Balance

Who are you working for – and why?


I love being approached online by people who’ve read a post that resonates with them.

This week it was a company called ‘wework‘, who state they ‘build communities that empower people to do what they love‘.

That sounded very liberating to me.

Emma emailed a link to a recent article on their site ‘One founder’s best productivity trick: Save time and do less‘, which she’d connected in some magical-internet-journey-way to this site.

The article asks its readers:

  1. Do you say no?

  2. Are you delegating enough?

  3. Is everything on your to-do list necessary?

  4. Are all of the recurring meetings on your calendar necessary?

  5. For one-off meetings is your default time too long?

  6. Do you even need a meeting at all?

  7. Are you a slave to your in-box?

I could definitely see similarities to many of my posts – apart from the perception that it was targeted at employed people or those employing others.

The endless 'to-do' list

Dipping in and out of emails and the endless ‘to-do’ list

Reading it also made my spine shiver in remembrance of many years of employment where I’ve been that ‘yes’ person, of definitely not delegating enough but having a ‘non-one can do it as well as me so I might as well just do it all‘ mindset, of a never ending ‘to-do’ list with little time to step back and look at what was really crucial (probably due to trying to do it all!), of far too many meetings where little got done going on and on in chasms of perpetuity, and of a mountain of endless emails that  I dipped in and out of throughout the day in no logical order.

I suspect I’m not alone in many of those feelings.

Taking many steps away to reframe and reflect, I’m now ever more powerfully aware, as Emma’s title suggests, that by doing less we can achieve more, which I also highlighted in a recent post.

Working for your self

There’s certainly advantages to being employed – that regular pay check tops the list! Someone else being accountable for ensuring your tax (and National Insurance in UK) is paid. And the camaraderie of colleagues.

Conversely, not (yet) making enough to pay tax or National Insurance, means anything I do earn is mine. Office politics don’t figure in my life anymore either, and I can generally choose when I work and focus on my businesses, and when I take time out to be with my self, my husband, my family and my friends.

I was quite dumbfounded recently to track back and discover that out of an incredible 31 different ‘jobs’ I’ve had since the age of 12 (seriously, I worked on a Saturday in a corner shop, having lied and said I was 13!), for 8 of these I’ve been self-employed – almost 25%.

The past 18 months though is the first time I’ve been totally working for my self and no-one else. Well maybe me and my husband!

I have less ‘stuff’ than ever, and little – if any – need to accumulate more.

We live on a narrowboat, not in a house, so our overheads are significantly lowered.

I have far more power and control over my life.

I want to discover what I’m capable of, without the constraints of having to clock in and out of a political driven organisation, having voluntarily stepped off the employment hamster wheel.

BUT …

It’s early days.

And there’s a lot to learn. Like saying no, delegating more, managing my to-do list (I’ve changed it to my ‘take action’ list, it feels better in some strange way), maintaining control and awareness of what meetings are really necessary, and definitely not being a slave to my in-box.

Counting the days to retirement?

I’ve known many people over the years, some of whom have been recent clients, who see their working life as a time for counting the days down to retirement, rather than making their days count.

Security comes at a high price for them – is it worth it?

I guess they’re the only ones who can truly answer that question.

Finding ways to prioritise and simplify your life


Time Pressure On A Woman With Red Background

Overwhelmed and time poor?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when life feels like a series of juggling acts between work and home.

At times it can feel as though you’re trying to keep a dozen or more plates spinning on poles, like they do at the circus, never really getting anywhere but too afraid to stop in case one of them is sent crashing to the floor and you lose all control.

I’ve been feeling a little that way of late, and one of the casualties has been this blog.

Apart from a hastily put-together short post after I was contacted to see if I’d publicise Bear Grylls ‘overcoming personal challenges’ TV programme, I haven’t turned a draft into a ‘publish’ since late February (and there’s a few filed waiting their turn).

Overwhelm

I’ve learnt over my too many years to mention on this planet, there’s times when you feel so bogged down by unexpected events, that in order to reduce the unmanageable stress in your life you need to prioritise where you put your energy.

And that means allowing, and being okay with, a plate or two dropping.

One of the ways I’ve discovered is to ask myself whether each thing I do HAS to be done by me.

The two minute rule

Some years ago found a really useful ‘two minute rule’ which I printed out, attached to my computer, and followed when I worked as a ‘Midwifery Educator and Quality Co-ordinator’ in New Zealand:

Delegate it

Defer it

Delete it

Drop it

It’s mainly for email correspondence, but you get the picture.

Using your time and energy wisely

Living one of my dreams cruising the canals and rivers of UK on a narrowboat is an incredible experience, and one I hope we can continue for a long while.

However, returning to live in England has meant my closer proximity to family here brings responsibilities, as well as wonderful times together. My elderly father (he’s an amazing 94 years old), hasn’t been too well in the past few months. I know time with him is precious, and that’s been a priority.

But like most other people, we do need to earn money, both to live day-to-day and for my kiwi husband to apply for the next round of his British residency visa.

And whilst one-to-one coaching is something I love to do, supporting people to let go of limiting beliefs and discover what’s stopping them from living their dreams, I’m mindful that a nomadic narrow boating life will only allow me to take on a limited number of clients.

So this year I’ve begun another income stream, quite similar to an aspect of life coaching where we support clients to connect with their inner child. And I’ve discovered I have quite a talent for it – face painting! The delight on children’s (and adults come to that!) faces when they see themselves transformed is so energising.

I also write a blog about our boating, and have done since 2009. It’s one of the aspects of marketing for my husband’s business ‘The Home Brew Boat‘ which he’s set up on board and on-line this year. So again, that’s a priority.

Slow coaching

Last year I wrote a post called ‘Introducing the SLoW coach’.

It’s been one of my most popular posts.

And it’s also led to another opportunity to support people to find more life in their lives.

Many life coaches promote themselves as being there to support and encourage you to have and do more. And that’s great – for some people.

But what about doing less and BEING MORE? That’s what the evidence is pointing to currently, the tide is turing on the busyness we’ve been engulfed in.

Seriously, by stopping and reflecting, by being more mindful about what’s serving us and what’s slamming doors in our faces, we can focus on one thing at a time.

Prioritising your life

* In what ways do you deal with the feeling that you can’t possibly fit everything you ‘need’ to do into each day?

Contact me if you’re interested in knowing more about Slow Coaching …

An inspiring way to reduce everyday stress


Finding the balance

Finding the balance

It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”~Hans Selye

The word ‘stress’ derives from the Latin stringere (to draw tight), and can be defined as “A situation where demands on a person exceed that person’s resources or ability to cope.” (Stress Management Society)

It’s not possible to avoid ‘being’ stressed, however it is possible to change the way we deal with it, and therefore the emotions we ‘feel’ in response.

What ways have you discovered that work for you?

There’s a myriad of self-help possibilities out there to choose from, I’m not going to list them all or provide a panacea for all possibilities!

What I hope to provide is one inspiring strategy you can easily use to form an automatic response, reducing the adverse affects of hormones produced.

It’s a tool I share with coaching clients and they find it enormously beneficial – when used regularly.

What is stress?

There’s three main types of stress.  Routine (happens most days at work and general life), sudden (usually negative and unexpected) change, and traumatic stress (accidents, death of a loved one for example).

Our bodies are programmed to respond to them all in similar ways, though people react and cope differently, depending on their individual life experience and knowledge of helpful ways of dealing with the situations they face.

The flight or fight response is the body’s way of ensuring we’re alerted to potential threats to our safety. Facing a perceived dangerous situation, your heart rate and breathing quicken, muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity.

All functions aimed at survival, and in the short term the body’s automatic response can even boost the immune system. The surge in adrenaline production provides us with the energy to react promptly, which can be life saving.

However, if this state is encountered too frequently, or for prolonged periods of time, it results in an imbalance contributing to ill-health.

Work-related stress

It’s encouraging that the Health and Safety Executive’s latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (UK) show the total number of cases of stress in 2010/11 were significantly lower than in 2001/02 – 400,000 out of a total of 1,152,000 for all work-related illnesses. They also found the number of new cases of work-related stress had reduced to 211,000 from 233,000 in 2009/10, though that change isn’t statistically significant.

The industries reporting the highest rates of work-related stress were health, social work, education and public administration, whilst the occupations reporting the highest rates of work-related stress were health and social service managers, teachers and social welfare associate professionals.

Findings from the ninth annual NHS staff survey (2012) revealed 30% of NHS staff reported they’d experienced job-related stress in 2011 – a rise from 29% in 2010 –  while among ambulance staff, the figure hit 34%.

Breath is Life

Cheerleading pushing

Cheerleading pushing
(photo from Natural Mama NZ)

One of my bug-bears from quarter of a century as a midwife, was ‘directed (I call it ‘cheerleading’) pushing’ in the second stage of labour. You’ll have seen it on the TV many times.

The midwife or doctor gets the woman (who’s usually lying on her back or in a semi-sitting position) to bring up her legs, put her chin on her chest, breath in deeply and then push with all her might until her face is beetroot red and she is exhausted.

More likely than not, during each expulsive contraction, she’ll be coerced into repeating this process as many times as possible. It’s called the ‘Valsalva Maneuver‘.

The knock-on effects of this have been widely documented and shown to cause maternal and fetal distress – and in my case midwife distress whenever I had the misfortune to witness it (memories of the birth of my first child spring to mind – maybe I have a form of post traumatic stress disorder?) It also increases the risk of the tissues around the birth canal tearing.

I read a book shortly after I qualified in November 1988, called ‘episiotomy and the second stage of labour‘, by Sheila Kitzinger, that transformed my practice. She promoted a much calmer approach, whereby the birthing woman allowed her body to lead her, to avoid forcing the baby to descend until it was in the right place, and for the breath to be used to welcome life rather than to force it out and increase the stress.

An inspiring way to reduce everyday stress

Our normal reaction to a stressful event is to hold our breath.

Notice this happening next time something happens you deem as stressful. Then our breath quickens, and in reaction so does our heart-rate. If we need to run away from that tiger (!), or more likely the car beeping it’s horn because we’re texting while we’re walking across the road – then great. Good response!

But if we don’t need that surge of adrenaline and the associated increase of breathing and pulse – STOP IT!

If you can, walk away from the situation causing the challenge.

Then BREATHE.

Not quickly, but consciously, deeply and slowly.

Dr Libby, author of ‘The Rushing Woman’s Syndrome‘, shares in great detail the potential adverse effects on our bodies of adrenaline, and promotes breathing in whilst saying inwardly “I calm my body“, breathing out “I smile“.

Go further than this and breathe in through your nose for a count of seven, hold the breath for a count of one, breathe out through your mouth for a count of seven, and hold it for a count of one. When you breathe in, use all of your lungs. Begin with your abdomen, not your chest, and feel it expanding. If it’s appropriate (depending on where you are at the time), place your hand on your stomach to feel it rise, the chest will be the last to fill and empty. Repeat this breathing a number of times until you feel your self relaxing.

How inspiring

There’s two definitions of ‘Inspire’.

One is to ‘fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative’; the other is ‘to breathe in (air); inhale’.

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum

Oh, and something that inspired me when researching this post is that studies have shown dark chocolate reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and other fight-flight hormones, and cocoa is rich in antioxidants! Hurrah! I can continue with my 75% cocoa or above chocolate fix each day.

Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.”  ~John De Paola

Find a fact sheet on ways to deal with stress from National Institute for Mental Health here.

What ways have you discovered to help you manage stressful situations?