coaches Use to Help Form a Strategy After A Setback

Apart from the common ways of combating the habit of avoidance, there are also great tools that coaches have in order to deal with it. These tools are what they use when working with clients to form a strategy after a setback their client may have experienced.

Self-comforting, behavior, and self-regulation

In this coping mechanism, walk your client through emotional expression. Really help them get those feelings out. By naming your feelings you get your prefrontal cortex to kick into action and this limits your limbic response so you’ll feel less terrible.

Also, pay close attention to your client’s behavior and self-regulation. See how coping mechanisms come into play. Talk more about how they’re self-soothing and work with your client to choose new ways to do that. In other words, breaking patterns can also build resilience.

Emotional regulation

It’s common for folks to act out in times of stress. A trick here is it’s physically impossible to have a positive and a negative thought at the same time. When you induce positive emotions, you can knock negative emotions out of your sphere. Once you get a handle on your emotional regulations and you start inducing positive emotions to replace negative ones, that’s when you can move into action. 

Based on research by Barbara Fredrickson, when you broaden your thought repertoire with positive emotions, you’re better at problem-solving and you increase your physical ability and coordination.

Take Action

Every human has the capacity for problem-solving. You can either strategize and plan or you can seek information. These are assets readily available to us. As a coach, what we want to do is talk to our clients and say “Hey, what are the different ways that you have to seek information?” Some suggestions you can make are reading, observing, etc. 

The value here is that we’re putting facts over feelings. It allows you to truly check, is this a feeling or a fact? Because when things have gone wrong, we’re stuck with these icky feelings. But when we start problem-solving and information seeking, we’re actually soothing our nervous system because we’re taking control.

Looking at our available options

Encourage your client to look at the available options. Because even when it doesn’t feel like it, there always are other options. You can surrender, reframe, prioritize, etc. This is where the balance wheel technique would come in handy.

 With this technique, you draw a circle and you turn it into a pizza with eight slices. You have your client write all the different areas of life that are important to them in those slices. This helps them realize that yes, there might be a setback in one area, but they actually have a whole full life to draw from when they’re sourcing their priorities.

Strengthen Social Resources

Other people matter. Having a good social connection is the number one indicator of wellbeing. That means that you can take a hit when you experience stress because you have a solid tribe. This is something many coaches keep reminding their clients of.

And when you look at your social resources, you may actually have to tell other people that you’re struggling. That requires bravery. But this is also why the coaching relationship is very vital because as coaches, we create a safe space for people to come to us and talk about things that they don’t want to share with anybody else. Part of the traction is that human exchange, not necessarily the answers. When we’re looking at our social resources, we’re looking for that exchange - what you can get in return and what you remind your clients of.


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