Manage your Energy

Managing your energy is at least as important as managing your time. If you are feeling depleted and run down it is hard to feel productive. And that’s no matter how good your time management system is. Time management is also important – you can read my ideas on that over here

Perhaps, you feel that you have no control over your energy, you might even put it down to hormone swings. Maybe you try and push through, and keep yourself going with caffeine or other stimulants? Perhaps you feel that you just have to keep going because there are so many demands on your time.

Yes, it can be hard to juggle everything! Especially when you have a challenging professional role are also raising a family. It is not easy for a lot of people.

One of the things you can do is to look at your daily activities and look at what drains you and what stimulates you. How can you limit those draining activities and people? How can you do things that are more energising instead?

Let’s look now at all this from the nervous system level.

Why the nervous system? Even though it’s tempting to behave as though we are some kind of ‘head on legs’, the truth is that we inhabit a body.

Image created by Rebecca Rosen https://rrosen.be

The body is our home! Messages travel between the brain and the body via neurons in the nervous system. There are more messages coming from the body to the brain than the other way round. These messages are transmitted through the vagus nerve

Stephen Porges studied the nervous system. He developed the polyvagal theory to explain how the body responds to stress. You may be familiar with the stress responses of fight, flight and freeze. Porges defined what he calls the Window of Tolerance, which is the calm, neutral state. It’s where we want to be most of the time to stay healthy. We get thrown out of this state when a stressful thing happens. Most of the time stress puts us into an activated state. We get annoyed with someone and either we get irritated and push back (fight response). Or we simply walk away (flight response).

Normally that’s the end of it and our nervous system goes back to neutral. However, if you spend too much time being super-activated in the end you can burn yourself out. The fight or flight response evolved as a stress-response to handle difficult situations. If we stay there all the time it stops the normal functioning of the nervous system. Things like digestion and breathing.

The other state we can fall into is the freeze state. It evolved to help us in life-threatening situations. We can also experience it as a shock reaction. The experience of your mind going blank under pressure, is also the freeze-state in action.

The nervous system was not designed to manage 21st Century stresses, like cyber-bullying, email and traffic jams. It was designed to keep us safe when we lived out on the savanna. Back then, we had hungry lions to contend with! It evolved for a completely different order of problem.

Photo by Francesco De Tommaso on Unsplash

Today we have so many big and small activations in a day. If we are not careful we can spend all our time caught up running from one stressful situation to another. This has a profound negative impact on our physical and mental well-being, and we can end up in burnout or worse. It’s what makes managing our energy so important.

This is not about making sure you always stay in the calm state. In fact, some level of nervous stimulation is a good thing – it keeps us alert and productive. The ideal is to get activated, and then go back to calm, many times throughout the day. Nowadays stressors can come in thick and fast and there is no time to get back to calm before the next one comes in. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of what’s happening in your body

One of the key ways to get yourself back from any of these states is to get your social engagement system working. This is not only about talking to people and engaging socially. Its about face-to-face contact. Our physiology needs this- and its something we share with all other mammals. If you have ever had to lead an online meeting when no-one has their camera on you will relate to this. Its also one of the reasons why the last two years in the pandemic have been so challenging for many people.

One of the things that happen in a boring meeting is a lot of passive listening, and you are not socially engaged. If it’s not an interesting topic or speaker there is nothing to activate you. If you are also tired your body may just take the opportunity to catch up on some rest and disengage you.

So what can you do to stay engaged in those meetings?

  • Ask questions! – find a way to get back your social engagement back online
  • Engage with the content so you can create interest in some aspect of the subject
  • If you are bored and believe others are as well, ask for a break so that you can re-engage
  • Focus on your breathing , this brings your nervous system back online
  • Move your body and let yourself stretch – this also brings your nervous system back into a calm state.

Studying the nervous system is a big topic – there is so much to understand, and it’s complicated! It’s one of the reasons I am running a workshop on this at the Imagination Club next week. We will dig more into how understanding the nervous system can help you manage your energy

More info over here:

I look forward to seeing you there.


What Are Your Values?

What is so important about knowing your own values?

Your values are the things that are important to you in how you want to live your life. If you don’t know what you want, it is almost impossible to achieve it!

Being clear on your values can help you makes decisions, big and small. It can help give you a sense of direction and purpose. It can also give you a sense of well-being and increase your confidence in yourself.

Photo by Ricardo Annandale on Unsplash

Some years ago I made a long list of my values, I had about 10 of them, and I tried to follow them all. But I found that with so many values, it was hard to prioritise them. 

Recently I have been reading Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead   In there, she states that you should have only TWO.  That’s right ONLY TWO.  To quote her “if everything on the list is important …. It’s just a list of guzzy feel-good words” In other words, if all your priorities are ‘top priority’, in fact, you are not setting priorities at all.”

She also says you can group your values, identify the main ones – and have other values sitting underneath. So I had a think. It felt important to identify my values so that they apply both in my private life and in my business.

There are a few tools out there to find your values. This one for example.

In my case I let it all percolate and my vales arrived whilst I was having a shower. I wasn’t even deliberately thinking about it. The values I chose are Integrity and Kindness. It was a bit of a surprise to me – I had previously thought my highest values were health and authenticity. I realised that for me at least, health is part of kindness to myself, and authenticity is a subset of my integrity.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

I’m curious What are yours?  I would love to hear how it goes for you.

So now I have my values – what difference does it make? I’m finding quite a lot, actually.  Here is a recent example.

I had a regular appointment to talk with a colleague, set up for last weekend.  It’s often a bit of scrambled to get to that call  – for both of us  – but this time she didn’t show up at all ….  I got frustrated and annoyed, I messaged her.  Silence.  Frustration mounted.  I figured she had gone out the night before and had overslept. I noticed my impulses….. the desire to call her up and berate her(!)… Instead, I paused and asked myself. “What is the kindest thing I can do here, for her and for me?” and “If I call her, how would that conversation actually go if I do wake her up ?” Hmm, that’s a bad idea!! It wouldn’t be kind to either of us. 

Instead, I decided to get on with my life. I figured she will wake up at some point, but I was still feeling annoyed. So I completed my chores around the house. That already felt better. Now what? Where is she?  Wake Up!!   I decide that the kindest thing I could do for myself, – is to go out. I chose to go out for long enough to keep myself occupied, but not too long. I did want to rearrange that call with her.  So I did my grocery run much earlier in the day than usual. Sure enough, by the time I get back home, she has woken up and sent me a hugely apologetic message. Oddly, by then I wasn’t remotely upset with her. Like, what would be the point?!  In any case, it didn’t feel kind to either of us, and I want to keep my integrity in this relationship.  I called her to set up a new time, she was a bit surprised at how cool I was about it. To be honest – so was I!

I am marvelling that this simple act of following my two values has resulted in a very different outcome for me. I am calm and more confident in myself, and our relationship feels stronger. It’s a very different outcome than when I have felt let down by others in the past. Remarkable.

Two values. Why don’t you give it a go? If you want a list to get you thinking you can look over here   (Also from Brené Brown)

I’m curious What are yours?  I would love to hear how it goes for you.

Practicing good Self Care in Times of Corona

I don’t know about you but this lockdown feels even more challenging than the last one. Back last Spring it was all so new. Maybe we thought it would go on for a few weeks, perhaps a month or two but certainly not for years… Surely not! My perspective now is quite different. To me it feels a bit like we are in a war, and I recognise that wars can go on for years and years. It feels harder to keep a good sense of perspective. These coronavirus lockdown days will surely end one day. In the meantime, it’s even more important to make sure I am taking good care of myself.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit recently – in my own life and also in support of my clients. There are days that can be challenging, confusing, frustrating, and lonely, if I am honest. Perhaps you can relate?

In the midst of a war it is hard to remember that after the war, good things can come out of it. Things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Perhaps, we will gain many technological advances. Perhaps we will finally take better care of the planet.  Perhaps, it can also be the time you really learn to take care of yourself. To set good boundaries whilst also taking care of the people around you. Perhaps, this time also gives you the chance to prioritise and take care of your own needs, because you are worth it.    

In the meantime here are a few tips:

Get outside everyday.  Its so important even if its only a for a few minutes a day, to get a bit of fresh air  Take a look over here at all these benefits of getting outside! 
Exercise   Its so  important for physical and mental health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/#:~:text=Exercise%20improves%20mental%20health%20by,self-esteem%20and%20cognitive%20function.&text=Exercise%20has%20also%20been%20found,self-esteem%20and%20social%20withdrawal
I work with an app  at engagement sports.com .  It takes 20 – 30 mins  and I definitely feel better afterwards. Good physical health also correlates strongly with better immunity – so if you do have the misfortune to get the virus you will be better equipped to deal with it.

Eat properly. I don’t know about you, but since the start of the pandemic I pay a lot more attention to what I eat. I plan my food shopping much better and I am much more organised around it. The result is I now eat good home cooked meals 3 times a day, and I feel better because I know I am taking better care of myself. On the rare occasion I go back to lazy cooking I right away feel the difference! Cooking used to be such a chore but now it has become a highlight to my week, accompanied by great music or an interesting podcast. Here is one of my favourite recipe sites.

Use this time to get clear on what matters for you. If you love reading, plan in half an hour a day to read a favourite book, for example.

The tips may sound like no brainers but too often we have excuses why other people’s needs come before our own. I end up going for a walk with my spouse and put aside my own plans to read a book or work on my creative project. I feel guilty that I am not doing more for my sick relative so I don’t get the benefit of the time I do have for myself. These issues are common to many of us and there are ways to overcome these challenges. When we prioritise our own needs it frees us up also to be more available for others

That is why I am offering a series of Five Free workshops on Foundations of Self Care. It is organised by the Cancer Support Group of the European Commission. Five Friday Lunch times starting on February 26th (but the last session is on a Thursday).  Details are here
The dates are February 26th,  March 5, 12, 19 and 25th 

In the course we will dive into what good self care really means for you. You will learn to create a positive mindset and to address all your excuses. You will learn how to use your strengths and to develop resources to support you. You will learn how to  have good boundaries around your self care, so that you can also make time for the people you case for. In the workshops you will gain practical hands-on tools and techniques. It will help you look after yourself better, and be a better role model for others

7 Tips for Good Self-care in these crazy coronavirus days

These days are challenging for may of us. I am missing many things from my normal life and yet these days are bringing me new opportunities.

I have been reflecting on what would be useful to post about – that you are not getting from elsewhere . Here are a few tips that I helping me in these days:

1. Reconnect with a sense of purpose. It doesn’t have to be a big life purpose (but it could be). It can be as simple as choosing to focus on learning a new skill or getting on with a project that’s been on the back burner. You may like to ask yourself : ‘How do I want this time to have changed me during thee days?’

2. Make sure you are dedicating time to your physical body. For example: exercising 20 – 30 mins per day; resting when needed and helping your immune system stay strong.

3. Give yourself a break in these uncertain times. Recognise that things are challenging for many of us and that you are not alone. Things may take longer than usual so don’t beat up on yourself about it. As much as you can be aware of both the negatives and the positives of this situation

4. Connect with people! Virtually when needed, but think about your neighbours too. I heard a friend had set up a whatsapp group for their street – so I set one up for my building . I find that knowing I can reach out to to my neighbours in times of need brings a feeling of more safety and connection.

5. Recognise that other people are feeling the strain as well. Find empathy for others, as well as for yourself – we all need it. What kindness can you bring to yourself in the face of this challenging time. And what things ( large or small) are there to be grateful for? Find a way to bring more awareness to the whole situation. It may not feel like it but this time will pass.

6. Ask yourself what you can contribute. It can be something small like helping a neighbour with shopping, or call a friend who may need help. Rest assured this time is calling us all to stay connected with each other and to support each other.

7. Recognise that YOU are a complex system and that you have many parts. You probably have a part that is managing things fine. But there might be other parts of you that are feeling insecure or anxious at this time. See if you can give all of yourself the compassion and care that you need.

If you, or someone you know is feeling isolated, and you may like to know that I have set up a free support group that will run on zoom every Monday at 1800 CET.

Why am I doing this?
Keeping social connections is essential, and especially now, in these challenging times. Staying connected not only feels good, but it also helps to keep our nervous system calm and regulated. It helps us feel less isolated and more connected to a wider world.

I hope that we can support each other to keep our attention positive and constructive.

Sometimes it is difficult to share our deepest concerns to those we are closest to. This is a space where these topics will be welcome – to share and reflect on.

If you, or anyone you know is interested please find further details here:

What is helping you at this time? Please add your thoughts in the comments below:

Difficult People

I can be a difficult person.  For some people.  Some of the time.  Probably, you can be too.

Sometimes my energy is strong, or out of proportion. Sometimes I don’t respond in the way that the other person wants or needs. And sometimes people get upset, irritated or annoyed, with me.

Sometimes I get annoyed and irritated when I don’t get what I want or need from the other person. When they don’t listen to me in the way that I want them to, or when they  don’t understand what I am talking about because its outside their experience. I guess that makes me a difficult person, for that person, in that moment.

I have my difficult people too.  Sometimes it makes perfect sense why I find that person or situation difficult. And there are other people that I simply find difficult, for reasons I don’t yet understand.

Normally we don’t talk about such things. It’s easier to judge or blame the other, so that we don’t need to look at our part in it. In any case  it’s easier to ignore them or avoid them.  After all, who wants to be around a difficult person?

I looked at some of the considered wisdom on the subject, some of the better advice I saw was over here on Forbes. I  am sure some of it can be useful. The problem is that a lot of the advice is all about the other person: how you can protect yourself from these difficult people, and avoid them, and therefore continue to judge them.  Ultimately that doesn’t solve very much.

I have found a different approach more helpful. I started using this mantra whenever I feel challenged by one of my difficult people:

Here is a person, just like me:

  • This person is just like me, they are seeking some happiness for his/her life.
  • This person is just like me, they are trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.
  •  Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.
  • Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfil his/her needs.

This person in many ways is just like me.

(Taken from theavatarcourse.com)

Clipart arguing

Take a look at this image and see who you identify with – the one in blue or the one in orange?  You probably know how the blue one is feeling, but what might it be like to be behaving like the orange one? Is it possible that you can behave like him sometimes?  Just a little bit?

So instead of falling into negative thoughts, or blame or judgement – see if you can  recognise that this other person suffers just like you do. From my perspective,  I find this approach brings me more peace and calm than I can find otherwise.

I am not running away from the difficult situation between us.
I am not pretending thing are OK when they are not.

Sometimes that other person really did do something that was not good for me, or they judged me, or they did something that I felt was wrong.  And maybe  sometimes I just got triggered, and over-reacted.  It probably happens to all of us.

AND at the same time, whatever they did or didn’t do they are also a human being with fears and hopes and longings, just like I am.

Of course, depending on the situation, it  can take a while to get to this place and to really mean it.

I invite you to play with it.

I gave this exercise recently in a two-day training I was giving for a client.  Much to my surprise at the end of the training they asked to do this exercise again because they felt it would be a great way for them to go back out in to the everyday world.

I invite you to check out, who, in your circle, you find most difficult or annoying.  I invite you to try out this mantra for that person and see what happens.  And if you don’t have anyone you can always try it with a politician?!

Please let me know how you get on in the comments below.

How Can Your Body Help You to Manifest Your Visions and Dreams?

A few yeas back I worked with a single expat who had recently arrived in Belgium. We spent some time reflecting on where he wanted to be 3 years ahead of time, as he would be moving on to his next project. He told me he would be married, and to have a child. He also said that he would be going on to head up a country for his company – one of the major players in the pharmaceutical industry. He had tuned into his bodily sensations of how this would all feel on the inside – in a bodily way.

I met him again recently. He told me that he was leaving Belgium to take on the CEO job he had wanted, he had married and his wife was expecting their first child.

So how did he do it?

On our first day together, we had taken some time for him to connect with his bodily felt senses. He had listened for what success feels like for him. He had connected with this place sometimes during the intervening time. Obviously, he has also worked hard to achieve his goals!

This process of connecting with the felt sense of the body, and connecting it with the mind can be powerful. One of my colleagues uses it to address health issues. She swears it has also saved her previously rocky marriage . I use it to handle challenging situations and to bring more ease and inner peace in my life. I am glad to report that it is working!

This process of connecting your intentions with how you want to feel in a bodily way is accessible to anyone. For some it is easy and straightforward, and I invite you to experiment. I am interested to hear how you get on. For others, the process can be more complicated. Things can get in the way, and you may need support to connect with the vision that you want. There may be obstacles to be dealt with before you can reach that clarity of your vision, and this step is key.

Connecting with the body in a felt sense kind of a way is a key component of my work with people.

As a Christmas promotion I am offering Visioning sessions at 50% normal session price.

During the session you can explore your intentions for the following year. You can learn to connect with your vision in a bodily way. This can then become a resource for you to support you towards your intentions and goals. Each session -is 50 minute and is available in person or via Skype.

Why not give this as a gift to yourself or a loved one?

More details over here: Gift vouchers!


How do you get on with your experiments connecting your vision and your body?

Please share your experiences in the comments below:

Listen to those Voices inside your head

painted smiley on human fingers

Are you the same person when you go the office as when you pick up your child from school? Or when you greet your spouse after you haven’t seen then for a while, as when you go clothes shopping, or meet up with a friend?

Are you really the same person?

I invite you to consider that actually your not! Instead, each of these situations bring forth a different part of you, each unique and with a personality all its own. This is the view taken by Hal and Sidra Stone who created the Voice Dialogues model of the psyche in the early 1970’s. This model has been used by coaches and therapists over the last 50 years to help people make better decisions, and to have better relationships both professional and personal . It can bring new insights into your your dreams as well as deepening self knowledge, and help to bring your life back on track if things have gone awry

I discovered this process about 6 months ago and I recently completed a Voice Dialogues Facilitator training with Tim Kelley .  Often when we start out the parts unfortunately don’t always get along or agree with each other. As you beginning to get acquainted with your parts, Voice Dialogues helps you bring your parts into better alignment. It puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own life, rather than being pulled this way and that by the needs and interests of all the parts that live inside you. Voice Dialogues is as structured process for talking with parts, in which you are facilitated by a Voice Dialogue Facilitator.

One of my clients has been using Voice Dialogues to understand why she has burned out.  She discovered that she has a high need please other people because of something that happened when she was 5 years old when she saw her mother crying with worry about her.  This part of her decided that she was going to be a good girl and please her mother.  Another  client has been using the process to understand  both  the attraction and  the difficulties she has with her partner.

Father and son driving car

As part of the training which I have just completed, I have been diving deeply into the life and world of my own parts. Its been an interesting journey of self discovery, and now that I know my parts, we can talk to each other when ever we want. It is bringing me a lot.

I ‘d like to share a personal story in illustration, that happened the other day. I had promised myself a day at the sea side, (more precisely, a young part of me had told me she wanted to go the seaside). My responsible, manager like part had gotten me organised. I had booked a car from the community car program, as I don’t own my own car. The young part was thrilled, its still new for me to keep the promises I make to myself.

In the morning when I woke up there was a Voice inside my head, and I recognised this Voice, (my Voices can get very animated, they really get into the parts – but its not like that for everyone). This Voices calls itself the Wise one, I realised later that Worrier is probably more accurate, but I decided to listen to it. It was worried about my travelling there, that there would be danger on the road, and it was also worried that I would get back late and then spoil my next day, which was full of plans. In the past when I would become aware of such concerns I would either ignore them completely, and then not take proper care of myself, or I would do exactly what they said and cancel my plans to have fun.

This time I did something different. I listened to the Voice. Revolutionary! I decided that I would go ahead with my trip and take extra special care driving and I would make sure to not come home late. I would take careful note of any danger on the road and see how it compares with the concern that had been raised, for my future reference . I was taking the Voice seriously for once, and I wanted to check its reliability.

I got myself ready and went to pick up my Cambio car.  Cambio works pretty well most of the time, the car is there and off you go. Every once in while there’s some kind of hitch, there is some kind of problem that takes bit of sorting out. This time I got to the station and no car! It turned out that the car had been parked on another street about 5 minutes away, so no big hassle, but I had to go and get it.

Aha, is that what that Voice was trying to tell me this morning?! I did make sure to thank it for its concern , as it didn’t want me the inconvenience of having to get the car.

I was curious to see what else might happen on my trip. Nothing did. I had an easy straightforward drive to the coast, and a great day on the beach. The young part that had asked to go was thrilled that I had made it happen and that I had kept this promise to her.

Everything was fine and dandy, until it was time to coming home. I had eaten out at the restaurant where I had parked. The sun was beginning to set and I love sunsets….. My Young part wanted me to go and take one last look at the beach. So I started walking down there, but it was taking much longer than I remembered. Normally I would just keep going regardless, but this time I d id something different. I stopped, I turned around, and I got into the car and I drove home.

I had made a promise to that Worried part of me that I would not get home late, and I wanted to keep that promise too. Its true I possibly missed an amazing sunset, and I caught glimpses of it as I was driving home. It surely was a great sunset, but I was glad to be driving home. Typically I would choose to watch the sun go down to the last rays were gone and there is place for that – but not tonight. I was proud of myself that I got home about the time I wanted, and I had kept the promises I made to myself. This was new and wonderful. I felt calm, and grateful for my day and for the new sense of self.


Do you make promises to yourself and then find it hard to keep them?

What strategies do you use?

Please share comments below.


Handling Emotional Reactions


Are you someone who ever gets emotionally triggered or reactive when things don’t go your way and you then do or say something you later regret?

It can happens to all of us, especially when we are stressed.

So what can you actually do about it?

This might sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do is to notice when it happens. You probably won’t catch the moment right away. It might only be afterwards, and at the beginning it may only be a long time afterwards. The more you pay attention, the closer to the moment you will catch what happened, but it may take some practice to get there.

Now that you are paying attention, instead of beating up on yourself, let’s try something different. You can try being kind to yourself, in the face of having been caught out, once again. Not to excuse whatever it was you did or said that you are now regretting, but to recognise that this kind of thing happens to anyone when they get triggered. You can give yourself a break. You are not a bad person but you did something in the heat of the moment, that you didn’t intend. That’s all.

Let’s look at what happens in the midst of a triggering.

We all have needs, it’s healthy, and knowing your needs helps you to survive. Sometimes other people help us meet our needs, and sometimes we need to meet them in other ways, instead of relying on others. The problem is, we tend to have expectations that certain others should meet our needs – like the need for care and acceptance, for example. However, sometimes that favourite person is just not available in the way that we want in that moment. That’s one of the moments that a lot of people get reactive, and that’s perfectly normal.

Inside the brain, there is a lot going on in such moments… The emotional part of the brain takes over, which means it activates the Freeze-Fight-Flight response system. The problem is, that the emotional brain does not do a reality checking. This part of the brain jumps into action – or reaction. It doesn’t check to see if this thing it’s reacting to is actually happening now, in the present moment, or if it is reacting to something that happened a long time ago. For the emotional brain – there is no difference.  The fact that the emotional part of the brain can step in so fast is also a life-saver – for example it fuels your impulse to run into the road and to pull your child back from an approaching car.   It’s the same mechanism.

The problem is that this part of the brain doesn’t know the difference between a challenging situation that happened a long time ago and something that is happening right now.

Often when we get triggered into an emotional reaction its because the emotional brain is responding to a situation that happened a long time ago,and it’s behaving as if it were happening now. Here is an example: You are having a talk with someone and they appear not to hear you, they are just saying other things and not acknowledging you. Perhaps in the past, when you were a young child, this kind of thing happened a lot and now when it happens you get upset about it.  But you are not only upset for what is happening no but also for all the other times it happened before. Then if you don’t catch it in time, you end up being inappropriately angry with the person in front of you – but they are not responsible for all the other times before. That’s why its so important to catch these moments – as more awareness always brings more choice.

So what to do about it?

There’s a lot of information out there that tells us all you need to do is to Stop, notice what’s going on, calm yourself down, take some deep breaths and carry on. As the saying goes ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’. It works ……up to a point.

However as Besel van de Kolk points out in his books ‘ The Body Keeps the Score’ it isn’t that simple.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18693771-the-body-keeps-the-score

‘When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signalling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it’.

In fact when the emotions and reason are in conflict – we can have a very visceral experience, and its worth paying attention to it, even though the natural inclination can be to run away or ignore it all.   It can feel like World War 3 breaking out in the gut, the heart, lungs and so on. It creates havoc to our system – all the long term projects of the body go on hold,  that’s things like building the immune system, growth, healing etc . And lets face it no-one enjoys being triggered.

This is when its important to turn towards the body and take note of the information held in the body. One of the methods that helps is Whole Body Focusing. This is a body centred enquiry process that helps you to learn from the body – when you can connect with the raw feelings in the trigger they can lead you back to the root cause of the problem.  Now that you are in contact with the root cause of the trigger, you can deal with it – by welcoming and accepting whatever you find there – and then you won’t get as reactive with people in the present.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start paying attention to your triggers and get curious about them, as an investigative journalist trying to make sense of a situation.
  • Keep a trigger journal and write about the situation, to reflect on the trigger and what is causing it. It will get you pretty far just by noticing what is triggering you and how you are reacting.
  • When you catch it in the moment, try and bring yourself really present – notice your feet on the ground, the sounds around you, your breathing etc, and be aware of whatever bodily sensations you are experiencing. Feel your own sense of being a person who is bigger than this thing that is triggering you – it is a part of you that is triggered – you are so much bigger than that !

And be kind to yourself for having to deal with this challenging situation.

Please post your thoughts in the comments below – what gets you triggered and how do you handle it?

Empathy at Work

empathy at work


The other day I was with a client – a senior executive, with a challenging role, recently arrived in Belgium. He told me how he was struggling with some of his colleagues. They weren’t open to the solutions that he and his team of consultants wanted to implement. Solutions that involved a reduction in head count, among other significant and unpopular changes. He seemed genuinely surprised that his ideas were meeting with resistance. He informed me that people were lazy and that they should be able to see how everyone would benefit. I invited him, just for a moment, to put himself into the shoes of his colleagues, to see how they might be feeling. I invited him to send them some good will in the face of their challenging situation. He said it was easier to send empathy to the people who were working hard and on board with his plans. He struggled to send good will to the people resisting his plans and whom he thought were lazy.

Meanwhile, I was facing a similar challenge to get past my own judgments. It wasn’t so easy to find my own good will and empathy for this man with his challenging situation!

Learning to do this is definitely worthwhile, as the research is confirming. Empathy is now recognised as a key leadership quality.

For example here http://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/EmpathyInTheWorkplace.pdf and here https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/05/30/why-empathy-is-the-force-that-moves-business-forward/#4896e028169e

What I find particularly interesting is that the research shows that empathy for others brings positive effects for you as well. It helps to reduce your own stress. It helps you get out of your self and make room for the needs and concerns of others. It helps to calms the nervous system and reduces the stress response, and it can reduce the risk of burnout. You can read about it here:

So how do you build empathy?

Here are a few of my tips:

Develop active listening skills
Check your understanding by feeding back what you heard. Doing this you will become much more present. Its too easy to fall into thinking what we will say next, and then we don’t actually hear what the person is saying. If you are going to summarize what they have told you, you listen in a different way. and the person will feel really heard by you. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can let them know that you heard what they say.

Stay open:
Perhaps your colleagues, have a perspective or an idea that can help your project to go forwards. If you have already decided that your way is best, then you will miss the chance to develop an even better solution.

Notice if you hold are holding judgments.- about the person or what they are saying. Notice if you are having some kind of reaction, if you disagree with them. The point is to notice it, and not to get caught up in it. This means finding distance from your own negativity, so that it doesn’t damage the relationship. When I worked with my client I saw my own judgments of him. I could acknowledged them for being there, and I kept coming back to give my attention to the client. This is where the focusing method which I use can be so helpful.

Give yourself Empathy
Give your self the same emapthy and good will that you want others to extend to you. This means including yourself as you think of all the challenges that people are facing. You too have your challenges and it is not easy for you in those situations.

Be grateful
A sense of gratitude bring a wider perspective. Even if you have challenging colleagues, maybe you can be grateful that you have a a job and some security. If you have challenges, isn’t that better than work that is boring or unstimulating?

Its another sunny day in Belgium – this is definitely something to be grateful for!


Stressed to Impress

stress woman

‘How focusing saved me when I met a person whom I terribly wanted to impress’

Guest article by Professional Coach Lenka Grackova. Lenka was one of my first clients and has also followed 3.5 days training in Whole Body Focusing

I sit down in my living room and look at the clock on the wall. Good, I still have enough time to get ready before I leave my home. For an unknown reason, I feel stressed. I have this strange feeling in my belly, telling me that I am anxious. I do not understand why. I am going out to meet a person whom I did not see for 9 years. I am looking forward to meeting him again. I am curious how he has changed. I really liked him at that time.

I am still sitting on the sofa and feel frozen. I do not feel like standing up and get myself moving. I look at the clock again. I still have some time, and I can not leave in such a state. I need to take some time to figure out what is happening.

I tune in and get aware of each part of my body. I notice my breath, my feelings, my appartment, my whole being. I ask my body to reveal what is happening.

The first idea that flashes in my head: „I am going to be late!“. My logical side totally disagrees and tries to push the idea out of the away. I focus again on my belly. I wish I could run away from that tense feeling. Instead I open up. I tune into the nervousness inside of me. I relax and focus on what is happening right now in my body. I feel weak. My arms and legs are without any power. I open up to that feeling as well.

I feel powerless. Suddenly I get a flash in my head. I feel I am not good enough. I would like the other person to enjoy being with me. I want him to be impressed. But I am worried that I might not be good enough. An emotional flood open up and I let the feeling pour out. I stay with my feelings of insufficiency. Another part of me starts calming me down or maybe complaining again that I do not feel confident. I open up to both parts. I give them as much space as possible. Until they can make peace. They become friends and my tense feeling in my belly goes away.

I thank my body for all that it revealed to me. I feel very much alive and energized. I look at the clock. Damn. Now I need to hurry up!

On the way to the restaurant, I start looking forward to the meeting. The curiousity takes over. I feel light.  When I arrive to the place, I am almost on time (only 5 mins late). But finding a parking place seems impossible. I start stressing a little bit. Sending him a couple of messages that I am not able to find a parking place. After turning in circles for 15 more mins, I find a convenient place. I arrive to the restaurant 25 mins late. That’s a bit of a world record for me.  I feel a little bit guilty, but the guy is extremely understanding.

I celebrate inside of me that I did my focusing session earlier on. If not, I would be feeling uncomfortable with such a bad start to the evening, and  I would not be able to be myself. Instead we  have a great evening together.

Before leaving the restaurant, I check myself in the mirror and smile. Oh no! A big piece of parsley is stuck in my teeth. I do a quick calculation, it has probably  been there for at least an hour. I regret I was laughing that much. Then we go out from the restaurant and my friend offers to walk me to the car. Oh my goodness. Where did I park it? After being confused for a couple of minutes, I finally find my way.

After we say good bye and I go off in my car, I have to laugh. I am so happy that I did my focusing session. In the past with such „bad“ impressions, I would probably be driving back home devastated. Now I just think: What a funny story to tell! I need to share it with my focusing guide and teacher, Ruth Friedman.  My body was right again. I was terribly late and I surely impressed the guy!

About Lenka: She creates motivation and passion at work by individual coaching. and she works to help people bring the passion back to their job. Thanks to her international experience in multinationals, she learned that the problem was not to be different, the problem was to be different while trying to do the things the same way like the others.   More about Lenka www.challenging-goals.com



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