Category Archives: General

Super busy? No time to relax? Give yourself the gift of symbolic mindfulness today

Had a busy week? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things that you need to do before going back to work on Monday? Or even planning to work this week-end to catch up? When you stop and take a deep belly breath, do you feel tension or constriction? Maybe even anxiety, hypervigilance or nervousness?

Slowing down and doing less does not seem a viable option

Most of us find it a really challenge, if not impossible, to deeply enjoy our week-ends after a busy and potentially stressful week at work. Slowing down is something that a lot of women especially are finding not an easy thing to achieve….there is always too much to do, too many expectations and not enough time.

Yet, to be healthy and to be successful at home and at work, we need to allow our body, mind and spirit to rest and replenish.  Instead of doing more, we ideally need to do less. Given the amount of tasks that most women have to on their daily to do list this seems like a joke or an impossible thing to ask.

Meditation is a proven stress reliever, yet not the answer for everyone

Doing  a short 5-10 minute meditation or any kind of physical exercise with deep belly breathing every morning really helps to focus the day, and reenergise our hyperactive minds and emotions. Also meditating in the evenings increases the stress relief.

However, I am finding with a number of my clients, especially when they are not regular meditators, that it takes a long time, time they do not feel they have, to achieve any measure of calmness, relaxation and clarity.

If you fall into this group of people, you might like to give the following approach a go. I found this mindfulness practice works really well whilst it does not require taking blocks of time out of your day. It can also be used as a precursor to easing into a more regular meditation practice.

Using an element theme for the day (or the week-end)

I tend to work with the five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) in my Movement and Meditation practice. These elements are around almost anywhere and it is easy and effortless to notice their qualities, their properties and their presence in your life all throughout the day.

Pick an element or a symbol that has qualities that you wish to have more of in yourself and your life. Just by making sure you notice this element all throughout the day when you can, will help to boost the element’s qualities in you.

The power of symbols

Focussing on one element for a day or several days, is a beautiful practice that will help ground and focus your mind, both the conscious and unconscious mind.

Research, and my experience, have shown that the unconscious mind which operates our body, our habits and our emotions, responds better to symbols¹ and simple/short instructions than literal and complex language.

Given that most people who are stressed and overwhelmed, and who find it a challenge to switch off are also often dehydrated, my suggestion is to pick Water as your theme for the day. Water is a wonderful element with many facets and qualities, and we are made up of more than 80% of water ourselves.

Working with the element of WATER 

Water1

1. Take a notepad the evening before and write down the key qualities of your symbol e.g. for water they might be  flow, detox, clarity, stillness and force at the same time, flexibility, life, and a whole host of other qualities I will leave to your own creativity.

2. Read what you have written as soon as you get up in the morning

3. Then throughout the day … starting with your shower, your first cup of tea or even when you look out of the window and see the rain or the snow or dew on surfaces/plants ….notice WATER and its many qualities….

Here are some questions you can quickly run through your mind when you notice WATER

  • drinkingHow does this WATER feel? On your skin, on your tongue when you are drinking it, when you touch it?
  • What is its texture?
  • What does it look like? What is its colour?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What is its taste and smell?
  • Which  qualities  does this WATER have? What do these qualities feel like in you?

No need to put your observations into words, just notice and let that flow through you.

water 24.When you spot WATER in one of  its many forms … rain drops, tap or shower flow, snow or frozen, puddles, beverages, food, moisture in the air, in colours e.g. blue… take at least 3 deep belly breaths notice the qualities of this WATER.

You might want to put a hand on your naval area to feel the breath going into your belly.

5. At the end of the day, notice how you feel, what you have accomplished, and what has changed for you ….

Feel free to comment how this practice has worked for you.

Wishing you a joyful week-end, and relaxed next week!

¹ can be pictures, physical objects, simple words that stand for something, sounds, physical sensations (touch or feelings), tastes or smells

Advertisements

Preparing for a stress free festive season

In many cultures November and especially December, when the weather gets colder and the days shorter, used to be a dedicated period of stillness, contemplation and connecting in with oneself.   In most western countries, now, the run up to the holidays can often be one of the most stressful time of the year. Rushing from shop to shop finding and buying presents, finishing off work projects and putting in extra hours to get everything done in time, sorting out where and how to spend the holidays and even anticipating family conflicts or challenges over the holidays can bring additional stresses and anxieties into our lives. Now is the time to start preparing for a stress-free (or low stress) festive season.

Stress-free can be planned

In times of ‘Busyness’ a lot of us tend to go into headless chicken syndrome, just doing, doing, doing, rushing round to get stuff done. Whilst this is a strategy, it is not necessarily an effective one as it causes us stress. Although for most of us it seems counter-intuitive to take a little time out to take a few deep breaths, take stock and plan, it actually makes more effective rather than less. Allow yourself the gift of a quiet 10-15 minutes today to prepare for an enjoyable festive season. And, here are some tips on how to make your preparation even more effective.

1. Connecting in with yourself

When we make plans we often forget to set intentions and state what we truly want. Connecting in with yourself…

… what are your intentions for the festive season?

… what do you want the festive period to be like for you?

Ideally write down your answers, that makes them much more powerful. And remember to keep all your intentions and wants in positive and present tense language.

2. Gain focus 

We often loose touch with truly important when we go into autopilot using the same strategies and habits honed to perfection season by season. So ask yourself …

… what is truly important in this 2012 festive season?

…. what would make this festive season truly effortless and enjoyable?

… how can let go of what is not important/what stressed you?

3. Make your plans

Now that you have a good idea of want you want and what to focus on, you are ready to plan.

…. what do you need to do by when?

…. what can you do and how can you be every day to keep your intentions alive?

…. who do you need to sign up to your intentions or create shared intentions with?

Sharing this planning process with your partner, friends or family makes more powerful.

Our Gift to you

To help you reduce stress and to honour the festive season, I want to give you the gift of a free meditation call, my friend Nyali and I  are offering on 2nd December 2012 at 18:00 GMT. To find our more and to join us, click here. Feel free to forward this invitation to anyone who you feel would benefit from it. Everyone is very welcome.

I look forward to connecting with you on 2nd December.

Lots of love Bettina

Are you true to yourself?

How often are you doing or saying something that does not feel quite right? As if you are saying someone else’s words or just doing something because others would expect of you? Or have you ever felt you are playing a role, or felt that you are a fraud?

If any of these examples ring true for you, then you were not being true to yourself.

Compromising our authenticity can lead to stress and unhappiness

Our society and culture still tends to expect women, in particular, to fit in, to compromise, to satisfy other people’s needs, be it their spouse, children, colleagues or parents. Trying to satisfy all those demands of people around them, women often compromise their true self, their authenticity, and often without consciously realising it.

When we are not being true to ourselves, we feel fragmented and lose confidence and trust in ourselves. It can lead to stress as our own needs remain unsatisfied. Women also find that in the long-term their health and fitness suffers, and they become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied. In fact, in a recent Guardian article  ‘not being true to oneself’ was cited as the top regret by people close to death.

When we are true to ourselves we feel satisfied and happy. We are brimming with energy, confidence and motivation; in short we feel good about ourselves.

Being true ourselves …what does that mean?

There are a lot of authors who have written about authenticity and being ourselves. Personally, I like the three components of authenticity put forward by Goffee and Jones in their book: Why should anyone be led by you?. They fit well with the NLP and other self-development processes that helped me and my clients.

In my view there are three steps to being true to yourself:

Being self-aware and conscious of your own feelings and needs

When asked whether they are self-aware, most people nod and say: Yes, of course!. But, a good number of us are not as self-aware as we think we are. Especially we women are very good at ignoring our feelings and needs in favour of those of others. And, habitually putting others first, leaves us out of practice being in tune with what we feel and need, let alone giving it a voice.

If the above resonated with you or you know a friend or colleague who falls into the others’ first and my needs are not important category, here is an easy way to raise your awareness of what you feel and what you need to be yourself:

  • Ask yourself: “What am I feeling?” Name the feeling(s), and acknowledge them. Be gentle with yourself.
    If you do not find it easy to name your feelings, check out this classification of emotions
  • Then ask yourself: “What do I need? Name the need or needs, and whatever they are, acknowledge them.

My top tips are: 

  • refrain from judging and analysing your feelings and needs. What ever you feel and need it is right at that particular moment.
  • Once you have named and stated them, consider how you might be able to act on your feelings and needs[1]. Sometimes it is all about saying ‘no’ to things next time or stating what you want instead.
  • Also check out my article on What’s your self-care strategy? for further inspiration.

Being grounded and comfortable with who you are

This is all about knowing and being in tune with who you are and what you stand for. You know and are proud of where you have come from and who you are now. You are comfortable in yourself and as a woman. Not being grounded means that you constantly feel the ground is shifting beneath you, and you feel unsettled and ill at ease.

If you are not already grounded in yourself, take some time to find out about yourself. Go on a fun journey of discovery allowing time for yourself to get to know who this wonderful woman, that is you, is. Questions that can help you the story of YOU , are:

  • What is important to me? (ask yourself this question a number of times and for different areas of your life)
  • What do I stand for?
  • What is my story? And, how comfortable am I with that story? (where do you come from, you origins, how did you get to where you are now?)
  • What is my identity as a woman?

To make this journey even deeper and your story more meaningful to you, consider journalling or unconscious writing. Both work best after a meditative practice. If meditation is not for you, consider putting some lovely music on after a pampering session and take some deep breaths into your core, to centre yourself before asking yourself the questions above. And, just keep writing until your inspiration rests.

Knowing and fully embracing who we are, grounds us in ourselves, and helps us to be true to ourselves and lays the groundwork for being consistent in what we say and how we act.

Being consistent and standing up for your needs and who you are

Do you say what you do and do what you say?

This equally applies to our interactions with others and our relationship with ourselves.

When we say things we don’t mean, and do not follow-up what we say with actions, others start to mistrust us and lose confidence in our abilities. Guess what, the same applies to ourselves. When we say we will do something for ourselves, and not do it, we lose confidence and trust in ourselves. Putting ourselves last signals to us, that we are not important, even if we are trying to portray the opposite to the outside world.

The first steps to being consistent are self-awareness and being grounded. Once you acknowledge what you feel and need, what is important to you and what you stand for, you can take action.

Let’s take an example: if you feel slightly stressed that your colleague comes to again just before your need is to focus on your own deadlines (going home, to lunch or project deadlines), and what’s important to you is being friendly and supportive, you might consider stating your feelings to your colleague and suggesting someone else as their contact point this time. It is helpful to run through these kind of scenarios, especially if they are repetitive situations, beforehand, so you already know what you are going to do and say next time the situation where you want to be true to yourself happens.

Consider the following questions:

  • How do know you are being xxx or have xxx? Substitute xxx for the quality, value, need or characteristic that is important to you or you stand for. It can also be a quality or value you want to embody from now on.
  • What does it mean when you are being xxx or xxx?
  • What will you see, hear, feel or say, or do when you are being xxx or have xxx? (do this for any scenario where you were not true to yourself in the past and want to change how you are being)

Being clear about what it means be you, will help you to be consistent, and it will help to avoid some of those ‘wish I had not done that/said that’ episodes. 

I invite you to do this practice as often as you can. It does not take long, maybe a just a few minutes every day to centre yourself in your true self – our needs change, you change and you experience different situations daily, and different things are important at different times.

Allow yourself every day to be true to yourself – like everything else it just takes a little daily practice.

Enjoy being your true self.


[1] In an ecological way, which means in a way safe and has a positive and evolving impact on our lives.

Dealing with Overwhelm

Most women I know have experienced overwhelm at some point in their lives. For some of us it was the never-ending overload of information, an impossible number of tasks being added to our already overflowing to-do lists or those continuous and often conflicting demands for our time by work colleagues, family and friends.

No matter what the causes, the results are the same – that unpleasant stressful feeling of not being able to cope as well as we are used to.

Our brains can only take in limited amounts of information

Overwhelm seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon these days. We simply have too much to do or take in, for the amount of time and energy we have available. George Miller [1] discovered that human beings tend to be able to only hold between 5 and 9 chunks (pieces) of information in their heads at any given time. And for those of you who are interested, that is 126 bits of data. I am sure there are people who have trained themselves to cope with more, however for most of us it is safe to say that there is a limit of how much we can realistically take in at any given time.

Multi-tasking does not work

Another interesting fact is that research has shown that multi-tasking does not work [2]. We can, in fact, only productively focus on one thing at a time. Switching between different tasks is not only not productive, it also makes us feel stressed in the long run.

Why do I mention these two pieces of research? The reason is that a lot of women who experience overwhelm do the exact opposite of what these pieces of research suggest: they try to do even more in a shorter timeframe or at the same time, hoping in vain to be able to push through the overwhelm. Unfortunately those strategies don’t work, they just make an already bad situation worse and can lead to stress induced illnesses.

Overwhelm busting strategies that work!

There are a number of simple and powerful strategies that can help you effectively beat that vicious cycle of overwhelm.  At first these strategies, might seem counter intuitive and overly simple, however I invite you to give them a go as I know they work.

1.       Take a big step back

Figuratively speaking. And some of my clients took that literally, either went into another room, for a walk or just stepped back from their desk and had great results.

The key is to look at your situation from a neutral observer’s point of view, as if you are watching yourself on TV. What can help is if you think of yourself in the third person, asking yourself:

What is going on for {your name} right now? MAKE A LIST of all the things that going on, initially NOT judging if they are urgent, necessary or unimportant.

Once you have your list, and there is nothing else to add, start categorising on a new piece of paper. Divide the page into three columns, giving them the following headings

  • Urgent and important
  • Not urgent and important
  • Not urgent and unimportant

Be ruthless with your list. You may have to go through it a few times until you have a manageable number of items in the urgent/important category. That is the category to focus on as a priority.

2.       Offload what you can

As a next step, look at your categories and find groups of tasks that you can offload.

You might say, well, there is no one I can delegate to. Really? Have you challenged all that is on your plate, everything? Go through every point on your list and challenge yourself to find someone who could do this for you. Granted, you might not necessarily be able to delegate at work, however you might be able to delegate at home or the other way around.

Offloading goes further. Challenge yourself to find other ways to getting the results you need from the tasks on your list. I am always in awe, how creative women can be when they really put their mind to finding ways to permanently reducing their overwhelm.

Let me give you some examples from my clients, which might help you come up with your own strategies:

  • Check out Virtual Assistants – one of my clients hired one to categorise her e-mails for her, make appointments and deal with the easy yet time-consuming enquiries she received, freeing up a huge amount of her time and inbox
  • Another client discovered Recycling to avoid reinventing the wheel.  When she needed to write a document, she would first do an electronic search and ask colleagues for examples (the process taking 10 minutes in total) before starting to write. This approach reduced her writing time in half (and more importantly took most of the stress out of writing).

3.       Divide and conquer

Pick what you feel is the most important thing on your list, and set yourself a time in which you deal with just that one thing. Everything else is safely on your list, so you will not forget about it. Focus on that one thing for the allocated time. So called ‘time boxing’, setting a clear time frame, works well to focus the mind.

Let me give you an example how this could work: A lot of us are drowning in an overload of e-mails, some of which are important and some are not, and they tend to pile up. Set yourself, let’s say 30 minutes to deal with e-mails marked urgent and just do 30 minutes to work through as many as you can. Then look at your list again and pick the next urgent/important task, maybe writing a report, and set yourself  e.g. 1 hour to write the first chapter. And so on. Remember to take breaks in between.

Focussing on one thing at a time, helps to de-stress the brain, whilst time boxing the task, focusses our brain even more. You will be amazed how quickly you are getting things done.

Prevention is better than cure

Of course, we all know preventing a situation like overwhelm is a lot better than waiting for it to happen. Here are a couple of things you might like to consider putting place to prevent overwhelm from occurring or to deal with it faster should it catch you unawares:

  • Be clear on ‘what is important to you’  – take some time, and discover your priority list of ‘what is important to you’, or – in other words – values. When we are not aware of our values, we can find it difficult to make a meaningful decisions on what to prioritise.
  • Prime your team – identify who has your back when you need to off load activities or you need a helping hand. Team is not limited to direct reports, it could comprise family members, friends, colleagues, bosses, health or fitness professionals, coaches and many more. Make sure you know who could help with what, when the need arises, and be prepared to do the same for them.

The above are a small selection of overwhelm busting strategies, including engaging a coach or mentor to help you through a time of overwhelm.

I would love to hear from you what strategies have been and are successful for you.

                                          

[1] Wikipedia – The magical number 7

[2] Cognitive Science – Multitasking

                                        

“Choosing to smile” – a testimony to three women’s courage in the face of major adversity

“Choosing to smile” is the title of one of the most moving and inspiring books I have been privileged to read in a long time.

The book is about three ‘ordinary’ women, Glenda, Michelle and Julie; three friends who at some stage in their life had to deal with major adversity. Each of these amazing and courageous women was diagnosed with cancer, and each chose to deal[1] with the illness in way that we can all draw inspiration from.

In the book, Glenda, Michelle and Julie each share their life’s journey with us, taking us through their childhood, teens and adulthood, their high’s  – love and marriage, birth of their children, small and big successes – and their low’s – their experience with cancer and other adversities like loss of family members and friends. The book took me on emotional rollercoaster. I was laughing and crying with Glenda, Michelle and Julie, who openly and honestly share their emotional journeys before and after being diagnosed with cancer.

Glenda despite losing a leg to cancer, went on to become a sought after public speaker; Michelle after beating Hodgkin’s disease went back to school, got a degree and travelled all over the wold; Julie survived incurable cancer for much, much longer than anyone had ever thought possible. Recently, Glenda and Michelle were awarded the “WOMAN OF COURAGE AWARD” at the Global Woman Summit in Washington DC.

So what makes these three ordinary women different?

For me, there were three main life principles that  Glenda, Michelle and Julie applied throughout their lives:

1.       Choosing to smile

Despite the cards that life dealt them, these three women made a choice. Instead of becoming victims, being unhappy, depressed and complaining, they chose to smile! They chose to find happiness every day and appreciate all that life has to offer. They chose to live every day to the fullest, and build on their own inner resources. Glenda, Michelle and Julie show us that there is always something we can do, no matter how major the adversity. We can always choose to smile.

2.       Focussing on what you can control

When we are in grip of adversity we often feel at the mercy of what is happening to us. And we forget that there are lots of things we can control and evolve the adverse situation. These wonderfully courageous women are role models to us all, and especially those of us who are about to give thinking there is nothing we can do. Glenda, Michelle and Julie made a choice to be survivors (and not victims) and be in control of what they could control, their own mental and emotional state, how they spent their time and what did they did with their lives.

3.       Building a nurturing support network

Not only did these three women support each other, they also had and built up a strong support network of family members and friends who they could reply on to give strength, encouragement and inspiration when they needed it most.  They also freely and generatively supported others who had been diagnosed with cancer, and helped them to ‘smile’.

I believe we often underestimate how important it is for each us to have people close to and around us who remind us of our inner strength and reinforce our positive intentions when we are losing faith or want to give up.

This book is a gift and inspirational resource to anyone who feels a victim of circumstance, who feels held back by a glass ceiling outside their control or someone who needs a healthy dose of inspiration or a reminder of what choosing to smile can do.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Do check it out at amazon.com or amazon.co.uk.

Thank you, Michelle, for sending me a copy of your amazing book. And thank you all three of you, Glenda, Michelle and Julie, for so courageously and openly sharing your inspiring stories with me through your book.

Related links and articles


[1] I am not commenting here on the choice of medical treatment and procedures but on the way the three women dealt with disease emotionally and how they chose to live their lives post-diagnosis

It’s all about balance!

Your body continuously strives for balance. Notice, when you are walking down the street or even when you’re standing, your body is using lots of tiny muscles and big muscles to make sure that you are in balance and don’t fall over, and hurt yourself.

The body and mind are one. As the body is continuously looking for balance, so is the mind. When we are in balance our life flows, i.e. we achieve what we want and we are happy. When our life is balanced we are free from the constant niggling thoughts that keep us awake at night that say something like: “I should really spend more time on xxx” or “I never get around to doing xxx”. Most of us have these thoughts which are indications that our life is not balanced.

Although most of us are aware that our lives may not be as balanced as we would like it, we often don’t know where to start making changes. Our to-do list is often so large that it seems difficult to identify what to do first or next.

Here is an easy way to help you prioritise which areas of your life to work on next.

Take your “life balance temperature” check

We have areas of our lives that we happy with and where we achieve what we want. And there are other areas of our lives that we don’t pay as much attention to or where we just don’t seem to get the success we want.

Take a clean sheet of paper, draw a circle on it and divide the circle into as many categories or slices as you need. Use your own words to name the areas of your life – you can of course use the areas in  the example below if that works for you.

Then take each area in turn, and ask yourself the question:

How satisfied are you on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is not at all satisfied and 10 is very satisfied) with this area of your life, now?

Then draw a line (as shown in the example) between the two area-boundaries that reflects your level of satisfaction. If you like, you can also shade in the
area between 0 (the middle point of your circle) and the line you’ve drawn.

Once you’ve done this for all areas of your life, take a look at your wheel and notice:

  • how does your wheel look? Imagine you are using that you are using this wheel to on your car or bicycle. Would you be able to drive or cycle with that wheel?
  • which area (or maybe there are two) stands out? Which one is very different, either very low or very high, compared to the other areas?

Hardly anyone has a fully balanced wheel. Life constantly changes, and like our body that needs to rebalance every second of the day, we need to adjust our life balance continually. If our wheel is very much out of balance we need a lot more energy to keep it going and often tend to experience stress.

Therefore, it is good idea to do this wheel of life ‘temperature check’ on a regular basis. Most of my clients find that every three months works best for them.

Where do you want to be in each area?

Go back to your wheel of life and decide what level of satisfaction you would like to have in each area, right now. Use the same scale 0 to 10 (where 0 is not at all satisfied and 10 is totally satisfied). Use a different coloured pen to show your desired level. Of course, we all want to be 100% in every area, however, be realistic and decide what level of satisfaction would be happy or OK with in each area.

Have a look at your wheel now and notice: Where are you biggest gaps?

Once you have done that, look at your wheel again and write down those areas where you have identified the biggest gaps (in order – biggest gap first, followed by the second biggest gap) between your current level of satisfaction and desired level of satisfaction. Now you have a prioritised list, and most people find it useful to focus on the area where they have the biggest gap. However, some people find that 2 or 3 areas have the same gap. If that’s you, ask yourself: if you were able to do one thing to raise your level of satisfaction in one area only, which area would benefit the most? And where would you feel the biggest impact?

Taking action

Most people feel daunted by the gap they have identified in
the last step. An easy way to around that is to ‘eat the elephant in small
chunks’. Consider the following:

  • If you wished to raise your satisfaction in your focus area by 1 or even 0.5 (or even lower), what can you do?
  • What would you advise your best friend to do if they were in your position?
  • Which actions of your to-do list fall into your focus area?

If you run out of ideas, take an area of your life where your satisfaction is much higher than in your focus area:

  • What are you doing or have done there that keeps you at a high level of satisfaction?
  • What are the types of things/activities you do there that you could maybe adapt and transfer to your focus area to give it a boost?

Once you have a list of key actions, identify the one action that would make the biggest difference in your life right now and schedule time for it (if you are unable to do it straight away). Take action as soon as possible and once you have done the action, notice how much more satisfied you feel in that area of your life.

The wheel of life is a tool you can use on an ongoing basis, to re-balance your life and for goal setting. In invite you to go back to you over and over again and use it to identify your key activities to bring your life into balance and maintain this balance.

Enjoy.

Are you a “sponge” at work?

The idea for this article was given to me by friend when we met for lunch in New York two months ago. During our conversation we realised that lot of women we know are “sponges”, and that characteristic or quality is what is holding them back in their careers and wrecking their work-life balance.

So, what do I mean by “sponge”? A “sponge” is someone who is great at saying yes to almost every task or project that they are asked to do even if it means they have to sacrifice their own goals, plans or free time to be able to deliver on the yes. Not only are they great at saying yes, they find it almost impossible to say no. Because they are usually great delivering, other people (especially superiors) tend to continue asking them for more. Does this description resonate with you?

Have a go at the “sponge-test” below and find out where you fit on the “sponge-scale”:

For each question in the table below just write down the answer that most applies for you. Then add up all your answers to your total.

Now that you have your total, find out below how much of a “sponge” you are, and discover some key tips on how you can stop being a “sponge” and become more selective and focussed about saying yes to everything.

22-28 You are a super “sponge”
The word ‘no’ does not seem to exist in your vocabulary when it comes to doing things for other people. When someone asks you to do something for them or take on another task, you do not even take a step back to check whether you have time, it fits in with your goals and objectives or you know how to do the task. This has a major impact on your work and home life, as you are always running out of time, your task list gets longer and longer and you often sacrifice your free time to catch up. Your health and personal development suffers, and you are likely to feel stressed.

Three key tips for you to consider are to:

  • consolidate your to-do lists including all your own tasks and other people’s you said yes to. Decide for each of them, if you really, really need to do it, it’s still relevant or if someone else can do it (delegation), and then strike through whatever is not relevant and delegate whatever you do not absolutely have to do. Then plan in and schedule the remaining tasks into a diary, initially allowing at least double your estimated time for each task.
  • practice saying no until you feel comfortable doing it. Go back over the requests from the last month that you wished you had not so readily accepted. Play them through in your mind and say no instead of yes. Imagine future requests coming to you and practice saying no to those too.
  • be clear about your must do’s for your goals and your role at work. Write down your must do’s and put them somewhere you can see them during the day. When a request comes in, tell the requestor that you will consider it and get back to them with an answer within the hour (or next day, depending on the urgency of the request)! Then check against your objectives list, your schedule and your own motivation whether this task is right for you. When you say no to your requestor, offer suggestions on who else they could approach, so you are still helpful.

15-21 You are an aspiring super “sponge”
Although you have the ability to say no, more often than not you fall into the trap of saying yes, despite yourself. Often the things you say yes to are related to your job and might take you forward in your career, however you find yourself working long hours, sacrificing week-ends and free time and thus neglecting your health, friends and other personal development.

Key tips for you are to:

  • become totally clear about your current commitments and how much time you have or don’t have for anything extra coming in. The easiest way to do this, is to diarise every task and allocate a duration (do include contingency)
  • know what you want to achieve in your career and what you need to do to get there be it promotion/personal development etc. Make sure you diarise and schedule those activities!
  • learn to negotiate with the requestor, especially if the requestor is your boss. If you know what you want and you know your commitments, you can check against those when any request comes in. Like the super sponge, make sure to consider before you give a response to the requestor. Offer options, if you feel you have to say yes, e.g. I do not have time this week, however I have time for this next week. how would that work for you? or if this is urgent, I could move xx (also requested by them) to next week?

8-14 You are on your way
You are able to say no to things that do not fit in with what you want or what your job requires. however, sometimes you succumb and find that you are working longer than you wished, or have to sacrifice your gym session (or similar) to finish something at work you wished you had not said yes to.

The key tips for you is are to:

  • set clear boundaries with the task requestor, and be clear how much you can deliver in the time you actually have available.
  • negotiate delaying other tasks if this particular task is urgent, and
  • agree with your boss which of your non essential tasks you can delegate to other colleagues who would benefit from the experience.

0-7  Congratulations, you have it sussed!
You obviously know what you want and are able to say no to things that do not fit with your objectives and goals. The only danger you could run into is saying no too often. Remember, it is OK and good to help out others even if their request does not fit in with our goals, so don’t just say no for sake of it.

Today you have now taken the first vital step towards “de-sponging” your worklife, which is awareness! The tips above are not exhaustive and there are many more ways how you can reduce your “sponge” like qualities. So, do experiment and find out what works best for you!

Let me know how you get on!

Detox your conversation!

Words have power, whether they are in written, spoken or thought form. So, if you’re not having the success or the type of life that you want, you might be asking for the wrong things in what you communicate to the world outside you (conversations, e-mails, tweets, Facebook entries etc.) or  and to yourself (self-talk).

If what you are putting out there or saying/thinking to  yourself is negative and not supporting your goals, your focus is on what you don’t want and not what you want. Where our focus is, that is where we spend our energy and time. Think about it, if a lot of your energy is wasted on what you don’t want, then how on earth can you have enough energy left to go for what you want?

Let’s look at your conversation and how you can make a start at detoxing it:

Negative talk and self-talk

Without realised we often phrase our goals in the negative, i.e. we talk about what we don’t want or what we want to avoid. Unfortunately our subconscious mind does not understand negatives, so in fact we focus on the things we didn’t want to happen. If I asked to not to think of a baby pink giraffe with a green hat, guess what you just have been thinking about. And that is exactly how it works with all other thoughts/words.  

I invite you to pick a day of the next week to observe your thoughts and words over the course of that day. When you notice any negative statements on things you want to avoid or prevent, rephrase them and make them positive (things you want to have or have happen instead), even if it is in your head. Even if you only do this for one hour (or even 10 minutes) every day, you will notice a big difference, quickly.

Make this a fun exercise and if you children, get them to take part. They will get the hang of it quickly and benefit from the results.

Also check out my earlier blog article “Do you talk yourself out of success?” for ideas what to listen out for.

Repetitive complaints are toxic talk

Complaints are another area of conversation that drags us down. Of course, we not talking about those one-off feedback “complaints” about e.g. bad customer service that directed towards the person who can rectify the bad experience. I am talking about those repetitive (and toxic) complaints that we usually share with friends, colleagues and family who are unable to do anything about it. Examples of those complaints are the weather, what someone at the office did again, traffic issues, and other things that you deem annoying. Complaining unless it is to the person or persons that can rectify the complain puts us in a victim mentality, i.e. it signals that we are not responsible for our life and at the whim of everything. Is that what you want? Or would you rather be in control of your life and be responsible for it?

If you want to be in control, pick another day during the next week and observe yourself for any repetitive complaints that you voice. Notice what you complain about and redirect your thoughts. What good is there in that situation? What could you do differently next time? What does this teach you?
And, if there is any repetitive complaining you do, just because that is what you do at work, just don’t say them. Think of something positive to share with your colleagues instead.

Making excuses is the antidote to success

How often are you procrastinating and coming up with lots of reasons why you cannot or could not do something? And these are not just excuses you make to others but more importantly the excuses you make to yourself. Things like, why you could not get to the gym this week or take that next step towards your goals. Again excuses put us into a position of no control. So if we want to take control and achieve our gaols, excuses can no longer be part of our vocabulary.

Pick another day next week and notice what excuses you use. Don’t judge them or yourself. Just take them as they are and rephrase them into what you want to happen instead. Ideally write that down, and also write down how you will feel when ‘what you want to have happen instead’ happens. You will find after just a short time things will start moving and you will achieve more.

Also check excuses that make, if you really want what you are making excuses about. Excuses often are a sign that we living other people’s dreams and not our own and that is why we are resisting and avoiding those particular activities.

Writing down your rephrased thoughts or conversation statements of what you want instead or what you want to have happen instead is very useful as it re-inforces the positive message and it acts as a reminder to yourself. So, if you are able to keep a journal with you during the day, I’d very much recommend you try this and see how it works for you.

Enjoy.

Recommended reading

Have you checked your self-esteem level, recently?

When we procrastinate or put off pursuing our goals for some reasons, our level of self-esteem could be cause. So, what is self-esteem? Self-esteem is what we believe of ourselves.

Self-esteem, to me, consists of our self-worth and our self-confidence. Our self-worth, i.e. how much we value our own achievements and ourselves as individuals. It is also how we perceive ourselves in comparison to others, i.e. where we see our own achievements or qualities in comparison to others’. Self-confidence is about how much do we believe in our own abilities to achieve whatever we want and that we will get there. There are of course lots of other definitions and you might wish to come up with your own definition of what self-esteem means to you.

Low and negative self-esteem can be debilitating; it holds us back from achieving our desired goals and from being happy in relationships with ourselves and others. Low self-esteem can seem like a downward spiral. Every experience is taken as evidence of the limiting belief and further undermines self-esteem. On the other hand, when you have high self-esteem you feel good about yourself, you feel you can achieve anything you desire and you have fulfilling relationships with others.

A lot of people think that self-esteem is something that is given and cannot be influenced. That is wrong. We are all in control of our self-esteem levels. And another myth about self-esteem is that it does not require maintenance. Well, guess what. It does!

What is your self-esteem level right now?
In order to take control our self-esteem levels we first need to understand what they are. Studies have shown that self-esteem levels are not necessarily the same across all areas of our lives, therefore my suggestion is to use the ‘wheel of life’ technique to assess your self-esteem level for each major area of your life.

Feel free to change the headings to headings that are meaningful to you. You may also wish to add more categories, if that works better for you. Take each area of your life in turn and assess your self-esteem level from 1 -10 (1 being very low, 10 being very high). You might also like to split self-esteem into self-worth (looking how you feel about your achievements so far looking back and right now) and self-confidence (right now and ability to achieve your desired goals). Once you have done, notice where the differences are. In which areas of your life do have high self-esteem and in which areas is it lower. Ask yourself what are doing differently in the areas where you have high self-esteem compared to area where you have low self-esteem?

Now you know what your current levels of self-esteem are, consider, what do you want your level of self-esteem to be?
You can use the same wheel of life that you have drawn and in different colour mark each area of your life, where you want your level of self-esteem to be. Then, pick one area where you feel that raising your self-esteem would make a big difference to you and decide where you want your self-esteem to be. When you have got that number, ask yourself

1. What do you need to do to get to your desired level of self-esteem?
And if the jump is to big, just consider what could you do to raise your self-esteem by even one point, and if that is too much start with half-point.

In case you are stuck at this point, there are two other questions you can ask yourself:

2. How do you measure your worth in this area of your life?
Or in other words what evidence would you need to satisfy yourself that you are worth more in this area than your current self-esteem score? What are you currently using as evidence? Is that still valid or useful? Review your measures for self-worth or the value you put on yourself, and for each measure that you feel is valid come up with at least one thing you can do over the next seven days to raise your self-esteem.

3. What are you saying to yourself about yourself, your worth, and value in this area?
Most people who suffer from low self-esteem in an area of their lives, have negative self-talk. Are your thoughts positive and encouraging or are you replaying all those ‘failures’ and little ‘embarrassments’ in your mind? If your thoughts are negative, I challenge to you find positive things about you in that area.

What is your self-esteem maintenance regime?
Now you have some actions to raise your self-esteem, it is important that you actually maintain and improve your self-esteem levels on a regular basis.

I assume you have skin care regime? Most women do. Think about it, would you go out without having gone through your skin care regime. Most women I know, only ever skip their skin care regime in a dire emergency. Most women also slightly change their skin care regime with the seasons, i.e. add an SPF face crème in the summer or a more moisturising face crème in the winter.

Your self-esteem regime should be like your skin care regime: regular, daily and readjusted on a regular basis.

As your skin care regime is often quite individual to you and your particular skin care needs, your self-esteem regime will also be individual to you. You know best what you need to maintain and raise your self-esteem. So for each area (and if that is too much at this point, then choose one area) let your creativity flow and create a self-esteem regime that works for you.

If you need something to start you off, here are two self-esteem regime elements that others found useful:

Make a gratitude and appreciation list before going to bed:
There just two questions to answer:
1. What am I am grateful for today?
2. What do I appreciate about myself today?
It does not take long, maybe 5 minutes and you will notice the changes in you and how you feel about yourself within days. Make sure to think of at least 5 things for each question and include at least 2 items for each question that pertain to your current area of focus for your self-esteem.

Draw up your self-esteem inventory:
This activity requires at least 1 hour of uninterrupted time and a few pages of paper. For each area of your life, write down your achievements ( remember to also add those that others appreciated, not just the ones you that you value), your strength, any compliments or positive feedback you received and your development (your improvements and your successes in overcoming any challenges). Make sure to list everything even the smallest thing. Review this inventory regularly. If you want to be really creative, make a mood board with lots of images and symbols or just use different colours for each category or area.

The importance of maintaining your self-esteem cannot be underestimated. Therefore, I urge you to take regular time for yourself to review your self-esteem levels and adjust your self-esteem to do whatever is necessary to raise or keep your self-esteem at your desired levels.

Do let me know, how you get on…… Enjoy.

What’s your self-care strategy?

Or do you even have a self-care strategy? If you don’t, you are not alone. Most women I know, don’t have a self-care strategy!

What I mean by self-care strategy is not your morning shower, your face care and make-up routine. Self-care is spending real and energising time with and on yourself; time that is totally and utterly yours to increase and maintain your physical, mental and spiritual health.

As women we have been conditioned by society that spending  time on ourselves is selfish, frivolous or unnecessary. Women are expected and expect of themselves to look after the needs of others first and then, if there is time, consider our own needs. Studies have shown that there are many more
women than men who are stressed, run down or on medication for stress related
illnesses.

Therefore, I would like to you to consider the following: It  is selfish not to spend time on your self-care. Because if you don’t spend that time on yourself and your own wellbeing (physical, mental, spiritual), how on earth can you keep up your energy looking after and satisfying the needs of others?  I am sure you will have noticed that you can get much more done and to a higher quality, when your energy is a at a peak and you feel great compared to times when you are stressed, run down or have low energy.

Before we look at your current or future self-care strategy, let’s have a look at your beliefs on self-care. So ask yourself, now:

When you think of self-care, what do you associate with this concept?

What did you feel the last time you took time out for yourself? A lot of women feel guilty when they take out time for self-care. Therefore they cannot enjoy their time away from their responsibilities to the full and do not achieve the desired de-stressing or energising effect.

What else comes to mind when you think of self-care? Are your beliefs around self-care even your own? Or are they your parents’, work colleagues’ or even friends’ beliefs? It is useful to write down your beliefs, and for each belief I invite you to leave some space underneath or beside the statement. And when you have listed all your beliefs, pick the ones that are not serving you. For each disempowering belief, write down what you want it to be instead and why the new belief would serve you better from now on. Once you have done that, make sure to cross out (if you like, use a red pen) the old belief.

Do you know what to say ‘no’ to and how to say ‘no’?

“I have no time for self-care activities”, is something I often hear from my female clients. One of the reasons for this situation is, that lots of women find it hard to say ‘no’ to requests from colleagues, bosses, family members and/or friends even if the activities mean that she would have to, yet again, cancel her personal self-care time.

Over the next week, start to notice what your automatic response is when someone asks you to do something for them. Are you an automatic sponge, i.e. ‘no’ is not part of your vocabulary, or are you someone who is comfortable with saying ‘no’ to tasks that do not fit into your already planned day/week or with your goals? Or do you find that you will always say yes to some people, but not to others?

Once you are aware of your automatic responses, I invite you to review those situations and consider whether your responses serve(d) you. For undesired automatic ‘yes’ responses, decide what it is that you want to happen instead. Do prepare your desired response in advance so that you are ready next time you receive a similar request. You will find that cutting down on tasks that do not serve you, will not only make you feel better about yourself but will also free up time for self-care.

Now that you have reviewed your beliefs on self-care and have freed up time for your self-care activities, it is time to review your self-care strategy:

  • What self-care activities do you currently do and are those sufficient or working for you?
  • What energising self-care activities did you do in the past that could you pick up again?
  • What is the one self-care activity that if you did it every day (or once a week) would give you the most energy?

Ideally, take some self-care time every day. Some women enjoy massages, reading a book, listening to their favourite music, going out with girl-friends, taking a walk outside, taking part in a fitness class or meditating. These are just some examples, and you need to find the activities that are right for you.

Key things to watch out for when choosing self-care activities are:

  • Are you energised (or de-stressed) by the activity?
  • Can you fully enjoy it without complaining or judging yourself?
  • Are your self-care activities (as a whole) satisfying your physical, mental and spiritual needs?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, it may not right activity for you and it might be better for you to choose another activity that is right for you. Enjoy creating your self-care schedule.

Check out Cheryl Richardson’s book Extreme Self-Care for further ideas. Another great resource for inspiration on self-care is Jane Scrivner’s book Detox your Mind.

Have fun and enjoy your self-care time!