Coaching Case Study By Monika Milinauskyte
(Executive and Leadership Coach, SENEGAL)
In this paper, I attempted to assess solutions-focused coaching techniques applying visualization and conscious breathwork tools. I went over this coaching process myself as a client with a leadership coach as well as utilized resources such as Dan Brule Just Breathe: Mastering Breathwork for Success in Life, Love, Business, and Beyond to further assess how conscious breathwork and visualization could be better applied in performance/leadership coaching practice while dealing with business clients who work at a social enterprise, IT sector and overall extremely demanding and dynamic business environments.
I also explored the relationship and imbalances between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems as I myself am experiencing the constant activation of the sympathetic nervous system at work which has led me to fatigue and chronic stress and my parasympathetic nervous system remain underactive. During this research, I came across the work of Dan Brulé in the field of breathing and started to use them in my coaching process for myself that is helping me to change perspective in high moments of stress and allowed to find some solutions to the daily problems in the work context and improve my performance and work-life balance.
1. Who are the main players in this case study?
The main players are me who went over the series of coaching practices and applied breathwork techniques suggested by Dan Brulé to help myself manage chronic stress and work-related pressures whilst working at a high pace growing company where I serve as a regional manager in charge of managing a team of 6 project managers and I am undergoing a team growth phase which is about to double in size in Q4 in 2020.
2. What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
Why is it a problem?
Feeling chronic stress and fatigue at work, not being able to relax and having a mind that runs millions of miles per hour and not being able to switch off from work, and feeling like I do not have control of my life. These experiences led me to hire a leadership coach who offered a variety of solutions that are working for me and the coaching process was extremely helpful. Additionally, I looked into applying breathwork techniques to address these problems that I have been facing.
How long has it been a problem?
Roughly 2 years since I have been working in the managerial position and dealing with team growth and company expansion.
What is the worst thing about this problem?
Constant worrying; thinking about responsibilities and challenges waiting ahead of me and above all feeling out of energy and quite fatigued in my life.
Why has no one been able to solve it so far?
As this issue is quite personal I feel that I have not given enough attention in the past and only through my own coaching experience and the workplace coach course I was inspired to look into myself and the thinking patterns I could only do it through formal coaching sessions that in the end showed me a way that can lead me to a life with better quality and being able to step from the active ‘doing’ mode and shift perspective and tune into the ‘being’ and relaxation mode.
2. What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
Two approaches were used:
A series of coaching sessions with a leadership coach where I was a client and I coached introduced me to solutions based coaching techniques to my problem at work. The issue was that I felt and reacted constantly in my work as if it was a battlefield and felt the need to argue and fight to be able to move forward in light of a demanding and highly pressured environment as well as navigating my team’s need and growth versus managing the Executive team needs for performance reporting and management initiatives.
The second approach used was my personal application of breathwork techniques during this process which I consider as potential solutions in the coaching practice that a coach could offer to client in managing their highly active sympathetic nervous system and demonstrating that through a series of regular breathing techniques it is indeed possible to bring down the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic system and find the balance between the two. I used primarily two breathing techniques:
Square breathing with breath-holding: breathing at the intervals of 3-6-6-3 inhaling for the count of three, holding for the count of six; exhaling for six and holding for the count of three for five minutes
a. Slowing it down to 4-8-8-4 pattern and then moving to the slowest pattern of 5-10-10-5 for five minutes
b. 6-6 breathing: inhaling to the count of six and on the exhale visualizing where I feel the pain (chest, backpain, Coach Skills Course Outcome headache) and thinking about that body part and exhaling in that space. To do that for roughly 5 minutes
2. Explain your process in detail
During my coaching sessions with a leadership coach, I was introduced to a solutions-based coaching technique where my coach explored and focused on areas/tools that I use to address my issues and what is working for me. Considering that we focused on things and practices that are indeed working for me such as prioritizing sports activities, yoga in my working day, and making sure I allocate time in my calendar for these fun activities. The other area was the visualization and impressions I have when dealing with difficulties. The main visual I used to have is that work associates for me as a battlefield, war zone where I have to firefight things which are causing a lot of tensions and often leaves me drained and fatigued. My coach introduced another visualization asking me to try to replace in my head the warzone imagine with something else. As a result, I came up with a circus illusion that I felt represents my work situation. Since then I have been trying to think about my work as a circus situation, chaotic, funny ridiculous and this helped me feel less tense and worried about work commitments as they started to get a different feeling than I previously had. I continue visualizing a circus every time there is a big difficulty, tensions and pressure arise and so far, it’s been working extremely well for me.
The second approach in my process was my own solution searching, and I came across two beneficial breathwork techniques. Having read and explored Dan Brule’s work I learned the following:
Changing the patterns of breathing allows us to change the patterns of information that are being sent to the brain. For instance, if we breathe fast or slow and regularly it affects differently how the brain operates.
The breathing practice had to be a daily ritual just like taking a shower or brushing teeth so I used it in the morning and every evening before going to bed.
After 2 months of regular/daily breathwork practice I observed this:
Square breathing method I use every morning and every evening, and I notice how it helped me to declutter my head especially after the working day and before going to sleep. It has made me feel relaxed and stable in my emotional triggers and how I perceive things. It has also helped me to expand my lung capacity as I noticed that I can hold my breath for 1.30 min after the regular square breathing practices and this allowed me to tap into creativity generate new ideas and pause and be more mindful.
6-6 breathing technique I used every time I felt the tension in my body such as back pains or stomach pains that I realized was nothing to do with physical pain but more related to responsibilities and tensions at work that I sense in my body. The tension release exercise with this breathing method worked very well as I was able to feel my body tensions easing out after I visualized and sent the attention to the specific direction, i.e. lower back; shoulders. I did this exercise anytime I Coach Skills Course Outcome felt tensions, so it does require a high level of self-awareness to recognize where the tension lies in the body and being reactive to it with a breathwork technique. As a result, I noticed that my tensions were realized, and I no longer had defensive reactions or felt losing control of my time so overall this process has helped me to improve my work-life balance. It is an ongoing process as the key thing is to continue applying these methods daily and committing to them.
4.What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective? Why? Why not.
I feel that these two approaches were extremely effective for me as they were a mix of formal coaching with a very experienced coach who applied solutions based coaching techniques suited for me and my needs and in addition to this I was open to including my own solutions to help myself in this process. I found out that breathwork and visualization techniques could be used more in coaching or at least the coaches could apply these methods and offer them to their respective clients. There is a fair share of literate and research were done on these techniques at the same time my own personal experiences showed positive results and outcomes. I feel that I want to share these tools with others and my future clients who might be looking for solutions in terms of enhancing their lives, finding a balance but using something they already have within themselves – breathing!
5. If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
Reaching out for help and looking for a coach earlier on. I think I was in denial of the problem for a long time and I feel that a coach has really helped me to look at things and issues differently and I appreciated a lot the concrete solutions that she was able to pull out from me through powerful questions and identifying the tools and processes that work for me.
6. What are the top 3 things you learned from this experience?
1. As a client in the coaching process I realized that I have answers and potential solutions to my own problems. I was not able to see it before having a coach who guided me through a transformative process and pointed to me what is working so I could come up with other techniques and solutions for myself.
2. Do not underestimate the power of breathing – our bodies react and take all things based on the message that comes from the brain. If you think about fire fighting or warzones imagery your body will feel tense, and your breath will be shallow and rushed. Changing the imagery and applying breath control techniques can really help you to step from the vicious cycle and ultimately change the thinking patterns and in the end stabilize the sympathetic vs parasympathetic nervous system.
3. It’s important to develop a habit for self-reflection – daily weekly to check in with yourself how you are feeling rather than let yourself get Coach Skills Course Outcome lost in responsibilities and to-do lists because then you get reactive and can lose a sense of touch with yourself. Once I allowed time for self-reflection, I identified a need for a coach to support me in the journey as I wanted to change my lifestyle and have a better work-life balance.