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Choosing to thrive with multiple sclerosis ultimately led Chris Vasiliadis to a career in health coaching, helping others create energizing lifestyle habits that avoid burnout.
Chris Vasiliadis, who lives with multiple sclerosis, is a health coach with a passion for writing. A Wellcoaches graduate and National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach, she helps others create energizing lifestyle habits that avoid burnout in her first personal development book, Ignition: A Professional Woman’s Guide to Energized, Burnout-Proof Living.
Chris Vasiliadis, a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach, inspires people to use their well-being as their secret weapon to successfully lead their life. Working both one-on-one and speaking in professional, healthcare and corporate settings since founding her business, Priority Wellness, in 2008, she has helped countless individuals energize their health, avoid burnout and improve their performance. Choosing to prioritize her wellness after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2005, Chris has been relapse-free for over 12 years. A lover of reading and writing since childhood, her first personal development book is titled Ignition: A Professional Woman’s Guide to Energized, Burnout-Proof Living.
Excerpt from Ignition
Feature Article: The Possibilities of Space to Gain Balance
Suggested Interview Questions
What gets in the way of people successfully living in energized, burnout-proof ways?
There can be several factors at play here. Not knowing where to begin or telling ourselves we don’t have time to make changes. How we talk to ourselves or what we tell ourselves about our roles. Feeling like a slave to our devices and calendars. Society’s badge of honor in being busy. Expectations and boundaries we let slide. Standards we create for ourselves. Trying to do it all on our own. Not paying attention to what energizes us and drains us.
What trends are you seeing in professional women’s health and lives that concerns you?
It makes me sad to see women on the perpetual “hamster wheel” of chronic doing in how they’re running their lives: putting themselves and their quality of life and health on the back burner, to the point of depleting themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually. Making themselves feel guilty or beating themselves up over attempts to do it all, with perfection, and without asking for help. We have forgotten that we’re human BEINGS, not human DOINGS: there are other ways do and be to address what’s important, yet allow us to engage and perform in healthy, even enjoyable, ways.
How do you feel technology has impacted burnout?
It’s a double-edged sword. Sure, there are many ways technology and apps help us in our lives. However, I believe our ability be connected 24/7 can contribute to burnout. It’s a major part of what blurs the lines between work and non-work tasks in our lives. I also feel we’ve become less comfortable with, and there’s often guilt around, having quiet space in our lives and white space in our daily planners. We’ve become less present in our surroundings. People are looking down at their phones throughout the day: multitasking in the presence of others, while running errands, or walking from place to place – even while crossing the street! Consider the times you’re on public transportation, waiting in line, at a doctor’s office or for an appointment/meeting to begin. What’s the first thing many people do these days when they’re waiting? Grab their phone! We’re also sitting more and moving less. Binge-watching programs is a “thing” now. We’re tuning out instead of tuning in to help ourselves live in more energized ways.
What is your perspective on work-life balance?
In brief, the lines between work and life are blurry these days, with technology, workplace cultures, shared workspaces and entrepreneurship enabling us to work from home and/or being more connected and mobile in where and when we perform work. Instead of prioritizing work-life balance, I advocate for first establishing inner balance. Often, if someone wants work-life balance, that desire arises because their life feels unbalanced, chaotic, and/or frenetic. If you try to create balance starting from that state of mind, chances are you’ll get more chaos and frenzy. That’s why I recommend first focusing on ways to create space, ground and center yourself internally: you can actually be balanced AT work!
What makes it so challenging for people to change their habits to improve their health?
It’s largely a combination of the discomfort and unknowns that can come with the process of implementing new habits, along with the time and effort it takes. Often people can talk themselves out of this process before they even attempt to start. There’s also brain science involved. In brief, we have neural pathways that have been created based on the habits we’ve performed up until today. When we try to do something different from those long term habits, our brain rebels and wants us to maintain the status quo. That’s why many folks give up on new goals in the early stages when they don’t meet their expectations or fall off plan, rather than recommitting and repeating the new desired behavior until it becomes instilled.
What role do you believe time management plays in avoiding burnout?
I feel people try to convince themselves that this frenzied way of functioning is the price you pay for having a full life, and/or they don’t have time to look at other options for how to operate. Or, they feel if they did have the time to figure out a different way, it boils down to matter of how they use their time. While there’s some truth in that latter statement, avoiding burnout requires more than a time management solution. It’s also looking at different facets of our energy, how we’re generating it, and what’s draining us. It’s recognizing what we have control over, vs. our habitual default patterns of functioning. It’s taking a big picture view of who and how we want to be, and what’s going to best fuel ourselves to create those states of being. When we make the space to step back and answer these questions for ourselves, it’s like time magically expands.
What inspired you to write Ignition?
I’ve been a lover of books, reading and learning since childhood, for as long as I can remember. I’ve kept a journal since I was fifteen. Writing a book has been on my bucket list for a while: for me, I needed to find a topic for which I was sufficiently passionate to devote the space to write a book about it. Given my specialty is working with professional women concerned about their energy and burnout, plus I often present on this topic and write about it in my newsletter, this was a perfect fit for my book’s subject matter. Knowing I can’t personally work with or speak to every possible person who could use this information, I wrote Ignition as a way of reaching and helping more people.
How did being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis impact your health coaching career and your decision to write about burnout in Ignition?
I was diagnosed with MS three years before I launched my health coaching practice, Priority Wellness. At the time of my diagnosis, I was doing marketing consulting and makeup artistry for my work, believe it or not. My diagnosis caused me to make several lifestyle changes to improve my health and vitality, and avoid burning myself out, as excess stress can increase the chances of future MS flare-ups. Health and wellness became increasingly important to me personally, so much so that I decided to change my career and get trained and certified as a health and wellness coach. When I first started my practice in 2008, my primary focus was stress management. While stress is still one of the top areas I cover, my main specialty has evolved to helping others manage and elevate energy and avoid burnout. This series of events made the topics of energy and burnout a natural fit for my first book, with self-help/personal development being the perfect genre.
Why did you decide to let the reader chose their own path through Ignition, vs. recommending they read it in traditional linear fashion from start to finish?
This decision came about while revising the first draft of my manuscript. I learned the hard way that trying to write a step-by-step linear prescriptive formula wasn’t going to be the most effective or realistic for addressing a wide audience. I also wanted the reader’s experience to mirror a health coaching engagement as closely as possible. Recognizing that my clients have some areas in which they’re already strong and others with opportunities for improvement, that’s when the lightbulb went off for me. Plus, my editor suggested moving the main figure, the Burnout-Proofing Dashboard, from the back toward the front of the book. With this illustration now at the beginning, I’d first present the essential elements I’ve found necessary for creating energized, burnout-proof living, and instruct the reader to self-assess their current quality level for each of these areas. From there, they choose the corresponding chapters to read, depending on the areas they want to develop. Similar to a health coaching engagement, the reader selects what elements they feel ready to focus on, which drives the paths they take.
What is the best way for someone to start creating better energy and burnout-proof ways of living?
Press pause, and then get into action. As I often say, your health and wellness is a tool to achieve whatever it is that’s important to you. Once you decide you’re ready for better energy and burnout-proof ways of living, ask yourself why attaining that way of being is so important to you. Aim to come up with five whys: as you choose each why, ask what’s important about that why for you, and so on, until you get to the fifth. Those later whys tend to be the deepest/most compelling. Keeping your desired state of health, who and what you aspire to be and do respectively, and whys top of mind, use them as your springboard to get started. Take one action to create space, generate uplifting energy, reduce an energy drain’s downward pull, or ask for help.
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