Health and WellnessQ&A

Five Questions with Coach Jennifer Schmidt

by Earl Walton

Jennifer Schmidt poses for a photo.Jennifer Schmidt is the owner of Ignite Health Coaching and Wellness, where she supports active humans who are depressed or anxious to heal their bodies and minds so they can feel like themselves again. She also takes on a few athletes each year to optimize sport performance. Ignite supports individuals virtually from across the globe.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Professionally, I am a Recreation Therapist, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and owner of Ignite Health Coaching and Wellness. In my free time, I am an avid off-road triathlete (age group) and spend my free time training or doing something to better myself as a person and athlete. I live and train in the Canadian Rockies.

What gets you excited about the work you do?

I am a total physiology nerd and am fascinated by how much control we have over our bodies and minds. I find that people struggling with mental health feel powerless. The approach I take shows people how much control they actually have and puts them back in the driver's seat. It never gets old seeing how much someone can accomplish when they are allowed to take the steering wheel again.

The holidays are upon us and there is a big focus on our mental health. We are a community of athletes, what should we be thinking about?

Adjusting routines to your current demands is key. Notice I didn’t say ditch your routines completely. Acknowledge that your routine is going to change during the holidays. Choose a few small “non-negotiables” that bring you the most peace, and stick to it, even on the busiest days. I commit to at least 5 minutes of conscious breathing in the morning before I leave my bedroom and face people.

Tell me about Christmas Trees.

Imagine you’re having a social gathering. You’re sitting in a circle chatting but there’s a luscious Christmas tree in the middle of the circle. It’s pretty hard to talk to most of the people in the circle with this tree in the way. This tree represents your stress. It interferes with your life. What can you do to improve your ability to converse with others in the circle (i.e. reduce the impact of stress)?

First, you can cut off all the branches so it’s just the trunk left. It’s not perfect, but it’s better! This is like coping with your stress. The stressor (i.e. the tree) is still there but you can live your life with minimal interference. Coping strategies are things like exercise, meditation or relaxing in the bath.

Your second option is to cut down the tree and move it out of the circle. There’s still probably a stump but it has minimal effect on your conversation. Removing the tree is stress management. You do something to remove the stressor from your life. Now, this isn’t always possible, which is why we also have coping strategies. However, we often feel trapped and hopeless in our stress, so I’d challenge you to do as you do in triathlon - control the controllables - and see if there are things (such as your mindset and behaviours) that can remove or heavily reduce the impact the stress has on your life.

Final thoughts?

Mental illness isn’t a brain problem. It’s a body problem that shows up as mental symptoms. We need to do more than just treat the mind to be mentally well. So all of those things you already know to take care of your physical health - eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, stressing less - also impact your mental health. Put as much commitment and consistency into your mental health as you do into triathlon and you’ll be well on your way to feeling mentally stable and showing up as your best self in every part of your life.

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