I had the pleasure of interviewing Noelle Cordeaux, CEO and co-founder of JRNI, a coach training program and coaching collective. She is also a feminist scholar, coach, speaker, and sexologist who specializes in the relationship with the self. She has carved out a unique niche in the world of coaching, combining positive psychology with clinical sexology to help her clients gain true progress. Noelle holds a B.A. in Literature from Rutgers University and a Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! What is your backstory?
I am an accidental CEO. I stumbled upon the fields of coaching and applied positive psychology about 15 years ago and decided to become a coach. Looking back what I was really searching for were the tools that I needed to recover from my own difficulties: eating disorders, depression and a hard divorce at a young age. What ended up happening is that as I learned to coach and help others, I was able to help myself in profound ways. I am happy to report that I am now 100% recovered from eating disorders, I manage my depression in a healthy way, am happily remarried and have a career that I love in the field that I am truly passionate about.
With the holiday season almost over, many people have been visiting and connecting with relatives. While family is important, some of them can be incredibly challenging. How would you define the difference between a difficult dynamic and one that’s unhealthy?
Most families have some measure of difficult dynamics. Family systems are so unique in that the relational history spans generations and has so much mixed in from hopes and dreams to disappointment and yearning. A difficult family dynamic is one that is unpleasant. An unhealthy family dynamic is one that causes acute psychological anguish and sets you back.
Families have a large part to play in our overall mental health. While some members may be champions for wellness, others may trip triggers. What advice would you give about engaging both types of relatives?
Engaging in role-play ahead of time can be incredibly helpful in dealing with relatives who are triggering.
If you expect someone to be triggering there is a pretty strong chance that you can also determine how and why that might happen.
Work with a therapist, coach, or trusted friend to run through scenarios that have potential to be damaging and map out your response and/or exit strategy. “I love you, but please excuse me a minute,” is a perfectly acceptable way to end a convo and move to another space in the house.
We often hear about “toxic relationships.” Do you believe there is a difference between a toxic family and an unhealthy one? If so, how would you advise someone to handle a toxic family member?
Toxic and unhealthy are pretty much the same thing. Either way there is something that exists in the relationship between you and that family member that causes pain. Note that I put the relationship in its own category separate from family member one and family member two. Externalizing the problem as “the relationship,” rather than personalizing the problem as “the family member,” can lead to more compassionate engagement. You can’t change the person but you can change the relationship.
Can you share about a time where you helped someone overcome a challenging family member?
I had a client who once told me her mother would reject her if she lost weight. We spent a good amount of time role playing around what would happen when this client went home for the holidays and showed off a new figure. The mom did reject the daughter but because we had gone through it so thoroughly the blow was expected and much less severe.
You really can’t overcome challenging family members but you can overcome how your related and respond to the pain they cause.
Managing mental health in high stress situations is challenging and although gatherings are only a few times a year, they can make a major impact on overall wellness. What 5 strategies do you suggest using to maintain mental health when faced with an unhealthy family dynamic?
- Drink water instead of wine. Staying hydrated and sober will just make you feel better overall and you will have better control over emotional reaction.
- Exercise. Fifteen minutes of cardiovascular energy packs a positive punch and it will boost your mood and bust a bad one.
- Give thanks. Gratitude is an applied positive intervention. Tell the people in your life why you are grateful for them, and what they mean to you.
- Get adequate sleep. Crankiness will exacerbate everything negative.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are human and doing the best you can.
What advice would you give to family members who are allies of someone struggling with mental illness at these gatherings? How can they support strong mental health without causing friction with other members of the family?
Work from a place of genuine compassion.
Assume that no one is trying to cause harm. Assume that everyone is experiencing difficulty alongside of each other and everyone is doing the best they can.
What is your favorite mental health quote? Why do you find it so impactful?
“Don’t make a permanent decision for your temporary emotion.” Not sure who to give credit to for this one but it is so very true. Emotions are temporary. Feelings are not facts. Know that your feelings and emotions will pass. Notice them and let them go.
If you could inspire a movement or a change in mental wellness, what would it be? How can people support you in this mission?
At JRNI Coaching we believe that there is no such thing as a broken human. We believe that all people are capable of change and are entitled to living their best lives. We provide cost effective coach training and community to support the helpers, the people who are on the front lines, serving and supporting others. You can find and join us at jrni.co
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
They can follow our journey on Instagram, @jrni_co and follow my writing at www.jrni.co!
Thank you this was so inspiring!