The whole-life makeover

Cora Coady, our Vichy Best Health Challenge winner, is on the road to finding balance in her life thanks to life coach Susan Biali

The whole-life makeover

Source: Best Health, Nov/Dec 2010. Photo by Michael Alberstat

Ask any new mother about balance, and there’s universal accord: Life goes completely off-kilter after the baby arrives. ‘I’ve neglected myself,’ admits Cora Coady, winner of the Vichy Best Health Challenge. ‘I find the days just disappear. Before Beatrix was born in February, I made time for myself, but now my life is about taking care of her, keeping her happy.’

But for Cora, taking care of herself is another story. That’s where Vancouver-based life coach, author and medical doctor Susan Biali comes in. She’s helping Cora take a look at the bigger picture of her life and get it in focus.

‘One of the greatest challenges for Cora, and for every new mom, is finding time for yourself, even if that means taking 10 minutes a day to read a book,’ says Susan. ‘Do the toys really need to be put away while the baby naps? Taking time to nurture yourself is more important than the little stuff, and it makes you a better mother.’

Susan and Cora have been corresponding regularly to help Cora, 29, tackle her life goals, and provide her with the tools that will help her overcome the obstacles in her path.

The first step was asking Cora to write down her goals. They include:
‘ Get her driver’s licence.
‘ Improve her financial situation and manage her debt load.
‘ Spend more time with her fiancé, family and friends.
‘ Take time to explore her interests including travel, photography and reading.

1. Learn to drive

Not having her licence has been holding Cora back in her daily life since she has had to rely on her fiancé, Dave, to drive her everywhere. ‘It would be nice to be able to get more groceries than can fit in the stroller,’ Cora says. But over the past decade, she has been busy: While at university, she worked three part-time jobs. Then she travelled to Thailand to teach ESL for two years. Back in Toronto, she completed an intensive one-year program at college to be an instructor with the blind and visually impaired. Then she took a full-time job with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.I haven’t had a lot of time in between to commit to getting my licence,’ explains Cora.

‘It’s a definable and realistic goal,’ says Susan. ‘Not only will a driver’s licence give her freedom and mobility, it will also help her achieve another goal’spending more time with her extended family, who all live at least an hour’s drive away from her.’

Cora and Susan then set up the steps for her to achieve that goal. The first one was to set a deadline’Cora chose to take the test in September, and though she didn’t pass the first time, the lessons greatly improved her driving skills, and she plans to retake the test before the end of the year. ‘Setting a time frame so that Cora had something to shoot for was vital,’ says Susan. ‘If you feel you have forever, you’re not going to take steps toward it, and may not realize your dream.’

2. Get finances on track

‘I don’t make very much money,’ Cora says, ‘but I love my job. My grandmother became blind in her 40s, so it is something I grew up with. Plus, I love the diversity’I have clients who range from children to seniors. The work is really rewarding, though not financially.’ Cora would love to one day own a home, pay down debt and have money to  afford good daycare, travel and have another child without too much financial worry.

‘She’s got a practical attitude when it comes to debt,’ says Susan. ‘But many people with debt make the mistake of thinking they have to deprive themselves to make their money stretch further, as opposed to thinking of other ways to bring money in.’

As a qualified ESL teacher, she says, Cora could teach one night a week and make a little extra money, which would relieve some of the financial stresses and get her out of the house. A tip Susan shares with her clients: ‘Many of us have skills’photography, language, music’that we could make a little extra money from. You just have to think outside the box.’

3. Improve relationships

Cora felt her life was most out of balance socially. For one thing, she had yet to forge any solid friendships with other new moms in her neighbourhood. Secondly, she and Dave hadn’t been out on a date in months. So Susan and Cora mapped out a plan. First, Cora would join a mom’s group’which she did immediately, going to an Ontario Early Years Centre. Next, she’d ask for more help from friends and family so she and Dave could go out now and then. Finally, she’d ask Dave for more help.

‘Before Beatrix was born, Cora prided herself on being self-sufficient, and she found it hard to ask for help,’ says Susan. ‘This was straining her relationship with Dave, as she felt solely responsible for her daughter’s care, even though he repeatedly offered to pitch in.’ Learning to ask for help is another goal Susan and Cora are tackling together. With every relationship, a baby adds a certain amount of stress, says Susan. ‘I want Cora and Dave to work together as a team, preserve their relationship and have it thrive’but they should not give up on their own needs.’

Cora has done a great job of turning things around thanks to her sessions with Susan. Once Cora started asking for what she needed, Dave began playing a more active role with Beatrix.. ‘Susan’s advice has helped me to realize life is far easier if I ask for help before I become overwhelmed,’ says Cora.

Find time for me

What about Cora’s passions and finding time for them? Travel is one of her greatest joys, but exotic trips aren’t in the budget right now. ‘The list of places I’d like to see is long: I’d love to explore more of Canada, New Orleans, Iceland, Hawaii and Europe,’ says Cora. She’d also like to explore a new hobby’photography’and make time once again for reading.

‘Cora is a real adventurer; she loves to see new places,’ says Susan. ‘She might not be able to travel right now, but she can honour those parts of herself. We can all do this by becoming tourists in our own town, city or province, and incorporating small adventures into our lives.’

Since taking on this challenge, Cora has had some ‘aha’ moments, too. ‘We have experimented with a number of small changes,’ says Susan, who gave Cora ‘homework’ such as buying a book to read purely for pleasure, and making a date with an old friend. ‘When Cora told me how much she enjoyed reading a novel cover-to-cover in under a week, and how having that time to herself made her feel about her life, it brought tears to my eyes.’

Getting the help of a life coach thanks to this Challenge ‘felt like I’d been given a fairy godmother’someone who could help me achieve the things I wanted to,’ says Cora. ‘It gave me someone I could talk with to get things off my chest. Being a stay-at-home mom can be isolating. Susan has helped me see things that were bothering me, and how important it is to have an escape valve in my own life.

Register for the Vichy Best Health Challenge to find more tips on how to live your healthiest life.