Me & My Other Self – A Health Coach Blog

A bit about me!

I’m Chris a wellbeing coach for local communities. I work for
Everyone Active and support the development of health pathways
working alongside local partners within 20 local authority areas. I’ve
had the pleasure of working within the leisure and fitness industry
for the past 20 years.

Over the past few years, I’ve qualified as an exercise referral
practitioner as well as specialist qualifications in cardiac, cancer,
obesity and diabetes, muscular-skeletal conditions, and mental
health. In addition to this, I have further developed my skills in
teaching Pilates, yoga, and meditation, as well as motivational
interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy.

I’m extremely passionate about mental health and I regularly
undertake challenges to raise funds for local and national charities.
In all this, my family is undoubtedly the most important factor in
why I do what I do. It’s what keeps me active and healthy, however,
it wasn’t always like that…………..

Good health….it wasn’t
always like that.

Prior to the pandemic life was fast and intense. My wife’s mum
passed away with pancreatic cancer and her dad had just been
diagnosed with a long-term illness. Keeping it all together was tough
for the family, let alone what was just around the corner.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit everyone hard which had an
unprecedented impact on all communities. In the summer of 2020, I
was working in a role to support the mobilisation of a new leisure
centre. The community expectation was that the facility would open
at the end of July, however, there was a lot of work for that to

Despite some challenges we successfully opened the facility on the
25th of July 2020. However, despite the excitement the build-up had
taken its toll on my wellbeing.

In August 2020 a few weeks after opening I collapsed at work. I was
helped by a colleague but refused an ambulance. Weeks leading up
to the collapse I had been experiencing blips, but given the time of
year I put it down to heat exhaustion. Soon after I collapsed I
realised I was having problems with my speech, coordination, and
lack of movement. I knew I wasn’t well so contacted my dad who
took me to the hospital. After being in the hospital for 3 days the
probable diagnosis by the consultant was a suspected Trans
Ischemic Attack (TIA), which is a clinical way of describing a mini-

At the time I thought “Okay, I can get passed this, I’m fortunate it’s
not a significant stroke or worse’. Several days passed by and the
physical effects subsided, but what I wasn’t expecting was the level
of chronic anxiety and depression I was about to experience. I had
never experienced mental health challenges before, so I wasn’t
prepared on how to tackle it. I was in complete denial about what
happened, I was embarrassed and certainly didn’t want professional
help or help from anyone else for that matter. At the time I wasn’t
thinking straight, but this wasn’t fair to my family. I started to close
off from my friends, so I didn’t go out much or speak with anyone.
At the time I thought this was for the best, but I couldn’t work out if
it was helping me or making me worse, I just knew I wasn’t right.

I eventually swallowed my pride and made a self-referral to a local
health service and in addition, my wife suggested I speak with a
local therapist. This was the start of my journey, but it felt like it
wasn’t even scratching the surface. The longer I didn’t feel right the
more frequent I would have anxiety attacks and little outbursts. I
went on walks not really knowing where I was going, constantly
thinking my wife and the little boy didn’t deserve the behaviour that
had consumed me. On one occasion I walked in the sun for that
long I ended up with sunstroke!

It wasn’t until some weeks later that I felt my mental health was
starting to impact my relationship with my wife and little boy who
was five at the time. I broke down and asked my wife what I needed to do to become myself again.
We sat down and created a
mind map of short-, medium-, and long-term goals. We looked at
strategies and ways of achieving each goal. I became an open book,
and books it was I read! The first book which helped me understand
my mind and perspective was the ‘Chimp Paradox’ by Steven Peter’s.
We looked at a number of lifestyle factors like stopping alcohol
consumption, reduction in caffeine, change in exercise intensity and
diet. I also started to practice meditation, and gratitude, and work
on my sleep routine. I started to engage with others again which
gave me back my confidence. However, the most important change
was the amount of quality time spent with my family without the
worry of other commitments.

This was 3 years ago, and I feel so much closer to the person I want
to be. I certainly don’t judge myself or put any expectations on it.
It’s where I am today and that’s good enough for me. I’m still on a
journey, possibly still recovering, and maybe always will be.
However, my well-being is in the place I want it to be. I’m sure I will
naturally have my ups and downs, but I have all the tools to remind
me of who I am and my purpose in life.

What did I learn from the experience?

If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. I would also argue
that having good mental health beats physical health any day of the
week. On reflection I didn’t look after myself, I prioritised all the
wrong things and that included the things I should have done for my
family. Although I felt I was doing the right things, I was trying to
be someone else and that meant brushing vulnerabilities under the
carpet. I discovered the mind can only take so much, and that we all
have our own mental capacity. The mind is complex and completely
individual. It can’t and more importantly should not be compared
with someone else’s.

To achieve the level of well-being desired it needs to be approached
in a more holistic sense. I use the ‘four facets of wellbeing’ model
which focuses on ‘movement, nutrition, mindset, rest/recovery, and

Sleep and mindset contributed to 70% of my weekly goals with
movement and nutrition 30%. Sleep was critical in my recovery, and
I prioritise sleep every day. It’s not appreciated how good sleep is
and it’s totally underrated. The mindset was all about re-wiring the
brain activity. This meant understanding perspective, expectations,
prioritisation, and living in the present. Past hypothetical worry
brought on so much stress, and in truth, none of the things I was
worrying about had actually happened. I learnt how to manage
those emotions and prepare with perspective in those situations.
The final combination of lifestyle changes was the way I moved and what I ate on a daily basis.

A great deal of support came from social connections. One of the
key aspects was ‘listening’ and ‘learning’ from others and their own
journeys. That engagement was paramount to the improved
emotional well-being, confidence, and self-worth. It allowed me to
find my purpose in life which was to focus on my family and begin to
serve my community with the knowledge and experience I had
gained. I was now more ready to help others……

My Purpose

My purpose is to support my family to the best of my ability and
embrace life’s opportunities so I can learn and serve others. I want
to engage with people who have a similar passion to mine so that
we can work together to identify pathways to support community

I enjoy connecting with our communities and understanding the
genuine challenges, thoughts, and feelings to assist with providing
person-centred care across effective lifestyle changes. My objective
is to help individuals build the confidence to take ownership of their
own choices and improve health and well-being.

I want to improve my health, where do I start?

I could write an open-ended blog on this, however, there are four
areas an individual could reflect on when deciding what changes
they would like to make:


How do you move each day? Could you increase your ‘Active Daily Living’ by increasing the level of walking,
cycling, and running you do? This could be to and from work, or
when going to the shops. Time is often an issue, but can you do
5 – 10 minutes of functional movement each day? I always
recommend the 30 seconds on and 30 seconds rest principle with
functional exercises such as squats, lunges, and jogging on the


A good start is being mindful about what you’re
eating every day. Making a food diary for the first 7 days will give
you an idea of the type of foods, the quantity, and how this
makes you feel. A general rule of thumb is to refer to the NHS
Eatwell Plate and portion food so that you have the correct
amount of fibre, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and minerals that
YOU need for your lifestyle.


Life is stressful, with lots of demands, and instant
communication, which can become overwhelming for some. My
recommendation is to carefully look at your weekly diary, set
some rules and don’t compromise. To be the person you want to
be both mentally and physically, then self-care is a vital part of
the process. Traditional meditation isn’t for everyone, but doing
something that focuses your mind and makes you feel good is
certainly a good approach to mindset.


“This is the best life insurance policy you could ever
have!” This is a quote from Dr Matthew Walker, and given the
science behind what sleep does for your health, I’m sure if you
knew you’d definitely be doing more of it. The best place to start
is to understand how long you sleep each night. Try to aim for
7-9 hours of sleep as this will help with consistency. You can
then start to adopt ‘early evening routines’ which will help
enhance the quality of your sleep. The 7pm rule includes no
exercise or food after this time which helps reduce the stimulant
and allows sleep pressure to build.

Where to find help

There are many places you can get help from professionals and
community connectors. The most obvious one is visiting your GP and
getting the right direction for managing your health. In recent times
services such as social prescribing has been a fantastic support
mechanism for those who have less clinical needs such as emotional
and financial well-being, and long periods of isolation from society.

Some locations host peer support groups, warm/safe spaces, and
talking groups which help connect individuals and help signpost to
other services.

Leisure centres, sports clubs, and community centres all host a
variety of activities which bring people together. Try researching
your local community facilities to find out what’s going on and how
you can get involved.

Lastly, if you do have time then please take a look at some of my
‘Walk & Talk’ vlogs which highlight common mental and physical
health issues, and how people can tackle these in their everyday
lives. You can find them by visiting my YouTube page Chris Duncan
the Wellbeing Coach or accessing via the link or QR code.

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog
and I wish you all a healthy and happy future.

Chris Duncan

The Wellbeing Coach


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