In today’s world, depression is often thrown about casually. As a coach, it’s a subject known to peep its head into conversations from time to time. Recently, on a special coaching ethics call, author, therapist and well-known life coach Patrick Williams (author of Law and Ethics in Coaching: How to Solve and Avoid Difficult Problems in Your Practice) answered questions about topics suitable for coaching, and those better referred out to licensed therapists. There are times when coaching borders the line of therapy – addictions, mention of suicide (yikes!), and sometimes depression. Patrick Williams raised an important distinction, “Is it REALLY depression, or is it DEPLETION?” Discerning this is the first step. How can one tell the difference? There are many free assessments online to quickly determine if speaking with a professional psychologist is the next step or if other strategies may prove effective.
For many, it is simply a matter of depletion. I’ve noticed patterns of depletion in the lives of my clients and my own. After my book tour (the period after a year-long effort), and then an immediate move to southern California living in temporary quarters — Ms. LifeCoachMary was feeling a little deflated. I couldn’t quite bring myself to use the “depression” word, as that word has been removed from my vocabulary for many years. In speaking with other authors, it’s quite common to experience a form of “post-partum depression” at the end of a big cycle of effort — end of book tour or going to print.
Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar after a big project. When Patrick Williams raised the question, “Is it depression or depletion?” it sparked new curiosity toward my own droopy situation. If you’re feeling a little “depleted,” see if one or more of the remedies below could “fluff” your insides back up and reignite momentum. First, let’s note what has consumed your energy in the past year? Perhaps you’ve been working on a start-up or expanding your business. Have you finished a creative project or certification, house remodel, recently moved, gotten married, or had a baby? Maybe your life reflects a combination of big and little projects throughout the year? Take inventory? Write them all down.
1. What do you need to CELEBRATE in your life? Celebration is under-rated. At the ICF Conference, Cynthia Loy Darst, MCC engaged a packed room of coaches about the importance of coaching “celebration” in the lives of our clients. So often, we achieve — and the next question is “what’s next?” Fully feeling the joy of a major accomplishment is just one element that is often glossed over. It’s also valuable to take time to explore insights and recognize how you have grown. Minimizing the importance of celebration can bite you in the butt if you’re not careful. Engage your family, friends or a special team to help you celebrate appropriately – and deeply. You’ll enjoy a smoother, and more joyous transition to the what’s next. BONUS: It’s rather energizing, too!
2. Does your BEING need NURTURING or SELF-CARE? Significant projects require significant effort and often throw our bodies out of routine and supportive regimens. For me, traveling on the road and then suddenly moving to southern California threw me out of my grounding yoga practice (no Bikram yoga nearby!). My focus had been predominantly “outward” for many months, attending to others needs. Once in the habit of giving, giving, giving and going, going, going, it can be difficult to stop or slow down. But, it’s essential for our well-being. In airplanes we’re instructed to put our own oxygen mask on FIRST, before assisting small children and others. What a powerful reminder for our lives. Have you been taking the time to nourish your own energy stores? Is it time for a massage, spa day or face mask? How can you deepen your own self-care? You can do this in big ways, such as a week-long meditation retreat or nurturing workshop or vacation. Or, you can do smaller things such as yoga, a bubble bath, a good book, taking in a warm fire or snuggling with your partner. What would nurture you most?
3. Have you been giving yourself SPACE? Space is another element that is under-rated. In our busy world, alone time may be limited to the drive to and from work or the grocery store. Space reconnects us to our creative energy, and exudes abundance and peace. One of my clients periodically takes a full morning on a Friday or Saturday, and retreats to Laguna Beach where he reflects and takes SPACE for himself. It’s essential to our well-being, especially if you have families and busy lives. While it’s time away from loved ones, it is better for everyone in the long run. I recently took a week to reflect, recalibrate and do yoga everyday, and what a difference it made!! Vacations are great space-makers. Even claiming an hour of uninterrupted SPACE can do wonders in restoring depleted energy. What SPACE is your soul hungry for? Feed your soul with the perfect space.
4. What TOLERATIONS need your attention? In coaching, we refer to “tolerations” as those pesky little things that need to get done, but aren’t necessarily urgent. They can zap your energy when they pile up, and contribute to the “depletion syndrome”. Getting the oil changed, a lost button on your favorite jacket, a clock battery gone dead or a burned out light bulb are a few examples of tolerations. When “tolerations” are completed, energy is freed up and making life easier. When we’re busy, these little energy draining tolerations accumulate and nag on us. Zap. Zap. Zap. Investing 1-2 hours a week to minimize this list (or hire someone to tackle them for you) is a great way to transform a depleted state. Working with a coach is a great way to identify and reduce tolerations. Make a list of the current “tolerations” in your life. Which five tolerations will you handle in the next week?
5. What’s your overall PURPOSE? Have you lost touch or connection with your purpose? Even my most successful and focused clients occasionally lose sight of their overall purpose. It’s normal. Sometimes we get lost in the detail of one project or task, and disconnect from the bigger picture. If your purpose is feeling fuzzy, now is a great time to refocus and reignite your passion and purpose. A brand new year awaits you. Reconnecting to your purpose is often simply a matter of REMINDING yourself what is most important to you? What do you VALUE most? Your life is constantly leaving clues about your passions. What are you drawn to? What would you “go for” if you knew you could not fail?
6. Where is your INSPIRATION meter? Is it depleted or over-stimulated and fried? Life is not one big race, but rather, it is made up of a series of 5K runs and marathons of various lengths. Each segment requires a fresh infusion of inspiration connected with purpose. Not inspired? Inspiration means “in spirit” or connected to spirit. Check in with steps 1-4 above. Celebrating, self-care and nurturing, taking space and clearing tolerations can UNCLOG a disconnected spirit and make room for inspiration. Beware of the cousin of “droopy inspiration”…which is OVER INSPIRATION. Perhaps there are TOO many things you’re excited about (this was one of my challenges recently). Sometimes there are just too many projects, demands, insufficient time, energy or resources to execute. Discern what elements are “on purpose” and what elements are “seductive distractions”. Narrow the focus. Simplify. Engage more assistance if necessary. Your purpose will emerge with fresh inspiration. During my one-week personal retreat I wrote down each purposeful goal on index cards, and laid them out on the floor to visualize it collectively. This helped me narrow my focus, and see which pieces were “on purpose” and which “seductive distractions” I could eliminate. Seeing all the pieces working together fine-tuned my inspiration meter and allowed me to see HOW I may be able to realize it. We must believe that we can succeed in order to sustain inspiration.
7. What are your PLANS and STRATEGY moving ahead? Once inspiration and purpose are re-engaged, you’re ready to solidify your plans and strategy to execute. Take inventory of your time and resources. Lay it out. Create a project plan. For each project, write down all the necessary steps in greater detail by using one of more sheets of paper to articulate all the steps. Time block and prioritize. Each person has their own favorite way to plan and strategize. Use yours, or enlist a coach if your plan is fuzzy. Whatever you do, don’t hold all your plans and strategies in your head. Get it down on paper. Skipping the planning phase sets you up for stumbles down the road. The more complex the project, the more complex the required plan. Take the time, do it right. If you gave your plan and strategy to a team, could they implement it? What strategies will support the realization of your goals? Take a day or several days to develop your plan for the year.
Now you’re ready for ACTION. Keep these principles alive throughout the year to avoid the droopy depletion phases and keep yourself in a perpetual and sustainable state of momentum.
SPECIAL NOTE: While this quick list may be just the boost you need to fluff those insides…if the droopy pattern becomes more significant and long-term, don’t hesitate to get a professional opinion or test yourself online for free. I believe that depression, (and most depression pills) are over-diagnosed in our society. However, suffering in silence isn’t fun. Getting to the root of depression with a skillful therapist may be the best course of action for you. And, perhaps a free online assessment can free your mind as some droopiness.