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Stroke Smart Magazine

January/February 2009

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Back on Track
Coaching for Caregivers

By Stephanie Mensh, wife of a stroke survivor

More than 20 years ago, my husband Paul suffered a devastating stroke. Paul was 36, I was 31. My good friend and supporter was in need. Suddenly, in addition to my full-time job and daily responsibilities, I found myself overwhelmed by taking care of my husband’s responsibilities, personal needs and health. I worried a lot and the caregiving took its toll. I stopped taking care of myself. I got too little sleep, drank too much coffee and ate too much comfort food. I became disorganized, tired and unmotivated. I gained weight and my overall self-esteem plummeted. I needed help. My goals were to find a new job and to get my physical and emotional health back on track. Working with several professional coaches, I went about doing just that.

Career Coaching

Knowing that a new job, at a higher level of management, would increase my self-worth and lighten my mood, I hired a career coach. Career coaches specialize in helping people gain clarity, direction and self confidence while facing the challenges of career and life transitions. I needed direction and that is just what I got. My coach listened to me, then gave me assignments, deadlines, constructive feedback and support. As a result of her coaching and my newfound determination my career took off again. Find a career coach in your area at Life/Career Coach Search: http://www.findacoach.com/.

Dietary Coaching

Frustrated by my ever-increasing weight and cholesterol, I went to my doctor. He asked, “do you want a lecture or a nutritionist?” I chose the nutritionist. My nutritionist helped me understand portion size and the effect of different foods on my health, stamina and mood. She coached me on eating healthy in all circumstances eating at home, eating out and eating while traveling for business or working late. Every time I reached for a cookie, I saw her face and I didn’t want to report that I hadn’t stuck to my goals for the week. That was my secret to losing more than 35 pounds. Find a dietitian in your area at American Dietetic Association: www.eatright.org.

Emotional Wellness Coaching

As I am writing this, I am looking at a handwritten note taped to my computer: “Reminder: done is better than perfect.” My friend and licensed mental health counselor wrote this to help me overcome one of my personal, emotional issues — being a perfectionist. I am very hard on myself and often worry and feel guilty for not doing enough. Many caregivers have to come face to face with their own emotional issues. Find a licensed mental health counselor in your area at American Mental Health Counselors Association: http://www.amhca.org/.

Working with these coaches has changed my life. They helped me make caring for myself a priority. Now I feel good about myself, about my husband and about my life. Instead of being “the caregiver” and “the survivor,” we have returned to being two individuals who simply value each other.

Stephanie Mensh provides caregiver information at: www.strokesurvivor.com and can be reached by e-mail at Stephanie@strokesurvivor.com.

Resources Link to hundreds of free self-coaching articles and tips: http://www.selfgrowth.com/

Coaches Orders

8 tips to help caretakers reduce stress and care for themselves:

  • Take breaks throughout the day, close your eyes and visualize something pleasant for a moment.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Add healthy foods and reduce sugar intake.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Laugh more.
  • Participate in a hobby or recreational activity.
  • Remember your great many strengths.  



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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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