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Northern Arizona Healthcare is thriving with a little help from our (Health Coach) friends 

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we face a daily choice about how to embrace the new normal. 

Our colleagues overwhelmingly choose “with hope and positivity” – many with the support of our organization’s Health Coaches, Grace Marks, MPH, CPC, and Kathryn Nelson, MS, CHC.  

Grace and Kathryn help people tap into their own inner wisdom to translate wellness and lifestyle goals into action. This means combining physical, mental, spiritual and emotional resources to improve your entire life – culminating in your purpose and passion, no matter what the circumstances. 

“When we find our purpose, especially during COVID-19, it can really launch us and help us move forward with life because things feel really uncertain right now,” Kathryn said. “I think if people weren't emotionally strong beforehand with some self-care practices in place, this is really pushing them to struggle so much more.” 

Both coaches have been hearing a lot about uncertainty and stress regarding family, health, finances and job stability.  

One self-care strategy Grace focuses on is thought management: How do we turn stressful, negative thoughts into something positive?  

“Our emotions directly affect our health,” she said. “So how do we nab it before it's totally consumed us physically, emotionally and spiritually? One of the ways is to be more conscious of what we are thinking, create some mindfulness techniques, and try to be in the present moment. The other is to focus on gratitude.” 

Thriving in our hospitals 

Allyson Campbell, RN, who works in the operating room at Flagstaff Medical Center, meets regularly with Kathryn. For Allyson, a mother of two young children, health coaching means persisting and thriving – not just surviving – with whatever cards she’s dealt each day at work and at home. 

“I felt like, I have to get back on track because I was joking that COVID was ruining my soul,” Allyson said. “It was like, ‘I have to stop eating my feelings because this is not ending and I need to move forward – what are my goals? where are we going?’  

“And when I go in to see Kathryn, it’s like just seeing a good friend. I can’t imagine having gone through as much as I have in the past six months without her.” 

Since starting health coaching, Allyson has seen a turnaround in her own attitude and outlook. 

“I don’t just want to be alive today,” she said. “I want to live and I want to have a good time. Sometimes I’m in the OR all day and then I’m on call – and I can still show up and be like, ‘Yeah, this is what I do. I love it. I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t do anything else. So I want to make it the best.” 

Allyson’s advice to her colleagues: “I would just tell you that you’re not alone, that I’m with you and this is some of the hardest stuff any person has to go through. Just try to connect with other people and push forward a little bit more.” 

Thriving in the air 

Guardian Air flight nurse Kimberly Fawcett, RN, is in the high-stress position of flying COVID-19 patients in a small aircraft, in hot weather, wearing a lot of personal protective equipment.  

This, as well as a tragic event in her personal life a year and a half ago, led her to seek out and commit to health coaching with Grace in order to find even ground again. 

“Sitting there with her was a life saver for me,” Kimberly said. “I would have survived, but Grace helped me thrive. Not many people are comfortable sitting with grief and with difficult times, but she is. She has really allowed me to be comfortable with it and express myself and not have to hide stuff away.” 

For Kimberly, being outdoors – mountain biking, hiking, and going out on the river – are important forms of self-care, as is journaling. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself carry on with the outdoor stuff, but I benefit from it,” she said. 

Kimberly is working on earning her own health coaching certificate so she can help others in the post-COVID-19 future. 

“We are really lucky not only to have health coaches, but that the organization allows us to have those services,” she said. “I want to help in any way I can. The idea of being able to get people through things is pretty awesome.” 

Thriving everywhere 

Looking for a little help? Reach out for support, because it’s available to you each and every day at Northern Arizona Healthcare and other sources such as flagstaffresources.com. 

"Feeling alone can bring an undue amount of stress and we want people to nip that in the bud, so their immune systems can stay strong and they can be healthy and happy throughout the season and going into winter,” Grace said. 

This wisdom doesn’t just apply to Northern Arizona Healthcare colleagues, but to everyone who is living through these times.  

Kim Alexander, director of Northern Arizona Healthcare Behavioral Health Services, says one major challenge for us all is trying to connect with others at a time when connecting in person is difficult.  

She recommends sending handwritten notes reminding your loved ones that you’re thinking of them – or even putting names of family and friends in a jar, then pulling out one name each day for a surprise Zoom or FaceTime call. 

“I think reaching out to others helps take the focus off ourselves,” she said. “Also, when we look at what’s going well, instead of what’s going wrong, it shifts our focus to something more positive and helps us put in perspective our own lives.” 

Kim emphasized sleep as essential to your overall well-being. “Tired is your body’s way of saying it’s time to rest,” she said. “Tired is not a bad thing.” 

Northern Arizona Healthcare offers psychiatric, psychological and therapy services to the public. To learn more about the kinds of help available, please visit nahealth.com/behavioral-health-and-psychiatry or call 928-213-6400. 

“We’re just a phone call away,” Kim said.