Tag Archives: stress

Resilience Alphabet – P is for Pause and Praise

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.

Resilience Alphabet – O is for Openness

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.

Resilience Alphabet – N is for ‘No’

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’.

Resilience Alphabet – M is for Move

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.

Resilience Alphabet – L is for Let it Go

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.

Resilience Alphabet – K is for Kind

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.

Resilience Alphabet – J is for Journal

This is Day 10 and if you’ve been following these Resilience Alphabet posts you will now have a number of simple, practical approaches to sustaining your personal resilience in these challenging times. Of course, tools in a tool box are best used.

I wonder if you keep a journal on a regular basis, journal from time to time, or have never considered journaling at all. I have a list at the front of my journal which gives 26 reasons for journaling and this picture shows some of my journals so you can see I journal regularly. I don’t make a chore out of it and don’t journal every day but a few times a week. I recognise it is something I have done more of when life has given me lemons!

From all of my work with people, and my own experience, I know how important it is to get stuff that is rumbling around your brain outside of it and one of the useful ways to do this is to write it down. We use a different part of our brain to see and read than we do to ruminate. Writing can help us to get rid of some of the jumble and structure our thinking; it can help us to explore our feelings in a safe way; it can help to give us perspective; it can help us to let things go; it can helps us to reflect; it can help us to process challenging experiences. I could go on but perhaps there is something here that would be useful for you right now.

You don’t need a dedicated nice notebook to journal. Grab any pad or even a pile of paper from the printer… don’t however reach for the laptop or ipad. There is not space in this post to go into detail so just know that using a pen and paper uses a different part of your brain than a keyboard and screen.

Perhaps you are thinking ‘I don’t have time for this right now!’ Set your phone timer for 6 minutes and just start writing. When the 6 minutes are up stop… Try that for a few days and see what happens.

Would love to see your comments here about your journaling experience – go play, and stay safe.

Resilience Alphabet – I is for Intention

You may be surprised at my choice of word this morning. After all I could have gone for Inspiration and written about the many acts and conversations of inspiration we have seen over the last 10 days. In my work, I have been truly inspired by the dedication and commitment of some of my clients to working on behalf of all of us in so many ways – seen and unseen. These truly are the Sunflowers in our lives right now.

However, in terms of your own personal resilience I want us to think about the importance of Intention. Having a good intention unfortunately sometimes results in the phrase ‘I had good intentions’ by someone explaining what they didn’t manage to do in spite of good intentions. So if we are going to set a good intention for our personal resilience in this time of additional challenge, we want to think about what actions, accountabilities, or checks we will put in place to meet the intention.

Of course, it goes without saying that for there to be any commitment to an intention, the intention has to have real benefits or outcomes in the first place. So pause… what do you need to be intentional about right now in terms of self care and resilience. It is likely to be something pretty simple that could have a profound incremental effect for you. It is also likely to be something that is best done frequently, even daily.

Recognising the value of some structure during times of change, I decided on four daily intentions about 10 days ago to keep a sense of rhythm and control over my daily activities. These are: Get outside at least once a day, write a 6 minute journal every day, write a Blog every day, and make contact with someone I have no reason to each day.

I believe the more stressful and unstable the environment, the more important it is to have clear intention, and in these times when many people are focussed on the needs of others, it is important to personal resilience to include intentions for personal resilience. Perhaps I’ll reinvent a phrase and say before taking care of all the other Sunflowers, take care of your own Sunflower first.

What to do when you are ‘stuck’?

2004_1116Image0080The picture was taken in Italy on a walking holiday when after a shower of rain the muddy clay was an inch deep on the bottom of our boots.  A friendly helper to the rescue!

I’ve been working as a professional coach for seven years and have come to recognise that when clients are ‘stuck’ a number of things may be happening!

(1) Being stuck is a feeling as well as a thought.  What does being stuck feel like for you?  What images does the word stuck conjure up for you?

(2) Being stuck may be completely unconscious.. I don’t know I’m stuck but I know things are not as I want them to be.

(3) Being stuck may be precisely what the feeling is immediately prior to a significant breakthrough.  The stuckness can almost be like a labour pain (!!) – great when it’s over but part of the journey to success.

(4) Being stuck may be a feeling created by overload and the stress level of the situation simply leaves one unable to take the next step.

When recognised and confronted honestly (sometimes with another trusted person in a supportive but challenging environment) stuckness can be reframed from a Barrier to a Door just waiting to be pushed.  The other side of stuckness is a great place to be!

So, what to do when you are stuck?  Pay attention to the feeling and the thoughts associated with that feeling.  Know that it is temporary – if you choose it to be.  Know that one step at a time may be the way to go… and seek professional or informal support from someone who can be both supportive and challenging to help you get to the other side of stuckness.  Someone who can be your best coach through the process.

Is your confidence drooping?

Drooping Poppy

Drooping Poppy

If you were to take a reading of your confidence right now – what word would describe it? I love poppies and we are loving the wild garden that has been planted directly across from our house.  However, this particular poppy reminded me of what happens when confidence is eroded, so I decided to write this post about the six factors that can erode confidence.  These confidence stealers were identified in my research a few years ago.  Are you experiencing any of them?

1. Other people’s negativity.  We all know how draining it can be to spend time with people who are either negative about themselves, the world, everyone they talk about, and You!  It’s easy to ‘catch’ some of this negativity for ourselves.  So keep a watching brief on the people you spend time with.  Challenge the negativity, and if it feels contagious take a step back if you can.

2. Excessive challenge. Challenge and stress are a necessary part of life and some of us thrive on challenge.  However, even for those who love nothing more than a complex and demanding challenge, our bodies are not designed to live under the umbrella of excessive challenge.  In a book published some years ago called Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers, Robert Sapoisky spells out in clear terms what happens in our bodies when we are under excessive unrelenting challenge.  It is not a happy picture.

3. An unrealistic workload.  Sometimes our unrealistic workload and expectations of ourselves are set by ourselves and sometimes set by others.  Either way, an unrealistic and unrelenting workload will result in us feeling that we are never achieving enough, never at the end of what we have to do, and generally feeling we are not succeeding.  And what reward does our confidence (and our bodies) get for completing a task… another one!

4. Lack of control.  I have yet to find the person who is completely comfortable when they and everything around them is out of control.  Feeling out of control is just that – a feeling.  Feeling in control gives us a great sense of confidence, feeling completely out of control is a scary place.  Of course, we need a dose of realism about what we can actually control, but the more we have a sense of control over our main life choices the more confident we are likely to be.

5. Feeling negative about yourself and assuming other people feel the same.  This one is for all those people out there who can be pretty tough on themselves, feeling they are ‘never’ good enough, clever enough, smart enough, talented enough, never could do a great job or be the star.  This is an unhelpful trend and really saps at any sense of confidence – it is compounded greatly when we put everyone else in our own negative viewpoint.  We have no idea what they are thinking unless we ask.  We leads to the next confidence stealer.

6. Lack of feedback.  There is good evidence to suggest that if we are not getting feedback we default to feeling that any feedback given would be critical.  There is no evidence for this of course. Perhaps you can test this by asking for some feedback from someone you trust to be honest and helpful.

Check out your own confidence level, and have a good look to see if any of the six factors are impacting on you right now.  Self awareness is the beginning of taking steps to revitalise your confidence and stop the droop.  What areas do you need to think about, challenge or change in order to give your confidence a better chance of blooming?

These are six of the stealers identified in my experience.  Are there any others you’d like to share?  In next week’s Blog, I’ll write about the factors which increase confidence.  Look out for that next Friday.