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What are you doing to celebrate this year’s International day of Love, that special day when we are meant to prioritise and honour our most intimate relationship with another?
And yet, the most intimate relationship you can have is with yourself. When do you celebrate that? How do you prioritise that intimate relationship with yourself? What special events do you create to let yourself know that you are loved and appreciated by you?
Just like a loving relationship with another, you don’t have to limit showing your affection to one day a year (see last year’s post on Valentine’s Day).  Show yourself as often as you can how much you love you.  Here are some things you can do to show yourself how special you are.  You might do it on Valentine’s Day, but you could do it throughout the year and celebrate that most intimate of relationships- the one with yourself.

Date Night

When was the last time you went on a date with yourself? Have you ever had a treat for yourself? Don’t you deserve that special time? Time away from your spouse, kids, family and friends just to be with yourself. It could be a walk alone. And it might be a weekend break in a five star hotel in New York or deep in nature. Or it could be night in.
Whatever lights you up that shows you that you care about you. You appreciate how hard you work and the effort you make. And even without that, you are worthy of some special care, affection and joy.  Why not take some time out and do something that you love for you. That might involve others. Or not. What’s important is that you recognise that you are doing it for you.
Because you are worth it.

Self-care

Make time to show yourself how much you care

I listen to people tell me how they bully themselves into working longer hours, getting up earlier, going to bed later, driving themselves at the desk and the gym regardless of how they might be feeling. As if to listen to your body when it is tired or in need of a break is a weakness. And then it is no wonder you get knocked sideways by a cold or backache that has you in bed for a week. Or a more serious medical condition.

Self-care is perhaps the most loving thing you can do for yourself. You would care for another. Why would you not care for yourself?
One of the toughest lessons I have learned has been self-care.  I used to drive myself all the time and all it did was satisfy my sense of taking action…… and make me exhausted, irritable and not much fun to be around.  I had to relearn that the relaxing bathes at the end of the day, a sleep-in when I feel I need it, a walk in the fresh air as a break, a two week holiday (or more), healthy food, a good film, time with friends, nice-feeling clothes, a treat day alone or with a special someone were important for my well-being and actually increased my capacity to work and LIVE well. These are all events you can make time for to show yourself that you care.

Fun

Games and fun are not something you can do as a kid or with kids. Sure, you can make life all serious. But if you can find a way to enjoy what you do, have fun, laugh, smile and enjoy yourself, life becomes enriched and more rewarding. And don’t you have more fun with the people in your life you love most?
It is a rejuvenating thing to have have fun with friends and family, but when did you have fun or pleasure on your lonesome? When did you last go for a walk alone for pleasure? Or a cycle or drive? If there was a film you wanted to see but no one else did, did you go alone and enjoy it? Or the pleasure of reading, listening to audiobooks or music. Cooking alone, gardening, making or building things. Or just dancing your heart out alone in your living room when you were in the house on your own?
Fun helps to build that love affair with yourself, just as it does with another person. Invest that time in whatever way you enjoy and see how your love blossoms.

Celebration

When was the last time you celebrated a win? We are not encouraged to celebrate our successes. Is it arrogance? Self-indulgence? Once we have achieved something we will often just move on to the next thing. We might reflect on it to consider what we could have done better. There is benefit from that and great learning. Less likely is a conscious celebration of a job well done. There is great learning in that too.
Try it. The next task you perform, be it as mundane as the dishes, celebrate whatever you did that you are proud of or pleased with. If you need something bigger, celebrate your contribution to a project. What did you do well? What comfort zones did you step out of or challenges did you overcome? Are you pleased how you responded to this person or that conflict? Did you surprise yourself with your leadership, presence, confidence, humility, patience, drive, insight, support. Did you get it in on time or early? Can you celebrate your perseverance?
Whatever you celebrate, take time to savour it. Let that good feeling linger. Perhaps do your celebration dance and reward yourself with a treat- what will make you feel good and valued by you for the effort and hard work you dedicate yourself to?

Gratitude and Appreciation

So often, we are driven by our inner critic. As humans we seem to have learned that chastising ourselves is a way to get better results out of ourselves. To me this seems like a cruel regime that would be better approached with kindness, care and love.
A few years ago when my inner critic was rampant, I started with a gratitude journal. Every night I would write, or simply think, what I appreciated about my day: the kindness of people, the sun, nice food, a pleasant walk or cycle, particular people in my life. I struggled to get five in the list. But soon it grew to 10 and then 20 as I began more and more to see what I was grateful for. And then I had a further breakthrough………. I added myself to the list!!!! I appreciated the effort I made, how I tried and never gave up and so on.
That gratitude diary changed my relationship with myself as I learned to see myself with pleasure, respect, appreciation and even awe. I have developed a love for myself. Not in a narcissistic way. Rather in a manner that I am a cheerleader and advocate for myself. Some days are better than others and I just stick to the list of five. More often than not it is much more than that.

Coaching

One of the most loving things you can do is speak to another about what is most important to you.  To have a meaningful conversation in which you feel heard, seen and supported in a non-judgemental way.  Where there are no holds barred and you are open so that you can benefit from your truth and vulnerability.
Friends, family and colleagues can be a place to do that.  But sometimes it is not always appropriate and people close to you have all kinds of involvements and stakes in your life that can make it challenging to be non-judgemental and listen without assumptions or prejudice.  Sometimes you need a dedicated person, time and space to speak freely.  A client recently said that coaching was “me time”. A place to think, talk and plan. It is also a space to learn, reflect, challenge and grow. Don’t you deserve that too?
Coaching is great for supporting you in living that beautiful quality of life you desire for yourself. Assigning that hour every week or so is sacred time to focus on what you want and need to make life better for you and those you share it with.
Sometimes that means standing up for what you believe in. Other times it requires you to say “no”. Sometimes you’ll see patterns and preferences that no longer serve you and hold you back from achieving your dreams. And you’ll cultivate resources that make you more confident, stronger, more focused and more compassionate with yourself.
All to say that you will live more fully the life you want and deserve. What a gift? You deserve to be fulfilled and live a life that feels like it has meaning and purpose. How would that be for a Valentine’s gift for yourself?

Over to You

How do you show yourself how much you care?  When do you make time to cultivate your relationship with yourself?  When was the last time you did something you really wanted to do?  How was it?  Are you craving some personal time and self-care?  What do you need to do to make that happen?  What excuses do you come up with to stop yourself?  How would life be different if you took time out to show some appreciation and gratitude for yourself?  I’d love to know what you are doing to show yourself how much you care about yourself.  Please share in the comments or if you prefer, you can e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

Pass it on

Know someone in need of some self love?  Why not forward this blog to them to remind them how important it is to show yourself love.

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.

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?

What does self care mean to you? Does it seem essential or indulgent? Are you at the top of your list for self care or are you at the bottom? Are you always looking out for others and disregarding your needs? Or are you taking care of yourself so that you can look after those you care most about?

Take care of yourself first

You all know the scenario given in the flight safety information announcement before the plane takes off: in case of emergency please apply your own oxygen mask BEFORE helping other people to apply theirs.

It seems like a no brainer and common sense in that situation. If I pass out through lack of oxygen how can I help my child or elderly parent in an emergency? Or anyone else for that matter? In the immediacy and short time frame of an emergency, it seems obvious.

It is an act of self care. According to the Self Care Forum, “Self Care is the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, well-being or wellness.”

Yes, you are doing it so that you can help others, but first and foremost you have to care for yourself. Yet self care need not be an emergency situation. In fact, the vast majority of self care is the daily little things you can do that keep your mind and body relaxed, stress free and in a state of well-being and wellness.

Self care in action

 

I have known a number of people who have had strokes and heart attacks. They all say the same thing: when it first happened it was such a shock that I was jolted into taking action for self care. They ate more healthily, exercised more, worked less, reduced stress, had more fun and spent time with the people they cared about and doing things they enjoyed. Yet, as time went on and the shock of it passed, the immediacy subsided and the urgency is not so great. Old habits return and they find themselves in a similar situation a couple of years down the line. The only exception to that example I know is my Mum who still eats a very healthy diet, exercises regularly and has a personal trainer 5 years after her stroke. She is 87 years old.

Self care is not selfish. It ensures you are able to serve others as fully as possible as well as your self.

So what sorts of things can you do to take care of yourself? You know most of them: reduce fat and sugar in your diet, exercise for longer and more regularly, cut out smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat more green leafy vegetables, rest more, sleep more, work less, reduce the things that stress you, increase what gives you joy and have clear boundaries to which you say “yes” and “no” to name a few. What others would you add?

Two items of self care I’d like to explore that are less talked about are honouring your values and living your life purpose. These are essential self care tools I believe because they are at the core of why you would care for yourself.

Self care and Values

Some of my values are kindness, trust, transparency, seeing people at their best and giving people space to be themselves. For me there is integrity and peace when I live in line with these values. It can be challenging but I feel less stress and more powerful when I act in alignment with them. I hold myself in that too so I am more self-compassionate and understanding as well as with others. It is a kindness I can offer other people and myself.

So, what are your values? What is most important to you? Get pen and paper and write a list. If you’re struggling, think of a time when you felt really alive, powerful, tingly all over and you didn’t give a hoot about what anyone else thought of you. What was going on? Who were you with? How did you feel? What impact did you have?

Alternatively, consider a time you were upset or pissed off. What angered you about that situation? What was being stepped on that was important to you? These exercises will shed light on what is most important to you- your values. Notice where these values show up in your life? And where they don’t? Where would you like to see them more in your life? How would your life be different if they were more present? Can you see how by living these values more you are doing what’s best for you which means you bring more of yourself to your life? That people would benefit more from your power and passion because you acted from what was most important to you? How stressed and less than your best do you feel when you don’t honour those values? It’s a win- win when you do? Doesn’t everyone lose when you don’t?

Self care and Life Purpose

Connected to values is life purpose. Now don’t get all worried because life purpose has to be something earth shattering that brings you to the Oprah Winfrey show! Life Purpose is about what lights you up inside. Isn’t that self care? What makes your heart sing? Wouldn’t the people in your life benefit from that as well as you? For some their life purpose is to create a bold and loving space for their family. For others it about creating a legacy to reduce suicide, or homelessness, save the whale or create a more compassionate world. Personally, my life purpose is about personal freedom and empowering people to live fully themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally. What is your life purpose?

Can you see how awareness of your values and life purpose make living a more healthy lifestyle, creating and maintaining boundaries and other acts of self care easier to do on a daily basis? They give a context in which your self care can sit. And they give an empowered perspective to keep choosing self care even in the face of challenging circumstances. Keep choosing you and you will always have the strength, clarity and power to serve others.

Self care and coaching

Exploring values and life purpose are central to co-active life coaching. They are some of the foundations of your coaching exploration and journey. Clarity on these so that you can live them with integrity and fullness is an act of self care you can keep saying “yes” to again and again. And the benefit to your friends and family and the world at large will be massive. 

Some may challenge and create barriers as you step into your values and life purpose and you may have your own challenges and barriers as you live them more fully. That is what the coaching journey is about as you grow into that person more fully. Support and having someone in your corner can help make that transformation more readily. Would you like to take that journey? If so, get in touch and we can have a discussion about what your goals are and how I may be able to support in that journey.

Over to you

How do you administer self care? What will you do differently now about your self care having read this? Every year in the UK we have Self Care Week. “Whether it is about self-treatable conditions, long term conditions, or lifestyle choices to ensure better physical health and mental well-being, (self care) week raises awareness of the huge benefits of people looking after themselves better.”

Here is a poster for Self Care Week 2019. Lots of additional resources are available at the Self Care Forum website and throughout the Potentiality Coaching blog posts. Here is a video with more information:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsiOtnnVZvI

Pass it on

If you know someone who needs more self care, please pass on this blog or details about Self Care Forum to them. It may empower them to greater self care and allow them to make a bigger impact in their world which will be gift to everyone.

 

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.  

People do not seem to realise they are experiencing stress.  They just don’t see it!

Would you know if you were stressed?  Do you have a sense of what the signs might be if you were experiencing stress?  Do you notice when other people are stressed?  Are there occasions when people say you are stressed and you have no idea what they are talking about?

Having recently run a workshop on stress and talked to many people over the years about stress one thing comes through loud and clear:

Stress is rife in our lives and many of us are totally unaware that we are living with it.

People do not seem to realise they are experiencing stress.  They just don’t see it!  But that does not mean they are not affected by it.  Nor does it mean family, friends and colleagues are not impacted by it as a result.  Having been one of those people myself, it is hard to stand around the side lines and watch people struggle with its affects.  As a result, they go about their daily lives oblivious to the signs and symptoms of stress thinking that all is well.

The Impact of Stress

I’m sure you know many of the statistics about stress.  But just in case you don’t, long term stress can negatively impact your:

  • Life expectancy
  • Quality & duration of sleep (sleeplessness, disturbed sleep, nightmares, fitful sleep)
  • Behaviour (withdrawal, irritability, restlessness, depression)
  • Relationships (impacting those closest to us)
  • Health & disease (increase risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease)
  • Interest in sex & sexual performance
  • Diet & weight (increase in fats & sugars raises weight or diminished appetite reduces weight)
  • Resilience
  • Productivity at work
  • Motivation

Stressed? Not me!

So being unaware that you are experiencing stress can come at quite a cost.  I will discuss the signs you want to be looking for, that tell you stress is present in your life and perhaps having an adverse effect on your health in Part 2 of this series.  Before I do that, I just want to explore why people don’t notice the stress in their lives:

  1. The signs creep up slowly over time. You live with yourself 24/7 and often do not notice any changes that might happen in your life, except for the dramatic ones: the surprise birthday party, the heart attack, a heat wave or cold snap, not being able to get into those trousers or tops you once used to fit into, a new addition to the family.  Look in the mirror daily and you do not see yourself getting older.  You do not notice your shoulders getting tighter or your waistline bigger.  You’ve breathed so shallow for years that you do not realise you’re barely getting any air at all.  You get used to what you know and may not question whether this is best for your health and well- being.
  2. Social and cultural norms. Countries, regions, religions, companies, cities, individuals, cultures, towns and families all have their traditions.  From what we eat and drink, to how we socialise, where and how we work, what exercise we do, where we pray and so on.  Sometimes these norms are great for our health and well- being.  Other times, these habits are not.  It’s hard to do things differently to the rest.  If other people don’t seem to experience stress as a result of these habits, then surely nor do I.  Yet, we are all individuals and what may be calming to others could be causing untold stress on someone else.  And remember, they may be suffering from the same lack of awareness about the effect stress is having on them as you are.  We just don’t want to go there in our minds, so we don’t.  Nothing changes and the effects of stress mount.
  3. Stress isn’t something that happens to me. This is the misguided vision I had for years.  Because I am a martial artist, meditator, student of philosophy, calm, confident and thinking of myself as a spiritual practitioner, how could I possibly have stress?  As a result, I’m not looking for the signs.  Struggling to sleep?  Whatever the reason, it can’t be stress!  Experiencing shortness of breath?  Whatever the reason, it can’t be stress!  Finding it hard to focus?  Whatever the reason, it can’t be stress!  You’re getting the idea.  So, maybe you think that being stressed is something that happens to other people.  Or you have a super power that means you can survive on 4 hours sleep a night.  Trust me, we all experience stress.  If it is long- term, it will have adverse effects on your health.  Pay attention to the signs before it’s too late.
  4. Stress isn’t that important to worry about. Some people just don’t think stress is anything to worry about.  Everyone struggles with it and gets on OK.  What’s all the fuss?  It’s a bit like President Trump saying there’s no climate change problem.  Everyone knows that there is, but he doesn’t think it’s worth doing anything about. The attitude that “I’ll be fine” or “I’ve got it covered” I hear a lot.  As a result, the unchanged life style leads to heart attacks, strokes, cancer and more.  These people that I care about seem surprised when it happens!!!!!
  5. I’m too busy to change anything, or change is too hard. Yes, to make changes in your life style does mean things will be different.  In people’s minds that usually means things will be worse!  Our resistance to change is often because we are invested in the old way of doing things: not rock the boat with family or friends; stay inside my comfort zone; surely this tough stage will pass even if I ignore it; I don’t have the time; what about my career, relationship, income etc.; I don’t need to change; how will I be perceived if I change things; what if I fail; how will life be different if I succeed.  Resisting change is normal- there is a degree of uncertainty and that comes with its own challenges.  If we do not make changes, nothing changes.  There are signs telling you that change is necessary, even essential, if only you would pay attention. So, please listen.

Do any of these five points sound like you?  If so, you might be experiencing stress and not realise it.  Left untreated for many years, it could have adverse effects on your health, well- being, quality of life, length of your life and the degree to which you enjoy your life.

The Body has the answer

It’s great that you are deep in the cut and thrust of life, building your business, developing your career, nurturing your family, creating your life.  To be immersed in life is wonderful.  Sometimes you get caught up in the momentum and think “What’s next……?”  As soon as the last job is done, you’re rushing off to do the next one.  If you don’t take time to check in from time to time with how your body feels, you’ll never know where you are at…….. and you may well miss the signs that stress is building up.

Your body is the answer.  It will tell you whether it is experiencing stress. Your head may tell you that there is nothing to be concerned about.  It’s too busy being busy.  Try this instead.  Take time to connect to your body.  How?  Centring, mindfulness and meditation are great ways to connect in.  Also, Mindful Movement workshops are a great fun way to connect in with your body and begin rebuilding a relationship with your body again.  As a result, your body will become a friend, a confidante, a trusted partner.  You will reap the benefits of living mindfully, managing stress effectively and enjoying life fully for mind, body and soul.

Over to You

What is your attitude to stress?  Is it something other people have but not you?  Are you too busy to deal with it or do you make time in your day for managing it effectively?  Is stress another “Climate Change” issue or are you taking it seriously?  Do you know you have to deal with the stress in your life or are you too busy to change?  So, let’s get a conversation going and bring the effects of stress to people’s attention.  Then they can take control and begin to live more fully and vibrantly.

Pass it On

If what I have been talking about sounds like someone you know, why not 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 opening to the possibility that stress is in their lives.  It’s so easy to deal with.  Awareness is the first step.  The next is seeing stress in action in our lives.  So we’ll be covering that in Part 2. See you next time.