My Group Coaching Experience with Amy
I've recently had the pleasure of participating in a 6-week group coaching program with Amy Ballantyne called the "Me First Method". The focus of the course was to help women develop tools for self-kindness, care, and compassion. Although I've come a long way in terms of prioritizing self-care, I was attracted to the specific topics of the course - especially clarity, feeling enough, guilt, and holistic wellness - and thought it wouldn't hurt to bolster my self-care efforts during a mentally difficult time of the year for me (November to early December).
Each week, we met for a virtual live group coaching session centered around a specific topic. Amy provided relevant information enlivened with stories and asked targeted questions to guide our self-reflection. She also provided us with a small, simple action to take each week to help us "move the needle" in our own health and wellness journeys.
Here are some takeaways from each week of the course:
Week 1: Creating Clarity and Feeling Enough
To begin, we considered different areas of our lives - health, relationships, work, personal and spiritual - and chose one area to focus on. I was feeling quite low at the time, so I decided to prioritize "Emotion & Energy Management". Amy asked me where in my life I would like to focus on energy and emotions. This helped me to pinpoint the time of day I felt the lowest and the most overwhelmed, which is when the kids come home from school. I've always experienced energy dips in the late afternoon, which makes this a rough time to welcome the kids back home in the loving and present way that I'd like to. I decided to do a short meditation each day at 3:30 before going to the bus stop and I set a timer on my phone as a reminder. This small change has made such a difference! I feel so much calmer and more prepared for the chaos of kids and backpacks and lunches and school forms and hearing all about their day after I've taken this quick meditation break for myself.
Our homework for the first week was a self-worth and self-love exercise. We were asked to find a baby picture of ourselves and to write words of love to that little baby. When we look at a baby, we know they are worthy of all the love and happiness in the world, and we don't expect them to do anything to prove their worth. They're perfect just the way they are. When we look at our adult selves in the mirror, it's much harder to muster up that same level of unconditional love, self-worth, and acceptance!
I didn't have a baby photo nearby so I used this photo of me when I was around two. Here's what I came up with.
You are precious.
I love you.
Your life is a miracle.
I'm so lucky to know you.
I hope you know how special you are.
Week 2: Wellness Tools for a Holistic Approach
I wasn't able to attend the second course live, so I watched the replay afterward (which was very convenient!).
This session reinforced that I'm on the right track with some health habits, like eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, exercising fairly regularly, and prioritizing sleep. I could definitely drink more water though!
An action step I took from this week was to have a fruit and veggie smoothie each day. Amy asked us to commit to just three days for whichever health habit we chose, which made this feel very manageable. Luckily, three days was all I needed to get into the habit of making smoothies almost every day, and when I have my smoothie, I feel great!
Here's what I tend to put in my smoothies lately:
spinach & kale
frozen mixed berries (or other fruit)
small chunk of turmeric
soy milk (vanilla or unsweetened plain)
chia seeds, hemp hearts & ground flax seeds
sometimes peanut butter or cashew butter
sometimes cocoa powder
Amy also encouraged us to come up with our personal "why" behind our health and wellness goals. Mine is simple: Joy. When I feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally, I tap into a deep sense of joy that allows me to show up the way I want to in life, having a positive impact on those around me.
Week 3: Guilt Unraveled
This session began with a question that really triggered me. Amy asked, "What are you celebrating?" My inner-Grinch came out in full force. Just imagine the Grinch's response to this question. Something like, "Celebrating? CELEBRATING? What am I CELEBRATING?!?!?" That's what was going on inside my head. In real life, I said something like I was celebrating just being there that day, as it had been a busy morning and I could have easily brushed the course aside.
Later on, I found something to celebrate, which you can read about here.
Ironically, this lesson was on guilt, and I think part of my sour mood that day was due to feeling a little guilty about participating in the course on a PD day while the kids were home instead of spending all of my time with them. Even though I know that taking some time for myself only makes me a better mom, the mom-guilt is still there!
The homework from this week was to simply notice guilt as it comes up, and what triggers it. This is something I've already been doing for a while now. I'd really like to get to a point where I don't feel guilty for taking care of myself, period! Hearing how common this feeling is though, it may be more realistic to learn to live with it as peacefully as possible, without letting guilt determine my actions (or inaction).
Week 4: The Power of Boundaries
This session widened my perspective on boundaries to include the concept of mindset boundaries or energetic boundaries. For example, we can create inner boundaries by deciding not to allow other people's emotions or opinions to affect us negatively. In fact, we can even decide whether or not we want to hold onto or let go of our own negative beliefs or critical self-talk! I will continue to mull over these concepts and how to apply them to my own life.
I am also considering how I can create some healthy boundaries for self-care during the holidays, with the kids being home, and with all the family gatherings (which I'm incredibly grateful for, yet may struggle with). In the past, I've tried to go with the flow during holidays and then resume my usual healthy eating, exercise, and self-care habits afterward, but that has not served me very well. I tend to get quite cranky after several days of overeating, lounging around, and not taking time for myself. Fingers crossed that I can keep sight of my own needs and have a merrier holiday experience this year!
Week 5: Time Management / Prioritization Tools
Although I've learned a lot about time management throughout my life and even taught others about this topic in the past, I believe this is a skill we continue honing throughout life, and continue adapting to fit our circumstances and values. What stuck out most to me from this session was the question:
"Are your values reflected in your calendar?"
I'd like to continue asking myself this question each week as I'm planning the week ahead.
For a longer reflection on creating structure to incorporate my needs and values, see this post.
Week 6: Mindset: Shifting Limiting Beliefs and Boosting Positive Mental Health Strategies
In this session, we reflected on our limiting beliefs. One that I've noticed popping up frequently is:
"I don't have time for _____."
I can't even count the number of times this thought has stopped me from doing things or made me feel rushed! Instead, when I notice myself thinking or feeling this way, I will try to remind myself,
"I have enough time for everything that truly matters."
For the second half of this session, Amy talked about the impact of diet on mental health. I could have listened to her talk about this for hours! She recommended including Omega-rich foods, a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, gut-healthy foods (i.e., broccoli, beans, artichokes, fermented foods, and possibly probiotics), and taking Vitamin D year-round. I would love to learn more about this whole topic! I may need to pick Amy's brain for some book recommendations in the near future!
As you can see, I've really enjoyed this course and got a lot out of it! I'm excited about continuing some of the simple habits I've implemented, like my pre-bus-stop-meditations and daily smoothies.
Have you ever tried group or individual coaching? I really like how coaching zeroes in on specific areas, facilitates clarity, and encourages small, highly do-able baby steps, while celebrating successes along the way, however small they may be. I'm grateful for this group coaching experience with Amy and recommend her services to anyone who could use a little boost in their wellness journey!
You can learn more about Amy and her services at www.amyballantyne.com.