Helen is a personal development coach supporting busy professionals to create a work-life balance and navigate change in their lives.
Helen recently shared her thoughts on coaching with a series of webinars with the Coaching Pod joining other like-minded coaches on a similar mission.
In addition to being a GP clinical tutor, contributing to the teaching faculty in Swansea, Helen is also expanding her expertise as a GP by developing her specialist interest in Lifestyle Medicine.
Community is at the heart of how Helen approaches life. Join us for Episode 30 to find out more about how Helen has combined her passions and create opportunities to share her knowledge with her friends, family, colleagues and wider community. Helen shares the value of creating space and hitting the pause button to make healthy lifestyle choices.
It's wonderful to be chatting with Helen. Helen is a personal development coach supporting busy professionals to create a work-life balance and navigate change in their lives. Helen recently shared her thoughts on coaching with a series of webinars with the coaching pod, joining other like-minded coaches on a similar mission. In addition to being a GP, clinical tutor, contributing to the teaching for equity and funding, Helen is also expanding her expertise as a GP by developing her specialist's interest in lifestyle medicine. Welcome, Helen. It's great to have you here today.
Thank you for having me. It's great to be with you.
Thanks for joining us. I'm excited to explore a little bit more about what you're doing and how you've found your own path to be able to create so many wonderful things and share those with other people. So maybe we just start with lifestyle medicine. I've spoken to a few other doctors who have developed an interest in lifestyle medicine, but maybe you could share with the listeners your own discovery when you started to realize that you were interested in lifestyle medicine. And then maybe some steps that you've taken to develop your expertise and to learn a little bit more so that you can now deliver that to other people.
Thanks, Rachel, for the questions. I've always been passionate about some of the pillars of lifestyle medicine. Even as a little child, I was told that I didn't like members of the family that smoked. And there's quite a few family members that have had heart troubles and strokes and things like that in our family.
And then I think I became more interested when a teenager and taught myself nutrition and I was very sporty anyway. So I was lucky from that aspect. And then when I was at a crossroad in my careerthen obviously looking after the stress levels, learning how to relax, I started becoming more interested and read a lot about mindfulness ina great book by Mark Williams, living in a frantic world. And I started implementing yoga things at that time, just brilliant.
I have always been into healthy nutrition, walking, running, but then over the last couple of years, I got into that even more, After completing my coaching diplomaand having touched base with a couple of other people locally, realizing that all of us had similar passions, andthen getting that group together. And also realizing that there's only so much that medication can do and how I tended to lean towards more lifestyle stuff in the past. And having had the opportunity to have a family member who was very much about the doctor, giving the pill and the prescription, I still have that disempowered him actually. And that as well prompted me to help other people to where we can have you in lots of different ways.
Lot's of people just don't know. And I think my knowledge, I'm just keen to develop my knowledge as much as I can to become a great role model for my little one. Having a six-year-old I think made me think what is my communication like? I've got to first develop me to be able to help her and to be able to help my family and my patients basically. So becoming the best I can be, then I can share with everyone.
Thank you. It's nice to hear how that's developed from looking at your own health and wellbeing and thinking about how you can be the best version of yourself and the healthiest version. And then looking at those people close to you, and also being able to support them to think about their own health and wellbeing. So what steps have you taken to explore more about the world of lifestyle medicine to further your learning and your expertise?
I done lots of research. The BSLM, the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine; I've become a member there. And they've got a huge number of resources, which is fantastic. The chip facilitator course was brilliant. I completed the chip course last year and then the facility training. Andthis year, I'm delivering the course with a colleague, Dr. Sarah Woods. That's now actually for people that are interested in chip a bit more, if they pop into an afternoon tea with docs,they're actually linking with the chip and BSLM as well.
And the BSLM do a diploma, which I'm signed up to this year, which I think is going to be great for learning. It's brilliant. And there are so many podcasts as well. Dr. Chatterjee's books have just been phenomenal, fantastic to read ith his podcasts and Friday emails, the little tips and quotes. That's a good resource.
I guess the steps for me were finding like-minded people,which was essential, finding resources. And then having patience and sharing my knowledgeand seeing what interest was in the community. I work or a volunteer with a neighbor where I do talk sessions around the block with her in the night, where we do a bit of coaching on lifestyle medicine. It's amazing to see.
She's gone from having headaches every day and being stressed and beingunhappy with her weight and being unhappy with her diet and not actually having the confidence to go for exercises and lots of caffeine. To now reducing her caffeine, she's sleeping well now while she was sleeping poorly before, headaches have reduced, the stress levels are better. She's feeling more confident, she's walking. We ended up doing 5,000 instead of 2,000 steps the other day. She's losing weight.
I'm bringing my coaching skills, but I purely just ask questions most of the time and share a bit of knowledge. It's phenomenal to see the difference. Working withher one-to-one and patients as well and putting some of Dr. Chatterjee's prescribing lifestyle medicine course induction has been brilliant. The other thing is setting up a CPD group locally for healthcare professionals has been another step that I've taken. Because if you find your tribe, some people would call it like-minded people who've got the same passions, core values, then you feel like you belong. And then that drives you forward. We're all sharing resources andyou get excited about reaching or people excited maybe to invite people for dinner, or share a recipe and things like that. You're talking the same language, which is lovely.
The next step for me was to share with my community a bit more. And you gain confidence. You think, "Well, what's the interest out there? Who else is wanting this information?" I've set up a WhatsApp group or the community to share resources. And now it's up to 70 people on there ith a variety of people from all walks of life. There was message on there this morning about sea swim, and a few people saying, "Oh, thank you for sharing. I'll come paddle boarding while you all go swimming." So it's been a real community vibe.
I guess the steps were, for me, the big one was finding like-minded people and then researching and getting involved with BSLM, just becoming a member, ad enhancing my knowledge from the resources. A very long answer, Rachel.
Gerat answer there. We don't mind long answers. It's not a problem at all. Listening to you describe that process, I think it sounds like sharing is a really important aspect of that. Being able to share that both with the people who are peers, your colleagues, but also for your community, which I think is lovely. You're not only taking that learning for yourself, but you're able to then pass it on and take that value to the people around you to increase that impact and to get other people and bounce off each other as well.
How have you found taking it to your GP world? Have you been able to work with like your GP colleagues, your practice, like when you're with patients? Has it given you a different outlook on your consultations and how has it changed maybe the way you're communicating and prescribing and thinking about different ways that you can support people in their health?
Yeah. Lifestyle medicine is a fairly new term and some people resonate with it and they're familiar with it and some people are not. I'm an appraiser and actually, lots of people are enthusiastic because they feel that change is needed in our approach. And it's an empowering approach, lifestyle medicine coaching. Coaching is a part of lifestyle medicine, where it's more asking rather than telling.
When I look at different practices, I've asked lots of different pactices about their thoughts about maybe setting up a clinic. And the overwhelming response has been, "That sounds brilliant." It was just yesterday or a couple of days ago that another doctor who I'd spoken to recently about lifestyle medicine was suggesting, "Well, what about bidding for doing some group sessions for the cluster, whether it's slep." And actually there's a few of us in the group that are passionate about that. So that's in the pipeline.
Then we can share some of this knowledge with patients rather than just having a few people benefit and there's more people. And even the chip program as well, Sarah and I able to share quite a lot of that knowledge and inviting people to come and observe there. So, the response has been amazing. I think what I've realized is that if we can help educate or share the knowledge with our medical students and GP trainees, then it gets fostered up as well.
We delivered a teaching morning for the medical students December last year and it was the positive fedback we had from that. Then that gets cascaded up, doesn't it? Then we dida GPTDS training day conference the other day, and a feedback I had from one GP trainer was that it had a huge impact on her trainee. She realized the importance of self-care.I had a slide saying the importance of putting on your own oxygen mask before you can help others and the importance of self-care. And we talked about the different pillars of lifestyle medicine and just things like expectations of yourself, what boundaries you set, and what permissions you need to give yourself? All those things really.
Yeah, so she's implemented big changes from drinking more water, stopping on the way home, not going home straight and just sitting in a house going on telly or internet. Stopping off and going in nature, having a walk before she goes home and being willing to share some of her challenges, and realizing that actually lots of people are in the same boat. That was magical to get that, and again, just having all this positive feedback from patients.
I do think one of the key things is being role models. If we can be role models, we can have a huge impact on our children, on our society. Just from me implementing and learning more, my little one's happier. My mum has now adopted changing her nutrition. My brother is and that then gets cascaded. And it's not just limited to that individual that change. It has an influence on the people around you if we can make just a small difference. And almost if you capture little ones at a very young age and teach them at an early age about these things, they'll have the skills and the tools for the rest of their lives. But for patients it's a tough time at the moment for everyone and people who've been hired.
I think, for me, it's the power of the pause button. I think from the yoga, the meditation to lifestyle medicine, and coaching, it's just that power of the pause button and saying, what is it that I need right now? How is my sleep? How is my nutrition? How am I doing in relation to caffeine, alcohol? How am I doing in terms of my stress levels at the moment? What do I need to do?
And to be honest, ,from coaching people from spending time doing lots of lifestyle medicineover the last couple of months, it's the power of the pause button that's giving time to think about these things and then implementing them. These are strategies that lots of my patients with stress and anxiety have taken and really benefited from gratitude journals, random acts of kindness, meditation, the sleep things, the positive psychology. And then sleep caffeine has been the big one. For lots of my patients, the lockdown's brought 10 cups of tea a day and the last one really late at night, lot's more technology in the evening, and just making these little tweaks to help their sleep. I could go on forever, Rachel. If we had hours, we could be here forever.
We can do that. We just keep talking. We just keep recording and keep talking. It's fine. One of the things that you just touched on there and you said it before is about the empowerment. And I think that's interesting, specificaly in a time now where so much of what is going on is outside of our control. And by making small changes in our nutrition, in the way that we deal with stress, and giving ourselves those little tools to be able to implement because they are the things that we can control. So it's interesting, you were talking about being a role model and thinking about how taking on board all those principles to your own health because then you're walking the talk really.
Absolutely. For me,all the things I recommend, I've done them and I've benefited. So I've got the story to tell, that actually doing the second lockdown in December, every day at the breakfast table,my daughter, husband and I would talk about three things that we were grateful for that day and we'd choose a random act of kindness or thought about something that we could do,whether it was picking up the litter with our litter pickers or whether it was doing something kind for a neighbor, or dog walking, or whatever it was. And it does have a massive impact. It does.
So if I can experiment with myself... For example, just from me aving created some good habits such as trying to wake up the same time every day—and now I naturally do because that's what my body does, being in sync with your circadian rhythm—and getting outdoors early in the morning and going for that run, r that walk, or that strength training, and making sure you've got that two glass of water, then your exercise, and then you've had that space. And actually sharing those three points with people, just even walking home with a mum from school couple of months ago and talking about my routine and how I've found it beneficial.
She then implemented it. She ot up... She needed some time to herself because I know I can give so much more if I just create that little bit of space for me in the morning. And I know when I work best. So knowing yourself, I think, that's where things like yoga, meditation, coaching; you get to know yourself better, what you need, and how you work and what works. For me, I'm a morning person. So getting up at six, o'clock, putting my trainers and everything ready to go, and then off I go for my run. Then I have my walk down and then I start the day. And actually that's impacted a lot more people than I realized. Sharing that, my neighbor saw me running at six o'clock and he said, "You've inspired me. I'm out." So he's coming out in the morning.
And then the mum in school, she implemented it. She got up a six and she was doing it ive days a week and she would read a book. She would go on the exercise there. She started to run. She went on for 10, 15 minutes and then she'd have some quiet time. She said how much better she was mentally for the rest of the day with her three kids. It was phenomenal. And they're these little changes. I think that's one thing that all the people I've coached and worked with, patients and even amily, it's just that one small step. You just take one small step and it propels you forward.
The way we start our days has such an impact on the rest of the day. So, like you say, if you can find a routine that suits you and gives you what you need to start off with, then you've done that a little bit. You've put your oxygen mask on you before you start the rest of the day. And then what I find is those things, any challenge that comes, you are then you're then prepared. You've given yourself that time. So you are able to give your care to other people, to have those difficult conversations, to get through the working day, and be able to come home and switch off again.
And like you say, there are small little elements that you can put into your life that help you. Where did your interest in coaching come from? Was it something that you had had some coaching yourself and then saw the benefits of it?
10 years ago, as a partner in the practice and just out of GP training, I was just on the one path that I thought that we all did. 'd Never been off the path in medicine—med school, GP training, partner. That was it. I thought that was it. That was my ambition and I was very goal-driven at the time. I was there for about two years. We worked really hard and it was a great practice, and I learnt loads. And there was anopportunity to go on a leadership program; theRCGP first five leadership program. There was some pilots being done and I went on that program, which lasted a year, which is brilliant, and had some coaching.That helped give me confidence and maybe suggest changes in he practice and bring back changes in the practice.
And I found it really insightful; really loved it. Well, then I came to crossroads thenin my own career. I hadn't ever come across that before. That's a really unsettling time for me actually because, I don't know if you're aware of Tony Robbins about the six human needs. One of them being certainty, and then an element of uncertainty. It felt very uncertain what was beyond that because I didn't have a plan. In medicine, we generally have a plan, don't we?
So I felt uncertain and a bit stressed. So I went and found a coach, which is great, and she was just brilliant. I just learned loads about myself. I learned what my core values were, what was important to me, about my limiting beliefs, I called it "mad Nelly" these days. I'm positive Pete. So most of us have got "mad Nelly" the negative person most of the time, apparently, with our 70,000 thoughts and you've got to train "positive Pete" to come out. It helped me realize what was holding me back. And they're normally internal more than external. It helped me change. I was given some tools and techniques hat I've used for the last eight, nine years. And it's ust simple things like the wheel of life. And I use this with my patients and my med students and for lifestyle changes as well.
And then as a result of the coaching, I felt confident in being able to resign from my partnership at the time I make the jump. I think also, I realized that one of my core alues my family and friends. And I was giving so much of myself—those high expectations I had for myself—there's limited time for the things actually that you love. And you just think, well, actually, what is life about? We were thinking about having children and there was no space and bodies don't really like it when you're busy and stressed. So I think if I really wanted to be living by my core values, then I needed to make a change. And it felt unsettling, but with coaching and doing things like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and looking after me helped me make that change and creating space. So hititing that pause button to reflect and to know what was working really helped.
And I still have coaching now because I love it. And I still implement all these tools in my own life and with my patients and family and little. So it impacts all of your life. If I had a tooland a strategy and I thought if I ever look back and think, "Did I do the right thing?" I can always look at this to remind myself. And there was once or twice that I thought, "Did I do the right thing?" But actually, wholeheartedly, it was the best thing I've ever done because I would not have had the experience I had. It's an amazing experience working in a practice with patients that I loved, working within a team. And the practice was small. I ouldn't have had that.
And just being able to go to yoga once a week and and then I got pregnant, and being able to do some nice running and relaxation. It's the first time I was properly giving time to me, just look after me and obviously my daughter is another person to look after. So it makes it even more important, isn't it? It was the best thing. And then I wouldn't have had space to do coaching. I wouldn't have had space to do... I was passionate about teaching as well. I had an ambition to teach in university and, basically, freedom's a big thing for me and flexibility.
And it gave me freedom to be able to explore and to enjoy teaching in uni and space with family and friends. And I've been able to create a lot more and I guess be creating my own path. I'm really passionate about helping people follow their own path and be the best they can be, and knowing it's okay to jump off the wagon and create your own little sidelines. And you can always go back if you don't like it and asking yourself, what's the worst thing that could happen? And actually, it's generally going to be okay.
There was a tool, Rachel, that I came across fairly recently actually, which is a great one, where you can either get two or three chairs. Then I''ll call myself "Fearful Helen", for example. You put Fearful Helen in one chair and you Courageous Helen in the other chair. And then you think about your future, and you speak to that person, the fearful Helen. You think about how you'd feel if you stay in those moments and stay as you are, and how you'd feel, what you'd be doing, what impact you'd have. Think about your core values and which ones of those are being ticked and met, what beliefs are hindering you and serving you if you went to go that deep. And then you do the same thing for the second person that courageous person. That helps you think, "Well, what do I want to be? How do I want to feel?" It gives you the courage to make the jump.
I think we're always going to have those movements. So whatever we create in our little curvy path, whatever little road we take, there will always be moments of uncertainty. And it sounds like, from what you're sharing there, that the value-driven approach is how you come back to giving yourself a moment of courage or being able to give yourself the strength to keep moving forward despite some of the uncertainty. It's exciting to hear how your career is developing and continuing to flow down the river and pick up different new things along the way.
One of the things I love about your coaching, which I spotted, is that you're also giving some of your coaching to be able to support your local community, so your community school, so that they can also develop something. And it's interesting that you were mentioning about how important teaching and education is. We can share habits with our children and our communities around us. We've got a much better chance of equipping them with the knowledge and the understanding to make healthier choices. How are you working with that and how did the idea come about?
Again, it's all about sharing and helping others. And I think if we can share tools and strategies with little ones or with parents, or with teachers, then throughout their lives... Say, for example,COVID has put it on hold, but one of the things I'm hoping to fund, which I found the coachwho can deliver it, his mindfulness training session for the teachers and some of the parents. Andby sharing these tools and skills with teachers and ultimately with our students, then that can have a big impact.
If we can teach them at this age, how to manage stress and the techniques and tools, and if we can educate them about the lifestyle pillars now, and get their taste buds used to good nutrition, and that they're aware of how to relax, and they're aware of the importance of physical activity every day, then hopefully, they can navigate life a lot easier. And there won't be so muchstress and anxiety. Also, I'm really passionate about helping people be able to stretch themselves outside of their comfort zone. And they'll have, hopefully, more of a growth mindset where they're healthier, happier, and we'll have hopefully less chronic disease and mental health. And starting at a young age can make a big difference.
Thank you, Helen. Honestly, I could talk to you for a lot longer and I have so many questions. It's been so wonderful to listen to your story and how you have navigated your life and created all these wonderful things that you're now able to share with other people. So, the last question of the podcast is my podcast is called Authentic Tea and the idea that we can just be ourselves and be very comfortable and happy with who we are. So who and where would you like to have your most authentic cup of tea?
Well, it's probably not an answer you would expect, but it's actually my six-year-old daughter. The reason why I say that is for so many reasonsbecause she's just happy, fun, she's adventurous, she's kind, she's a brilliant listener. Communicating for me is a top quality. And if you can actively listen and be present, that is a skill like no other because your relationships are better. Every aspect of your life will flow a little bit easier. She's just energetic, she knows when to hit that pause button, and she listens to her bod. She's got what I feel like is great self-control. She knows the importance of exercise. She's kind, caring, compassionate, she's flexible. It's all of those different things that you aspire to be. Nd she's learned some meditation techniques. She knows how to hit the pause button when she's angry or frustrated. She can communicate her feelings well.
She's magical to be with and I feel very proud of her. And having a discussion with her over for a cup of tea is just brilliant. And do you know the big thing I admire about her? Is that she's grown in confidence since I've done my coaching and she's changed. She's now gone from a really shy little girl, who lacked confidence to know being a little girl that's empowering others, motivating others, positive. She's inspiring other people. She's willing to push yourself outside the comfort zoneand be assertive. She truly is creating and being who she wants to be. And for me, that's my number one goal and she's going to be number one.
Thank you, Helen, for sharing that. It's really beautiful. I know that you've now got a week of holiday, so you may even get an opportunity to have a little cup of tea together. That's just wonderful and I'm sure that all of the work you're doing and all of the work you're doing as a mum is making a big impact on all the people around you, including your family and your daughter. So thank you so much for sharing all of this today. It's been wonderful to chat with you
Thank you, Rachel, for having me. Thank you.
If you have enjoyed reading this blog and want to receive more news from Resilience Yoga, CLICK HERE to sign up to join the community and receive your FREE Level 10 Life workbook
I help doctors create a purposeful, flexible career outside full-time clinical medicine so they can control their time and have more balance in their lives. To find out more book a FREE 60-minute discovery call. https://calendly.com/resilienceyoga/60min