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.
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:
- health and well- being
- mental health and agility
- living life on purpose and with meaning
- creativity and productivity
- self- management and regulation
- personal power and empowerment
- employee engagement
- 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.