All over the country last night, as has become a national habit, people were clapping for those who are seeking to look after us in many ways during this time. As in all times of crisis, there are many hidden heroes and in your own way you may be one of them, quietly getting on with something important, and something that needs to be done.
Today in terms of personal resilience I want to encourage you to Pause for a different reason: to take the time to consider how you have fared over the last three weeks; to recognise those things you have done that have strengthened your resilience and to recommit to making some of them a daily habit. In times of high stress, we need to practise habits of high self-care, as there are so many possibilities for having our energy and resources zapped! So pause and form a new commitment to what you know enables you to take a break from all that is happening.
And turning to the second word, I wonder how readily you give praise, and how readily you receive praise. Today’s mission is to find or better still create opportunities to say thank you to the many people who are making your life brighter during these times when we are all adjusting to new ways of living our life. Maybe you can even set yourself a target of 5 or 10 people you want to acknowledge and thank for how they are making a difference to you during this time.
So as you Pause and set good habits for your self-care, and seek opportunities to praise and thank people for a jobs large and small, be kind to your too and as always Stay Safe.
If I had been asked to write an article called “A week in the life of an Executive Coach” a few weeks ago, I imagine it would have been very different to the one I would write if I were to focus on the last three weeks. The scale of the challenges clients are facing, the speed of change, and the need to make critical decisions with wide-ranging consequences have never been experienced by most of us in our lifetime.
Some of you will know that I am accredited in Conversational Intelligence®, the work of Judith Glaser, which looks amongst other things at how we build trust as human beings through the openness and transparency of our conversations. That work has never been more relevant than it is today.
In terms of personal resilience one of the best things we can do right now from a well-being point of view is be open about (1) how we are today, (2) what we are feeling, and (3) what our hopes and plans are for going forward. This degree of openness comes more naturally to some than others. Some will immediately go into thoughts when we ask them how they are feeling. The answer to the feeling question is best described in one word. If we spent just a fraction of the time we spend on media input on being open with each other and ourselves we would release some of the personal pressure we are all feeling.
In my work with clients I often say of difficult thoughts and feelings that “it is better out than in”, that is, it is better to be expressed. Whether that is releasing these thoughts and feelings through talking it out, writing it out, exercising it out or whatever. Letting the steam out a little at a time is way more helpful than holding it in until it explodes.
It is not brave to ignore the elephant of fear and threat that is in the room. Courage is acknowledging it and working together to navigate the current situation in spite of it. Take care today to ensure that as you listen to the feelings of others, you are open about what you feel too. Be open, and as always stay safe.
There is a well known saying “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” The last few weeks have created an interesting phenomenon in the workplace, and perhaps elsewhere. Some people are working 16 hour days and have done so for the last 16 or so days in order to give us our best chance of a good health outcome from COVID-19 aka known as staying alive. At the same time others are feeling stir crazy because of the guidance to stay at home, work from home, have the kids at home, and only exercise once a day.
One of the keys to personal resilience right now is the ability to know when to say No! That takes me to a question I haven’t answered in these posts. “What’s so important about personal resilience?”. Our bodies are designed to respond to crisis. What they are not designed for is to deal with high levels of stress over a prolonged period of time. At the very least we’re looking at being in this state for a few months rather than a few weeks.
A long time ago I was asked a question: “What is your ‘Yes’ worth if you don’t say ‘No’?” It is, and always has been, important to say ‘No’ to some things in order to say ‘Yes’ to what’s important. If we fail to make this distinction, we will simply arrive at overload, particularly in times of high stress.
This morning I said ‘No’ to something I would ordinarily have said a resounding ‘Yes’ to. In terms of personal resilience, what may you need to say ‘no’ to at this time, in order to ensure you have time and energy for the ‘Yes’ that only you can provide. Take time to re-evaluate your current priorities this morning, and when you say ‘no’ know that it is for a more impactful ‘yes’.
I wonder how well you have been taking care of your own resilience over the last couple of weeks amidst all the pressures you may be facing, particularly if you are on the front line of dealing with COVID-19. Some simple measures can help you to counter all of the negative messaging and fears of the current situations, and I’m sure we all have our own tried and tested ways of supporting ourselves in difficult times.
M is an easy letter to find words for when we think about personal resilience – I have still X to come! I’ve chosen move. It’s such a simple thing to do even when our movements are restricted in so many ways. If you are working from home and largely focussed on a laptop just now you will know how easy it is to be stationary for long chunks of the day. Here are some things to think about.
1. Create a standing desk with the ironing table – anything that restricts its normal use is worthwhile! One of my clients added hat boxes to get the correct height.
2. Set a Sports watch (if you have one) or a timer on your phone to ring every 45 minutes and at the very least at that time go for a walk round you house.
3. Ensure that no matter how busy or distracted you are you use your one permitted slot of exercise every day
4. If you are really adventurous, join the hordes up and down the country who are exercising with Joe Wicks every morning at 9am
5. Find a pair of skipping ropes… or a rope of any kind in the garage
6. Dig out a ball – or three balls and learn to juggle
7. Find someone in your household to play Twister or the Cereal box game
8. Put on your favourite dance music and dance like a mad thing
9. Get out into the green gym if you have one
10. Start a Couch to 5K programme using your one exercise slot a day
I’ve had a frozen shoulder since January and I know how hard it is to move a part of your body that has decided it’s not co-operating. Overcoming out mental barriers are way much more difficult! So commit to doing one thing today on the list, or some other way of getting moving that will remind your body that it was made for moving. And as always, stay safe.
Right at the start of our personal resilience alphabet we explored the value of acceptance and adaptability. We are back on a similar theme today. At the start of this period there was a sudden and significant change of gear for everyone. For some that included managing more than one job at work, managing school at home, and adjustments that had to be made to accommodate a new way of living our lives in a whole host of ways.
In order to manage this need for extra capacity and extra workload, we have had to simply let go of some aspects of life in order to avoid overload and rebalance the priorities, and how these priorities have changed over the last few weeks!
I wonder if you have readily let go of the things that are not important at the moment, or if you are still trying to run to a routine that is no longer sustainable? Perhaps today would be a good day to take stock and ask yourself: “What do I need to let go of at this time?”, or more radically, “What do we need to let go of?” Whether that is a routine we normally adopt; or a thought pattern that is not useful right now, taking a moment to take stock and simply let some things go may help ease the pressure.
Take 10 minutes just for you today, to think about what you are trying to juggle just now, new activities and old, and see what you can let go of for the next few weeks. Also be aware of what new habits you are developing which may detract from your personal resilience and take firm steps to let go of these too. For example, one obvious one may be the amount of time you are spending absorbing news. So review your activity load and make wise choices about where you simply need to let it go.
If you have been following this Blog, you will know that one of the hashtags is #bekindtoyoutoo. So you will not be surprised that today we are thinking about kindness in all its forms. I’m reminded of a quote by the Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible.”
We have heard in recent days of many acts of practical kindness by people of all ages, faiths, cultures and a range of other adjectives too many to mention. Our consciousness has been heightened about the vulnerability of certain groups of people; we have been mindful of the needs of our friends and families; we have perhaps found ways of supporting those who suddenly had a day job at home at the same time they are trying to adjust to the new role of ‘teacher’, ‘mentor’, and ‘nursery teacher’.
So today, the action is simple… Find a way today to be kind to someone else, and find a way today to be kind to you too! I had the delight yesterday of discovering a bag sitting on my door step. As I carefully opened it, being mindful that the exterior bag may be contaminated, I found a Note, a Card and a Gift. The note said – this has been sitting with your name on it since before COVID-19, so what’s inside will not need decontaminated! A beautiful gift – and a wonderful surprise, from someone passing by on an essential outing.
In the midst of all the acts of kindness you have done this week motivated by compassion, care, and a desire to help others, take time today to offer that same level of compassion and care to yourself. I wonder what difference that will make to your day: I know it will make a difference to your personal resilience.
As we continue to focus on Personal Resilience these two words are like twins for me. Gratitude for what we have (and often take for granted) and Generosity with what we have.
Today’s personal resilience challenge is to take a pen and paper (I know that requires some action on your part) and write down in three minutes as many things as you can think of that you are grateful for right now, and you might like to write in the comments how many you managed in your three minutes. It is good for our health, our mental health, and our sense of self to remind ourselves of what is available to us even in challenging times. I sometimes ask clients to keep a Gratitude Diary as a list on their phone. If this task is too easy for you, you might like to try putting 5 things on your phone you are grateful for every day for the next 28 days, one of them about yourself if you really want a challenge. I guarantee if you do this for 28 days you will feel the shift in your mood.
Which brings me to my second word. We are surrounded by acts of generosity right now and I don’t plan to list any of them here. For some, that means they are working on the front line for us. However, for all of us there are so many ways we can be generous with our time, our resources and our selves at this time; and many of them can be done safely from your home. Generosity is good for both the giver and the person who benefits – so get creative with what you can do with your personal gifts right now and boost your own resilience whilst supporting others.
How many things are on your gratitude list? And above all, stay safe.
This picture was taken last year, and I love the expectation on the little faces looking at the beauty of the bright daffodils on a dark night. It is so symbolic of where we might be at the moment, looking for moments of brightness in times of uncertainty.
I have long been an advocate of the 10 minute holiday in a busy day, and if you are my client we may have talked about this. Many people will have cancelled, or be cancelling holidays in the next few months and so this post encourages you to be creative and write down as many things as you can think of that fits into the category of Four Minute Holidays and take one every single day.
This requires first and foremost intention and permission. Intention to loose myself for four minutes in something that brings me peace or joy, or that simply takes me out of myself and the current pressures for four minutes. And permission to disengage in order to do so. I’m going to give you some starters for 10, but hope you will populate the comments with many more ideas, which will allow us all to take a break regardless of the current demands.
Right now high levels of fear and uncertainty can ambush our imaginations. This is a positive way to reclaim our imagination if only for a short time! So here are some to get started…
1. Take four minutes to imagine the conversation of the characters in the photo
2. Seek out a visual image in your environment and simply go visit that place in your imagination
3. Sit by a window and feel the wind on your face
4. Listen to a favourite piece of music – and just be random and listen to something
5. Go and eat a piece of fruit with intention and attention to the smell, taste, texture, look and feel.
6. Draw a cartoon – no skills required!
7. Take pen and paper and just doodle
8. Take a walk round your home and look at the pictures on your wall
9. Grab a photo album and just have a look
10. Pick up a musical instrument and pretend you can play it!
GO PLAY – and let us know what you are planning to do or have done in the comments below. Really keen to hear lots of ideas on this one… stay safe.
I’m curious about what energises you – and I appreciate you may not immediately think of exercise!
At this time we may be feeling the pressure of the work we do if it is on the front line, or the lack of work we currently have to do, or a sense of our freedom being curtailed, or our struggle with getting no ‘me’ time, or indeed our struggle with working in isolation and feeling the loss of colleagues that brings. So this post recognises the differences between us.
In the same way we will be energised by different things. This picture is one of my favourite views – just looking at it takes me right there even if it is off limits just now. Perhaps the best thing you can do to sustain your energy levels is pay attention to what energises any human body… and also what energises You!
This could be a great time to start your Couch to 5K whilst the guidance is for exercise once a day. Just think where you could be by the end of 12 weeks. There is strong evidence for the benefits of physical exercise in enhancing mental health and re-firing the brain with good chemistry.
Or if friends energise you join Zoom or GotoMeeting or some other online networking service and have Online Lunch Times, Tea and Cake breaks, or a Family Quiz night as one of my clients has just told me they did last night.
We are also energised by quality sleep – so go all out during this time to establish the best sleep routine possible to get maximum benefit from the hours you are off duty. There’s a lot written about the habit of sleep and the benefits of sleeping well.
So take a moment and write down 3 things that you know energise you and make it a priority to find space to act on these every day this week. You could have an Energy List up on your kitchen wall, and I’d love to hear your favourite energisers in the comments below. Meanwhile, Stay Safe.
Personal resilience is intrinsically linked with the choices we make and the degree of care for others and self-care we engage in. Being mindful of our personal resilience is not a selfish act, and rather a preservation of our health and well-being in a way we can continue to support and care for others.
I’m curious about the Choices you have made today. At the end of yesterday my last contact with someone whose work centres around the current situation said quietly “It’s not a problem how late it comes through, I’ll be logging in tomorrow anyway”. This was one of the quiet unseen army who are working on our behalf right now, who made a choice that today would be partly about support to others although it is not normally a working day. I made a different choice this morning: to leave this Blog until later in the day, so I could take a break from the busyness of the last two days. So this is an invitation to you to be intentional about the choices you are making right now to balance effort with recovery time. We need both activity and recovery time in order to sustain our efforts.
Which takes me to the second work in my Resilience Alphabet: Connection. I cannot imagine how it feels for people who live alone during these times of staying home. However, I am certain there are many ways in which we can continue to connect with each other through the plethora of electronic means, but also by telephone. Some of you will know that I do a lot of work around Conversational Intelligence®. One of the foundational skills of C-IQ is Listening to Connect. That is not listening to speak, not listening to tell, not listening to ask…. Just listening to make human connection. So I’d like to challenge you to make a point during these weeks to give space to those you connect with to let them be heard and particularly for those who live alone, to give them the chance to express what they are feeling and thinking during the connections we have with them. And don’t forget to connect with yourself – for some of us this will be through reflection, journaling, writing poetry or just taking time to breathe.
So ensure you choose to create enough recovery time, and seek out meaningful connections with others… and yourself. Stay safe – and be kind to you