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How My Time in Rehab Has Changed the Way I Coach…And Live!!

September 16, 2013

I am not a drug addict, nor am I an alcoholic. Yet, I have spent three months in rehab. If you have been following my newsletters, blogs or social media posts, you know that I suffered a brain injury last year. Since that time, it really has been a roller coaster for me. But one thing I believe now more than ever is there are no coincidences in life. What I have learned from this brain injury and more specifically in the brain rehab program, has changed my life and it is actually changing the lives of many of the clients I coach.

Having a brain injury is kind of like carrying around a really awful secret. Nobody can tell by looking at me or even talking to me that there is a problem, but inside my brain is working overtime to keep up. If I push myself too hard, I open the floodgates to all kinds of symptoms. So I was put on a waiting list to enter Brain Rehab in Toronto to help me continue to heal.

When I first arrived on the scene at rehab, I have to admit I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and being at this place was completely out of my comfort zone. I walked into the gym there and saw people struggling to do all kinds of physical activity. My first thought was, “I feel badly for these people. I want to help them.” Then once I started on my own program, it was a wake up call to me that it wasn’t a ‘them versus me’ in regard to the other patients there. I was one of them. I was struggling to do things I once did with ease. I was frustrated. I got pissed off at myself. There were days I felt like I wanted to just sit down, give up and cry. I knew I needed to stop worrying about helping everyone else and focus on me.

Then, I moved into an intensive neuropsychological assessment that basically tests your smarts against people who have never experienced a brain injury before with similar education and job experience. I didn’t know what to expect. How would I measure up against other C-level leaders with MBAs in my age group?

I underwent a 3-hour intensive test conducted by a neuropsychologist and completed it with lots of breaks to ensure I wasn’t overcome with headaches and vision issues. When the results came back, I was happy to hear I sat in good standing. In fact, in one area I actually scored ‘high superior.’ This was in the area of solving a problem with no guidelines or no specified boundaries. In fact, I was told it was the highest they’d ever seen anyone perform in this area.

But before you think I am bragging here, this is going somewhere. Somewhere that actually might hit home for you too. You see, over the years I have become good at solving problems. If there is an issue at work, I don’t stop until it is resolved. If someone in my family or group of friends needs something, I am there to help and make things better for them as quickly as I can. But where I struggled, which I found out in the social work component of the rehab program, is that because this problem solving became second nature to me, I flipped into ‘fixer’ mode so quickly that I never allowed myself to sit with aversion or problems for too long. In fact, it would drive me crazy if things weren’t ‘right’ and I would go-go-go like the little Energizer Bunny until I fixed the issues. And then enter the brain injury.

Last summer, I came up against something I couldn’t solve no matter how hard I worked. I had been taught to work hard and fight for what you want…and as a result, I usually got it. But this illness was different. In fact, the more I slipped into problem solving mode and tried to force myself to heal, the worse I felt.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (usually only available to doctors and medical professionals) that I was able to learn some tools around accepting what is and being okay when things don’t go the way I envision. This program also gave me tools around being with aversions and not having to jump into action like a fire is burning all around me. The benefit of that is now I am not constantly jumping into action which relieves stress. I contemplate things more, which gives me greater focus. One of the biggest gifts of this program is it has taught me to live many of my moments in the the present, not off in dream land thinking of the cottage I want to buy or trying to figure out what to do about an issue at work. I spent a lot more time than I realized focusing on outcomes and future expectations. I was living my life for the future. Mindfulness has made my experiences (both the pleasant and painful ones) as a Mom, wife, friend, daughter, business owner, person in the world more meaningful. I try not to judge things as good or bad any more. I label them as life experiences. It is all about perspective.

The really ironic thing is that by practicing this authentic mindfulness practice (not the buzz types of mindfulness leadership programs you hear about in business and then take the course and nothing in your life changes – can you tell I previously took a few of these!?!) and learning how to live in the present moment while reducing expectations you put on yourself, things in your life still happen. Miraculously, you can still achieve! In fact, I am learning this way of working and living is even more effective than living a life controlled by activities and goals. It’s like the world aligns and supports those who are open to opportunities and are more at peace. I don’t quite understand exactly what happens with this, but I know it is all good -on the work front and at home! 

The crazy thing is that these Mindfulness programs often have a year wait time in the medical field due to demand. And I have never seen anything like this in my years in business that is offered to the business community. As such, I have created the Mindfulness Leading and Living Program that applies principles taught to health care professionals around using your body, breathing and mind to reduce stress, gain focus and stay in the present moment in combination with my coaching principles and training that helps people break through barriers keeping them ‘stuck’ and held back by fears, weighted down by to-do lists as well as overwhelmed by anxiety about keeping up with what we feel others expect of us. 

Stress is not just a personal issue. A recent study from Towers Watson reported that the number one reason top talent were leaving organizations across North America was due to stress! Plus, stress causes a drain on companies health care benefits too.

I have received amazing feedback so far from many participants in the program ranging from “By Mindfulness taking the focus off the need to sleep, I now sleep more peacefully!” to “I no longer feel irritated by colleagues” and “Mindfulness training with Carey-Ann has completely changed my life at work and at home. I have learned tools to help ground me and suddenly problems don’t seem so overwhelming.”

Find out more about Potential Unlimited’s Mindfulness Based Leading and Living Program.

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