Dancing with Uncertainty

The raw nerve of uncertainty has definitely been touched by Covid-19.  The nature of Coronavirus plagues us with uncertainty.  We cannot plan long term, which impacts holidays, business plans, social activities, delivering on business commitments, education and care for our children and the elderly.  At every turn there are distractions, leading to over-thinking, procrastination and putting off making decisions.  What uncertainty are you challenged by during the Covid-19 pandemic?

I was asked recently to run a workshop on uncertainty.  Primarily to bring people’s focus back to what was most important to them.  So that they could put their energy into what would allow their businesses to flourish as well as maintain life-work balance.

The Impact of Uncertainty

The uncertainty of Covid-19 is making it hard to concentrate, get your mojo back for working on your business or career.  It’s hard to know where to start and what goals to set.  As well as the safety implications of every day activities and the low level anxiety that brings.

When researching for this workshop, I found a study by University College London in 2016 about the relationship between uncertainty and stress.  In essence, it said that not being sure is more stressful than not knowing at all.  It confirmed what I knew from experience and intuitively, that being tantalised by the prospect of something is more unsettling than knowing it will, or won’t, happen for sure.

Think about your own experience: isn’t it harder to step out in front of people not sure how you’ll be received than knowing what you’re going to say will be celebrated or ridiculed; or asking someone out on a date; going for that job interview or; travelling abroad in these Covid-19 times right now, when infection spikes are happening all over the world?  If you knew you wouldn’t catch Covid-19, you’d travel without concern.  If you knew you would catch it, you definitely wouldn’t travel.  But this half-way house is agonising.  And this study points to all the signs that uncertainty leads to stress.

Covid-19 leads to long-term uncertainty, which means long-term stress.  It has been 4 months so far and there is more to come.  Long-term, or chronic, stress is not good for your system or your physical, mental, emotional well-being.  So, it is no wonder that in these times of on-going uncertainty, we are finding it hard to make decisions, create plans, set goals and give ourselves and others the assurance that so many people feel they want and need.

Managing your Reaction to Uncertainty

One of the most effective things you can do is manage your anxiety.  In the face of uncertainty, you cannot often manage the concerns beyond your control.  Instead, managing your reaction to them is where your power lies.

Centring is an effective, quick win tool that brings you to calm and balance whenever you feel the mounting anxiety of uncertainty.  Catch it as early as you can, and you’ll find the results work better.  Try this 7-minute video:

Uncertainty in Practice

Now, let’s try an experiment, if you will?  Think of a situation that brings you stress and anxiety.  Maybe it’s around uncertainty, but it doesn’t have to be.  Pick something that is around a five or less on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is very calm and 10 is very stressed).  That’s ideal.

Notice where and how your body is doing the stress and anxiety: tight shoulders and neck; shallow breathing; holding your breath; tension in your abdomen?  And perhaps describe the sensation: heavy, dark weight; swirling waves like snakes; icy electric blue shocks; a solid block crushing my shoulders.  These are just examples to give you an idea of what you might notice.  Be as honest and open as you can with yourself.  The more detail, the more awareness you are gaining and insight you might have.

Now do the centring in the video above.  Afterwards, notice how your body is different and perhaps ask yourself the following questions:

What steps would I take from here?

What is in my power to change?

How would I manage my uncertainty from this place?

What is not in my control?

Being different in Uncertainty

What’s fascinating about this exploration is that by centring, you are literally becoming a different person from the one filled with anxiety and concern about uncertainty.  When centred, you are calmer, more relaxed and grounded.  You are releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that bring ease, creativity and resourcefulness.

So, you will probably discover that your answers to these questions might include specific, short-term action steps, practical answers that you can do now, and nothing too far in the future.  Certainly, on the workshop, people were saying things like “Do this one thing that gives me this result or that outcome and then I’ll see where to go next”, or “Start doing my wellness routine that I stopped once lockdown started”.

Choosing to Respond

It makes sense with uncertainty that you cannot plan too far ahead.  When you are centred and grounded your responses mirror that truth.  In anxiety, your answers hang on the need for certainty and security.  And Covid-19 is giving us very little of that right now.

You cannot change the uncertainty that is rampant in our world at the moment.  But you can choose how you respond to that uncertainty.  By managing your stress and anxiety more effectively with a tool like centring, you can make decisions in the face of uncertainty, accessing your inner wisdom so that you are resourced, creative and powerful.

Covid-19 is with us for a long while yet, and so is the uncertainty that is inherent in situations like this.  Things are changing day to day.  Centring can help you work with uncertainty so that you can respond to it creatively and without fear.  Please do not waste your energy wishing or hoping it will be different.  All that does is set up false expectations that things will change.  Which only adds to your anxiety and stress when things do not change the way you want them to.

Over to You

Being calm in uncertainty means you can respond to the unknown effectively.  Stay centred and grounded and the answers will come.  You may not like the answers, but they will come.  What answers are you getting when you centre around uncertainty?  How else are you managing uncertainty effectively?

Learning to dance with uncertainty is a superpower.  Uncertainty is not new with Covid-19.  We have lived with uncertainty for thousands of years.  Dancing with uncertainty can empower you to step into the unknown with confidence and build from what is possible.  Where will you step next?

Pass it on

What did you take from this exploration in uncertainty?  Do you know a friend, family member of work colleague who benefit from that as well?  If so, please forward this blog to them in the knowledge that it will help them in these times of uncertainty.

What support are you giving yourself?

Do you find it hard to relax?  Are your muscles tight and painful?  Would it be useful to be able to let them release so that you feel at ease and calm?  Could that muscle tension and discomfort come from stress and anxiety?  Where can you find the support to ease that pressure?

Do you feel on the back foot all the time?  Are you finding it hard to keep up?  Do you have commitments coming to you faster than you can deal with them?  Does your mind feel cluttered?  How about your home?  Or your workspace?  Would you like some time and space to breathe?  Would you like support structures you could put in place to reduce that sense of overwhelm?

Time for support

I imagine that you would.  But who has the time?  You want something that is quick and easy to do that gives you that instant relief.  When you are stressed, your body is in fight or flight, pumping adrenaline and cortisol around to help you cope with the challenges you are facing.  This is great short term, but long term it is exhausting.  You need a break.

You want to create an atmosphere that does not support flight or flight (stress response).  Or, put another way, create an environment that encourages calm and relaxation.  If you can create that in your body, you become less stressed.  By creating that in your environment, your stress is reduced.

Creating support for relaxation

One way you can do that is to call upon the support and structures in your life that will allow you to relax as a result.  Your body has a wonderful support and structure system that can offer tremendous muscular relaxation.  And that is your skeleton.  By focusing on your bones and aligning them, you can encourage your muscles to relax and give you the relief from tension that you are looking for.  This is a video taking you through an exercise that focuses on the skeleton and allows your muscles to let go and surrender to gravity:

The exercise might take more time than you have on a regular basis.  But even taking a minute, or 30 seconds, to stand, sit or lie down with your skeleton aligned would go some way to reducing your stress and anxiety.  And the longer you do it, the more relaxed you’ll become.  Try it in bed before you fall asleep or as you commute on the train or bus.  There is a lot to be said for doing these sorts of exercises little and often so that you get the benefit over a longer period.

What are the other benefits?

As well as relax the muscles, you might also notice that you slow down.  Your heart might feel calmer, your mind may have stopped racing and you may no longer feel that urgent need to rush onto the next thing.  You may feel more grounded, centred and stable.  I purposefully recorded the video with the window open so that the sound of the birds could be heard.  Isn’t it nice to stop and notice what is all around you-the sounds, sights and feelings of the world?

This is the power of calling upon your support and structure to feel calm and tranquil.  And there are other structures and supports you can call upon.

  1. Routines

When there are important things to get done regularly, it is often useful to get into a rhythm of doing them.  The daily routine of brushing your teeth and bathing is an example.  How about a routine for starting the day so that you are in the right mindset before things kick-off?  Or creating specific time slots in which you look at e-mails, interact with social media or take phone calls.  And then shutting off all interruptions for specified periods so you can concentrate on writing articles or blogs, creating workshop or seminar material, planning meetings or tomorrow’s agenda.  Blocking out time in your diary (hard landscaping your diary as a colleague calls it) can reduce your stress and anxiety about remembering to do these tasks.  And, by doing them, it keeps you calm because you know you are on point.

  1. Declutter

Another thing that adds to your stress is mess and disorganisation.  When you are looking for something and you just can’t find it, it adds to your anxiety.  You spend precious time searching for it which eats up into other time where you could be more productive, or spend it relaxing.  The precision that everything has its place, where things are tidy and easy to get to, keeps things calm.  It doesn’t have to be all straight lines and right angles if that doesn’t work for you.  For some people that level of organisation is overwhelming.  While for others, it cannot be any other way.  But, if you know where things are and you get in the habit of returning them to their home, it takes a lot of pressure off.

  1. Knowing your Onions

Doesn’t it feel great to know your stuff?  To feel that confidence in your chest that you have a deep knowledge about a subject that is important to you- like your business or job.  Continual professional development means you gather a tremendous volume of knowledge that serves to build trust, reliability and confidence in your ability.  Not just for yourself, though that is a huge bonus.  But also, that confidence is embodied and transmits to your clients and colleagues.  When people feel they can trust you, that confers calm and relaxation.

Making time to keep learning about your subject and hone your art lends you confidence and gravitas.  When I speak to experts in their field, generally they tell me that they use perhaps 10% of their knowledge.  But the other 90% empowers them to deliver that knowledge with confidence.

Bringing your awareness to the skeleton aligns you to the support your body gives you so that you can be relaxed, more present and at ease.

Support and Structure

Focusing on the things that give you support and structure allow you to relax.  In the 4 elements model, Earth is the element of support, structure, precision and grounding.  Bringing your awareness to the skeleton aligns you to the support your body gives you so that you can be relaxed, more present and at ease.  Paying attention to the things in your daily life that offer you support and structure so that you can enjoy your day is a key habit to instilling and maintaining calm in your life.

What are you doing during this lockdown period to stay calm?  What structures and support are you using to keep the pressure off and ease the tension?  I’d love to hear how you are doing in lockdown.

Pass it on

Found this blog and the video useful?  Why not send it to someone you know who is perhaps struggling with relaxation and managing stress at this time.

Resilience in Lockdown- what is your emotional response?

Covid-19 and lockdown are both emotional subjects for a lot of people.  I am noticing that there are many emotional responses as individuals, families, businesses and communities come to terms with the impact this pandemic is having on all our lives.  This varied emotional response is completely normal, natural and healthy.  And you should expect your emotional response to change over time as circumstances change.

Expressing your emotional response

Lockdown- what is your emotional response

When people take the time to speak about what is happening for them emotionally right now, the emotional charge decreases.  This alone can make it easier to manage.  Speaking about your concerns, fears and worries can help to reduce the stress, anxiety and fear you might be feeling.  Holding it in and bottling it up only exacerbates the problem.  As I said, your concerns for loved ones, finances, health, uncertainty about work, isolation, grief and loss are normal and natural emotions to have at this time.

They do not mean you are not coping.  And they do not mean there is anything wrong.  Any situation in life that leaves you with uncertainty, doubt, fear and confusion, you will have an emotional response.  But, if you do not find a way to express that emotion in SOME way, it can have an on-going negative impact on your well-being.**  Which can affect your resilience and your ability to manage the challenges you face- and that includes lockdown and Covid-19.

For many, the normal structures and habits you have in place to manage your emotional and mental well-being are often out of reach.  Speaking with family and friends over the telephone or on Zoom is not the same as being with them in the room.  And there is no substitute for a real hug or the comforting touch of a loved one.  The social joys of getting together for a drink at the pub, a coffee in town or a meal out are currently not possible.

How are you managing your emotional response?

Our minds and bodies, in response, begin to become more on edge, stressed, tense and anxious as the restrictions continue and show no signs of abating.  Which is as it should be, as the global population does what it must to contain the spread of the virus and together, we look after the health of everyone on the planet.

Without your typical resources available, perhaps it is time to explore new resources that can help support you?  It seems that these are some of the areas where people are struggling:

  • Reduced exercise and movement mean that muscles are getting tight.  Tension also comes from holding the emotional tension of stress, anxiety and worry
  • Lack of touch and the guardedness of social distancing creates its own anxiety that leads to more tension
  • Unfamiliar feelings and sensations in reaction to these unprecedented times which are challenging to express.  Such as lack of freedom, health concerns, uncertainty, more free time, overwhelm, boredom, job and financial security, isolation etc.

Here are some opportunities that I am involved in that might help to calm your anxiety, support your connection to others and share in safe and confidential spaces:

  1. Embodiment Circles Online:

Since the beginning of lockdown, I have been involved with Online Embodiment Circles.  Very quickly it has blossomed into a global community online, with over 80 one-hour sessions every week.  Most circles are in English, but there are some in other languages.  Circles were created to support well-being, learning and connection. They are practical and accessible, with three sections to them.  The first is a light, non-athletic movement session (accessible yoga or dance for example).  The second, a secular, body-based meditation.  And lastly an opportunity for sharing.

In fact, this third section is perhaps the most effective and powerful part of the hour.  People take the opportunity, if they want it, to share a little about how they are fairing right now.  Every circle addresses the three challenges I mentioned above.  So, if you’d like to be with others in a positive virtual environment, reduce your stress, and move a little to support your health, then join in.  Groups use Zoom and are free of charge.  You can find out more on the Embodiment Circle Online website.

  1. Processing on the Run

I have been an active volunteer of the Samaritans for over two years.  And now, there are also a number of organisations I am involved with on a charitable basis, including Project 5 for NHS staff and Spotlight, offering coaching for actors, give the people in these professions, the opportunity to process their emotional state on the run.  This helps them remain more resilient as well as be more present and productive at work.  It also means they can transition to and from home life more easily.  And therefore be more present to partners and children.

The benefit of speaking about how you feel

Both in the Samaritans and coaching, I see the benefit to people of expressing the emotions they feel in the moment.  Before they have the opportunity to express them, they are often agitated.  They also find it hard to concentrate and focus, feel withdrawn or find it hard to connect with others.  If they have been carrying that emotion for a while, it can impact their resilience to cope with life’s challenges.  It also impacts their creativity and productivity at work, presence at home and their ability to focus on solutions.

From personal experience as well, that inability to express emotions negatively impacts your ability to create, sustain and build relationships.  All of which are essential for thriving through these challenging times as well as in life in general.  I have noticed my improved ability to express how I am feeling makes me a better father, partner, person in business, family member and friend.  And life is just more fun, and rich, with the freedom to express how I feel.  When life is more challenging, sharing how I feel means those challenging times are easier to cope with.

A limited, free coaching offer

Therefore, I am offering individuals a single free session of life coaching to provide a safe space to explore and express their emotions or to work out how best to move forward through the pandemic.  If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, please contact me here: david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

  1. Stress Management for Healthcare Professionals

If you are a healthcare professional, or know someone in the healthcare profession, Covid Calm is an online session, sharing tools to manage stress for medical staff under pressure.  This is a free initiative, run by volunteers who are very experienced stress management facilitators.  Each 30- minute session takes participants through the A.S.S.E.T. toolbox, which includes:

  • ABC Equilibrium Technique
  • Stretching, shaking and tapping
  • Sitting Mindfulness
  • Empathic sharing
  • Thankfulness and gratitude

These are all evidence-based techniques shown to resource people to more effectively manage stress.  You can find out more at the Covid Calm website and in this LinkedIn article, which also highlights some of the research-based evidence out there to support the effectiveness of these techniques.

Over to You

So, these are some of the things I am offering and involved with that can support people in sharing their emotions.  Allowing them to manage their stress more effectively and develop greater resilience.

Please share these initiatives where you can.

And if you would like to support Project 5 (which offers coaching and tiered psychological support for NHS staff), you can donate here.

Thank you.

** Speaking about how you feel may not be your bag.  Although it is useful to be able to express your feelings in words so that you can communicate with the people you share your life with.  Having said that, painting, drawing, dance, movement, music and poetry can all be ways in which you might prefer to process your emotions.  Having done that clarifying work, it can be easier to talk about what is going on for you.

How are you managing yourself through Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is touching a lot of our stress points. It has thrown our known world into turmoil. Many people are struggling with the anxiety, worry, doubt, confusion, uncertainty and isolation. The question is:

What can you do about it?

Transition can be challenging to many. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, you have a new status quo.

It is very normal to experience these feelings when you are going through change. Your biology is designed and programmed to maintain the status quo. The scientific jargon for that is homeostasis- keeping things the same. It is partly what drives habits and why they are so hard to change.

Change is threatening because it upsets the status quo. It takes time to settle into the new normal. And that transition period can be challenging to many. Think how conscientious you have to be to change a habit and how long it takes. But once you’ve crossed that bridge, you have a new status quo.

Loving the uncertainty

Some thrive in change and uncertainty. For them, THAT is normal and their preferred status quo. When things are stable and consistent, these people get stir crazy. For them, the challenge is routine.

So, if you are one of those people that thrives in volatile times then you are probably enjoying the creativity and opportunities presenting themselves. During instability, things are dynamic. It is an ideal time to create and lead. Those that thrive in that will play a large role in creating whatever the new normal is going to become.

Are you struggling with change?

What can you do if you fall into the earlier category of people? Like me, you might be experiencing anxiety, worry, tension, shallow breathing, finding it hard to sleep and struggling with the uncertainty. Financial worries, your health and the health of loved ones, unpredictability of work, isolation at home, how long will this last, what are the guidelines we are meant to follow and so on.  And that anxiety makes it hard to create and lead in a positive way.

Also, the feelings come in waves. You might not be worried all the time. But you’ll hear something or think of someone and that will get you going. Or you’ll fall asleep at night but wake up and find it hard to go back to sleep because your mind starts working. Perhaps the government changes its stance (which it seems to do daily) again and you are left reeling with apprehension and doubt. Or you’re getting conflicting advice as you try and find out what to do for the best.

So here are 5 tips to help you through these challenging times.

Limit your intake of news

It is easy to want to stay abreast of every twist and turn of news as it happens. Keeping the 24 hour news channel on all day is not going to do your well-being any good. It keeps you in a perpetual state of anxiety.

The internet has multiple opportunities to catch up with the news. From pop ups when you log in the e-mail to social media posts. Limit your intake. Personally, I watch one bout of news a day and that is it. I resist the temptations to click on links that will take me to breaking news on the internet. That scheduled 30-minute news blast is enough to keep me aware of developments.

Knowing that I have that planned towards the end of the day means I can get on with my day and not worry about missing something important. At the same time, it allows me time to remain positively focused. And that helps me control my fear and anxiety.

Create routines

In these uncertain times, certainty is a blessing. Set your alarm to wake up and have your morning routine. It’s all too easy to stay in your pyjamas all day when you’re working from home or self-isolating. Get showered, get dressed, have breakfast. You don’t have to do it like you would if you were at work. But whatever routine you decide on, make sure it works to keep you productive, creative and buoyant physically, mentally and emotionally.

Connect with friends and contact them at regular times.

Have your workouts timetabled. Joe Wicks has his online classes to follow. Yoga teachers are doing similar things (you can find some incredible examples at Yoga and Movement Classes). Join Gareth Malone’s online choir which happens every day at 530pm UK time or the Embodiment Circle Online which has multiple sessions of body-based meditation and mindful movement throughout the day. There are loads of different options online.

Routines can reduce uncertainty by giving you structure, focus and predictability. Giving you a strong foundation from which to tackle the uncertain things you have to face.

Stay active

Even with the lock downs that many areas are having, exercise outside is great to make you feel more resourced. Running, cycling, walking will help to make you physically, mentally and emotionally more resilient.

You don’t have to go out in public. You can exercise in the garden, in the house, on your roof (as long as it’s safe). Even regular sets of press ups, sit ups, squats or whatever exercises float your boat are a great way to stay active.

Why not take up something new? Use these usual and unprecedented circumstances to try online a yoga class, Rolfing Movement Integration sessions, Feldenkrais’ Awareness through Movement, Kettle Bells classes or anything that might be fun for you.

Keep your space tidy

When you are at home a lot, it is important to keep your living space tidy and well-organised, for your well-being and peace of mind.  It really helps to reduce anxiety when your space is clear, clean and well organised.

As best you can, limit where you work in your living space. And if you have to work on the dining room table or in the lounge, pack it all away at the end of the working day so that you have a clear separation between work life and home life.

Centring

And if you feel the stress and anxiety creeping in, in spite of these above measures, you can always centre.

In fact, I recommend centring throughout the day as a matter of habit. It has helped me immensely to regulate and manage my anxiety. And when specific situations occur that I find stressful, that centring process is well-engrained and I can tap into that resource whenever I need.

Centring is a quick win, easy access tool that allows you to manage your response to stressful situations and anxiety. Here is a video of me taking you through BODY Centring as an example.

 

 

What is there to appreciate about Coronavirus?

These 5 tips that I’ve shared are great stress- busting tools. My hope is that you will use them and as a result you’ll be able to step back from the brink of anxiety and fear. Instead, you’ll be able to relax and calm yourself a little so that you can be more creative, resourceful and solution-focused. So that you can come through this crisis having grown, learned and developed as an individual, a family or a business.

And, these tips are not limited to a Coronavirus pandemic. You can use them throughout your life. Whenever you feel anxious, worried or doubtful, these tips can help you do a U-turn on your stress-based way of thinking. In the calm, you’ll create by practising these tips, you’ll be better placed to create positive solutions.

In fact, if you use them regularly, they’ll help make you more resilient, so that you do not drop into that negative way of thinking. Over time, things that once stressed you no longer will. You’ll build greater momentum towards positivity and learn to manage yourself more skilfully when the going gets tough.

And one of the plus sides of the drastic measures governments are putting in place is that you have a long period in which to engrain these new habits. Start any of these tips now and within a few weeks, you will be doing them as a matter of course.

They are great for maintaining and sustaining well-being. If you are not using them now, pick at least one and start practising a new habit. By the time we get back to our new normal, that new habit will be firmly in place and you’ll be able to keep using it to maintain your well-being.

Over to you

Are you struggling to manage the daily changing landscape of our lives at this time? Do you worry about how you’re going to make your way through this?

Which one of these tips are you going to try out? Would you like some support or accountability? If so, reach out and I would be happy to offer help in that way.

Pass it on

In these times of isolation and disconnection, show someone you are thinking of them.  If you think they might be struggling with anxiety and worry, please forward these tips to them. Let them know you care and that they are not alone.

Active relaxation and staying sane in a crazy world

My idea of active relaxation comes from the fitness industry’s concept of active rest. When you are trying to achieve your fitness goals, your body needs recovery time. Intense exercise tears muscle fibres which require time to heal so that muscles continue to work optimally, healthily and injury free. Without that rest, increased fitness and strength cannot occur. Active rest is best because it keeps the body moving without the intensity of heavy weights, endurance or prolonged impact. The body likes to move, so some light exercise as active rest is far better than no exercise at all. Walking the dog, a gentle cycle ride or swim, relaxing yoga or stretching session would all be examples of active rest. Active rest will aid recovery and make you stronger, faster and fitter as part of your fitness goals.

The Relaxation Response and Active Relaxation

Active relaxation works in the same way. You have goals and deadlines: prospecting calls, book-keeping, meetings, proposals, blog posts, social media, networking, your own well-being and that of your clients etc. as a solopreneur. And as a parent you have goals: kids to get ready for school, after school clubs, help with homework, sleepless nights, early mornings, your own well-being and that of your family etc. These things may give you great pleasure and they can also feel frustrating and stressful as well as drain you of vitality, enthusiasm and calm.

When you choose active relaxation, you are choosing activities that bring your body into the relaxation response so that your body can rest, digest and restore itself. Active relaxation benefits the body, mind and emotions at the same time. In the relaxation response, your body can heal and repair itself, your muscles can relax and release tension, your mind can become calm and creative and emotionally you are more receptive to play, humour, building relationships and a solution-focused, positive outlook on life. Can you see that achieving those goals and deadlines is much easier to do if your body is in the relaxation (rest, digest and restore) response and consistently achieving a state of relaxation?

Some Stress is Good, too Much makes you Cranky

Your body spends a lot of time every day in the stress response. From getting the kids to school on time to the work commute, or meeting deadlines for work and managing conflict over the TV remote control at home. It can all send adrenaline into your system for the majority of the day. And for the most part, that is great. It makes you productive, creative and effective in your personal and professional lives. It is designed to make you active, to step out into the world, be seen, take action and take ownership of your life.

But too much of that makes you cranky. Unrelenting stress without a break, drains your system and resilience. Have you noticed that when you are stressed you are less kind to yourself and others? That negative self-talk and lack of patience with others doesn’t feel good, does it? Its also difficult to find creative solutions to situations when you are stressed too much. And you are simply not operating at your best. When you notice these things happening, it is time for active relaxation.

Active Relaxation

So, what is active relaxation? In short, it is anything that brings you out of the stress response and into the relaxation response. In other words, rather than activities that promote prolonged release of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) you actively and consciously choose activities that shut down the release of these stress hormones. Consequently, you feel calmer, more energised, ready to take on whatever the next challenge is with more resilience, centred, balanced, grounded and in more control. These might include:

• Going for a walk (with or without the dog)
• Reading a book for pleasure
• Cooking with care and eating wholesome food
• Watching one episode of your favourite programme or a great movie
• Activities with friends (a meal, weekend break, spa day, walk, pub/ wine bar/ coffee shop)
• Writing- journaling, reflective, creative, poetic, narrative,
• Painting, drawing etc.
• Massage
• Yoga class or similar (Pilates, Awareness through Movement, Rolfing Movement Integration)
• Dance- partner classes, nightclub, conscious dance like Five Rhythms
• Comedy- a live show or something at home
• Centring
• Mindfulness
• Meditation

What would YOU choose to Actively Relax?

Only choose the ones that are actively relaxing for you. If the idea of a dance class stresses you out, it may not have the desired affect of calming you and feeling more resourced. However, to try some new things might have some surprising and beneficial effects. Some on this list are more dynamic than others. The active bit of active relaxation is more about being engaged with the activity you are doing, rather than how physically active you are.

It also speaks to your conscious choice and awareness throughout the activity. This is why long hours in front of the TV does not appear on the list- after a night on the sofa with the TV or on-line, you can feel more drained and less resourced. So, be careful and honest with the impact these activities have on your vitality, resourcefulness and resilience. Active relaxation, like active rest, is meant to give you more enthusiasm, strength, passion and endurance for your chosen life activities, be it parenting, running your own company, being CEO of a large organisation, writing books, running marathons or walking the dog.

The Cycles of Life

You are not a machine. Humans have rhythms and cycles that have us being more, or less, active, depending on the stage in the cycle we are in. Like years have seasons, humans have seasons too. We are perhaps more active and productive in our youth, having more energy, vitality and vigour. Later, that energy can change to be more reflective, calmer and peaceful. You may be very awake and raring to go first thing in the morning but at night want to turn in early. Or you might be the opposite way around? Alternatively, you might be most productive first thing and late at night and prefer a snooze in the middle of the day. What are your natural rhythms?

Every activity has a Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter

You go through rhythms and cycles in which you are preparing for an activity (Spring), which leads into being involved and engaged in it (Summer), and then to wind down as it approaches the end (Autumn). Active relaxation appears in the Winter phase- when the activity is done, you have stopped and you are in the midst of reflection, celebration, commiseration, learning and integration.

Winter is a little used phase. As a society, we are used to moving from activity to activity without the rest time in between. Valuable insights are lost if we miss out Winter. The gathering of experience, vitality and energy as well as assessing what the next direction will be, the intention, desired goals and resolve are all essential if we are to enter the next phase with any chance of success and enjoying the journey in the process.

Energy and Inspiration

Active relaxation gives you the recharge to have more energy for whatever you love to do in life. It is easy to keep going because that is what it seems everyone else is doing. But, eventually, you will burnout. You will have less energy for what you love. Perhaps you may stop loving the thing you once loved doing.  Not because you are bored of it, or out-grown it, but simply because you are not listening to your body. Your body needs recharging and care. You want to give it time to do that. Otherwise, it gets tired, low in energy, unwell, negative, depressed, uninspired, blah.

Life isn’t meant to feel that way. Sure, there might be brief periods you experience that flatness- because sometimes life is shit and challenging and you have nothing in the tank to push against it. But often, that is avoidable, by consciously choosing active relaxation as part of your day. You cannot carry on regardless. Recharging through active relaxation gives you all the energy you need for an active, vital and passion-filled life.

Over to You

I was inspired to write this blog because I have many clients who struggle with active relaxation. I have struggled with it for years myself and sometimes get the balance wrong. This drive to do more, be more, faster, harder and longer can ruin your enjoyment and passion for your work and life and can damage the relationships with your loved ones……… and even the relationship with yourself. It’s relatively easy to turn around. Explore that list of active relaxation opportunities and find out the ones that work best for you. That will depend on your natural rhythms and cycles as well as your commitments. Let me know how you get on and if you would like some assistance, get in touch.

Pass it on

If you found the content of this blog useful, why not pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit from it too?

Are you fed up with being Strong?

Are you fed up with being “strong”?  Are you tired of the pressure you are under to perform without showing signs of losing composure?  Or having an emotional outburst?

Do you feel that it is your role to have the answers all the time?  If that expectation is hard to meet, is that difficult to admit to?

How are you at having to be right?  Is it a matter of great face and honour or are you OK with making mistakes?

Do you feel the need to be “happy” all the time and find it hard to admit that you might be below par or even struggling to cope?

Do you really thrive under stress, or are you struggling to manage, but afraid to share the truth for fear of what people might say- the boss, your partner, friends?

A meaning of “Strong”

Show your strength by being vulnerable & courageous in front of the right people

This out-dated notion of being “strong” needs a modern update.  Too many people are crumbling under the weight of carrying on regardless, pushing through at all costs, meeting ever-increasing expectations and ever-closer deadlines.  And all for the sake of being or appearing “strong”.  It is a relentless drive, that is driving many of us into poor physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.  “Strong” seems to mean something close to perfection.

So, rather than “strong” meaning perfection can we change that definition? I get the need for an external persona that makes it look like you have the answers, you’ve got it sorted and you can cope.  And I hope that is the case for you a lot of the time.  But is it reality?  And when it isn’t reality, do you have people to turn to so that you can talk it through, bounce ideas off, admit mistakes to, ask advice from and share your emotional pain when you are struggling?

This need to be “strong”, I believe, is stopping people feeling comfortable speaking to others about their struggles.  “It makes me look weak.”  “How will anyone respect me?”  “What will people think of me?” “Will I be able to hold on to my job?”  In silence, they battle on, often getting ground down by the weight of fear, doubt and worry.

Get Wise Counsel

My experience as a coach, and a Samaritans volunteer, is that speaking to someone about these very normal emotions is not only good for your health.  It also gets you to an answer much faster.  And to a much better answer than you might come up with otherwise.   You do not need to carry the burden alone.  But who can you talk to?

All great leaders have a team of people around them who they can talk to and lean into for support. (you can find out more about this in this Brian Tracy article).  Can we not learn from the cream of our business leaders?  We are all leaders.  If only leaders of our own lives.  And many of us will also lead families, children, work colleagues, groups, teams, businesses and countries.  Honest and open leadership starts with these personal qualities in our own day to day living.  Having people around you with whom you can confide makes you healthier physically, mentally and emotionally and allows you to be more effective in anything you do.

So, choose your team carefully.  Perhaps it is good friends you can talk to?  May be its your hairdresser or tennis coach or physio?  You could have a formal relationship with a mentor or coach or therapist.  Or may be you have people you work with you can confide in?  Whoever is in the team, you need to be able to trust them.  The more people, the more resources you have for advice, listening, support and guidance.  And with that comes more resilience and well-being that means you can bounce back faster when you experience setbacks, disappointment and failure.

Who makes you “strong”?

It is not rocket science, but it is startling how few people we actually talk to.  In our fast-paced society, we race from moment to moment and barely touch the surface of our own lives.  Let alone the lives of others.  We take less and less time to connect to people and so lack the depth of relationship we once enjoyed.  But it is this depth of relationship that allows us to feel safe enough to reveal our pain to others and be vulnerable.  As Brene Brown says, it takes courage to be vulnerable.  I think this is the real “strong”.  And to do that we want to build relationships over time that make it easier to be vulnerable when it serves us and others to be so.  All of that takes great courage.

Throughout my divorce process, I had people to whom I could talk about the conflicting emotions I was experiencing.  Some of those ears were professional (a counsellor), but others were family, friends, colleagues and even our beloved dog, Tigger.  In the pain I felt more resilient.  Amongst the confusion, I had people to tell me it was OK and normal to feel this way.  And when it got too much, I had people who would simply be with me.

I witness great courage in my coaching clients, who are vulnerable about their emotions and experiences.  Great insight, bonding and emotional healing come from this intimacy.  It is the human power of connection that helps to keep us whole when we are most in danger of being swallowed up by our pain, fear and loss.  It is not “strong” to suffer.  To remain in silence and isolation prolongs your suffering.

And others suffer as a consequence.  People notice.  And want to help.  Make no mistake.  So be brave.  Be “strong”.  And reach out to someone who cares enough about you to listen as you express your pain.  It is the greatest expression of their love.  A worthy gift to match your strength and vulnerability.

Over to You

What does “strong” mean to you?  How are you “strong”?  I’d love to know and get this discussion moving towards helping more people manage the stresses and pressures they face in daily life.  Our health and well-being demand it.  And if we can role-model this transparency to our children and grandchildren, to those we mentor, lead and guide, the bonds of human connection will be deeper and stronger.  And we will never need to be “strong” again in isolation and loneliness.  We will be vulnerable and courageous, share our wisdom and pain and show our strength in unity and camaraderie.

Pass it on

If you enjoyed this blog, please pass it on to someone you know.  Or share the social media posts.  Thank you.

Be the Best Boss you ever had

How good a boss are you to yourself?  As a self-employed solopreneur, how well are you taking care of your well-being?  And as an employee, is your well-being at the forefront of your mind as you work?  How well do you look after yourself?  Does self-care feature high on your priority list?

Do you consider what your needs are?  Or do you focus more on getting the job done without regard to your personal cost?  Are you treating yourself as you would treat others?  Or are you giving yourself a hard time?  If you were your boss, how well would you feel you treated yourself?

Recently, I asked a group of self-employed entrepreneurs at a workshop, how good a boss they were to themselves.  We explored how they could be the best boss they ever had.  The questions above were at the core of the workshop content.

Well-being and work

So often, people enter self-employment because they have had a bad experience as an employee: working conditions, professional relationships, long hours at work and commuting, toxicity, lack of training and personal development, life-work balance, clear vision and communication, poor leadership and management, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, health considerations, autonomy, a sense that the work you are doing is not worthwhile and so on.

Well-being sits at the heart of these work issues.  Whether an employee or self-employed, your on-going enjoyment at work, productivity, creativity, physical and emotional health, fulfilment, sense of contribution, career advancement, business growth, freedom, resilience and more determine your well-being.

Being in control

So much of your well-being is determined by your boss and your broader working environment (space, colleagues, hours, travel etc.) when you are an employee.  As a self-employed solopreneur, you have full control of your well-being.  You can control when and where you work, when to take breaks and holidays, who your colleagues and clients are, how you work, your vision for your business future, how your business fits in with your personal life and so much more.

Yet, when you work for someone else, you might be surprised by the amount of control you DO have.  You can choose employers that will support you in your quest for greater physical and emotional health, that align to your values and so bring greater fulfilment, give flexible time and location commitments so that you can create a more compelling life-work balance, offer training that supports self-growth and resilience and so forth.  I appreciate that if you are working for an employer that offers no or little support in these areas it might be a challenge to change culture or find new employers.  But don’t you owe it to yourself and your family and friends to find work that gives you fulfilment, meaning, purpose and holistic well-being?

Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971): God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Whether employed or working for yourself, if you do not take a stand and take control, you find yourself controlled by bosses, work colleagues or clients.  You might become chained to your computer, estranged to family and friends, miss your hobbies and other passions, work with clients and colleagues you don’t enjoy, work too long hours, neglect your health and wonder what the hell went wrong!!!  Where did the fun go?  Why all this stress?  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Be the best boss you ever had

For many years I was the worst boss I ever had.  I didn’t take breaks, I missed family holidays, I worked long hours, I managed money poorly, I didn’t pay myself enough, I lacked a long-term vision for my business.  I didn’t feel free.  The boundaries between work and personal life were so blurred, I missed the best of both worlds.  I ignored all the advice and the signs and so I ended up tired, uninspired and broke.  I left full-time employment because all it gave me was a regular salary and I wanted more.  Yet doing something you love isn’t enough.  You have to take care of mind, body, heart and soul so that you CAN enjoy your work and continue to be inspired by your passion.

It took me a while to climb out of the mess, but the first step in all of that was self-care: managing my stress and well-being.  That included:

  • financial discipline
  • a clear vision for my business
  • boundaries between work and family life
  • rest, breaks and holidays
  • mentoring (for advice, feedback and guidance)
  • training and development
  • regular movement and exercise
  • time management (not just at work but for my personal life as well)
  • meditation practice
  • having an active life outside of work
  • Self-honesty and gratitude
  • Autonomy
  • Healthy diet

It’s a personal journey that anyone can take, whether self-employed or working for someone else.  Either way, first and foremost, you are taking control of your life, being the boss or captain of your ship and writing the chapters of your life story.

Daily check-in

We are all a complex combination of mind, body, heart and soul.  It takes perseverance and self-awareness to keep these 4 elements in balance throughout life.  A daily check-in to ask each part of you what is present for you right now can bring this to your awareness.  For example, my mind at the moment is saying that I have a lot to do today and I need to be focused and efficient; my body feels tired and tense and wants rest; the heart feels full from all the work I am doing that is aligned to my values and; my soul craves the hills and open space of the Lake District.  It takes 30 seconds, maybe a minute.  Try it now.  I’ll wait…………

There is nothing you must do about it.  Don’t make it right or wrong.  But if you feel compelled to make change, does it improve your well-being?  And can you keep improving your well-being and maintain or even improve your quality of life (materially, financially, emotionally, spiritually etc.)?

If you want to take control of their well-being at work, “Be the Best Boss you ever had” workshops are designed for self-employed people and employees.  The impact personally and professionally can be profound as you learn practices you can do throughout your day to improve well-being, reduce stress and build resilience.  If you’re interested in local public workshops why not get in touch?  Perhaps you would like to host such an event at your place of work?  The next public event will be in Cambridge, on July 18th, 2019.  You can find more details here.

Over to you

Are you the best boss you ever had?  Or the worst?  How do you look after your well-being throughout the day?  What will you do differently as a result of reading this blog post?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing to take care of yourself and be the best boss you ever had.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful and know someone who would benefit from reading it, please share it with them.  Or share the social media posts and comment, raising awareness of this essential topic.  Work is a major part of our daily lives.  Happiness and well-being at work are essential for overall life fulfilment….and if you can’t find contentment at work, having practices in place to maximise fulfilment outside of work can make the difference to your life-work balance.

What is life coaching- and what can it do for you?

Have you ever wondered what life coaching is? Or perhaps what it isn’t? The word “coaching” is used so broadly it can be a little confusing what people mean when they say “I am a coach” or “I offer coaching”. One of the first questions prospective clients ask me is “What is coaching and what can it do for me?”

What is Life Coaching

From my understanding, the roots of coaching are firmly embedded in sports performance. Timothy Gallwey may well have written the first life coaching book with The Inner Game of Tennis.

He talks about using the body to learn new habits, embodying the feel of movement to create great, high-level performance. It’s a short step to embodying any new habit, including feeling confident, empowered, powerful and engaged in any number of daily life situations.

Any high performing athlete needs a coach to motivate, inspire, guide and improve physical and mental performance. So why not any person who wishes to perform at a higher level in any area of their life? Success is not assured, but the likelihood of improvements and achieving desired goals is highly increased.

Life Coaching for Everyone

The parallels with everyday life are massive. We all have goals. We all want to improve our performance, be it at work or in our private lives. Mind sets around showing up in relationships and creating the life you long for are essential for success. Life-limiting mind sets keep you stuck in old patterns. Finding mind sets that are aligned to your goals and values make success more likely.

Now, there are many ways to make this happen. There are books and courses and retreats, webinars and seminars, both on-line and off-line. There are executive coaches, therapists, financial coaches, counsellors, relationship coaches, consultants and life coaches.

When the word “coach” is made to mean the same as “consultant“, you might get an expert in a particular field. The client or coachee is expecting input from the coach/ consultant based on their experience in business say to advise and guide. Incredibly useful. I myself have used business coaches at certain points in my business development. This type of coaching or consulting is a step-by-step, incremental development as the client grows in knowledge and experience.

Co-active Life Coaching

The kind of life coaching I do, co-active life coaching, is transformational. Rather than step-by-step, incremental growth, the client experiences transformation. Evolving from caterpillar to butterfly.

For over 20 years I have taught martial arts. The Japanese word for that role is “sensei”. That roughly translates into English as teacher. Yet, as is so often with different languages, the work “sensei” means much more. It is one who cares for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of those that are supported by him. There is love, patience, compassion and a fierce longing for their true strength and power to reveal itself and manifest in ever area of their lives. It comes to each individual in its own time. Yet the sensei never stops longing for that truth and working with them to make that real in the world.

When I went into life coaching, I felt a natural affinity towards this type of coaching. It was a great fit. An extension of my “Sensei” role. And I could bring physical embodiment to my life coaching and greater emotional intelligence to my “Sensei” role. You can learn more here.

Life Coaching and Transformation

An example of this transformative process with one of my clients follows. Changes in perception and perspective in almost every call lead to massive shifts in action that gave new and exciting outcomes. The client’s life was literally transformed.

“I have been lucky enough to share a coaching journey with David that has been and still is a transformational experience……….What David brought to the game that was priceless, was an in depth exploration of these ideas and plans to put any changes into daily action. That’s where the real power of coaching is and with this depth has come great personal rewards….. I found that the positive benefits of exploring these concepts actually manifested themselves very powerfully after the sessions and are still going on now.

“David is an empathic and passionate coach who held my wishes as a client foremost in our relationship and gently but very firmly held me to my decisions and personal promises without distraction. It’s not new knowledge that to change old habits, reach new heights and achieve ones goals, powerful and sustained focus on them is required to empower them, but theres a vast difference between just knowing how to do it and actually doing it, David helps make it happen.”

Evoking Transformation

The caterpillar needs to dissolve away old ways of being and doing that support old goals. Instead, embrace new ways of being and doing that are aligned to new goals. The shift is not incremental. It is transformational. New perceptions and perspectives that drive deep, inner change.

That is what I want for any client that comes my way. If I know I cannot walk along side them to support that change I will suggest appropriate coaches I think can. Then the client can decide. And if I can, I will use all my love and compassion to evoke transformation in my client. An on-line dictionary defines evoke as “bring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind.” Coaching tools delve into exploration and awareness. As you become more aware, you have access to inner resources previously unavailable to you. Those inner resources ignite new levels of consciousness or being which result in different doing.

Over to You

On and in it goes, revealing more potential at every exploration. If you would like to make those transformational shifts, perhaps you are ready for co-active life coaching with me and bring new inspiration to your career, relationships, health, wellness and life as a whole.

Pass it on

If you know people who want to make transformational change, please forward them the link to this blog. Alternatively, if this has inspired something in you, please get in touch and we can have a conversation about how we might be able to walk the path together towards a more fulfilling life for you.

Would you Know if you were experiencing Stress? Part 3- Management

What steps are you taking to reduce your stress?  How are you managing the stress in your life?  Do you have stress reduction management plan? Now that you are more aware of the presence of stress and its impact in your life, what are you prepared to do about it?  In part 2 I talked about generating awareness of stress and in part 1, I discussed why people do not realise they are experiencing stress in their lives. If you’d like to know more about the signs of stress and why people lack the awareness please go back and read these blogs via the links.

How are you managing the stress in your life?

In the third and final part of this blog series about stress, I want to share some areas to point you towards, so that you can take an active role in your stress management.  Life coaching is all about generating awareness and taking action.  So as a life coach I want to support you in taking responsibility for your life and empowering you to make choices that create that life you want for yourself.   If stress is an issue for you, I am guessing you want to get it under control and start moving your life forward rather than allowing it to hold you back?

My personal journey with stress started with a lack of awareness.  It took a divorce and a health scare to get me to look at the things that were not working in my life.  I expected it to be something big.  I looked at career change.  Perhaps changing my partner would do the trick? What if I changed location? But none of the big things really changed anything significant at all.  So, I started looking at the small things.  As I explored, I started to make progress: feeling calmer; being more content; having a clear purpose and direction in life; being healthier; having more energy; feeling more confident.  Now I have my own stress management plan that I use every day to reduce stress and remain effective.

Stress Management

Stress happens for a reason.  It is one of your body’s ways of telling you that things are not right and could be better.  If you are experiencing stress, that is a good sign.  It means you are open to change.  In this world that tells you that stress is bad, that stress means you’re weak and that you can’t cope, stress is a problem.

If you can see it as a useful feedback tool, it helps.  Like feedback you might receive in an appraisal, as long as it is delivered in a constructive and compassionate way, you can hold it as useful and something to build on.  Stress is your body’s way of doing that.  It even points to where you want to make changes if you are prepared to listen.  At the same time, it also shows you where you are going well.  It gives you all the information you need to create a great stress management plan.

All it takes a little research and consideration as you interpret your body’s language of stress.  It is a personal journey, so these pointers are restricted to my experience and those of friends, family and clients.  You’ll probably need to fine tune the suggestions you use and do some additional research so that you “get it right” for you.

Meditation

In other words taming the “Monkey Mind”. Your mind is trained to think and sometimes it is hard to switch it off.  It needs training to allow it to step aside from time to time and be still.  Some people refer to it as “getting out of your head”.  The thing is, where do you go to “get out of your head”?  One answer is the breath.  Another is the body.  Meditation uses both to bring the “Monkey Mind” under control.  Inevitably your mind will wonder to thoughts (in your head).  When you notice that happening, bring your attention back to your breathing or your body.  We all struggle with this attention and focus.  That is natural.

Please don’t chastise yourself or give up.  The more you practice, the more you cultivate your ability to be in your body or with your breath rather than in your head.  As your head slowly loosens its grip on your attention over time, you will find yourself getting calmer and more peaceful.  You will focus better and get less irritable.  When you see positive progress, please don’t give up either.  Keep going.  It builds and develops.  Compassion and self- understanding naturally develop from here too.  There are many meditation techniques.  One very popular App is Head Space.   Meditations that I use regularly are from Nourish the Flame Within.

Mindfulness

Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction technique (MBSR) says that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Merriam- Webster Dictionary refers to Mindfulness as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

It is similar to meditation in that it brings your attention away from the past and the future and plants you in this moment.  Though you carry the benefit of meditation with you all day, the advantage of Mindfulness is that you can use it anywhere and anytime.  Just focus on your breath, a part of your body, the food you are eating, a sound in your environment, a thought, a feeling and you become present.  In presence there is no stress, worry or anxiety.  You are in this moment and so act from this place of peace and power.

Centring

There are many forms of centring. I use a technique that comes out of martial arts, taught and practised by Paul Linden.  Bringing your awareness to your body, balancing it in your standing or sitting posture and then relaxing through the centre of the body from the muscles in your face and neck, through the chest and abdomen and finally the pelvic floor.  Now bring in your loving heart and radiate that loving feeling out like a light or flame.  Practice this and then use it in situations in which you experience stress.

Sleep

Our relationship with sleep has changed over the centuries. According to Arianna Huffington’s “Sleep Revolution”, the idea of a solid, straight eight hours’ kip is a modern phenomenon.  Waking in the wee hours was a common, even expected thing, when you might get up and use the quiet time for writing, art, reflection or contemplation, even love- making.  Sleep- inspired insight was to be captured and expressed in some way.  Then, you would go back to sleep and rise for the day refreshed, having honoured the deep connection sleep brings with the subconscious.

Now, it’s seen as a problem if we wake in the night.  Creating more stress and anxiety as a result.  Perhaps using that time for creativity would be more useful than worry?  Maybe expression rather than medical prescription would bring sleep to you more easily, healthily and naturally?  Why not start a journal?  What about painting, drawing or pottery?  Your creations don’t have to be any good.  You just want to express whatever is bubbling up inside. I have done this for years.  I have written books based on my late- night musings.  They started as scribblings in notebooks for private viewing and personal reflection.  They’ve grown into something larger, but that was never the point.

Rest and relaxation

I am a doer.  You probably are too.  Yet, we are not human doings.  We are human beings.  Sometimes we simply need to be.  To rest, be still and quiet, to be with friends and family and relate.  Time used to be the most valuable commodity.  We are often paid by the hour.  Yet, in this age of technology, we can maximise our time and live and work like a machine.  We are not machines.  Our energy needs replenishing in a healthy and natural way.  Sufficient sleep and healthy, balanced diet are part of that equation.

Rest and relaxation are essential as well.  All spiritual traditions have a rest day- the Sabbath.  I learned recently that the reason for this is that rest and celebration are all part of the working process.  Use this time to recharge, rejuvenate and reflect on your journey, so that you have energy for the next step and you can set off in the right direction.  This down time for joyous living with a movie, friends, a good meal, theatre or cinema, reading, an indulgent massage or spa day with girlfriends, or an outward- bound day with your male friends is essential.  In our busy lives we give little time or importance to these things and often fail to approach them with this mindset of celebration and joy.  They are not another thing on your to do list, though they can become so.  They are a celebration of life.

Diet

This was the biggest surprise to me on my stress journey. Aside from caffeine, which is common knowledge as a possible source of anxiety and stress- behaviour, it had not occurred to me that food could be a source as well.  On a trip to Japan, eating traditional Japanese food, I noticed how calm my body felt.  When I returned to UK and resumed my normal diet, I noticed the familiar edgy and nervous feelings in my body returned.  Research and kind instruction from Charlie Hart showed me that sugars, hydrogenated fats and gluten are sources of stress for the body through a process called inflammation.   Once I reduced these or cut them out of my diet, my body has felt so much better and it is easier to regulate my weight.  I also feel more energised, calmer and overall healthier.

Exercise and Movement

This is a great stress manager for many reasons. Exercise requires time away from the things that stress you: your work; the kids; your head; the incessant problems etc.  Often time away gives you space and new perspectives.  It may even give you the solution you’re looking for.  Exercise moves your muscles and keeps them strong, limber and flexible.  Tension is less likely to build up leaving your loose and pain free.  The added oxygen in the body has great health benefits and makes the brain work better and gives you more focus.  The additional energy you get will make you more productive and help you to think “out of the box” for creative solutions.  Exercise makes you calmer, more resilient and better able to focus and concentrate.  It also helps remove toxins from the body more efficiently.  Good abdominal breathing will also do this.

So, find the exercise that you love.  Go for walks in the day.  Stretch regularly. It doesn’t have to be a yoga or Pilates class.  Just lightly move your body rather than remaining sedentary.  If you want something more high impact, running, swimming or cycling might take your fancy.  Develop a loving relationship with exercise.  Many people view it as too hard.  If you bite off more than you can chew, it probably is too hard.  Start with a walk rather than driving somewhere.  Take a turn around the office. Use the stairs.  Your body will love you for it.

Saboteur

Holds the self- limiting beliefs that hold you back and make you feel stuck. Listening to this voice can be very stressful.  This is the voice that says, “You aren’t good enough” and asks you “Why bother?”  It sabotages your efforts to move forward and begs you to remain safe.  While this has the advantage of keeping you in your comfort zone it also feels stressful to remain stuck where you are when something inside of you desires to move forward.  Also, its negative self- talk can undermine your confidence and self- belief and increase your worry and anxiety.  In short, the saboteur, or Gremlin, can run riot in your mind and run and control your life unconsciously.  Life coaching can offer you strategies to by- pass your saboteur and work with it to overcome your limiting beliefs.  A highly recommended book “Taming your Gremlin” has many strategies you can use as well.

Awareness and Expression of Emotions

Points 1- 8 lead to greater awareness of emotions, allowing separation from these emotions and express them in a useful and constructive manner. We have a complicated relationship with emotion.  The heat and power of it can be overwhelming.  So, we push it away often.  This itself can be a source of stress.  Emotions are information, either telling you there is an issue to be addressed or something that you like and want more of.  Ignoring or suppressing emotion long term means build- up of stress. Expressing emotion releases stress.

The above techniques will help with gaining awareness of your emotional state in any given moment.  Then you can practice expressing that emotion in an appropriate way.  Speak about it, write about it, draw or paint about it, dance about it, sing about it…….. you get the idea.  The energy of suppressed emotion does untold damage to the body.  Express it in a way that does not harm others.

Removing stressful environmental influences is important if you can.

Experiencing stress is unavoidable.  It is part of life and experienced short term is vital for your survival.  Step out in front of a bus by accident and feel that adrenaline surge move you into action to get out of the way!  Yet long term it is detrimental to your health.  Try your best to actively remove sources of stress from your life:

  • Interact with family that upset you as little as possible.
  • Cut “friends” out of your life that you know are not supportive.
  • Have at least one space at home that is clutter free or even better if you can, have as little clutter in your entire living space as possible.
  • Make the commute as calming as possible by leaving more time to travel, have books to read or listen to or listen to music.
  • If your town or city causes you stress, get out into nature or, if you can and you want to, move to a place where nature is more prevalent.
  • Is your stressful job really that fulfilling?  Is it really worth being kept up all night for?  If not, perhaps looking for new employment or career path would bring you a better quality of life.

If you do decide you want, or have to, put up with things the way they are, you have all the points from 1- 9 above to help you manage them.

Why is this so important?

Long term stress diminishes your Light.  It stops you living your life fully and bringing your gifts to the world.  Stress management allows you to access the wisdom that lies within you and share that knowledge and understanding with others.  Stress has you playing small because that is the only capacity it leaves you able to work with.

Management of stress keeps the stressors to a minimum, allowing you to remain focused, energised and inspired.  I wish for you that you live in your greatness, that life is fulfilling and your purpose, whatever that means to you, is lived out in every area of your life.  Give yourself that chance by relieving some of the pressure you are under.  Use the resources in this blog to free yourself.  Then you will have the energy and insight to make as great a positive impact on the world as you wish and feel the confidence and completeness of living that truth.

Over to you

Which of these stress busters do you use?  Are there any that are new to you?  Which ones will you experiment with?  What steps will you take to create a stress management plan?  Do you already have one?  What benefits have you noticed since implementing your stress management plan?  How could you improve it?  Please comment in the box below or message me on Twitter,Facebook or LinkedIn.  I’d love to hear from you.  And of course, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Pass it on

Why not pass this blog on to a friend, colleague or family member you think might be struggling with stress and would benefit from a stress management plan?  Or at least some new ideas about busting stress.

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.