We spoke to Wellbeing & Performance Coach Natalia Lipecka to find out what she does and why coaching can help everyone.
Hi Natalia, you are a Wellbeing & Performance Coach, can you tell us a bit about why you started and what coaching involves?
Of course. I spent the first seven years of my professional life in the City, building a career as a stockbroker. It was an incredible experience, but – as you might expect – it was also quite the health and wellness rollercoaster. Throughout the years I first-hand encountered the challenges that come with working in fast-paced, high-stimulus environments, and had my own experiences with unhealthy habits, weight gain, sleeping difficulties as well as stress and burnout. Eventually I’ve come to realise that our definition of ‘hustle’ is fundamentally flawed and dedicated a lot of time and energy into creating a more balanced lifestyle for myself, that would allow me to thrive in both work and in life. It’s through these pursuits that I’ve become deeply inspired and passionate about the interplay between wellbeing and performance, and the notion of working sustainably over the long-term.
Today I’m a Wellbeing & Performance Coach. My business, Everwell Coaching, provides services to high-achieving, overworked, time-poor men and women, who want to reset their energy levels and mental clarity, and strike a better balance, so that – ultimately – they can sustain their performance and productivity, whilst living healthier, happier and more energized lives. Coaching is a very unique relationship and a beautiful, involved process of creating change and transformation. As a coach I show up for my clients as a personal adviser, a sounding board, an accountability partner. It’s highly personalized work, that involves developing an understanding of the client’s lifestyle, their innate tendencies, thought patterns and limiting beliefs, and working with that to navigate the process of change to help them achieve their goals.
Your core customer is the ‘time-poor’ professional. Why is coaching so important for this type of person?
I think there’s a real gap in the market for this audience. It’s not just about the lack of time – which itself almost by default implies a need for bringing in that outside, professional perspective – but it’s also about understanding the complex interaction of the ability to manage stress and emotion, the drive to perform and achieve, attitudes toward rest and recovery, and the more practical elements of busy schedules. There’s also a misconception out there that in order to ‘do’ wellness, or ‘be well’, you have to give up your career and stop working all together, move into the deep woods and meditate in a cave all day long… Which of course isn’t true and I think there’s real opportunity to bring more realistic models into the spotlight and empower people to understand that wellbeing and success can absolutely co-exist and – in fact – wellbeing is absolutely essential to success. Working with the right coach, who has walked that path and lived that life for many years, means they understand the challenges you’re up against, they speak your language and can help you arrive at solutions that are realistic for your life.
At this current time, many people have been furloughed or their workload has been dramatically reduced, and a lot of people will be struggling with the change in circumstances. Is there anything people can do at home to help with the adjustment?
A few things, for sure. For a start – establishing new routines is key. It’s O.K. to spend a few days, or a week, adjusting to change, but eventually implementing structure into your mornings and your days – especially when we’re confined to just the four walls we live in – is a powerful way of gaining back that little bit of control. Humans are creatures of habit and routine helps us feel more secure and ultimately less anxious. Think about having a morning routine that sets you up for the day, schedule regular breaks and work blocks in your calendar (note: ‘work’ can include hobbies or new skills if you have extra time to fill).
Secondly, manage your ‘coping mechanisms’. Find something that will soothe your mind (like reading, listening to podcasts or cooking) and give you an outlet that’s stimulating and fulfilling, rather than just numbing.
Thirdly, talk it out. This is particularly important for my introverts out there; you may need to schedule recurring reminders to call an old friend, a family member, a colleague. The bonus right now is we’re all in the same boat, so chances are the person on the other end of the line is struggling with the same thoughts and feelings as you.
Lastly, from the more ‘woo woo’ camp, but it really works if you just open yourself up to it – practice simple acts of gratitude. A single thought at the start of each morning, or just before you go to bed; count your blessings, feel into them and allow yourself to appreciate what you do have.
What positives do you think could come out of the lockdown situation for professionals?
The obvious one is the shift to working from home, which has obviously been forced to accelerate and I just don’t see it going back to the previous normal. Employees will have demonstrated their ability to stay productive and deliver whilst working from home – with arguably more distractions (home schooling, co-habiting small spaces with others, etc.) – and I think many will be stepping forward to demand more flexible working conditions and businesses, especially those that have been slow to embrace these changes, will have to adapt. Similarly, with a lot more meetings and business now done virtually, it’ll reduce the need for travel, which should be hugely beneficial, particularly to those in sales-critical roles where jet lag and de-stabilising routine are part and parcel of the job. What this hopefully will also do is open more people up to striking new relationships and collaborations online, bringing about more exciting business opportunities for professionals in all industries.
What would your advice be to someone who wants to make a change in their life but is lacking the motivation at the moment to take action?
Start small, but start! Change is difficult at the best of times. Our minds love running on autopilot and will do everything to stop us from moving outside of their comfort zone, even if the default is hardly comfortable. Whatever change you’re looking to make, think about the smallest actionable step that you can realistically commit to – it may be that you start with 5 minutes of exercise 3 times a week; and it may be that this exercise will be taking a walk around the block. As you start building momentum, you’ll prove to yourself that you can do it, your confidence will go up as a result and before you know it you will have created your own ripple effect of change.
What are your top three tips for people who might be suffering from work-induced burnout?
It’s such a complex subject I could write a book about it, but first and foremost – leave your ego at the door. So often we brush the feelings of burnout, exhaustion and overwhelm under the carpet because they’re inconvenient and they get in the way of getting stuff done. Or we treat them as signs of weakness. We tend to think they’re only temporary and that eventually we’ll catch up on sleep, or play, or our relationships. I’d urge anyone who’s feeling run-down to take some time to have a good and honest look at their life, and really acknowledge what is happening.
We then come onto the idea of rest and recovery. This is at the very root of the problem and frankly no amount of kale will help you if you don’t manage and protect your downtime. I know it seems counterintuitive, but there’s a point at which doing more is doing harm rather than good, so set boundaries with your hours at work, take regular breaks, step outside to clear your head, and – most importantly – sleep.
Thirdly, look at your nutrition. Living on the go and being stressed lend themselves to really poor food choices that don’t fuel us properly and only perpetuate the blood sugar rollercoaster (making us more tired, stressed and overwhelmed). We may not always have time to exercise, but we have to eat either way so it’s a total no-brainer. Choose a whole foods diet and minimise your consumption of sugar, processed foods and alcohol – your body and mind will thank you.
Who inspires you?
Arianna Huffington – she’s speaks right to the heart of my experiences and my mission, and I think she’s got the most wonderful blend of strength and vulnerability.
How do you look after your own wellbeing?
I’m a big believer in getting the basics right, so nutrition and exercise are right up there for me. I eat a predominantly whole foods diet and pay attention to my alcohol consumption. Exercise is a big part of my life and my biggest outlet – I love training and always leave feeling better for it. I really enjoy the sport and community behind CrossFit and, more recently, have been getting into Olympic lifting, but also enjoy a good walk, especially on days when I need the rest.
In terms of mental health, the critical thing for me is getting sufficient downtime so that I don’t become overstimulated; in the past this is something I neglected a lot and I’ve had to work really hard on my attitude towards rest and recovery, but it’s definitely doable! As someone who spends a lot of time thinking, establishing routines and habits that allow me to cultivate headspace has also been hugely beneficial to the quality of my life and ability to manage stress and anxiety. I mix these up and try to go with what my mind needs on a particular day, but breathwork, meditation, journaling are an important part of my daily life right now.
Do you have a morning and/or evening routine?
The morning is really the only part of the day I have control over (though lockdown clearly helps with regards to evenings!), so that’s where I focus my attention. I start my mornings with some gentle breath work, followed by a brief meditation practice (5-10 minutes), which will usually bring various things into my awareness and often provide inspiration for content, my business or the work I do with clients. I’ll often take some time to journal to capture whatever’s coming up for me that day. Finally, I’ll head out for a brief walk or jog to get some fresh air and get those endorphins flowing before starting work.
My night routine is less structured and prescriptive, but there are certain hygiene principles I implement that help me optimise the quality of my sleep. Switching my phone off (the old school way) an hour before bedtime and winding down without screens (Netflix included) has been a game changer. These days I’ll read a book, listen to an Audiobook or podcast, or do a bit of journaling and self-reflection.
Do you have any non-negotiable wellness habits/rituals that you cannot live without?
Absolutely. As I said – exercise is my biggest outlet, so no matter how busy I am, or how much I have on my plate, I always make time for it. I know I’ll feel better for it and it’ll make me more productive afterwards, so I prioritise around it and never worry about it ‘eating into’ my work schedule. My morning practice is also really key – of course I fall of the wagon every now and again, but I immediately notice a deterioration in my headspace, my energy and productivity, so I really try to respect it these days – even if it means a shortened version, or an improvised adaptation, on days that I am more rushed in the morning (clearly not in lockdown!), or when I’m travelling.
What are your favourite books or podcasts?
I’m definitely a podcast person – I’m working on my reading habit, but the truth is I struggle! I love Jay Shetty’s ‘On Purpose’ podcast – it’s a recent addition to my roster, he’s just mesmerising! For personal development, performance and entrepreneurship I’m also a huge fan of ‘The Tim Ferriss Show’, Robin Sharma’s ‘Mastery Sessions’ and Arianna Huffington’s ‘Thrive Global’ podcasts. In terms of health and wellbeing more generally, I’d highlight Dr Hayman’s ‘Doctor’s Farmacy’ and ‘Broken Brain’, Dr Chatterjee’s ‘Feel Better Live More’ and Dan Harris’ ‘Ten Percent Happier’.
What lies ahead for you in 2020?
2020 is all about building my brand, growing my audience and establishing my coaching practice. I’m just at the beginning of this journey, so there’s lots of work to be done, but getting those foundations in place is absolutely key to building an authentic, focused and sustainable business. In time I’d love to explore the corporate wellness opportunity – it’s an incredibly exciting area and, given my personal background and my audience focus, it’s a natural extension of my 1:1 coaching work, so that’s one I’ll be revisiting in the latter part of this year. Overall, a really exciting year for both personal and professional growth, and I’m so grateful to be on this journey!