Show Notes:

Welcome to Hello Rebecca Ray, our collective home for courage, growth, and human to human connection. I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Ray, human, clinical psychologist, author, and educator. I know only too well how fear, comparison, and self-doubt can stifle your potential. This podcast is all about brave and meaningful living, and how you can make your authentic contribution to the world today and everyday.

Rebecca Ray 
Lovely ones Welcome to Hello Rebecca Ray the Podcast. Today I’m really excited to chat to Vinita Smith. Vinita is a health and wellbeing strategist and behaviour change coach, facilitator and presenter. She helps clients who feel exhausted, overwhelmed or burnt out to rest and recover. She then assists them uncover and change behaviours that may be impacting their health using evidence based health coaching in combination with mind, body and breath practices. She also works with organisations and healthcare professionals so they can help support their patients. Vanita’s mission is to help us feel like human beings as opposed to doings, I think, in business and healthcare so we can improve and sustain our health and wellbeing. Welcome to the show Vinita.

Vinita Smith 
Thank you. It’s great to be on and have a chat.

Rebecca Ray
Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to actually dive into your brain. Can we start off with your journey to becoming a health behaviour coach?

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, great question. I’ve always had a lifelong curiosity about human behaviour and health and how our bodies work. And if you, I suppose a crunch point when I had my own health crisis, and burnt out and I went, I need to find answers and really dug down to how do you change behaviours, because some of those changes I needed to make to improve my health meant, you know, overcoming some lifelong habits and things, so I wanted to find out how I could do it. And then it was like, well, how and why does it work? So yeah, I really want to understand on a psychological physiological level to really help me sustain those changes.

Rebecca Ray
And was your health crisis both psychological and physical? Or did it just start out seeming like it was physical and then you realised it had psychological elements as well? How did that work?

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, it was probably physiological. My body was giving me strong signals that you know, I was pushing myself beyond you know, its limits but I just kept going it kept going the stoic you know soldier pushing through it and, and with it to a point then when my body literally, I was in a health crisis. Okay, actually, this is this is burnout. What burnout feels like, I felt depleted. How do I overcome it? So yeah, that I suppose that psychological element came after the physical.

Rebecca Ray
And how long did it take you to recover?

Vinita Smith 
If I’m really honest, probably 12-18 months. So slowly but surely, like there was changes immediate put in place, but when I started to really peel it back, it took quite a while. Just things like the simple brain fog and, and complications of being ill. And then yeah, just getting to a point I felt like I could be honest myself again. Yeah, it was probably a good 12-18 months.

Rebecca Ray
Yeah, amazing. And so that lead you into health behaviour coaching, it was kind of that way point in your journey that really piqued your interest. Is that how you arrived here?

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, I’ve worked for us in strategy and innovation and trying to help with with change and an organisational level and sure, I guess I brought those skill sets in to then help me go okay, well, how do I, what’s the bigger picture for me moving?

Rebecca Ray
If I’m the CEO of my own life, then how do I affect change?

Vinita Smith 
What do I do? This is this is potentially the trajectory right now. And even if I did what you know, what it looks like now, so I kind of Yeah, I took that time to step back and really reflect and, and that I suppose as a 12-18 months that changed as well. So and kind of, you know, to where I felt comfortable because the more I realised, it wasn’t just mindset, there was a physical element to it. There’s so much our body tells us that we don’t really like I’ve learned to ignore. I kind of was trying to learn the tools and understanding of how to understand that? And then that helped me with longer term behaviour change. If that makes sense?

Rebecca Ray
Absolutely. Yeah, it really does. So what does a typical day look like for you now that you’re a health behaviour coach or strategist? What are you on a daily basis? Are you consulting with people? Are you going into organisations? What’s a typical day like now?

Vinita Smith 
It’s like I do facilitating some lifestyle medicine programmes. And I also just worked with clients actually doing everything and the full spectrum, which is, it could be that they really do want to sit down and kind of look back and strategize, you know what, where they want to be. And then, but also even beyond, before that, I help them rest because so many of us are actually, in that fast flow, we need that time to sit down and pause and reflect. And even for myself, I found that difficult because I was always on the go. So that actually sit still was incredibly hard. So kind of it, there’s tools, I help people to kind of sit in that rest, and then even retrain their breathing patterns. Because typically, I didn’t realise, for sickly in the lead up to burnout, my breathing patterns change, because I was always on the go in adrenaline. And that would become habitual, that even when I was outside of an environment, it’s still continued. And it was impacting my health.

Rebecca Ray
I feel like you’re describing me at various times in my career, and so many women I know, like, I feel like you’re describing like this whole generation of women that are just trying to get by and do all the things.

Vinita Smith 
So, yeah, so I’ve dealt with breathing and like looking at breathing patterns and habits. And as well, yeah, but then breaking down to the, I guess I call the tactics, the habits and behaviours, I kind of once you’ve done that front end work, then how do you begin tactics, because one of the things I do notice is we we tend to be tactical, when it comes to our health, we kind of jump on the the thing that we think’s gonna work as the solution, or we jump on the trend. And we’re not quite sure how it works. But we know it’s worked for 20 other people. But yeah, so kind of helping people step back. Because that strategy, experiment, play with it. And then you bring in that long term sustainable change.

Rebecca Ray
So what are the challenges or struggles that you’re commonly, actually this is a two part question, I want to know how do people know that they need you? How do people get to you in the first place? For help. Like what shows up in their functioning that that then allows them to think, well, I need someone to help coach me through this process of change? And what are the changes that you’re seeing clients present with wanting to make? So what are the struggles and challenges that the vast majority of your clients are showing up with?

Vinita Smith 
It’s like, no one typically will come to do behaviour change first, because everyone is absolutely everyone does the best in the circumstances and what life throws in there and and, and often people don’t even know something more like, like, what I do exists. That’s where I kind of went that step back and looked at what how do I help people wrist? How do I help them? You know, notice things like breathing patterns? Because that’s kind of mean something immediate, that they can notice and say, okay, well, that’s, maybe that’s the starting point. Because we think we’re in that hustle culture is that we were always on and that ability to rest or the word self care, kind of, it gets that sort of, you know, that visceral feeling at the back when you say self care, but how do we just help learn rest?

Rebecca Ray
So people are coming to you depleted in the first place, and you’re giving them permission to rest and strategies to be able to implement that rest into their daily I guess lives? But how are they, why are they depleted in the first place? Like why, are they coming to you because other markers of a health markers are showing up? And they think, oh I should probably deal with that? And then you’re seeing that they’re actually burnt out?

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, it’s combination of both. It might be that there is some health markers there that the doctors saying that there’s the blood pressure or there’s the weight gain or they’re feeling stressful, their mental health and it’s, there could be there’s physiological symptoms that could bring bring them to look at solutions or it could be just the feeling burnt, though that burn burnout. So it’s like, they’re not, they’re not quite at that point where they’re at that mental illness, and what support but they just know that they’re in the grind, but they don’t know, they’re kind of too tired to know how to get to the next point. Because, as you know, when you’re in fight flight, and you’re seeing this, to create behaviour change, it’s incredibly hard. So if we create that safe environment and a bit of wrist, it then opens up your ability to think more clearly innovate, be curious, and play and kind of fun to find new solutions.

Rebecca Ray
So it’s almost like you’re playing the role of detective to help people find out what’s not working for them and starting at the foundations of how you rebuild someone.

Vinita Smith 
And I think one thing I noticed with so many clients is that there are so many things they are doing well, yeah, right. But actually, they just when they hear someone reflect it back to them, they actually lied, like they don’t there’s so many things I do on a subconscious or unconscious level, that and then you take those strengths, and you actually build on it. So it’s sort of a slightly different approach.

Rebecca Ray
Working with what somebody’s already got in place, rather than having to add a million different things that they then need to think about doing.

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, so like, a great example. I can give as a client, she actually was constantly just thought that she had to go to this gym than that she was retired, but she was close to retiring and she goes I gotta get to the gym. And then it because you know that whole, you know, you got to access three times a week and stuff. And she became fixated that that was she needed to. But then when she actually stepped back and looked at what she really value, which was connection, and the slowdown, she actually realised that no, she actually enjoyed going to the yoga classes. thing. She didn’t recognise the gardening, she did couple of times a week was physical activity and all these other incidental things, adding up, but she just became fixated that the gym because she wasn’t doing that gym component. She wasn’t recognising the positives of what she was doing, then we’ve built on that, how she got through and worked through that to then build on other strategies to help her overcome some of the challenges she wants to work on.

Rebecca Ray
Amazing, I love how you can shine a light on what already exists. Because I think sometimes, I certainly found that when I was in clinical practice, that people would come along, feeling not good enough already. And feeling like you would have to give them some huge treatment plan to make some kind of change in their lives. And yet, the small changes can really make a difference if those changes are done consistently. So where would you start Vinita if someone came to you with a whole series of unhealthy habits that they wanted to change into healthy habits, where would you start with that?

Vinita Smith 
You’ve got to meet the client where they’re at. And you kind of got to play around with things like as you’d be filming with motivational interviewing. Yeah, and just kind of just as an okay, let’s see your appetite for change in this particular area. And it might be they rumble and they’re not quite ready was that one. But then to build efficacy, there’s something else that’s more a low hanging fruit that then builds on and then from that it might be then a little bit later come back in and go okay, well, what’s your appetite for this area, but you gradually all these habits are actually building on that bigger picture of where and how they want to be.

Rebecca Ray
So you’re starting with something that feels a little easier for the client rather than perhaps the the bigger, unhealthy habit that they want to tackle but aren’t quite ready to wrap their head around right now.

Vinita Smith 
Yeah. And so like, you know, it might be, you know, example, it might be smoking, smoking might be really too, too hard. But if there’s other areas of health that you unless again, with innovation comes in, because if you look at all the things that can help so if they feel more appetite for working on this sleep issues, or their exercise, or you know what, for example, one client was simply about how much water they drank. That was important, because that then all fit into part of the reasons the habit of smoking might have started in the first place and then gradually that other habit starts to go to lose its effect and fought in a stranglehold, I guess on the person.

Rebecca Ray
Absolutely. We’ve spoken recently about your incredible transformation from being a committed coffee drinker to now drinking decaf. Can you talk us through how that happened, how it went and why you did it in the first place? And then could we perhaps talk about my own coffee commitment issues? Well, actually, my issues are, but I’m very committed now.

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, we bonded on this.

Rebecca Ray
I bet so I’m very interested. How do you do it? And why did you do it? And then how?

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, so I, my coffee habit started when I was 18 working in a cafe. I was a barista and so having the 6am coffee was you know what literally got me as a uni student or work in the morning. And it just it that was it was it built in everything from a comfort thing? I’m tired thing and again, this is when I actually I needed to stop there. But I kind of explored the reasons why I drank it, I kind of I lost sight of why I had drank it and I joked for years, my husband would drink decaffeinated soy latte, I get that that’s a no point latte, like what’s the point. So and then, when I had that health crisis, particularly of what I had to go through and the therapy, there was just no way I could drink caffeine that my body just didn’t need.

Rebecca Ray
That’s what prompted the change? It got to the point where you were like, if I continue using caffeine in this way, it’s actually going to undo the changes that I’m trying to make?

Vinita Smith 
And it wasn’t so much the caffeine, it was the fact that was dairy. Because I had an autoimmune condition. And I needed to and from my own knowledge, I knew what were things I could do to reduce inflammation in my body and dairy was one of them I knew that I could do so. And then I was like, stop, I could drink soy milk that is just and then it was okay, well, I’m not at that time working. I’m not needing to wake up early and stuff like that, but I still needed that comfort factor that that cup of given everyone so it was literally like this cathodic I look like a duck but it wasn’t a duck anymore feeling and that’s when I okay, I don’t want to give up that ritual. But I don’t actually need these other things I was, you know, had probably been drinking and look I’ve gone through different phases now where I look at it in the bigger picture. And I do have one cup that’s with soy milk. But I know that in the bigger picture of all the other things that I do is my help. It’s not the be all and end all it gives me these benefits and and that might change again. And there’s days I don’t drink it. I just I don’t feel the need I have to drink it. I’m breaking that habit. So it just took me I guess that curiosity and just playing around with it to really understand what what the benefit was and and then okay, what could I do to ensure that same benefit? To replace that habit?

Rebecca Ray
I feel like you’re talking about me. So this is really interesting, because you’re describing something I didn’t actually have words for prior to this conversation. So coffee for me is not about coffee. It’s not about caffeine. I don’t go I’m so tired I need a coffee, just doesn’t, caffeine has never worked like that for me. It’s about ritual. And it’s about comfort. And it’s actually a bribery tool. My caffeine habits started when I was I think I was in high school, I started drinking cups of tea. But it became very ingrained when I was studying, particularly when I was doing my professional doctorate. So I remember writing my thesis too, which you can imagine is just dry and laborious and my brain doesn’t love writing anyway. Hi, I’m a professional author, this is my job. And yet my brain doesn’t love it. Love the outcome, not necessarily the process. And so I learned the strategy, have another cup of tea both gives me a break, I have to walk away from the word document on the screen. But it also acted as this way of being able to convince myself to do the next paragraph or the next section. And over time, tea has become coffee. And it’s acted in other ways that aren’t helpful. So, because the it’s filling, because I have dairy milk in it. So it’s filling, I can get away with not eating because it acts almost like a meal replacement. I don’t use it consciously as a meal replacement. It just happens that way. And so I have developed this relationship with this cup. That is not about the coffee. Do you know what I mean? Like it’s, and yet every time I’ve tried to change it to something that’s not coffee. I haven’t quite hit on the thing that does the job of the coffee. I don’t know whether that makes sense. But looking for I don’t want the ritual to end because the ritual helps me do hard things. So I feel like I do need that I find the ritual soothing, I find it comforting. I find it relaxing. But I haven’t actually hit on what do I put in the cup? That has the same impact in terms of feeling comforting, but doesn’t necessarily have the negative impact on my health?

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, so firstly, it’s great that you become curious about it, like you have kind of we’ve explored as you know, what is driving it what, what the need actually was in the first place, like you said, it was the energy, which and that’s the same like I recently a few months ago, I actually had to do some work overnight was in the US and whatnot. And I really needed the caffeine and then and then I went, oh my God. Yeah, I really was tired for a long time. I now know why I needed it. So yeah, like, you explore a new realised thing, but like you said, you you realise there’s so many other things there so how do you experiment with finding solutions that are gonna replace those feelings? That might be, you know, habits that you have so it could be like, if I was to say, you look, what else would help you feel like you’re having a break? Like, yeah, it could be, you know, we rattle off 10 things there that you could experiment with? And then the other could be that, well, how else do you know, there’s also the fact that you saying that it’s a break for you as well. So as I heard, there’s a couple of things there that it actually satisfies as a need. So kind of how do you break those down? And then let’s play around with what things could work to replace that or, you know, is is the, you know, a simple act of replacing the caffeine or like, yeah, what is it about the actual drink? Yeah. So there’s areas there that you could play with and I guess, saying that, is there anything that jumps to mind to you that you could you think, yeah, I could have a bit of a play around with it over the next week?

Rebecca Ray
So one of the things that shows up for me is that there have been things that have kind of worked. And it depends on the time of day, so I don’t drink coffee at night, because obviously, I’m not interested in stuffing up my sleep. But I have, there’s a brand of hot chocolate called avalanche, which it doesn’t have a whole stack of calories in it and actually tastes really quite good and I don’t need to have it with milk. And I’ve found that if I have that in the evening, then it it helps to meet the need of needing something sweet. But during the day, I’ve also tried flavoured tea, which acts as a warm, it’s got to be warm so the drink has to be warm to do the to be part of the ritual it can’t be a cold drink just doesn’t work. For some reason, it doesn’t provide the same level of comfort so I could try flavoured tea. I could try the avalanche. And what I’m now thinking when you talk about the other, I’m trying to think of the other functions of the behaviour. So there are multiple functions. If I’m writing then it’s bribery. You can have another cuppa if you sit in the chair longer and do the thing you know write the next 500 words or whatever. If it’s in the afternoon, it’s usually a break. So my brain is seeking something out away from the office, something that’s non work related. So what I’m thinking about that is, perhaps I need to introduce a new behaviour there that is break. Like, I’m going to need to think about that though, because it might need to have some comfort. But I’m just now thinking about all the things that this cup does. And it’s not just, there are times I drink it, because I drink it not because I need it. So there’s that too. So I noticed that I might make a cuppa first thing in the morning, but actually, I’m not doing anything hard first thing in the morning, so there’s actually no reason for me to be having it them. So maybe I need to get a bit more mindful around that.

Vinita Smith 
Which is great. And that’s a building on what you’ve already done. Which that curiosity. Maybe the first step is to actually over the next week, kind of is a few areas there that were kind of opened the box on. So how to then use those mindful tools to kind of get okay, what am I noticing when I’m having this cup? I heard you say, there seems to be a heat comfort in the drink. There’s a level of sweetness in that. What things, I mean, there’s some physiological things there. Yeah, you’re feeling but also, like you said, that break component as well. And it could be just playing around with just one time of the day like, don’t feel that it’s you can’t try to fit all in every time you have a break. Look at one and kind of sit back and have fun was that and kind of go those curiosity and patience and those tools and strengths. See what comes out of it. And then you then we kind of have to sit back and talk about it to say okay, well, what, what did we learn? And how can we build on?

Rebecca Ray
So I’ll go into an investigation mode, but you don’t want me to change, like, I would have three cups of coffee a day because I’m writing a book right now. So there’s always more, I always drink more coffee when I’m writing book. And I’m writing big books. The the level of mental pressure is high.

Vinita Smith 
We don’t want this to feel like pressure again. It’s like, alright, if we break it down, Break it down to something really small. And that you walk away and you feel it. I can do I feel comfortable doing this over next week. So it was one action to take away for over the next week. And we came back what what feels comfortable right now in in that mix?

Rebecca Ray
I think what would feel comfortable is changing that first cup that has no, it’s got no function other than habit. I just do it because I do it not because I actually feel like I need it. So I think that would be the easiest one to look at to be mindful of the feeling around that and perhaps be instead like, actually drink some water and eat food rather than just filling my stomach with empty calories because that’s just what I would do and then not need to eat for hours because of what’s in that cup.

Vinita Smith 
So I just noticed the sensations, what’s the signals your body’s telling you? In that moment.

Rebecca Ray
I know in the morning it’s not the signals are not all I need a coffee. Like it’s not the same as when I’m writing and I think oh my god if I’m gonna attack tackle this chapter, I cannot do it unless I get up and make a copy go like is this real psychological desperation around it so that that first one is easiest to play with.

Vinita Smith 
And with that, then you’ll you’ll build on that self efficacy and as you know with habit change you’ll get that dopamine reward because you’re going on that one step to finding out you know the solution that’s going to work for you.

Rebecca Ray
Yes, absolutely. Random question as I do this how did you cope with caffeine withdrawal when you made the change or did you do it so gradually that you didn’t really notice.

Vinita Smith 
I went cold turkey. It was literally like that week when I was in hospital I went that’s it. It’s done it it wasn’t as bad as I thought in terms like there was but what I noticed for me and was over about a week the brain fog lifted. So although the caffeine the weight the dairy component and because of the inflammation I could feel the list the brain fog and wow. So it wasn’t it for me biggest impact was changing from the dairy to the soy than the impact of changing caffeine to non caffeine.

Rebecca Ray
Got it. Okay. I’m excited to try this because I feel like not having brain fog, despite the fact that I have been actually been sick. So I thought it was related to that. But maybe I’ll get more mental clarity by even just making that one step. So let me try it and report back.

Vinita Smith 
Yeah, that’d be fantastic. I look forward to it. And hearing it unfold.

 

Rebecca Ray
Yes, absolutely. Let’s see, there’s an adventure. Where can people find more of you Vinita?

Vinita Smith 
So I have a website called ayubowanhealth.com. So it’s a word Abel on as a greeting. That means I wish you a long life. And I’m on LinkedIn. And you’re also looking at blogging, more blogging, I don’t have any other social media handles that I am on regularly so yeah, that’s the best way to find me.

Rebecca Ray
LinkedIn is the best way to find you. Alright, just pop over and check out Vinita’s work if you’re also like me, and thinking that you want to perhaps make some changes. Thank you so much for being with me today Vinita and I can’t wait to catch up with you again. Maybe in a week or two, and we’ll discuss what progress I make.

Vinita Smith 
Sounds awesome. I look forward to it.

Rebecca Ray
Thanks Vinita.

Lovely ones, thank you so much for listening to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you got something meaningful from this episode, and the most meaningful thing you can do is jump on over to wherever you listen to your podcast episodes and leave a review. Because it’s those reviews that help this podcast stay here. Make sure to subscribe, and if you’re generous enough to share this episode, thank you so much. I love seeing your shares on social media. So please tag me, catch you next time.