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.
You take action because you really want something or you really don’t want something. There is the moving towards the things you want: a promotion, better health, deeper relationships, more fulfilling work. Or there is the moving away from the things you don’t want. These things bring you pain and discomfort and you are strongly motivated to get rid of the cause. The pain and discomfort of poor diet, too much or too little exercise, financial pressure, career or relationship stagnation, feeling life is on hold. You want to move away from those things and the pain and discomfort can be powerful inspiration
The beauty of pain and discomfort
However, have you noticed how you’re willing to put up with all kinds of mild discomfort? A stone in your shoe you might put up with. You might let that go on for a while? The pain might get worse over time, spurring you to take action eventually. Do you notice that the mild discomfort points towards a potential issue that if left untreated, will lead to greater discomfort and pain later on?
On a walking trip years ago, I ignored the discomfort caused by a stone in one of my boots. Rather than deal with it, I walked on. Gradually it got worse until someone noticed I was limping. In fact, it became almost impossible to continue the trip. It took several sessions of physiotherapy to get my body back to alignment and time for the skin on my foot to heal. I wish I had acted on the minor discomfort before it got really painful.
Physical and emotional pain
This physical example could be a metaphor for any number of life’s challenges and situations. Lack of fulfilment in a career or relationship? Food and drink choices that leave you feeling bloated, drained, hyperactive or with any number of mild or less than mild reactions? Excessive exercise that leads to injury or delayed recovery? Too little exercise that leaves you lethargic or restless? Caring for others that leaves you with no energy or time for your own well-being? Putting up with stress that affects your physical and mental balance? Choosing to continue with patterns of behaviour that do not serve you?
When I speak to clients, or friends and family for that matter, what I hear people say is that discomfort seems manageable somehow. That if I keep going, things will work out. It’s not that bad. It’s nothing important. Or perhaps they feel stuck and say things like “I can’t do anything different” or “I haven’t got the time/ money/ support/ opportunity/ resources/ intelligence/ talent to change”. What I ask them in response is:
”What are you willing to tolerate or put up with?”
This often leads to an open and frank exploration of their pain and discomfort and how they want things to be different.
The truth is, pain and discomfort have a function. They tell you something needs to change. Whether physical or mental, pain and discomfort appear in your life for a reason. It’s your way of telling yourself things are not as they should be. There is a part of you saying that you want to do something different.
So why is it that you will put up with discomfort for ages? Why will you wait for it to get painful, perhaps REALLY painful, before you will do something about it? Here are some ideas:
It’s not that bad
You tolerate your discomfort. Perhaps it’s been like this for so long you can’t remember how life is like without it. May be you think this is how life is meant to be? I noticed that seeing others experience great joy for example led me to wonder why I don’t experience great joy. So I have explored that pain/ discomfort in myself. A habit of acceptance and following rather than leading and taking the initiative has meant I have done less of what brings me joy. As I lead more and take responsibility for my own joy, I do more of what brings fulfilment in my life and joy follows.
You think you deserve your discomfort?
Not feeling good enough or ‘punishing’ yourself for past mistakes can leave you trapped in patterns that lead to more pain. I see people who grew up being told by parents or teachers that they were ‘naughty’ or ‘stupid’ children, live out limitation and denial in spite of their accomplishments. Seeing that pattern in life as a projection of past indoctrination can free a person and bring about more fulfilled living.
Change is hard/ doing it differently is difficult
It can seem easier to keep doing what you have always done. Change takes so much effort. Yet maintaining the status quo takes effort too. Just different effort. Taking the time to practice life-affirming habits can change more than what you do in life. It can shift who you are being and your impact on your world personally and professionally. As I practice self- acceptance I notice how I accept others more readily. This gives them permission to accept themselves.
Everyone else is doing what I’m doing
There are things we are doing in society that aren’t working. Why are we still doing these things that harm us and cause us pain and discomfort? The reason is because this is what we have always done and everyone is doing it. This doesn’t mean it’s in our best interests. The sedentary lifestyle so many of us lead is so bad for our health and well-being yet the trend is growing not slowing. We all feel so much more alive and engaged when we move, yet the trend is to remain on our behinds. Let’s go for what we know is best for us intuitively rather than follow the crowd.
The power of community can work for and against you. Friends, colleagues and family can hold you in patterns of limitation if they support behaviours that keep you stagnant. Conversely, they can support your growth if they role model and advocate growth mindsets.
Don’t want to rock the boat
Change mixes things up. It ruffles feathers and puts people’s noses out of joint. Yet the pain of conformity can be overwhelming. I was made to conform to religious doctrine as a child. I fought it and eventually found my religious freedom. Not without causing some upset I admit. But it felt more authentic to me. I do not judge those that instilled their beliefs in me. They did it out of love. But it wasn’t for me. Balancing boat rocking with compassion is important.
It will go away if I ignore it
The immediate challenge may disappear but the inner source of the pain/ discomfort will not go away until it is faced head on. Filling your time with busyness like over- eating, binge-boxset-watching and other avoidance behaviour can create the illusion that the pain is going away. In truth, you’re just avoiding it.
I believe you have to understand the source of your pain before you can be free of it. If not, new challenges will come and niggle that pain in the future. For example, needing validation from parents. I have asked for that for years from my parents and never got it. Once I faced that need, I realised the gap in myself and filled it with my own self-gratitude, acceptance and appreciation. Which is all we can do. As a consequence, my parents appreciate me a lot more now!!!
I’m too busy to change
We are all busy. It can sometimes seem like a backward step to find more time in a busy schedule. Instead, take the time and swap out something that is not serving you for something that is. Rather than sit and watch TV to relax, go for a walk, listen to music, take a hot bath. Say “no” to more time on Facebook and say”yes” to more time talking with friends face to face. It’s not about more time. Instead, use the time you do have to create the life you do want.
You don’t want to deal with all your pain at the same time. Putting things off creates more pressure and stress and prolongs the pain/ discomfort you feel. You might not want to face the tough stuff. I get that. The sooner you do though, the sooner you’re free of the pain you feel. Get the support you need and take it one step at a time when you’re ready. Having someone to champion and cheerleader you is invaluable. We are social creatures so having community supports us in all our ventures.
What if it doesn’t work?
There is the fear that change will make things worse. The expression “better the devil you know” crops up here. When you make a stand for a more fulfilling life you may experience more pain. It’s simply pointing the way to what you need to do differently. If you want to get fitter and you over do it at the gym or run too far your body will tell you. Or perhaps you keep having arguments with your partner when you talk about a challenging topic? The discomfort and pain deepen very time you speak about it.
This doesn’t mean stop totally. It means do things differently. What should you do instead? Run less far perhaps. Lift lighter weights. Build up over time. Healing wounds in relationships takes many conversations not just one. Perhaps taking a different tack would help like learning active listening skills or having counselling. You can learn more about active listening in this video:
It’s a process and pain/ discomfort tell you to makes changes. If the pain is less or absent you’re moving in the right direction.
I’m so used to it, I don’t notice there is anything wrong
We have a great capacity to endure. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s also a downward spiral because you’re doing more of what will bring you more pain without even realising it.
Listening to friends can be helpful here as they give you a more objective perspective on your situation. If they’re concerned about you and you think nothing’s wrong, perhaps they are pointing to something you can’t see or feel. It might be worth taking a look anyway. Before my wife and I separated, family and friends expressed their concern for my well-being. I thought I was fine. My brother finally pressed me to talk about things and it became apparent all was not well. So I sort help. I have learned that it is important to me to continue to find help to deal with any of the pains and discomforts I experience- be it emotional or physical.
Leaving pain and discomfort unchecked
Pain and discomfort are a blessing. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but they are. They tell you to “take action”. That “life can be better” than it has been. They even point you in the right direction. Your intuition will tell you where to go and what to do.
Often this means asking for help. Which is an entirely different topic I will deal with next time (see the blog here). In the meantime, please know that pain and discomfort make us feel like we want to withdraw, deal with it alone and stick our heads in the sand. By all means do this for a short time and see if you can get out of this alone if you want. But if you are stuck in this situation that causes you pain, please know you are not alone. Please know help is a question away. All you have to do is ask.
Pass it on
Please share this blog and let people know they are not alone struggling with the pain of emotional discomfort. It can make up a large part of our lives and can be inspiration for our growth if we allow it. Please give people you know and love that chance if they need it.
How do you deal with conflict or challenging relationships? Do you allow sad or disappointing moments to get in the way of your relationships with people? Are joyous and fulfilling situations left uncelebrated, pushing you and your loved ones further apart? Or are you able to use these highs and lows as catalysts to bring you and those dearest to you even closer together? And even overcome the blocks and barriers that might have developed in relationships with family and friends?
Friends and family at arm’s length
There have been various events in my family history that had the potential to bring us closer together. They didn’t because we were all consumed by the pain, fear, anger and despair we were feeling and trying to push away as well as nursing our own wounds. How do I keep going? What can I do to make this better? How can I get over this? How could this happen to me? Why do I feel so angry or numb or disconnected? None of us were willing to come out of that place of hurt enough to actually talk about it and connect to each other. The emotion would have been too overwhelming, exposing the scar too painful and sharing the grief too raw.
And so, it gets pushed aside, ignored, swept under the carpet in the pretence that all is fine. Everyone knows it’s not, but no one is willing to take the first step to talk about it and get things moving. Years and decades can go by like this with families remaining distant from each other because they cannot bring themselves to talk about how they feel. So, the resentment and sorrow remain and people who could truly and deeply love each other remain strangers to each other instead.
Just because you love someone, does not mean you share intimacy with them at an emotional level. You may love your parents and siblings but how deeply do you know them and how fully do you allow them to know you? I can say from my own experience that keeping those close to me at arm’s length has felt more comfortable than getting to know and accept them with all their foibles. Or share with them my fears, hopes and dreams as well as my moments of weakness and strength.
Pain can keep us apart
It doesn’t have to be this way. I learned this recently on a coaching training course. One of the participants shared how the death of his brother had encouraged his family to talk more, listen more and accept each other- worts and all. It was a beautiful mirror to how my family could have reached out to each other and nurtured our relationships. Instead these events pushed us further apart.
Pain is a powerful force. People feel compelled to move away from it. The mind makes no distinction between physical and emotional pain. You react the same way by pulling away. Pain is deemed something bad and we are programmed to move away from it. That behaviour has its value. Yet the source of the pain has not changed or gone anywhere. That’s why you get triggered when similar events occur. You’re bringing the pain of the past into the present, amplifying your reaction to this present event.
For example, I have a challenge with my family where I do not feel they listen to me. It has always been that way. For many years it has frustrated and angered me. So, whenever I do not feel like any person is really listening to what I’m saying, I can get inappropriately frustrated and angry which does not serve either of us. I lose control and they think “who’s this nutter?” and it doesn’t make them want to listen to me any more clearly and try and understand me any better!!
Go into the pain
Coming to terms with that pain has done wonders. Rather than fight it, instead I go into the pain. The blocks and feeling stuck, unaccepted, unappreciated and misunderstood have given way to understanding why they find it hard to accept, appreciate and understand me. The answer lies in their past and with that my compassion makes it easier to accept the situation. Compassion is a huge value of mine as people first and foremost need to be seen, heard and understood. My understanding brings down my barriers which in turn lowers their barriers and suddenly we have a more open and loving relationship.
So, my new learning is that every event, whether deemed positive or negative, has the ability to be used as an opportunity to bring people closer together. By sharing our feelings with people, we show our pain, hopes, dreams and aspirations. When listening to people share, we witness their humanity and may even recognise it in ourselves. The key is to listen to each other and share in our vulnerability, where our deepest feelings lie. This bonds us and connects us far deeper than pretending that everything is OK all the time. From this vulnerable place, people open themselves up at depth so that they can both get where the other is coming from and resolve their differences.
Conflict is not bad
When everything is OK share that, celebrate, whoop for joy and revel in the joy you witness and share with another. And when things are less than OK, share that too- cry with them, be with them, be angry together and be in sorrow. It is part of being human. When there is conflict between two people, it is an opportunity for both of them to take responsibility for putting it right. It is a chance to grow themselves AND the relationship. What role do you play in this situation? How can you understand the other more deeply so that they can take responsibility for themselves and their role in the situation? When you accept responsibility for yourself, it enables you to retain the freedom to be fully yourself.
We all have times when we are perhaps unlovable, or someone is perhaps being unlovable. Only by giving extra love will we be able to find our love for them at this challenging time. I harboured resentment towards my parents for many years. Yet, by understanding them more deeply, I found greater love for them and it has brought us all more peace and deeper connection. Conflict is not bad. It is an opportunity, more than any other, to allow relationships to grow. You can learn more here:
Relationship is everything
It builds relationship. And everything is about relationship. My sister was like a mother to me. She is 14 years older and moved abroad when I was very young. For many years I harboured anger, hate and resentment towards her. Only recently have I begun to share with her my feelings- not in a blameful way, but simply to listen to her side of the story and share a little of my pain. For the first time I heard HER pain of leaving me behind and missing me growing up. It was like the stuck emotions between us dissolved away.
Notice that I gave her the chance to speak first and showed a willingness to understand. She felt heard first. THEN she is in a place to hear me and more deeply listen and the healing can take place.
I will admit, I am blessed with a sister who would actually share and listen. It has made our relationship far deeper ever since and the relationships I have with her children. Yet not all people are willing to listen. Even when they may say they are trying, you can feel whether they are or not.
Then, it is about coming to understand them as best you can and healing the pain you feel inside for your own sanity, peace and well-being. Try to understand how they have come to be as they are- there is ALWAYS a painful story there and hurt people hurt people.
Over to you
Would you like to be closer to friends and family members? What things might be getting in the way? How would you like your relationship to be? How do you feel about sharing more of yourself with family and friends and knowing them more deeply? What have you done to build bridges? What worked and what didn’t? How could you go deeper? If you’d be willing to share, I’d love to hear from you. Happy to make it public. Please post in the comments box or on social media. If you’d prefer a private conversation, you can always DM me or e-mail at email@example.com
Pass it on
If you know someone whose relationships and well-being might benefit from stronger and more open relationships, please pass this blog on and help those relationships heal.
Is it all in your head?
Do you have so many thoughts sometimes that you cannot make a decision? Or work out what the right answer is? Does this lead to procrastination or not delivering on deadlines? When you get like this do you become absent minded, forgetting basic things? Do you sometimes second guess yourself? Are there times when your mind is whizzing with ideas that you just can’t sleep? Does it undermine your confidence and your belief in yourself and your ability? Do these endless thoughts leave you feeling tired, irritable, unmotivated or unable to cope? Sometimes, do you just not know what to do for the best?
These are really common situations that come up for me, friends, family and clients. I think it is part of the human condition. Sometimes you get to this place when your head is just SO full of stuff that you cannot think straight. I call this “being in your head”. Your awareness and focus are concentrated between your ears. It feels like a loud and jumbled place in there and can often lead to headaches, tension in neck and shoulders and a sense that you are living in your head, not your body.
Is there an alternative?
This is a common way of living for most people. In fact, when I suggest there is an alternative, people often seem surprised. It rarely occurs to people that they could bring their awareness to other parts of their body and have it serve them to make decisions or have a sense about what to do next.
This habit that people have for “being in their heads” seems to come from our training to listen to our intellect ahead of anything else. At school we are encouraged to think logically and rationally, rather than trust our intuition and follow our gut instinct about something. When we move into working life, we often get jobs that have us sitting in front of a computer all day. Our bodies barely move, while our minds are whirring with thoughts, ideas and concepts. Over time this creates a greater and greater gap between mind and body.
What can Body Wisdom give you?
Yet you are more than a head. And your body is more than a convenient transporter for your brain. Sport at school that you may or may not take with you into adult life, helps to keep that connection between body and mind. Even sport though does not necessarily build that awareness and sensitivity to your innate body wisdom. Awareness of movement and body coordination are part of that body wisdom library of knowledge. Yet your body is full of groups of nerve cells, not unlike your brain, that provide insight and awareness beyond your intellectual understanding. Not all wisdom lies in the head.
You know about these sources of wisdom. You use them in your everyday language all the time in English. “I had a gut feeling about that.” You might say. Or “My heart just isn’t in it anymore!”. “I feel it in my water” is another common expression. “I don’t know how I know, I just know!” is something entrepreneurs and business leaders say from time to time. Or that sense that a mother has about her infant child- no words are spoken, she just knows. And us men, how often have you known there was going to be trouble at that party or pub? We may experience it in many different ways. The gift is to come to understand how your body uniquely communicates its wisdom to you and how you can use it to make your life even better.
The Second Brain is not in the head
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could call upon other sources of intelligence and wisdom, that gave you insight about where you are right now in life, how you feel and therefore what the next step should be, whether to trust someone or not, to have clarity about what your next action could be, what to say next in a conversation, to know what best serves you, to keep you calm under pressure and react spontaneously and appropriately to life’s myriad situations?
The gut for example, known as “the second brain”, is a huge influence and indicator of mood. 95% of the body’s serotonin (good mood, well-being and happiness neurotransmitter) is found in the gut. Those gut feelings and butterflies in your stomach as well as that twitching feeling in your derriere, might well have valuable information for you if you paid attention.
According to Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., president and CEO of HeartMath LLC “the human heart, in addition to its other functions, actually possesses a heart-brain composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn and remember. The heart brain sends messages to the head brain about how the body feels and more.”
Breathing, relaxation and metaphor
When I am with a client who is confused or struggling to find the answer to an issue in their life, I will spend time with them connecting to the body rather than trying to work it out logically in the head. Deep breathing and relaxing tension from muscles can help to shift the awareness and attention to the body. Often, they become aware of feelings in the gut or the heart or even specific emotions showing up in the body in general.
Another way of accessing this body wisdom is to use metaphors. Painting pictures in words can access insight and understanding that logic cannot touch. I believe this is why there is prolific poetry from World War I. Soldiers needed to find a way to process the horror of the battlefield and poetry was a useful way to express those feelings through metaphor. Poets and song writers throughout time have done so to express sadness, joy, despair and rage. It is part of who we are.
Going to the body for it’s wisdom leaves the head free to do what it does best. Daily life is a dance between the head and the body. Neither is right or wrong. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. Let the head do its logical and rational thing-its great for business strategising, number crunching and making sure you get to a meeting on time. And let the body tell you what is really going on for you right now and point away from what makes you stressed, irritable and anxious and towards more of what makes you happy, enlivened, empowered and healthy.
Body Wisdom in Action
The next time you feel that confused or overwhelmed feeling that feels like SUCH hard work to sort it out. Step back, take a break, connect inward to the body and find the wisdom within. Sometimes it is a whisper, other times it is a shout, or a feeling or even a movement or posture with the body that points the way to the answer.
My brother took his life 36 years ago today. It left a huge gap in my life. When I used to think about it, I had a crushing weight on my chest that made it hard to breath. It was like I was struggling to live and be alive in the world. I have to admit my life came to a stand still after his death.
Now I have come to terms with it much more and it is a driving force in my life. As I write this, I can feel my heart expanding in its energy as I acknowledge the life directions I have taken as a direct result of his suicide. It is still sad and there is great good that has come from it (you can learn more here in this video).
My body feels the difference and tells me I am well on my way to healing that wound. My brain could not work that out- it is too caught up in the fear and the turmoil it creates. The body gives me clarity and focus and tells me I am heading in the right direction. Listen less to the head. Logic cannot solve the troubles of the heart.
Over to You
Do you get caught up in your head? Are you struggling to find the answer to your problems by racking your brains? What happens when you bring your attention to your body instead? Do you get the answers in words, feelings, pictures or sounds? Do you find it easy to connect to your body? Or do you struggle to make that connection? I’d love to hear what methods you use. What success do you have? Where do you struggle? Please comment in the box below and on social media. I look forward to engaging with you on line and in- person.
Pass it on
If you know someone who is in their head a lot of the time, please pass this on to them. They might be able to access wisdom and answers for themselves that have eluded them for years. Please share and retweet the social media posts as well and spread the Light and Love.
I was recently asked to run a workshop for The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on resilience. A dictionary definition of resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. The concern was that employees have tools and resources that can make them more resilient.
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.
As I said in Part 1 of this blog series, stress is a natural part of life. We all experience it. If you think that you do not, perhaps you have a different word for it? May be instead of stress you would say you are anxious, worried, excited, challenged, driven, focused, frustrated, upset, in anticipation, overwhelmed, exhausted, tired or withdrawn. Whatever the word, my meaning of stress is that there is something in this lifestyle of yours that generates the Stress Response in you.
Are you experiencing stress?
The Stress Response is a term for a group of physiological symptoms generated when you are feeling threatened in some way. You are getting ready to fight or run away. So, you might experience quickened heart rate, dilated blood vessels and shallow breathing accompany increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones). For short periods this is beneficial for your health and well- being. Long term however, and the negative impact on your immune system, mental health, quality of sleep, productivity, overall resilience, creativity, relationships and vitality are immense. Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress (or whatever word you might use):
- Do you find it hard to get to sleep? If you wake up in the night, do you struggle to go back to sleep? Do you feel tired in the morning? Are you getting less than 7 hours sleep a night? If you say yes to any of these, you may well be experiencing stress. These may happen as a consequence of your stress. They may also be contributing factors to your stress. Either way, good quality sleep is essential for many reasons. If you do struggle to sleep or wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep, this audio might be useful.
- Do you eat a lot of sugary foods or foods high in fat? Can you get through the day only if you have sugary and caffeinated drinks? Sugar, fat and caffeine interfere with your body’s natural rhythms, disrupting sleep and other natural highs and lows of your day. Many processed foods place your body under a lot of burden, damaging blood vessels, creating bloating and inflammation. Not to mention the effect of artificial chemicals in our food that poison the body and bring it into imbalance. All of this is stressful for your body and impacts on your overall ability to cope.
- Muscular Tension. Light, regular exercise and movement leave the body feeling flexible, mobile and limber. Sitting still all day, barely moving your body, makes your muscles short, tight and painful. It puts the body under a lot of stress. Think how lovely it feels to have a stretch at your desk after you’ve been working at your computer for a couple of hours. Feels great right? Also, little body movement leaves people in “their heads”. In other words, listening to the logical and rational part of the mind rather than balancing it with the instinct and intuition of which the body is a part. Muscles also become tense due to unexpressed emotion. Emotions are energy in motion. If they are not expressed, they are internalised (in muscles and internal organs), another source of stress for the body. Muscular tension from all sources pulls the body out of alignment, generating postural stress that can have long term impact such as shoulder, knee and hip replacement operations, diminished mobility, nerve damage and quality of life.
- Suppressed Emotion. Are you the type of person who never feels or expresses emotion? Or if you do it is usually fits of anger or rage? Do you have a “stiff upper lip” or are you known as the “strong one” in the family/ relationship? This can lead to a lot of stress in the body. Gabor Mate, in his book “When the Body Says No- the cost of hidden stress”, explores the impact of suppressed emotion and how it can lead to many debilitating/ life threatening diseases such as MS, ME, numerous types of cancer, motor neuron disease, IBS and more. In short, the stress on the body from unexpressed emotion is so great, it manifests over time as physical illness.
- Grinding/ clenching your teeth. This is a sure sign you are experiencing stress. If people mention that you are doing either of these, it’s a strong indicator you are stressed.
- Holding your breath. Or breathing in a shallow manner. This can be a response to stress. It can also become a habit that keeps the body in a more heightened anxious state. Learning deep breathing exercises will lower blood pressure, deactivate the stress response in the body and generally make you feel more calm, relaxed and mobile. Belissa Vranich’s book Breathe gives detailed instructions and exercises about how to breathe more effectively for better health.
- Lack of focus. The Stress Response makes you very insular. Therefore, focus on other people, projects at work, problem solving and other things that require focus just doesn’t happen. It’s your body’s way of saying “Stop paying attention to other things, I need some attention here!!!!”
- Short temper and irritability. If your body is tired and debilitated by long term exposure to the effects of the Stress Response, you have no or very little reserves in the tank for additional stress. My experience of this is that as a response to feeling powerless or out of control, we tend to lash out to protect ourselves. This is a sure sign that you are reaching the end of your tether. Consciously activating the Relaxation Response will give you more reserves to tackle any additional stress whilst keeping off “Red Alert”.
- A little worry is healthy. We can use it to assess situations and scan for trouble before the event. Anxiety takes it to another level, assessing endless scenarios without resolution. This is usually a clear sign that you are stressed. There is a much calmer life for you to enjoy beyond anxiety if you can find the ways to manage your stress.
- Feeling like life has no purpose or direction. Life without purpose has no direction. Without meaningful goals, aligned to what is most important to us (whatever that may be), life can feel pointless and meaningless. We can feel powerless and that comes with its own stress. A lack of energy, vitality, engagement, power, strength and focus. Purpose infuses our life with direction and meaning that gives momentum, energy, pace and vitality to life.
Natural Ways to manage stress
Please note, this is not an exact science. There might be many reasons why you are experiencing these symptoms. If you suspect stress at all, consult your doctor and a healthy dose of common sense and discover the ways YOU can undo the effects of stress. Rather than pop a pill which might be the easiest way to deal with it, I invite you to explore more natural ways to manage your stress. I am not a trained medical professional, so please do not take my word as gospel. However, there is something empowering about listening to your body and intuition and finding the right answer for you. Managing the stress is the key. I discuss some of the strategies I have discovered on my travels with stress in Part 3.
Over to You
Do you notice that you often do not sleep well? Perhaps you sleep very soundly. Or maybe you are affected by someone who has disturbed sleep? Are there parts of your body that get very tight? Is that due to lack of movement, emotional stress, worry, anxiety or body misalignment? Or is your body limber, relaxed and agile? Would you say you were an emotional eater? Do you find it hard to focus? Or do you have laser- type focus and excellent concentration? Are you more irritable than you used to be? Perhaps you are more calm and unflappable than ever before?
Do you feel lost in your life and feel life is getting smaller? Or is your life expanding and you are discovering new horizons? I’d love to hear your experiences and grow this body of wisdom in the Potentiality Coaching community. Please share in the comment box below or on social media. Thank you.
Pass it On
If what I have been talking about sounds like someone you know, why no forward this blog to them and ask them to give it a read. It might be the turning point for them to start listening to their body and recognise the signs that stress is present. It’s so easy to deal with. Awareness is the first step. The next is action. See you next time for Part 3.
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.
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.
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.
Do you find emotions challenging? Have you ever wanted to change your emotional response to something? Do you know your emotional reaction does not serve you but are at a loss as to how to change it? Do you find yourself reacting to things unconsciously and wishing you could behave differently?
Logic and Reason
Most of us have experienced this at some time in our lives. Often you try to deal with your emotional state using logic and reason. Historically, philosophers, scientists and laymen have explained emotions through the lens of logic. Yet in the cold light of day, to explain something so irrational with logic and reason sounds ridiculous. To explore the profound contradiction of the human experience from a rational standpoint is like trying to show a bird how to fly by using diagrams and advanced calculus. It’s never going to add up. The experience of emotion is not logical, just like a bird does not learn to fly using a manual. It is feeling that marks the experience, which is an intuitive, instinctive response to a situation in the moment.
Emotions and Pain
Emotions are powerful and can leave us feeling totally overwhelmed. They can also be contradictory. All of this can be confusing and intense which makes emotions hard to process. Increasingly, we are getting less and less education about how to manage our emotions effectively. The rise of incidents of mental health and depression is staggering evidence of our emotional pain. It seems that we have been dealing with emotions in the wrong way for centuries. And this has been compounded by a lack of understanding of how our brains work. I think there is also a lack of knowledge about what emotions are for. We will look at each of these in turn.
How your brain works
I read a fascinating article about emotions recently. It has helped me put into perspective how emotions are created. It also shows what we can do to manage them. “How Emotions Trick Your Brain” was written by Dr. Lisa Feldman- Barrett, in the BBC’s Science Focus magazine (No. 321, May 2018 edition). She is a psychologist, neuroscientist and author of “How emotions are Made: The Secret of the Brain”.
Neuroscientists understand now that the brain is predominantly designed to predict. “Studies show that your brain spends 60 to 80 per cent of its energy on prediction. In every moment, your brain issues thousands of predictions at a time, based on past experience.” And it is this past experience that can be such a limiting factor in your growth, development and fulfilling your desire to move forward in your life.
“Emotions are your brain’s best guesses for what your body’s sensations mean, based on your situation” says Feldman- Barrett. In other words, your body has an experience and your brain interprets that experience based upon the past. The process happens quite unconsciously, beyond your awareness. The cascade of sensation to experience and on to behaviour is rapid. However, it is not always accurate, supportive or appropriate.
For example, I have a fear of intense emotion, particularly anger when it manifests as shouting. I notice that I retreat into myself. I become small, invisible and shut down to the extent that I do not say anything. My body becomes contracted. I hunch over, stomach tight, shoulders up. I feel fear and the desire to run away. Yet that response is one of a child afraid of abandonment by angry or disappointed parents. I would like to say here that my parents never abandoned me and rarely shouted. It is a natural response to the risk of removal of protection and nurturing. As an adult, I no longer need to fear these things. And yet I do feel these emotions and behave accordingly.
How can you change your emotions?
Feldman- Barrett comes up with three options:
• The first is “body budget”, giving your body the resources it needs like good nutrition, sleep and regular exercise so that the brain does not have to predict challenging emotions. You are more stable, balanced and positive in your emotional state. I might add things such as posture and energy vibration that make the body stronger and more robust as well. Those of you that have done the Mindful Movement workshops will know the power of Paul Linden’s centring exercises as well as the health benefits of positive energy to the body and mind.
• The second is your environment and being mindful of the impact your surroundings have on your emotional state. People and places that upset you or empower you profoundly affect your state of mind.
• The third is your predictions from past experience. As my mother is fond of saying “You cannot change the past.” What I have learned is that you can change the way you view the past. When you notice your body having a reaction to a situation that does not support your best self, you can use Paul Linden’s centring exercises. Use your awareness, posture, heart energy and radiance to change your body’s reaction to the situation towards something far more supportive. Your body literally cannot support this old emotion and behaviour and so you produce a different emotion and behaviour. One you hope is supportive of your best self. If you practice this you will get much better at it.
Back to the example of the anger and shouting. I no longer need to feel the contracted state of fear and the stress response. Awareness that I am having this experience means I can change my body’s reaction and so have a completely different experience around anger and shouting. From this new state of being, I no longer feel personally attacked or threatened. I am better able to remain present to the situation. I can interact with the person more effectively than before and co- create a mutually beneficial outcome.
Towards a fuller version of myself
I have always struggled to openly share my thoughts and feelings with others. In the past, my opinion did not stand for much in the grand scheme of things and so I learned that my opinion did not matter. I have become an adult carrying the same belief. I have made my way in the world speaking other people’s truths. On a retreat workshop I spoke my truth for the first time and found people to be open and receptive to that message.
Since then I have built my confidence in sharing my stories, thoughts and ideas. I experience the emotion of “my opinion does not matter” and the contraction that comes with that. Then I centre and think about the kind of leader I wish to become. I take a deep relaxing breath and I say my piece. Fear of rejection, humiliation and dismissal surface sometimes. Consequently, I acknowledge them and let them pass as I hold my vision of what the future holds. I have many teachers and mentors to thank for traveling that journey towards a fuller version of myself.
What is the purpose of emotions?
Put very simply, emotions are information. They are your body’s way of saying that there are things here you need to pay attention to. “I feel weak, threatened, attacked, rejected, humiliated, fearful or diminished.” “I feel happy, powerful, confident, strong, listened to, seen, supported or elated.” These are either “move towards” or “move away” from states that your body is flagging up to notice. Our general lack of comfort with emotion means we miss valuable information about our current state and so we are removed and disengaged with our present environment and how we can interact with it.
Presence is remaining aware of your body state and your interaction with the environment. Emotions allow you to know how you are interacting in this moment. Once you are aware, you have choice. Now you are empowered to choose an emotional state that supports your best self.
You do not have to be a victim of your past. Awareness is a powerful tool that allows you to choose how you respond to any given situation. Yes, you might react to a situation in a certain way initially. However, that does not mean that you have to continue reacting that way. What serves you? What reaction brings you closer to your desired goals? Who do you want to be? How do you wish to be perceived by others? These questions frame the context of your reaction. Through practice, you can train yourself to “be” and “do” differently.
Over to you
How do you feel about emotions? Do you find them challenging? Are you able to manage your emotional state? Now that you have tried these methods, have they made a difference? How have things changed? Does it help to think of emotions as information? How does that make it easier or harder to manage your emotions? Please share your thoughts and experiences. As well as deepening your own learning, sharing also gives other people permission to learn and understand better their own journey.
Pass it on
If you know anyone who might benefit from help to manage their emotional state, please send them the link to this blog. Emotions seem to be something we want to run away from. In fact, they are an intimate part of the human experience that keeps us healthy, sane and connected, to ourselves and others. Developing emotional intelligence is a part of the coaching journey, deepening self- knowledge and making life a richer experience.
You cannot consciously and purposefully change anything without being aware of it first. Awareness gives you power to choose your actions. It is perhaps the single most important aspect essential for personal growth.
The Learning Cycle
You may know this cycle of learning:
- Unconscious incompetence
- Conscious incompetence
- Conscious competence and
- Unconscious competence.
We start the process unaware of what we don’t know (unconscious incompetence). Then through guidance or insight we realise that we don’t know something. We discover we need to improve (conscious incompetence). This spurs us to learn and consciously apply our learning. Firstly in quite a crude and clumsy manner. Then with progressively more skill as our knowledge and experience develops (conscious competence). In time we act with great skill without paying conscious attention to our behaviour (unconscious competence). Then the process repeats, endlessly growing our skill base and competence. True growth never stops.
This is as true for our feelings and emotions as it is for our practical and intellectual skill. Emotional intelligence is an important part of our behavioural and relational repertoire. Awareness of how the body feels is a route into our state of being in this moment. We recognise tension, discomfort, relaxation or pleasure in the body. That tells us valuable information about how our body responds to this current situation. It takes practice to notice these feelings in the body rather than think about them and judge the reaction. There is great power in noticing how we feel without judgement. Then we are free to act from where we are emotionally.
We can then make a choice about whether this response serves us and the people around us. Mindfully we begin to take responsibility and make changes to alter the way we affect the outcome.
Awareness Applied to Public Speaking
Recently I had a public speaking engagement. I noticed myself getting nervous, tense and shallow breathing developing into panic behaviour. As soon as I realised it I began relaxing and deepening my breath which calms me down. I was able to deliver the talk without any difficulty. Previous experience tells me that left unchecked this panic reaction leads to ineffective communication, forgetting my lines and not interacting with the audience. As a consequence the attendees do not get what they came for. It was better for all that I noticed.
How awareness influences conversations
When we are having a conversation with someone, very often we pay attention to what is happening between us and them. Is the atmosphere calm and relaxed, charged and edgy, aggressive and threatening? That is one level of awareness. Another is noticing what is going on for the other person and how they are contributing to the environment. A third is how you are feeling and how you affect what is going on. Only by being aware of how you are feeling can you affect the space around you consciously. The onus is on you to notice and then take responsibility for your role in co- creating the outcome.
Body as Tool Kit for Awareness
Over to You
How do you use your body to be aware of your state? What do you find easy or struggle with about awareness? Do you use your awareness of your body to adapt how you are in situations like the public speaking one I described? Are you aware of how you use your body when you communicate with other people and yourself? I’d love to hear from you.
Pass it On
Think this article or the Moving Meditation Course might be useful for someone you know? Why not send them a link to the blog or forward them the details of the course? I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.
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