Integrating all aspects of YOU

While I was doing my coaching course, we were advised to focus on finding and developing our own niche as coaches. My thought process kept bringing me back to the term “integration” – a concept that has often featured in my life, in a number of ways.

I was first introduced to “integration” when, as an Occupational Therapy student in the nineties, we learnt about how better results are achieved when the two sides of our bodies and brains work together. Much more so, than when we rely on only one side. Integration can be defined as the process of combining two or more things in an effective way so that they form a unified whole that is more than merely the sum of its parts. Disintegration then is the loss of effectiveness, cohesion, strength – a process of fragmenting or falling apart. We experience disintegration when we feel overwhelmed by external and internal stressors and challenges, when our parts are not working together smoothly.

When we experience stressful circumstances, we often struggle with strong emotions like anger, pain, anxiety and fear. It feels like they are taking over our lives, and often we try to avoid dealing with them for as long as possible. However, suppressing them often results in an uncontrolled pressure-cooker effect: the pot boils over or even explodes, often when it is most inconvenient.

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Eating for greater Happiness

At this stage, we are experiencing challenging emotions around many issues in our lives. For some there may be a very real concern about where the next meal is coming from. Even for those of us who do not need to worry about this, the emotions regularly associated with food are often uncomfortable. Why? Michael Pollan claims that nutritionism has a lot to do with it. According to nutritionism, the point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health, which means there are good and bad nutrients. The labels have changed over time, depending on what trend we are currently following. As a result, anxiety around whether we are eating correctly accompanies our meals. If we cheat and break the rules, we feel guilty. Many of us suffer from Orthorexia nervosa – an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Pleasure, joy and gratitude for food have become counter-cultural. Eating for pleasure, as a social act or as an expression of identity are not considered much…

Some of the pitfalls of this approach include that the quality of our food is not discerned. When food is analysed into its nutrient parts, some parts are overlooked or not yet understood. Food can be taken out of its context:

  • If I eat a fruit with its peel, my body digests it differently to when I eat it without the peel.
  • In the context of my plate, one type of food interacts with other food on my plate.
  • The specific environment my food develops in makes a difference to the quality of my food, e.g. the food a cow is given influences the quality of the meat.
  • Food eaten needs to be seen in the context of my overall lifestyle.

As a result of nutritionism processed foods may mistakenly be regarded as healthier than natural ones because they have the required amount of a specific nutrient.  In reality, the less refined, the better the quality of our food is, but it is much easier to slap health claims on sugary cereal boxes than on raw foods.

How can we reclaim a more positive attitude to eating?

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Joy in learning?!

With the lock down continuing longer than the school holidays, some of our children have already started schooling again. For others this is looming ahead. The possibility of a staggered return to school is being explored. For many of us as parents, our children’s schoolwork may feel like another burden we need to carry, another source of stress in our already busy, pressured lives. For others schoolwork will help to structure our family routine. For some this routine may feel boring. The question “how long this will continue?” hangs over us all. In these circumstances, the word joy does not seem to belong in the same sentence as learning. We know that schoolwork needs to be done, and for now this will be at home. Are there any choices we can make that will affect this situation? Let’s have a look at how we think about the subject…

Will you be schooling at home, non-schooling or home-schooling? To illustrate the difference I am sketching three exaggerated pictures.

The school at home picture is drawn with a ruler – lines, strict patterns and geometric shapes – taking the school structure and imprinting it on your home routine. The family gets ready for school as before. The only missing element is the school commute. School starts at approximately the same time as before. One subject follows the next. The time-keeping bell between periods rings in our heads. Perhaps there is an on-line teacher giving the lesson on zoom at a specific time. In other cases, the parent feels the pressure of morphing into a teacher themselves. Joy doesn’t have much space to grow here.

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