Workshop case study- developing practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life

“David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.” Louise Frayne

I was approached by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to do a workshop at their London offices.  The workshop was designed after detailed discussion with the Head of HR & Organisational Development, Louise Frayne, who was looking for content relating to stress- management, well- being and confidence.  We had “met” on an on- line discussion I was running about confidence.  Louise was intrigued about my use of the mind- body connection for greater confidence, managing stress and workplace wellness.  Because of my martial arts background, I designed a workshop that focused on mindset, body and posture.  It also centred around movement, connection and the relationship between mind and body.

“I contacted David to design and deliver workshops here at our London office to help staff develop practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life. David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Stress, Communication and the Body

We started by using the work of Paul Linden and gaining awareness of how the body responds to threat.  By eliciting a stress response, attendees paid attention to where they became tense in their bodies and how they moved when threatened.  Then they learned a centring technique by balancing and relaxing the body, bringing them to a calm and broadened awareness.  As a result, they responded to threat in a much more effective and confident manner.  We explored how and where we might use this in our personal and professional lives.

We extended this theme by looking further at posture and breathing.  How do they impact on our confidence and perception of the world?  Also, how that impacts the people we interact with. We practised scenarios and realised how some postures and breathing made for more receptive and open communication than others.  It was agreed that using these more open postures for meetings and general communication around the office and at home would be beneficial.

We continued the embodied theme by looking at boundaries and being able to maintain those boundaries in the face of challenge and conflict.  These challenges and conflicts can be external and internal, yet it is the person’s personal relationship with the challenge or conflict that is vital for success. Thinking about boundaries alone is not powerful enough.  Integrating the work in the body can make for much more empowered behaviours and statements.  Attendees chose challenges they wished to say “yes” to and “no” to. These were as diverse as requests from work colleagues, personal health challenges such as diet and exercise and behaviours that improve well- being such as relaxation.  Embodying and centring gave more powerful and assertive “yes” statements, giving inner confidence and resolve.  “No” statements could be said confidently and calmly so that it would not damage relationships.

Finally, we tied all these strands together with a communication exercise.  Using Aikido principles of flow, we built a metaphor for communication based on remaining engaged and curious in conversation through movement.  We explored the relationships between leading and following and coming to conversations with an agenda and being agenda free.  Also, we discovered that entering the relationship with our own personal confidence and strength gave us the ability to play our role well, contribute effectively and enjoy the process.  We used the centring, breathing and postural techniques learned earlier in the workshop to make for better communication in a range of relationships so that we experienced win- win outcomes.

Feedback and further workshop development

The feedback from this workshop was very positive:

“David’s wealth of knowledge and expertise was invaluable.  The first workshop introduced core principles of breathing and relaxation. Feedback was so positive that I commissioned two further workshops to build on the themes of the first workshop.  Take up by staff was enthusiastic. Feedback from staff who attended showed that they felt able to use the strategies David had shown them in a variety of settings and they particularly liked how David developed trust and rapport in the room, so everyone could talk openly, which is so important for this type of event to work well. I would have no hesitation in recommending David and his workshops to any organisation.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Louise and I discussed the content for two further workshops to be carried out the following year.

Presence, Values and the Body

We continued these themes in the second workshop six months later.  Our objective here was to explore values.  How do they impact on stress?  In what way do posture and energy affect our presence?  How does all that impact our relationships with others.  Finally, we looked at meditation for greater rest, resilience and relaxation.

Attendees noticed how posture improved responsiveness, agility, intention and commitment to values.  Focus led to more power, strength and resilience.  Combining these qualities, it was easier to express their individual values, stand up for them when challenged and work more effectively and productively when their values were aligned with those of the College.  We also drew on learning from the previous workshop, adding further strength and confidence to participants’ resolve, resilience and presence.

We finished this workshop with some simple relaxation exercises.  Requests for issues to be addressed included the negative impact the commute has on employees’ health and well- being.  I thought it would be useful to offer attendees relaxation exercises they could do on the train, in the car or while they walked to work.  These exercises could be used as a method to get to sleep or return to sleep so that they felt more rested.  We explored how breathing and muscular relaxation can reduce muscle tension, pain and discomfort.  They can also be used to calm the mind and bring mind and body to a centred space.  We also explored the build- up of negative energy in the body (through unexpressed emotion, lack of movement and exercise as well as compounded stress) and how that impacts health, well- being, relaxation, productivity and creativity.

Resilience, Emotions and the Body

The third and final workshop saw us look at resilience and managing emotions at work.  We used the metaphor of a bank account to explain how resilience works.

We focused the resilience exploration on three areas:

  • goal setting and the intention and focus to achieve those goals
  • effective emotional communication
  • how the body can be used to achieve these ends

We discussed goal setting and how it can positively impact resilience. We also looked at how set- backs and challenges can be dealt with more effectively and a more resilient mind set can be achieved through focus, commitment, body posture and intention.  In addition, we explored the power of surrounding yourself with people committed to and supportive of a similar goal.

The final section of the workshop looked at managing emotions, particularly anger.  The plan was to use the centring exercise from Paul Linden used in the first workshop, to show how it is possible to express and receive anger in a healthy way at work.  The attendees got a lot out of the different perspective offered.

In conclusion

The body is so often over- looked.  For many our primary concern is “the body beautiful”.  Perhaps that might extend to body health.  Yet, my hope is that these workshops presented new awareness of “the body powerful”.  That the resources of the body are so much more than how good it looks and physical health.  These are important factors in their own right.  And there are more.  The body can influence impact on:

  • stress
  • health and well- being
  • mental health and agility
  • living life on purpose and with meaning
  • presence
  • confidence
  • creativity and productivity
  • self- management and regulation
  • personal power and empowerment
  • employee engagement
  • communication
  • relationships with oneself and others

Caring for the body’s health increases its capacity to support us in all areas of our lives.  Awareness of our body’s sensations, feelings and emotions gives greater scope to explore the full human experience and perform at work and beyond in fulfilment.

If you would like bespoke workshops designed for you and your teams around stress management, resilience and well- being using the body, please get in touch and we can discuss your requirements.

Learning is transferable- Life Coaching, Shokunin and the Japanese Way

Some clients like their coaching experience to touch all areas of their lives.  Other clients prefer to restrict the coaching to specific areas.  This may be for many reasons and is part of the design of the relationship right at the start.  Of course, I honour this request when clients ask for it.  After all, the client is in complete control of the coaching process.  The client is responsible for the results and outcomes he/ she gets from the coaching journey.  This view gives focus and clarity.  It may make it easier to keep the coaching process restricted to a limited number of sessions.  For those who are looking for on- going or open- ended coaching, the freedom to explore all areas of the client’s life brings other benefits.

Open Ended Coaching

For those clients that open their whole lives to the coaching experience, there is a huge amount of growth that can come from seeing how behaviour in one area of a client’s life is replicated in other areas of their life.  This observation allows them to see how that habit may or may not be serving them in a broader context.  This can offer powerful insights.

One client for example noticed early in the coaching journey that he allowed himself to be derailed by other people’s agendas.  He got himself into financial difficulty because friends insisted on spending more money than he could afford on social activities.  He allowed himself to be persuaded and derailed from his financial plan to get out of debt and kept falling into the trap.

Much later in the coaching journey, he noticed that this derailing pattern appeared throughout his life.  Once he noticed it and knew he could resolve it in one area of his life, he was confident he could do it in others.  He took the understanding, learning and empowerment from his financial situation and started applying it to other areas.  He overcame this pattern in almost every section of his Wheel of Life- health, work, friends and family, relationships, fun and education.

Learning is Transferable

He did it by gaining clarity on what he felt was the priority for him in those social situations.  Yes, going out with friends was important, but to restrict that interaction for the sake of financial control and independence was more important.  He felt he wanted to explain this to his friends.  He had underlying fears of being seen as boring or irresponsible as well as rejection from the people he loved.  By holding to his principles and values he felt better about himself.  He was better able to stick to his plan and enjoy himself when he did socialise.  The fear and anxiety were gone.  He applied this principle of priority clarification in other areas of his life and found that his confidence, determination, relaxation and self- respect all improved.

Repeating Patterns

It is powerful to notice repeating patterns of behaviour in your own life both as a sign of where you can improve and where your strengths lie

I have heard many teachers make this observation.  “The way you do it is the way you do it,” says Richard Rohr, while T. Harv Eker says, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”  I think this is so true, and it is powerful to notice these repeating patterns in your own life both as a sign of where you can improve and to see where your strengths lie.

For myself I am a procrastinator.  I will put things off because I think I am too busy to deal with them or I think I have the time to look at them later.  Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with them.  The thing is they pile up and then I feel overwhelmed.  Then it’s harder to get those things done quickly and efficiently.  I continually train myself in all areas of my life to do things as they come up or realistically schedule them in my diary.  Otherwise it leads to anxiety and overwhelm.  It makes me far more efficient and effective.

Conversely, I show great tenacity, committing to any project that I sign up to, person I support or relationship I value.  It connects with my values of honour and integrity that I try to live throughout my life.  When I drop the ball, it is incredibly disappointing and painful to notice that deviation from my values and truth.

Conscious Awareness

When you take conscious control of these traits, you can steer yourself towards positive thoughts, words and behaviours that impact in all areas of your life.  While they are unconscious, they can run your life in an unsupportive way in the shadows.  Once you shed light on them, your awareness allows you to see where changes are beneficial or necessary and where current habits are already supportive towards achieving your goals.

This idea of becoming more consciously aware is a foundational part of the transformational co-active life coaching process.  It is also part of the martial arts journey.  Having studied the Japanese martial arts for almost three decades, it came as no surprise that this idea is an intrinsic part of Japanese culture.

The Japanese Way

In Japan, martial arts are not just about being able to fight and defend oneself.  They are a way of life, filled with life- enhancing principles to be applied to every moment.  They offer a foundation for living with honour, integrity and respect for self, others and the world.  Many traditional art forms in Japan, from tea ceremony and calligraphy to sword making and pottery, are infused with this sense of taking the focus, care, commitment, patience, time and love necessary to make their art, into all areas of the practitioner’s life.  This is the transformational nature of martial arts, along with any other “Do” or “Way” in Japanese culture.

More well- known Ways include Judo, Kendo and Aikido in martial arts, and include Chado (Tea Ceremony), Shodo (Calligraphy) and Kado (Flower arranging).  When this has been mastered, the practitioner is known as Shokunin.  It is as if the art is used to bring the individual to greater maturity, awareness and integrity.  It touches their whole life and the lives of the people they touch.  A great example of how our mindset infuses all our actions and behaviours.

Blind Spot

The notion that the way people approach any life situation often mirrors their approach to all of life’s situations may encourage us to sit up and take notice when these patterns emerge.  They are hard to recognise in yourself- as if you have a blind spot.  A life coach, holding a vision of bringing your best self to all situations in your life, can be invaluable in supporting you in that process.

Understanding that lessons in one area of your life can be instructive to make you more effective in other areas of your life is transformational.  It shows you that: if you can do it once you can do it again; communicates your commitment to yourself to grow, be courageous and be your best self; allows for compassion for yourself and for others; demonstrates that the job is never done and that there is always more learning and directions of growth.

None of it can be done without action.  In action, we show ourselves what can be done.  Action is the classroom of learning, failure, success and developing transferable skills.  It can make us more rounded, mature and powerful agents of change in our lives.

Over to You

What patterns of behaviour show up in your life?  Do you notice those patterns yourself, or do other people reveal them to you?  What are your blind spots?  What habits do you have that are not supportive of your success?  Where else do they show up in your life?  Please share your thoughts in the comments box or tweet me at @PotentialityC.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Pass it on

If you know someone who might find this article useful, please forward it to them.  It might be the inspiration and motivation they need to make deep change.  It could make all the difference in the world to them for their health, wellbeing, career, business ideas, relationships, finances and much more.

Being stuck does not mean you have to remain stuck

What do you do when you feel stuck? You name it!!!

Petra came to me feeling in limbo. She felt no motivation to do anything. No inspiration came to her to move forward. She felt isolated, stuck, mistrustful and withdrawn from the world. She was also unsociable.

When we agreed to work together, Petra’s energy and vitality were at a real low. There was a heaviness around and within her. She said she felt tight and constricted. I mentioned that this heaviness and constriction reflected how she was behaving. Naming something can be a powerful tool in life coaching to highlight to a client what might not be so obvious to them. They live with it day after day and it can become invisible to them. This touched her deeply and she resolved and committed to getting out that first week for some gentle exercise and perhaps some social interaction. I invited her to notice how things changed for her and what felt possible from this new perspective. We left this external exploration for a short while to see how it evolved.

The Client is Naturally Creative, Resourceful and Whole

As an alternative focus, we looked at her inner world. By doing visualisations we tapped into inner wisdom and knowing, that directed Petra towards some deep insight and support. Over the next few weeks, Petra regularly did these visualisations, building a picture of inner strength, peace and presence. This taps into one of the corner stones of Co-active coaching which is that the client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. The answers come from within, as long as the client is in resonance with their power, confidence and inner wisdom. This empowers the client to think and act from a place of “I know the answers” even when they feel lost and confused. It just takes a shift in mindset.

Authentic Confidence

What also came up was a victim mindset. A voice that was derisive of the values Petra was beginning to tap into. Unworthiness and playing small were big themes that had played out throughout Petra’s life. Most especially in her relationship with her parents and partner. She committed to creating a new story that she could repeat to herself. It would allow her to build a better future- something to begin to trust and believe in. She also resolved to understand her victim mindset and apply her new- found values to her own inner journey of forgiveness and understanding.

This was the turning point- the beginning of something child- like, spontaneous, creative and joyful. Putting on a brave face and appearing confident had been a hallmark of Petra’s behaviour in the past. This was accompanied by a sense of being a fraud. Now things felt very different. She said there was an authentic confidence that erupted spontaneously that she was no longer willing to censor.

Life builds from Resonance

Ideas for her life came spontaneously too. Holidays she had only dreamed of, retirement plans abroad and learning new languages. A refreshed vitality to life was beginning to blossom. And all from aligning and resonating with the fulfilment, purpose and meaning Petra was beginning to discover for her life.

What do you do when you feel stuck? You name it!

People can come to coaching in a deep, dark place. Yet, this first step of reaching out for support is so important and powerful. We did not need to dig around in Petra’s past to find the answers. It is a common question from prospective clients to ask, “What is the difference between coaching and counselling?” Put simply, counselling looks to the past to unearth the answers. Coaching looks to the present to see how the client feels here and now and then builds resonance with an empowering vision from which the client can build their future. Rather than look into her past only, Petra asked her present self all the questions and the answers pointed her to what she needed to move forward. Her willingness to go deep and stick with it was a testament to her commitment and resolve.

Forward the action, deepen the learning

She recognises that the journey continues to unfold. She has tools now she can take forward to tackle the challenges of the future and she will learn more as she continues the coaching journey.

From whatever point in your life you are, coaching can support you in building alignment and resonance with your vision of how you would like your life to be. It takes action and often some challenging steps to build that future. Petra is a testament to that hard work and commitment towards a new and empowering future. With every action step comes learning and deepening understanding. In time the client transforms into the person who IS living the dream they imagined for themselves.

Over to You

Are you willing to look at what makes a truly fulfilling life for you? Do you want to live with meaning and purpose? Would you like someone to be with you as you tackle the challenging emotions that ultimately lead to growth and transformation? Do you want to connect to your inner greatness and have that be an active, creative and nurturing part of your life? If you are wondering whether coaching can help you create more of the life you want to be living, why not get in touch?

Pass it on

If you know anyone who is contemplating a life coaching journey please send them the link to this blog and give them the opportunity to learn about co-active life coaching and how it can benefit.  Alternatively, if you know someone who is stuck in their life and would be willing to take this beautiful, transformational journey, please send them the link too- it might be the inspiration they need to take that first step.  Thank you.

A Magic Carpet Ride- case study

Stuck in Overwhelm

A few months ago, Philipa (not her real name) approached me to see if coaching could help her overcome her feeling of overwhelm by the demands of her work and life.

She said that she had an internal dialogue going on that caused her to sabotage whatever she tried to do.  She was sick of it and weary of not being able to make any progress.

Lightening Up

The first thing we did was go on a Magic Carpet ride

We agreed to start working together and the first thing we did was take Phillipa on a magic carpet ride! She experienced what it felt like to have fun, feel supported, be full of energy and in a place where the destination was less important than enjoying what she was doing.

Philipa practiced this over the next couple of weeks, and this changed her feeling of being overwhelmed. It broke the belief that she needed to grind through and struggle to get anything done and freed her to hold lightly the things she had committed to.  Rather than diminish her resolve to complete them, this made her commit to them more. She was quite literally, enjoying the journey.

Because things weren’t such a grind, Philipa was being much more effective and an added benefit was that she had more time to spend with her family – something she desperately needed and wanted.

Enjoying the Journey

Philipa’s move from thinking about the destination and more about enjoying the journey was a pivotal moment.  It allowed her to think more about her relationships and enjoy the process as it unfolded.

However, this exposed a powerful sense of loneliness.

This was a tough area for Philipa to explore but she fought through it. The rewards were clarity, strength, resolve and confidence.

It’s quite typical that when someone starts coaching, they start by focusing on a small area of their lives.  Very soon, as Philipa’s journey demonstrates, it opens up into so much more. This in turn brings about broader and deeper fulfillment and a sense that life has greater meaning and purpose.

If you’d like to discuss how coaching could help you with issues that are causing you concern and would like to create your own magic carpet ride, give me a call!

Stress is a Choice

What do you say to members of The Royal College of Surgeons about stress?

Yikes! These people are masters of stress aren’t they?

They experience stress on a daily basis that would make most of us buckle at the knees.

These were the thoughts going through my head when I was invited to give a talk about managing stress at The Royal College of Surgeons.

I am someone who is happiest in jeans, T- shirt and the tranquility of nature.  Yet here I was in the centre of London trussed up in a three- piece suit – the full Gareth Southgate waistcoat and all! And it was on one of the hottest days of the year.

Plus, they were videoing and live streaming the entire thing. What was going on with my own stress levels you might ask!?

I started by asking some questions, always a good strategy to get the attention away from you …

  • Do you realise that stress is a choice?
  • Have you noticed there are times when stress is beneficial?
  • How often does stress get in the way of you performing your best and enjoying life as fully as you would like?
  • Would you say that you are closer to your best self when you are relaxed?

They shared the typical sources of stress that people experience almost daily: arguments, unreasonable demands, time pressure, health issues, challenging e- mails and phone calls, lack of sleep and insufficient rest.

They also recognised the ways in which they responded to that stress in mind, body and behaviour: distracted and poorly focused, trouble sleeping, tension in stomach, shoulders and neck, migraines, irritability, tiredness, self- focused (a sense of “me me me” and an awareness of how things are for me rather than anyone else) and difficulty breathing.

Together they concluded what we all know already- that stress did not bring out their best selves.  And these are people who need to be at their best to help the people they’ve been trained to serve!

It’s all too easy to conclude that all stress is bad for you but that’s just not the case. When faced with danger, it’s the stress response that can give us a burst of speed and strength.  It can save our lives.

Fortunately, most of us do not experience that kind of danger at all.  Therefore, stress when we are in a rush, irritated by an e- mail, anxious about a difficult conversation or over worked actually makes us perform less well.  Experienced long- term, it is highly detrimental to our health and wellbeing.

For most situations, keeping the mind and body in a relaxed state will get better outcomes.

Over time and with practice, its possible to respond to situations we previously felt were stressful.  With calm and peace.  The key is to be aware of what we’re feeling in any given moment. And learn some simple techniques to change those feelings.

So we put it to the test……….

I subjected them to an instant stress test (by throwing a tissue at them!).  Then I asked them to notice the changes in their bodies and how they responded.

Then we did a centreing relaxation exercise.  By bringing awareness to their bodies, balance to their posture and relaxation to their muscles along the centre of their bodies.  They noted the difference in the way they felt.

Finally, we repeated the first step so that everyone could highlight the changes they’d experienced.  They could deliberately start the relaxation process rather than stay in a stressed state.

The results were startling.  Across the board, their responses through stress were diminished or even non- existent. This centreing exercise, devised by Paul Linden, is one of the corner stones of the Mindful Movement courses I run, facilitating people’s growth and empowering them to exercise choice.

Stress is a Choice

Once we are aware of our responses, stress becomes a choice.  We don’t need to be a slave to it, as long as we have the awareness to recognise our state of being and the tools to alter our state so that we can choose a different way.

Fortunately, with almost 30 years of practice, I was able to not only get through what could have been a highly stressful experience, but to enjoy it!

The icing on the cake for me was getting fabulous feedback from the people in the room, and most especially, this letter from the CEO …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to know more about Mindful Movement and stress control, just give me a call ….