How to find answers within yourself- is it all in your head?

Is it all in your head?

Do you have so many thoughts sometimes that you cannot make a decision?  Or work out what the right answer is?  Does this lead to procrastination or not delivering on deadlines?  When you get like this do you become absent minded, forgetting basic things?  Do you sometimes second guess yourself?  Are there times when your mind is whizzing with ideas that you just can’t sleep?  Does it undermine your confidence and your belief in yourself and your ability?  Do these endless thoughts leave you feeling tired, irritable, unmotivated or unable to cope?  Sometimes, do you just not know what to do for the best?

These are really common situations that come up for me, friends, family and clients.  I think it is part of the human condition.  Sometimes you get to this place when your head is just SO full of stuff that you cannot think straight.  I call this “being in your head”.  Your awareness and focus are concentrated between your ears.  It feels like a loud and jumbled place in there and can often lead to headaches, tension in neck and shoulders and a sense that you are living in your head, not your body.

Is there an alternative?

This is a common way of living for most people.  In fact, when I suggest there is an alternative, people often seem surprised.  It rarely occurs to people that they could bring their awareness to other parts of their body and have it serve them to make decisions or have a sense about what to do next.

This habit that people have for “being in their heads” seems to come from our training to listen to our intellect ahead of anything else.  At school we are encouraged to think logically and rationally, rather than trust our intuition and follow our gut instinct about something.  When we move into working life, we often get jobs that have us sitting in front of a computer all day.  Our bodies barely move, while our minds are whirring with thoughts, ideas and concepts.  Over time this creates a greater and greater gap between mind and body.

What can Body Wisdom give you?

Yet you are more than a head.  And your body is more than a convenient transporter for your brain.  Sport at school that you may or may not take with you into adult life, helps to keep that connection between body and mind.  Even sport though does not necessarily build that awareness and sensitivity to your innate body wisdom.  Awareness of movement and body coordination are part of that body wisdom library of knowledge.  Yet your body is full of groups of nerve cells, not unlike your brain, that provide insight and awareness beyond your intellectual understanding.  Not all wisdom lies in the head.

You know about these sources of wisdom.  You use them in your everyday language all the time in English.  “I had a gut feeling about that.” You might say.  Or “My heart just isn’t in it anymore!”. “I feel it in my water” is another common expression.  “I don’t know how I know, I just know!” is something entrepreneurs and business leaders say from time to time.  Or that sense that a mother has about her infant child- no words are spoken, she just knows.  And us men, how often have you known there was going to be trouble at that party or pub?  We may experience it in many different ways.  The gift is to come to understand how your body uniquely communicates its wisdom to you and how you can use it to make your life even better.

The Second Brain is not in the head

Not all wisdom lies in the head.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could call upon other sources of intelligence and wisdom, that gave you insight about where you are right now in life, how you feel and therefore what the next step should be, whether to trust someone or not, to have clarity about what your next action could be, what to say next in a conversation, to know what best serves you, to keep you calm under pressure and react spontaneously and appropriately to life’s myriad situations?

The gut for example, known as “the second brain”, is a huge influencer and indicator of mood.  95% of the body’s serotonin (good mood, well-being and happiness neurotransmitter) is found in the gut.  Those gut feelings and butterflies in your stomach as well as that twitching feeling in your derriere, might well have valuable information for you if you paid attention.

According to Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., president and CEO of HeartMath LLC “the human heart, in addition to its other functions, actually possesses a heart-brain composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn and remember. The heart brain sends messages to the head brain about how the body feels and more.”

Breathing, relaxation and metaphor

When I am with a client who is confused or struggling to find the answer to an issue in their life, I will spend time with them connecting to the body rather than trying to work it out logically in the head.  Deep breathing and relaxing tension from muscles can help to shift the awareness and attention to the body.  Often, they become aware of feelings in the gut or the heart or even specific emotions showing up in the body in general.

Another way of accessing this body wisdom is to use metaphors.  Painting pictures in words can access insight and understanding that logic cannot touch.  I believe this is why there is prolific poetry from World War I.  Soldiers needed to find a way to process the horror of the battlefield and poetry was a useful way to express those feelings through metaphor.  Poets and song writers throughout time have done so to express sadness, joy, despair and rage.  It is part of who we are.

Going to the body for it’s wisdom leaves the head free to do what it does best.  Daily life is a dance between the head and the body.  Neither is right or wrong.  They each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Let the head do its logical and rational thing-its great for business strategising, number crunching and making sure you get to a meeting on time.  And let the body tell you what is really going on for you right now and point away from what makes you stressed, irritable and anxious and towards more of what makes you happy, enlivened, empowered and healthy.

Body Wisdom in Action

The next time you feel that confused or overwhelmed feeling that feels lie SUCH hard work to sort it out.  Step back, take a break, connect inward to the body and find the wisdom within.  Sometimes it is a whisper, other times it is a shout, or a feeling or even a movement or posture with the body that points the way to the answer.

My brother took his life 36 years ago today.  It left a huge gap in my life.  When I used to think about it, I had a crushing weight on my chest that made it hard to breath.  It was like I was struggling to live and be alive in the world.  I have to admit my life came to a stand still after his death.

Now I have come to terms with it much more and it is a driving force in my life.  As I write this, I can feel my heart expanding in its energy as I acknowledge the life directions I have taken as a direct result of his suicide.  It is still sad and there is great good that has come from it (you can learn more here in this video).

My body feels the difference and tells me I am well on my way to healing that wound.  My brain could not work that out- it is too caught up in the fear and the turmoil it creates.  The body gives me clarity and focus and tells me I am heading in the right direction.  Listen less to the head.  Logic cannot solve the troubles of the heart.

Over to You

Do you get caught up in your head?  Are you struggling to find the answer to your problems by racking your brains?  What happens when you bring your attention to your body instead?  Do you get the answers in words, feelings, pictures or sounds?  Do you find it easy to connect to your body?  Or do you struggle to make that connection?  I’d love to hear what methods you use.  What success do you have?  Where do you struggle?  Please comment in the box below and on social media.  I look forward to engaging with you on line and in- person.

Pass it on

If you know someone who is in their head a lot of the time, please pass this on to them.  They might be able to access wisdom and answers for themselves that have eluded them for years.  Please share and retweet the social media posts as well and spread the Light and Love.

Resilience- 15 things you can do to top up your Resilience Bank Account

I was recently asked to run a workshop for The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on resilience.  A dictionary definition of resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.  The concern was that employees have tools and resources that can make them more resilient.  This not only makes them more inspired and empowered in their personal lives, but also more effective, creative and productive at work.  Resilience is a multi- faceted quality that can be tackled from numerous angles.

Resilience Bank Account

Your Resilience Bank Account will have resources coming in and going out

As is so often with complex ideas, a metaphor helps to simplify.  I like things to be simple.  So, as a working example I use the idea of a Resilience Bank Account.  Like all bank accounts, the Resilience Bank Account has to have money coming in and going out.  We are all familiar with our own bank accounts and the many demands for withdrawals there are.  Often, our source of income is limited to only one or two.

Any strategist will tell you, this is a weak and vulnerable place to be.  If that single source ceases due to redundancy, illness etc., suddenly there is no way to top up the account and the demands for withdrawals remain the same- perhaps even increase.  So, it is good practice to have as many sources as possible.  To be truly resilient, the more sources of income your bank account has, the better.  If one source of income dries up, you have others to buffer the loss and give you some time and wiggle room.  This might be in the shape of savings, stocks and shares, part time jobs and other investments.  You may even have passive sources of income.

Your resilience and your Resilience Bank account are the same.  You want to top them up from as many sources and as often as possible so that in the event of withdrawals, you have plenty there to cover the cost.  If one of your sources is not delivering at this time, there are others to cover the shortfall.

Resilience Deposits

We will look at the withdrawals later.  For now, let’s look at the deposits.  Deposits are the things that build your confidence, grow you, strengthen you, make you feel enlivened and empowered, move you forward, get you thinking with positive focus and intention. Here are some examples:

Mindset

The attitude you bring to a situation often determines how successful you are, how quick you bounce back when derailed, your ability to adapt and generate positive outcomes. So, a positive mindset which is solution focused is best.  This leads to more creative thinking.

Goals

Setting goals is a positive step to help you move forward. Large goals get split into smaller manageable pieces.   Achieving these smaller goals bolsters your confidence.  Savouring the victory has even greater positive psychological impact.   You may not achieve your larger goals.  Whether you do or not, these smaller steps moved you forward in life, created experiences and learning which all add to your Resilience Bank Account.

Values

It is important for your values to be honoured and appear in the goals and activities in your life. Doing so leads to feelings of fulfilment, contentment and well- being.  Gaining awareness of your values means you can make life choices aligned to them. More deposits for that account.

Boundaries

Have strong boundaries and keep to them. These are the things you don’t want to negotiate on based upon your goals and values.  If you value health and fitness you may want to say “yes” to exercise and “no” to sugary and fatty food.  If family is important to you, you may want to say “no” to working evenings and weekends and “yes” to individual time with each family member (for me details see bogs on “yes” and “no“).  There is no right or wrong.  It is simply a question of creating boundaries for yourself and others to respect and honour so that you live with integrity and contentment.

The Body

Feeling great in your body is a powerful resilience tool. Good diet, exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation are essential to this end.  Correct hydration and breathing are invaluable.  Use massage, meditation and mindfulness to aid in health, rehabilitation and restoration.

Emotion and mental health

Do not suppress your emotion. It leads to all kinds of mental and physiological distress.  Gain awareness and notice your emotions.  Build an emotional vocabulary that becomes more discerning over time.  Finding the right word to describe how you feel is a liberating experience.  It’s like you can “name” it, see it for what it is.  As a result, it loses some of its power.  Find ways to express your emotions appropriately in writing and speaking to the right people who will really listen and give you time and space.  Develop emotional mastery and your life will blossom in SO many ways.

Family and friends

Surround yourself with supportive, positive and nurturing people. One’s whom you respect and enjoy and enjoy and respect you.  Have mentors that can guide you.  Cheerleaders who are in your corner.  You want to have limited access to people who leave you feeling “less than”.  Instead, surround yourself with people around whom you feel great.  Make deep and meaningful connections with people, share life’s moments with them and the bond will deepen.

Environment

Make sure your working and living environments are tidy, clean and ordered. Have calm spaces, places for family activities and space to be alone, restful rooms for sleep and garden space that allows you and the family to do more of what you love to do.

Self- Care

Ensure you have “me time”.  What do you want?  Go out and get it.  It’s so easy to put others at the top of your priority list while never meeting your own needs.  Sometimes put you at the top of the list.  Buy yourself gifts sometimes.  Take yourself away or go on a trip with a friend.  You’re worth it.  So often, you forget about your needs.  Please don’t.  Sometimes it’s because you cannot think of what you want.  This is something I struggle with.  It may be because you are out of practice recognising what you want.  Please, get practising and begin to notice what you desire in life and go out and make it happen.  Like all things it gets easier with practice.  If you are not well cared for by you, you cannot be fully of service to anyone else.

Spirituality and Contribution

Do you have a spiritual practice(s): Meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, writing, music, charity and movement?  Anything that connects you to something larger (Source, God, Universal Energy).  If that seems too big, what makes you feel like you contribute in a significant way?  Moments shared with others, or alone, nourish the flame within that burns in your heart or soul and makes you feel alive, connected and enamoured with life.

Hobbies

What brings you joy? What activities beyond work, with or without family, with or without friends, also makes you feel alive?  Adventure, exploration, learning, new places, people and cultures, exercise and fitness or things that bring pleasure to the mind and senses like gardening, collecting, making and designing. They all deepen your connection to life.

Short- term Stress

This is the good stress.  Things that make your heart pound and quicken your breath can really deepen your resilience.  The little things that scare you can give you a buzz.  Most especially if they are aligned to your goals and values.  You sign up to give a talk or attend a networking event and beforehand you’re wondering what possessed you to commitment to it.  Once you’ve done it you feel pride and achievement.  It also takes your life towards new directions, experiences and learning.

Balance this with Relaxation

It’s important to relax too. Sleep, rest and rejuvenation are essential.  Weekend breaks, holidays, spa days, adventure days with friends, dinners, lunches and get- togethers are all active relaxation opportunities that help you thrive. Chilling on the sofa, reading a book, watching TV or soaking in the bath can all rejuvenate your body and soul.  Just don’t do too much- it has the reverse affect if you do!!!

Education and Growth

Constant learning, challenging, experimenting and enquiry help to keep you sharp physically and mentally. Education can bring you all kinds of information and learning experiences that may come to be really useful as resources towards resilience.

Energy

You are not a robot. Nor can you work all hours, sleep little, rest little, eat poorly and drive yourself endlessly.  You are human- in need of change, variety, and diversity.  Humans adapt to subtle cycles and nuances through the day.  If you were a battery, you would need to recharge regularly (see blog: Recharge).  Much of the above points will do that for you.  Energy is an essential resilience resource.  Learn to conserve it as well.  Use your boundaries to protect yourself.  If your energy drops too low, your health and well- being will suffer.

Resilience Withdrawals

That is a list of the things I have learned to use to make deposits into my Resilience Bank Account.  Together they make a formidable set of resources that can give you a cushioning when life gets tough and set- backs occur so that you can bounce back.  The more of the list you use, and the more often you use it, the more resilient your Resilience Bank Account.  Not all of them will work for you.  Perhaps you have some of your own?

Keep track of them and use them to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up.  You have control over these fifteen inputs.  You can choose.  Make changes to build your Resilience Bank Account up every single day from multiple resources.

You will enjoy better health, contentment, meaning and purpose.  Life will feel more fulfilling.  You’ll have more fun, feel part of something larger to which you positively contribute.  You will love and be loved.

And so when the inevitable pains of life come: the annoying work colleague; someone cutting you up in traffic; redundancy; relationship breakups; disloyalty; death; illness; financial issues; machines breaking down; internet going off- line and so on…….. you will have plenty in the Resilience Bank Account to ride the storm.  You’ll be able to make the withdrawals required for yourself and others and still have resources left.

And, if you run out of resources, you know there are at least fifteen ways you can build yourself up again.

Over to You

How do you stay resilient?  What do you do to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up?  Which of the one’s listed do you use?  What one’s are missing?  Do you find that you bounce back from set- backs and challenges quickly or do you struggle?  What does resilience look like to you?  How could you become more resilient?  Why not post in the comments box or on social media and let us know your thoughts and experiences?

Pass it on

If someone sprang to mind while you were reading this because you thought it might be useful to them, please pass it on and send them the link.  Please share the tweets and posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Thank you.